The Coffee Table


I am writing on Halloween, a beautiful full moon evening, that should have no portent on American life except… kids cannot go trick or treating tonight, their parents afraid they’d bring home the worldwide coronavirus. And Tuesday is election day—like Black Friday, or Christmas, the day itself lasts for weeks.

Theoretically, by Tuesday, it will be all over but the shoutin’. You will read this after Tuesday, but it will not be all over but the shoutin’.

If Trump has won, he will be shouting about having defeated the forces of socialism, immigrants, women, rigged voting and the media. If he loses, he will blame it on socialism, immigrants, women, rigged voting and the media.

If he wins, half of the country, if not half the world, will call “foul!” If he loses, slightly less than half the country will holler “foul!” even louder. And it may take weeks to know the final results.

There is no victory. Whoever wins, the us-vs-them conflict will continue unabated. Obama believed he could unify the country but that was disallowed primarily because his skin and his wife were a little too dark for many to accept. Hence “Make America Grate Again.”

In my view, should Uncle Joe win election, we can make America grateful again, thankful that there will be people in the government who understand their jobs and at least attempt to put things right. But unless Democrats also win the Senate, Mitch McConnell will continue to petrify government inaction rather than promote government in action.

In either case, because both the Trumpkins and the anti-Trumpkins have emphasized that the soul of the nation, the survival of democracy, and the triumph of moral values are all at stake, a large part of the populace will be not merely disgusted, but cynically led to believe that irreversible damage is done.

We worked for the federal Bureau of Indian Education when second Bush presided. At the school where I taught, a new assistant principal was hired, who soon proved himself to be in the mold of Dick Cheney—the evil genius running the show from behind the scenes. My boss, who had a few dozen employees and a multimillion-dollar budget, called him Rasputin behind his back, but would not publicly stand up to him. I recall telling people it would take 30 years to heal the wounds the nation suffered. The refusal of so many Americans to accept Obama’s hope for reunification led us to where we are today.

Can Biden actually bring people together, should he be elected? Significant numbers of voters hope so, but a losing Trump will spew vitriol until his death bed, and he and the lame duck Senate will ignore pleas for economic coronavirus relief as though confirming conservative federal judges is the primary function of government.

If Biden emerges as a clear winner, we cannot really breathe a sigh of relief until his inauguration, and then only if the Senate is wrested from McConnell’s cold clammy claws. After that, Trump can tweet, and pontificate on Fox News, go golfing with Putin all he wants, but it really won’t matter—he will at last be old news. Trump’s 15 minutes of fame has severely outlasted its utility, but the hangover of hatred, mistrust, and suspicion is going to be throbbing in our collective skulls for decades. The body politic is infected with Trump-virus, and no vaccine is in view.

What can we do in our little corner of the universe? First: reestablish friendships that have been ripped apart by politics. I telephoned a friend last night; someone we know has a relative coming in and wants to know about genuine Ozark jam sessions, and this guy would know. Like us, he is hunkered down at home with his invalid wife and various dogs, going out only for supplies—not playing music publicly.

We did not talk politics—this is the guy who said 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would get renamed the Black House and grow watermelons in the backyard. Our common interests were music, travel and gardening. In a pinch, he would be there, as we would be for him. Trick or Treat.

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