Thursday, December 31, 2020
Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#18)
When I think of old people – now that I have become one – I recall as a youth the various literary puzzles I was presented with in grammar school. They all pointed out that one goes from being a child all the way to the end of one’s life becoming, once again, a child. Shakespeare, Grimm’s fairy tales, literature throughout the ages, many things point to this paradox. As the year tumbles to its end, it’s clear how politics has aged us all and how those, in positions of power, are in the main terribly old, on both sides of the aisle, capping this ignominious year. Death from Covid (like the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court) kills off a lot of old folks, with a sprinkle of the young, the middle-aged, here and there. Mitch McConnell, The Donald, the new president-elect, Joe Biden, are all very long in the tooth. Stephen Breyer is the oldest member of the Court at 82, followed by Clarence Thomas at 72. But it has been the method of modern presidents to pick younger justices-to-be, so as to lengthen their stay and influence. RBG, of course, was the oldest, 87, till replaced by the youngest, ACB, 48. Who is likely to be president in 2025? Someone middle age? Or aged? I guess we’ll see. Now we’re in the last gasp of gerontology. Two things, I suppose, have forced these musings. The end of the year and the end of the hideous Trump administration, which, of course, may not yet have done its worst. New Year’s is always represented by an infant with a sash (2021!) and the departing year a unisex crone with a cane. Out with the old, in with the new. Well, with Biden/Harris we have a two-fer. The old and the new, combined. It’s not yet known whether the Senate will flip, but there’s not a lot of confidence expressed on the airways by those in the know, the Democrats, that is. Trump, of course, never disappoints. His kind of intelligence, if he has any, is reflective, meaning he does the opposite of what people with sense want. And, given his history, he has some proof of such behavior’s efficacy. Never concede. Say you won over and over for weeks on end. Some generous portion of the public will believe it if said often enough, broadcast by one and all, over media, in every form. If an individual says such things to his or her small circle of friends s/he will be a candidate for a rest home, or worse. But have the means to say it to everyone, day in and day out, and it becomes something else. Not madness, but food for thought. What’s clear, shown over and over the last four years, is that the responsible folks never wanted to admit how bad things have become, admitting to having a semi-lunatic, or, rather semi-literate know-nothing, as president. Republicans, orchestrated by Mitch McConnell, could do their dark work and it would be worth the embarrassment, especially if the culture had reached the point where the populace no longer could be embarrassed. Speaking of old saws, as I was in the first paragraph, another comes to mind: The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen, producing a slogan which devolved to the emperor without clothes. There never was a universal chorus of disapprobation for The Donald, only, especially early on, scattershot shouts of the fabled child’s insight: No clothes! No clothes! Republicans had too much to lose. Trump knew he just had to reprise his role on The Apprentice. Often, that task turned out to be too difficult. The Legislative Branch continues to be an embarrassment. The two GOP Georgia Senate candidates, Senators Loeffler and Perdue, are poster children advertising the many representatives of no redeeming social value in the Congress. Given their lack of virtue in any area, except economic, they could be a cat and a dog, merely symbolic Republicans to fill their respective seats. Could they have drudged up more shocking examples of the species, corruptable nobodies filling space? And then there is the new Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley. Hawley and I share a past. We went to the same high school in Kansas City, MO, though decades apart, an all-boys prep school run by the Jesuits. (Hawley's two winning races were against women, not an insignificant fact.) I got a good education there in the early 60s. Its campus is on the state line, moving there the year I graduated, so across the street is Kansas. I don’t think Hawley and I would have been friends. I presume he had friends there, but I’m not sure. Hawley understands the virtue of propinquity. He clerked for John Roberts. He mimicked, in a strange way, Barack Obama’s career: as a youth Hawley won an attorney general race in Missouri – which, as usual, was in the midst of governmental scandals all around – served only a year and then ran for the Senate. He realized that it is easier to win in chaos rather than calm and he faced an 11 person primary, but, like Trump, he survived the clown show. (See above remark about women opponents. Note Trump's opponent the year he won.) Biden, too, survived the Democrat primary, but Hawley had it easier. Like the Catholics Trump has appointed to the Supreme Court, Hawley clings to the faith’s hottest margins. Well, Biden is a Catholic. Catholics everywhere these days. Now, of course, Hawley has volunteered to get as much publicity as possible, posing as a Trump toady, to object during the Electoral College Senate vote count. See Josh run. Obama jumped quickly from one election to another, the Senate to the Presidency. All of this just points to the fact that we aren’t leaving the politics-as-asylum show any time soon. And Trump, for whatever terrible reasons, has abandoned Mar-a-Lago today to return to the White House, forgoing the gaudy New Year’s eve party held there. Happy New Year, though the new year won’t actually start till January 20th.