So, you would never know it from our vantage point in Happy Meadows, but things are not well. Things here in Happy Meadows are fine. We take walks every day. People are nice; birds sing; squirrels and chipmunks scurry around; dogs go for walks with their people; cats slink through bushes, snoop around, and sun themselves. But go inside and turn on the news, and it’s a different story. Mike doesn’t like it when I express political opinions, but Mike doesn’t always get what he wants, and this is one of those times. So, too bad, Mike.
You might recall that a few years ago I wrote about people being upset about the results of a selection (“Tis the Season,” 12/26/2016.) Since then I learned than the correct term is election. Silly me. Anyway, it seems that there will be another election this year in which Donald Trump, the president and current head of the Republican Party, will run against the Democrat Party candidate, presumably Joe Biden. Feelings in the country are strong on both sides. The main thing Trump had going for him was the economy, which was strong with very low unemployment. Trump, naturally, took credit for this just as Bill Clinton took credit for the strong economy when he was president; and he got re-elected in 1996 with no trouble. But early this year along came the coronavirus, and the economy went into the crapper overnight. Trump is such a polarizing person that most people had made their minds up already. They either loved or hated him. He has been the most unpopular president in the history of modern times, ever since presidential polls were a thing. He is the only president to never achieve 50% or more popularity. But the election is not a popularity contest. It is decided by the electoral college, (an arcane institution which was set up by our constitution,) and not by popular vote. That is how he won in the first place, as his opponent, Hilary Clinton, got around 3 million more votes than he did and still lost the election. This could happen for Trump again. But, it may be that the coronavirus has done for the Democrats what they could not do for themselves.
Now it seems that the Republicans may have had a stroke of luck, in the person of Derek Chauvin, a (now fired) policeman in Minneapolis who is at this moment sitting in jail accused of murdering a black man, George Floyd, who he had on the ground, handcuffed, and it seems, choked him to death. Since then there have been riots and firebombings in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and other cities, with the calling up of the National Guard to restore order, and cries of “Law and Order” coming from Trump and the Republicans. Mike recalls a similar period in the late 1960’s when the country was angry over Civil Rights and Viet Nam, and the cities burned. The 1968 Democratic political convention in Chicago was marked by protests in the streets and brutal reprisals by the Chicago police. (An investigation chaired by former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner, a Democrat, called it a “police riot.”) Hubert Humphrey was nominated and should have beaten Richard Nixon, but didn’t. Mike says there were 2 reasons that he lost. First, the voters reacted against all the violence with fear, and thought Nixon was a safer choice. “Law and Order,” and the “Silent Majority,” and all that. The other reason is that Humphrey didn’t speak out against the war, reluctant to oppose the sitting Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson. Mike liked Humphrey, and thought he would be a stabilizing influence in the country that we badly needed at that time. We have a similar situation now, where the Republicans who disagree with Trump’s actions are afraid to say anything for fear of angering him and losing their own power. So, Derek Chauvin may have done for the Republicans what they could not do for themselves. If we have another summer like 1968 the Democrats may be in trouble.
And speaking of people in power, Mike just ran through another reading of King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. Don’t ask me why. I’m sure most of you have read it, but maybe not since high school; so I will summarize it in part, preparatory to making a point. Lear was an absolute monarch who at the age of 80 decided to abdicate his throne and give power to his 3 daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. This would have appeared to be a very dumb idea to almost anyone, but there you go. He held a big to-do where he invited each of them to flatter him and tell him how much they loved him. Goneril and Regan stepped up to the plate and laid it on thick in speeches disgusting in their obvious insincerity. Cordelia on the other hand wouldn’t play. She just said she loved him, and that was that. Nothing to make you want to puke. Lear got mad, banished her from the country, and she left with her boyfriend, the King of France, I think. The next thing you know, Lear is out on his butt, broke and undomiciled, having driven off the only friend he still had, the Earl of Kent. Now his only companion is the Fool, a character he calls “boy,” and who remains loyal. The Fool is a character who is like a court jester, and who is allowed by Lear to tell him the truth that he won’t listen to from anyone else. Not that it profits him. Lear descends into total madness, and after this happens the Fool disappears from the play. There are subplots and lots of people are murdered or commit suicide, but here is why I bring it up. Every hero of a tragedy has a “tragic flaw” which brings about their downfall. Usually it is hubris, false pride, a sense of infallibility. Lear has this in spades. Most people who have an inflated opinion of themselves really have a hidden sense of inadequacy lying underneath. Such people are what is called in AA an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. In the case of Lear, he wouldn’t listen to anyone until it was too late. He did listen to the Fool, but as I said, not until it was too late. But at least he listened, and acknowledged his mistakes as he was becoming totally insane. People like to watch tragedies because they see the thing unfold like a slow-moving train wreck. They imagine at some level that it could happen to them, but instead it is happening to the poor slob on stage.
Why do I bring this up? Why, of course, because we have a Lear-type character in the White House right now. We have a president who really believes that he knows more about everything than anyone else. He won’t listen to anyone, and frequently banishes people he becomes angry with from his Kingdom (so to speak.) I think we all would be better off if he had a Fool, someone who would play with him, joke around, be silly, but at the same time speak profound truths to him……truths that he would listen to, and take seriously. I’m not being critical specifically about his policies, although I could be. But people can have different points of view about things. I am more concerned about his belief that he can’t be wrong, and about the actions that he might take based solely on his own judgment. This is potentially a dangerous situation given the power of his office.
Here is an example. Just a couple of days ago he announced that he was withdrawing our country’s financial support for the World Health Organization (WHO). He is angry about the pandemic ruining our economy, and has to blame someone and act out. Mike thinks this action will have 4 direct effects: 1) it will severely handicap the WHO; 2) it will turn the agency over fully to the influence of China; 3) it will further undermine our country’s influence and position as leader of the free world; and 4) it will be a severe set-back to the world’s fight against the pandemic. Patrice Harris, President of the American Medical Association ( see “Progress and More Progress,” 6/14/2019) , had this to say about his action. “This senseless action will have a significant harmful repercussions now and far beyond this perilous moment, particularly as the WHO is leading the worldwide vaccine development and drug trials to combat the pandemic.” Truly, we need a Fool in the White House. I could say a lot more but don’t think I will. If I have offended anyone I could say I am sorry, but I am not. Certainly, you don’t have to agree with me. It’s nothing personal. We can, I hope, still love each other and be friends. God bless the United States of America.
In other news, I saw Mike at the side of the house with his pole saw trimming a branch away from the eave on the garage (no ladders involved.) So he must have been cleared by his doctor to start doing yard work. He will be off dietary restrictions in July. Maybe we can order sushi again. Wouldn’t that be the bomb! We have started zoom visiting with our far-flung family, a total delight. I hope you have been able to make the best of your restrictions. Something good can always come out of a tough situation. Nothing more to report from Happy Meadows today. Please be safe, wash your hands, be nice to your neighbors, pray for world peace, and pet your cats and dogs. They love you. Bye bye until next time!