Driving west on the Massachusetts Turnpike, I notice the taillights on the SUV ahead of me. Each light is a thin vertical bar with a horizontal bar jutting out, two-thirds up from the bottom, the bar jutting to the left on the left light and to the right on the right light. The overall effect is a Christian cross that has been divided in half lengthwise, then the halves pulled to opposite sides. I find the image very disconcerting.
National Public Radio has broadcast a report on the campaign activities of Donald Trump. His rhetoric, they tell us and show us, has only become more angry, more repulsive, more authoritarian. The quote: “The enemies of our country are within, and I am your soldier who will wage vengeance on them on your behalf. Immigrants are poisoning the blood of America.”
I’m not making up this shit.
We have a duty, you and I, to stand up against this man, with vigilance and perserverence, and make sure he comes nowhere near the vote totals needed for election next November. Exactly how and why Mr. Trump has gained so much popularity and devotion in this country of ours—the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave—is a question beyond the reach of my reasoning for the moment. The situation is absolutely repulsive. But here we are, where we do not want to be, yet we must play the cards we are dealt and the game we have entered.
You and I must stand up against this man and his followers, and especially against the lies that they tell about themselves and our country. Above all, I think, we must convince our fellow voters that Trump means every word that he says, and no Trump supporter should rationalize their support of him. A vote for Trump is a vote for callous thuggery and cronyism to replace law and justice, a vote for wealth to remain with the wealthy and the global environment to suffer at their hands, and a vote for authoritarianism to overthrow democracy.
I wish I were exaggerating this threat and these circumstances, but I am not. Go listen to the man speak, or go listen to his supporters. Heed the warnings of those who once worked for him only to feel his wrath and suffer from his cruelty. For God sakes, just pay attention!
Those of you know me and my writing might predict, at this point, that I will be abandoning my dire political pontificating and segue into more lighthearted topics. Those of you are making such predictions are correct. After all, it’s Christmas, or soon will be. It’s the holiday season, may your days be merry and bright, and all that. We owe ourselves a little peace before the storm. So here goes.
My destination tonight is Rochester, New York, where I will spend the night, and then collect My Son the College Freshman for the ride home. Not a nonstop trip, of course, because I’m planning on a ski afternoon at a resort called Greek Peak, just south of Syracuse. The weather was rainy two days ago and the resort was closed yesterday, but will be open tomorrow, and certainly we can hope for the best.
Where am I right now? Why, I’m at Defazio’s Pizzeria, in quaint and blue-collar Troy, New York, just north of Albany. The pizza guru of the Internet absolutely gushes over this place, and I will soon find out if I agree. The place is a local institution and by all accounts well worth the detour off I-90.
The capital of pizza, by all accounts, is New Haven, Connecticut, home to some legendary pizza emporia that have trailblazed a legendary local flavor. I have driven through New Haven some uncountable number of times and have never partaken of the pizza—but that will change on the next trip, or so I vow. Meanwhile, I am looking forward to my sausage and mushroom pie here in Troy.
<time out for eating pizza and driving to Rochester>
OK, I’m back. The pizza from Defazio’s, as promised, was excellent. A thick, bready crust; fresh ingredients; bits of brick-oven charring and searing—all very good, and much better than the greasy messes I get from the take-out places near me. Defazio’s features lovely people, old-fashioned vibe and neighborhood appeal—I give it a score of 7.8 out of 10, which is an excellent score. Not quite the pizza-to-die-for that I was hopefully anticipating, but still a real treat.
After the pizza came the long, repetitive motoring on the New York Thruway, with one stop for gas and not much else. My company were several CD’s from my collection. I played my old favorites, all from the 1980s or earlier. We’re talking REM, the Go-Go’s, Dido, the Rolling Stones—great music on every track.
For some reason, though, I was thinking of the Beatles, to whom I did not listen this evening. Think back to their arrival in the United States in February, 1964, those fresh-faced young men from Liverpool, their hair just a little longer than respectable, the up-and-down pumping of their guitars just a little naughty, their lyrics and melodies a combination of joyful innocence and burgeoning sexuality that pretty everybody recognized, whether they could express so intelligibly or not. And that professional musicianship, that amazing skill and craftsmanship that was honed by some countless hours in the Cavern Club and the Kaiserkeller—the result was music that transcended anything that came before it. The Beatles gift to the world was not just some catchy songs, but a lifting of the spirit, the joy of being young and alive, and the promise of a shining future.
We could use the Beatles now. Of course we can listen to their catalogue, over and over again, and many people do just that. But I mean that we could use the Beatles now, in the present, some clear-eyed joyful Force from Across the Ocean that can inspire us to feel wonderful and wondrous, as we are meant to feel. I can’t imagine this prayer will be fulfilled, although the new Doctor Who Christmas special arrives next week, so that’s something.
That’s my essay for now. If we don’t communicate within the week, let me wish you and your family a Merry Christmas (if that’s what you celebrate) full of good cheer and good tidings. With a love like that, you know you should be glad.