I'm truly amazed at the oozy, woozy promotional coverage the pro-amnesty rally received in The Washington Post today. (For a nice dose of balance, for a more skeptical take on the rally, see Michelle Malkin's photo/video roundup.) But the really woozy take on the power of the rally crowds emerged in the Style section today from classical-music critic/fanciful political essayist Philip Kennicott. Which one of these Kennicott beauties is the weirdest quote of the day?
A. "The crowd is a tapestry, an abstract pattern of color and shapes; or it is something like an engulfing sea of humanity that threatens to overwhelm. Within those two categories, there are other choices. Is the abstraction an organic shape, that flows like blood in the veins? Or is it regimented and linear, something suggestive of a military force gathered for battle? And does the oceanic crowd attack fragile markers of civilization and good order? Or does it cleanse the decadent vestiges of an old and unjust regime?"
B. "Anyone who was on the streets yesterday knows the difference between watching, and being in the midst of, a crowd. There is no discharge, no thrill of equality, in looking at an image of a crowd. If anything, the horror of being touched is all the stronger. The more remote the viewer is, the more horrifying the crowd seems. One crowd image that likely seeped deep into the American consciousness was Yasser Arafat's funeral, because the crowd violates a double taboo, against touching, and against touching the dead."
C. "We are not immune to crowd psychology. Even when utterly defended inside the metal carapace of our cars we obey the law of the pack: What else would you call those traffic jams caused by our morbid desire to see an accident up close? Even so, we don't think of ourselves as a people that does crowds. On some primitive level, with the memory of Civil War prisons and the squalid world of New York tenements echoing inside us, the crowd makes us ask, impatiently, will we never be clean ?" (Italics are Kennicott's.)
Or D., the ending that Kennicott no doubt considers profound, reading it again with a smirk like Jon Lovitz mocking Louis Rukeyser: "In this country, for all of our dark ideas about crowds, we may already have a crowd symbol that also captures our fantasy of how immigration should work: Think not of a heap of fruit, but of rows of vegetables, neatly laid out at the supermarket, beautiful and orderly. For they have been ripped from the ground, made to glisten, and dispersed across the country, where they are eventually incorporated inside us. Our fantasy crowd is domesticated, festive and colorful, and it safely expires after a brief time, but even this modern version of the crowd as cornucopia retains the thing that many fear: the touch of those who do the picking."
In short, Kennicott reminds me today of the woozy period of Time essayist Lance Morrow, who actually wrote this passage captured in "Best of Notable Quotables," the 1991 edition:
"The earth is home, and all its refugees, its homeless, sometimes seem a sort of advance guard of apocalypse. They represent a principle of disintegration -- the fate of homelessness generalized to a planetary scale....The flesh is home: African nomads without houses decorate their faces and bodies instead. The skull is home. We fly in and out of it on mental errands. The highly developed spirit becomes a citizen of its own mobility, for home has been internalized and travels with the homeowner. Home, thus transformed: is freedom. Everywhere you hang your hat is home. Home is the bright light under the hat." -- Time "Essay" by Senior Writer Lance Morrow, December 24, 1990.