This last weekend, I spent a long weekend with my brother and sister-in-law in Palm Desert. Atypically, the weather was perfect. Dan mentioned that until I arrived, the temperature had risen to over 100° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) for over 100 days in a row. While I was there, the high was closer to 80° (27° Celsius).
It felt good to see my brother again after 7 months of close quarters in West Los Angeles. We went swimming three days in a row, and even re-visited a couple of local sites.
These included the lovely Thousand Palms oasis and the Sunnylands park on the Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage.
One of the Cactus Gardens on the Annenberg Estate
Not all the facilities at both locations were open due to the coronavirus outbreak, but seeing anything beautiful these days is a rare pleasure—especially during a particularly ugly election year.
He Won a Landslide Vote Despite the Fact That He Was Dead
It happened in the small town of Deveselu, Romania, of some three thousand inhabitants. The ballots had already been printed up with his name on them; but then Aliman died in Bucharest of Covid-19 on September 19. I could see this happening in the U.S., but not in quite the same way.
You see, Aliman was up for re-election, and the voters of Deveselu really loved him. “He was a real mayor to us,” one woman voter said. “He took the side of the village, respected all the laws. I don’t think we will see a mayor like him again.”
After the funeral, dozens of villagers visited his grave. “It is your victory,” one of them said. “Know that you will be proud of us. Rest in peace.”
A Small Town in Southern Romania
Obviously, there’s going to have to be a new mayor; but it’s not going to be any of the candidates who opposed the late incumbent. They’ll have a new election and vote in a replacement. I get a nice feeling, though, about the voters of Deveselu. If that happened here, no doubt a number of Americans would be gunned down and there would be a general feeling of hatred and paranoia. Maybe we can learn something about democracy from these Romanian villagers.
The following quote is from Sarah Bakewell’s excellent book At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails. It describes a conversation between a French reporter and the Nazi-leaning philosopher Martin Heidegger:
When, also in 1945, the French writer Frédéric de Towarnicki weakened Heidegger’s defences with a bottle of good wine before asking him ‘why?’, Heidegger responded by leaning forward and saying, in the tone of someone solemnly confiding a secret, ‘Dummheit.’ He repeated the word again, with emphasis, ‘Dummheit.’ Stupidity.
As I with great reluctance view the day’s news, I am appalled by what appears to be the rank stupidity of around half the American population. It has gotten so bad that, when I meet someone new, I become less forthcoming in my responses because there is a 50% chance that the person is an idiot.
It Certainly Seems So
In fact, I am beginning to dislike Americans, barring any specific reason not to. I was born in this country, but it was a very different country at that time. It was not full of tattooed monkeys with scraggly beards who think that living in the streets and taking Oxycontin, Heroin, or Crystal Meth is better than a job. There weren’t quite so many of the “I Got Mine!” types who think that anyone not a member of their country club should be deported.
There is an epidemic of stupidity which looks to be growing. In November, we can vote Trump out of office—and he might even leave the White House. But we can’t do anything to the people who form his “Base.” Those red MAGA hats must have a side-effect of shriveling their brains. (They are, after all, manufactured in China.)
Ever since that grim day in November 1916 as I twisted and turned in a hotel room in Quito, Ecuador, I have come to the conclusion that something is not right with the universe. I am reminded of Casca’s words in Act I Scene iii of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar:
A common slave—you know him well by sight—
Held up his left hand, which did flame and burn
Like twenty torches join’d, and yet his hand,
Not sensible of fire, remain’d unscorch’d.
Besides—I ha’ not since put up my sword–
Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared upon me, and went surly by,
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
Transformed with their fear; who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say
’These are their reasons; they are natural;’
For, I believe, they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon.
What I am referring to is the news that an asteroid might strike the earth the day before the November 3 “fraudulent” election that will confirm Donald J. Trump in his role as dictator for life.
According to CNN, the asteroid is just a shade over 6 feet—the size of our presidential pretender. I cannot help but think that it will land in such a way as to set fire to our great leader’s impressive bouffant hair-do, and possibly burn him to a cinder in his size 12 shoes. If that happened, it would surely show that there is some justice in the universe.
Now that we are coming up on another presidential election, my telephone is ringing with invitations to join “Town Halls,” whatever those are; and my inbox is full of invitations to participate in political surveys. In my old age, I have become skeptical to the nth degree. When people in front of supermarkets approach me with clipboards in hand, I wave them away.
To me, participating in a democracy means voting—but not necessarily submitting to a whole slew of ancillary events whose main thrust is to change my mind. Today, I received an e-mail that let me know right up front that I might be too quick to support Joe Biden. Thank you, Mr. Putin!
I know for a fact that the Orange King (no names, please!) is going to be in big trouble when he no longer has access to the power of the presidency. Strange things are happening: The U.S. Postal Service is being gutted to discourage mail-in ballots. That, despite the fact that the Donald himself has voted by mail in the past. Now it is too subject to fraud. Well, yes, everything is subject to fraud that that man touches.
Why do I feel that we have all taken democracy for granted? All one has to do is to elect a corrupt megalomaniac to office before the ground appears to disappear from under one’s feet.
I have friends who think that all that needs to happen for the good times to come again is for President Squid Lips to be ignominiously defeated and face a lifetime of legal actions arising from his grotesque corruption. But there are worse things to fear.
Most particularly, the people who support Trump are still around. These are the Ayn Rand followers, the ignoramuses of Flyover Country, the rich who want government to make them more rich, the racist haters, the sociopathic gun-lovers, and Confederates who refuse to recognize the surrender at Appomattox. Worst of all are the billionaires and millionaires, the heads of corporations whose sole political principle is self-aggrandizement. Even if the Trumpster dies in office from Coronavirus or STDs or just plain rotting from the inside just like Herod, the people who put him in office are still around. People like the “My Pillow” guy or the various criminals who occupy seats in the cabinet, the Barrs, the Mnuchins, the DeVoses.
Whatever happens to Trump, the United States is in for a long fight to protect their voting rights and their livelihoods and—in the case of African-Americans—their lives.
Election day is only a few months away. The Current Occupant will resume his red-hat rallies in Tulsa (scene of a 1921 massacre of blacks) on June 19 (or Juneteenth, commemorating the emancipation of slaves in Texas). With luck, his cohorts and co-conspirators will dwindle away between now and November—but don’t count on it!
A New Dawn Is Approaching … But Look Out for Storms
Yes, the authorities are gradually releasing us from our long quarantine; but we’re not out of the woods yet. After the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic, the United States entered into a ten-year period of prosperity, until the Crash of 1929 put the kibosh on that. It would be nice to think that everything will be hunky-dory within a few weeks or so. Fat chance.
Except for one thing: That man in the White House. He was personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, and he is itching to send thousands more into the next world. He continues to be supported of legions of bitter-enders who will support him regardless what he does, because he is one of them—a bona fide bad ass. If Trump should be reelected this November, I think the United States is in for it. In the end, I even think there will be another attempt at secession, and maybe that’s what it’ll take in the long run. The bad-asses will want to set up their own New Revised Confederate States of America.
As I look into the future, I have no pollyanna visions of everything coming together in a great cumbia of toleration. The battle lines are being drawn, and they look pretty hard and fast to me.
When I returned from Mexico on February 7, it was to a vastly different reality—one that grew increasingly strange with each passing day. With the cancellation of music festivals, sporting events, live audiences, and even schools and libraries, it is a strange and unexpected new world in which I find myself.
Tomorrow night, Martine and I are attending an event given by the Kárpátok Hungarian Dance Ensemble, which we both love. It is not a large event, and Martine and I plan not to stay for the socializing after the folk dances. Even a week ago, I would not have been so conscious of the danger of contracting Covid-19. Now, alas, I am: I am a walking encyclopedia of pre-existing medical conditions, including panhypopituitarism, type II diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and a few others not so prominent. If I caught the virus, I would likely be at risk not to survive it.
It has been a particularly strange week, partly because of the draconian measures to minimize casual social contact, and partly because of a rare week-long “Pineapple Express” rain event which is leaving us with a certain degree of cabin fever.
At present, an average of 350 people per day are officially identified as having come down with Covid-19. I suspect the number is actually much larger because of the nationwide shortage of test kits. Supposedly, something is being done about this—but then I don’t usually expect competence or any degree of helpfulness from the Trump administration.
The only good news about the coronavirus is that it has all but chased the 2020 presidential election from the news. But it has not replaced it with anything more palatable.
I Don’t Recall Ever Being Satisfied by an Election
I remember being invited out to a homecooked French dinner at my friend Alain’s apartment. I fancied myself as as a proficient speaker of French, so when asked for my opinion of the scrumptious meal, I merely said it was dégueulasse. Oops! Apparently that means “repulsive” or “disgusting.” I was able to talk my way out of that mess, though I did get a few stony looks.
Well, I could say that my opinion of the Super Tuesday election results is a heartfelt dégueulasse. But then, I have never been satisfied when the voters finally speak. This goes back to my first election, in 1968, when rather than vote for Hubert Humphrey after the debacle at the Democratic convention in Chicago, I wrote in the name of Otto Schlumpf, a Franciscan priest who shared my then-Progressive political ideology.
Do I really like any of the four remaining contestants? Probably I like Elizabeth Warren the most, but she is not likely to get nominated. Biden’s problems with speech remind me of either the onset of Alzheimers or a pre-stroke condition known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). I got a TIA myself once when I suddenly found myself babbling incoherently to a co-worker. (I immediately asked the secretary to call an ambulance.) Curiously, Trump has the same problem; only, his supporters will forgive him anything short of raping and murdering an underage girl on the steps of the Capitol Building.
Although I like Bernie Sanders and find he has a sharp mind, I fear that the American voter is too conservative to select either him or Elizabeth Warren.
What is more, all four candidates are in their seventies. I myself am 75. If the final Democratic nominee does not pick a younger vice president, we are doomed to a gerontocracy.