After dinner, I followed advice offered to me about 10 years ago and went outside to look at the stars. I am graced with a clear and cold October night in New England, and the stars are very beautiful. I had not thought about that advice or the particular adviser in a while. So thanks again, if you are reading this.
I really should avoid the website for CNN because of the onslaught of all-caps headlines in 40 point type. Such treatments are reserved for catastrophes and other highly emotional events, which typically occur once every 5 or 6 months or so, but now seem to be striking us in daily, twice-daily, or quatro-daily frequency. It’s really more than the flight-or-fight nervous system was meant to handle. Even typing these sentences makes me want to look at the stars again.
From my perspective, Mr. Trump’s words of dismissal about the seriousness of COVID-19 and his various reckless activities, such as having secret service agents drive him in a hermetically-sealed limousine so he can wave at well-wishers, are a glaring insult to all of the government officials and health-care staff who remain uninfected yet are still working their posts, not to mention a dishonorable slap at anyone still suffering from an active infection or any of its debilitating long-term effects, not to mention an insult to the memories of the 210,000 Americans (and counting) who have died from the pandemic.
But that’s me. I have been deeply offended by this insert-expletive-adjective so-called President for the past four years now, and my offended-o-meter has just so much space for expansion. Public opinion polls have been showing a gradual but steady decrease in support for the yahoo in question, and a corresponding increase for his opponent in the upcoming election, my man Joe Biden. Nevertheless, I still see the same sprinkling of Trump/Pence, Make America Great Again yard signs in my neighborhood. All the tea leaves suggest Biden will win my state of Massachusetts, but at the same time everyone agrees that the Republican ticket is a sure bet to carry rural white bastions such as North Dakota, West Virginia, and Alabama. While that ticket seems poised (Thank God! Please God! Oh dear Lord help us all!!) to lose nationally, and by a significant margin, our country still sustains, apparently, a core of perhaps 40% of the electorate who looks at this never-ending shit show of an administration led by an egotistical and pitiful excuse for a human being, let alone commander in chief, and they say “Yup, that’s my guy! Give me four more years just like the last four, please. Way to go, keep on truckin’, let’s get on the Trump Train and see where it takes us!”
Who the hell are these people?
I went through public school with one of them.
Fifth or sixth grade, gym class, we’re playing volleyball. The teachers have instilled us with the proper rules and strategies. We are six students per side, arranged in a 2 by 3 array through which we rotate with each change in service. The back row is meant to set up the ball for the front row, and the front row is meant to spike the ball over the net. That is how we are instructed to play the game. That is not how we actually play it.
One of the reasons for the discrepancy is John Swenson. (Not his real name. I apologize to anyone reading this piece who actually is named John Swenson, which is quite possible because Minnesota is full of John Swensons and Sven Johnsons and Steve Bergsons and so on and so on.)
John Swenson, who is on my team, insists on running or diving for every single ball hit remotely near him, which is effectively all over the court. He is a one-man (or one pre-teen) volleyball show, seemingly everywhere at all times. The rest of us, or at least me, stand more or less in our designated positions and watch John swat the living hell out of the game.
Then, for one astounding moment, I see the volleyball come right at me. Really, it was on a trajectory over the net and directly toward my shoulders. Finally, a ball for me! A chance for me to get into the game! I crouch slightly, hold my palms forward, I watch the ball approach, and then…..
I am knocked down to the gym floor. When I look up, there is John Swenson towering over me, beaming a mildly sheepish and apologetic expression, but not for longer than a second or two. He had barreled into me, of course.
Fast forward to modern times. I have had no contact and would have thought hardly at all about John Swenson over the long years, and that would have remained the case were it not for (A) Facebook, and (B) Mr. Swenson’s incessant posts in support of Donald Trump.
A few weeks ago, I took the action advised by another sage person whom I respect—in this case, me—which I had offered in an amusing rhyming couplet:
If Bozo’s comments are offending
The act to take is called defriending.
Before then, however, one of John Swenson’s posts stuck with me. He was praising the wife of Mr. Trump for a charitable activity of some sort. I forget the specifics, but the activity struck me as reasonable and worthwhile, but not exactly noteworthy. Then came the concluding sentence of the post, which was this: “Wow, she’s the greatest first lady ever!”
Um, yeah. If you say so.
I have nothing against this woman. But greatest of all the first ladies? We had Eleanor Roosevelt helping to lead the country during World War Two, and Lady Bird Johnson promoting conservation and highway beautification, and even Nancy Reagan doing whatever it was she was doing…but such comparisons miss the point. The past is the past, the present is what matters. I interpret John Swenson’s little claim the same way that I interpret third graders when they boast about their birthday parties or trips to the zoo or M.D. carnivals as the “best thing ever”. It gives them a happy little zing to say it, think it, and feel it.
Actual facts and details do not really enter into the equation. Not for the diehard Trumpsters, at any rate.
Which brings me to Doctor Who, the television science fiction program from the BBC. In an episode from the David Tennant era, we have an overweight, bluster-filled bureaucrat who has been blustering and oppressing and being generally annoying for almost the full forty minutes of the episode. Then he gets his comeuppance, which, because this is fantastic nonsense, is to be transformed into an Ood. An Ood is a creature with a scaly egg-shaped head, oversized batty eyes, and a muzzle of tentacles and other squid-like parts. We see Mr. Bluster-and-More-Bluster frenetically tear his scalp open and cough up all the tentacles and, last of all, cough up the little piece of hindbrain that Ood hold in their hands. It’s really creepy. But he had it coming. And being an Ood, in the context of the show, isn’t all that terrible.
The transformation caused by a COVID-19 infection is not going to turn Donald Trump into an Ood. It likely won’t turn him into a decent human being, either. Fantasy, though, retains its power to shape our reality.
The thing to do is get out the vote for the November 3rd election. Let’s get Biden elected, and by the biggest margin possible. Let’s do this, people. Let’s rock and roll.