August 9, 2020
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A thought about 2020

Samuel Johnson famously said: "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully". I had a experience like that in 1978. I had gone in to a Post Office on the Rue Lourmel in Paris to send a telegram to my parents. Ski-masked men with machine guns came in and robbed the pension cash (French equivalent of social security). As one of them covered me and four other people, life concentrated, and I thought, "He will either kill us in a moment or he won't". He didn't.

I am thinking about this now because I am experiencing the same narrow focus. Either we will defeat Donald Trump in November or we won't. The consequences, up or down, feel very similar to the Rue Lourmel. Four years of dread and indignation-- he's praising murderers, pardoning criminals, ignoring a pandemic, etc.--have come down to this.


By the way, when a journalist or blogger says someone "famously" said something, it is almost unerringly a sign that the quote is apocryphal and is attributed to ten others as well. There are even genres. Anything "famously" said by Groucho Marx will be attributed to Yogi Berra; but anything Winston Churchill supposedly uttered will also be credited to Bertrand Russell and Bernard Shaw.

No bottom in politics

Despite my general numbness, it is worth mentioning that, as cynical as I thought I was, I really never expected that American politics could sink as low as it has, even in Texas, where Republicans who don't stand for anything but power any more, are avidly blowing dog whistles to attract votes from Q Anon people who believe Democrats eat babies.

A personal history of the police

Note for a lead essay in some future issue, when I'm back to that. I could start in 1971 with the police riot outside the Fillmore East, where the cops pulled a guy out of his car for absolutely no reason and beat his head bloody, and one told me: "We don't care what you do to each other, as long as you leave us alone". And I could end in the 2010's, when cops hit me twice (sedate, thin, gray haired, putatively white, peacefully standing still), once with a shield (hard enough my glasses flew away) and once with an open palm to the chest.