I've edited over 100 books, from thriller novels to dense histories to self-help diatribes. Only a few of those books have lodged in my memory.
Among them was a manual written by a prepper. If you don't know this term, it refers to someone who makes active plans to survive a catastrophic disaster, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies, and/or by creating some kind of well-protected shelter.
Preppers anticipate calamities ranging from a worldwide economic collapse to a military coup d'état to a Katrina-style cataclysm to, well, just about anything big and scary.
The book was well-written, and the author was intelligent and polite. And even if I found his worldview to be a bit, shall we say, paranoid, it would be incorrect to write him and his peers off as lunatics.
After all, if there's ever an extinction-level asteroid impact or a zombie attack, then preppers will have the last laugh.
But what struck me about the author's mindset wasn't his fear-based attention to detail and insistence that sooner or later, all the shit will hit all the fans.
No, it was my realization that at a certain point, he was no longer preparing for a worst-case disaster. He was actively hoping for it.
You see, if his doomsday predictions never materialize, he has wasted a great deal of time, money, and effort for absolutely nothing. Indeed, he will have squandered a solid chunk of his life, while pinning his very self-identity on nonsense.
So a lot of preppers aren't just waiting for end times. They are counting on catastrophe to justify their life's work, even if this wish is subconscious.
How does this relate to the current political climate?
Well, look no further than the renewed demonization of immigrants and, by extension, all Latinos.
We have major political candidates (who shall not be named) who imply hordes of Hispanics are swarming into this country for the express purpose of raping and murdering Americans -- that is, when they're not pumping out "anchor babies" and stealing jobs.
Of course, fear-based campaigning -- especially among conservatives -- has a long and effective history.
And it's tempting to dismiss GOP shrieking as a side effect of the party's reliance on religious fervor and apocalyptic thinking. Keep in mind that about 20 percent of Republicans honestly believe that Obama is the antichrist.
But while building upon those ignoble foundations, this new conservative mindset amounts to something else.
You see, those on the right wing who despise Latinos (and there are many) aren't just motivated by personal gain. They are true believers, who sincerely think America is doomed if Hispanics continue to increase their political, cultural, and demographic influence. To this contingent, the "browning" of America is the beginning of its end.
But what if this never happens? What if recent Latino immigrants become an integral and beneficial part of American society, just as so many other immigrant classes have?
In that case, a lot of conservative leaders have wasted a great deal of energy on nothing. Their predictions have failed to come true. And all that screaming and ranting and raving added up to nada.
Nobody wants to see his or her life's work rendered irrelevant, or worse, dismissed as histrionic, wrong-headed idiocy.
To prevent that, many conservatives have morphed into extreme preppers, warning everyone of the coming Armageddon, while secretly hoping that it will arrive right on time to prove them correct.
The good news for right-wing preppers is that they have an inexplicable degree of influence in this country. So instead of working to prevent the coming apocalypse, they can help to usher it in, via self-fulfilling prophecies and overt policy decisions.
For example, Latinos have lower graduation rates than other ethnicities, so rather than improve public education, right-wing preppers try to gut it.
Hispanics have higher rates of poverty, so rather than balance the playing field, right-wing preppers reinforce an economic system that is rigged for the upper classes.
Latinos have limited socioeconomic power, so rather then look at institutional barriers, right-wing preppers deny that racism even exists.
Yes, there's lots of ways to ensure that we get the America that some conservatives envision -- the future that they supposedly fear but are weirdly attracted to at the same time.
Fortunately for me, I've made back-up plans. You see, I've recently built this secret bunker stocked with guns and water, and when the time comes...
Never mind, I've said too much.