Strange Days

Things really have not felt “the same” since l’affaire Ukrainienne broke open last September.

That particular scandal broke open in a way that none seemed to have done, before, in this years-long nightmare. The House of Representatives impeached the president. Then not only did one senator from the president’s own party break ranks and vote to remove, for the first time ever, said senator was himself the presidential nominee of said party just several years ago.

The climate crisis is happening now, and can scarcely get a moment’s attention. The Trump administration basically started a war with Iran. Every bulwark against abuse of power is breaking down.

Oh, it’s a Census year, too, and that’s probably going to be severely compromised at best.

Democrats’ presidential primary essentially went overnight from lots of people still saying “I don’t know there are still too many candidates” to a sudden, strange anticlimax, in which a once large, diverse and lively field all vanished except for two old men, one of whom scarcely even had a campaign. This by itself should prompt reexamination, perhaps, but not disbelief, as it just extends several decades in which Democratic vice presidents seek the party’s nomination for president and always get it, and nothing else seems to matter.

The really unnerving feature of the primary should be seen in how close a Republican supervillain came to defying that streak, and many other ideas of campaign rules, and simply buying up Democrats’ nomination. Bloomberg’s takeover scam was working alarmingly well, until Elizabeth Warren essentially threw herself on the grenade. The result of her heroic action was to restore the default trajectory, this time, and I’m sure most people have already memoryholed Bloomberg’s entire campaign now, but they shouldn’t.

Of course, within the span of two weeks in March, a lot of things changed quickly. My own calendar is a snapshot of this. I went from marathon Warren Text Team shifts for Super Tuesday to grieving over the campaign’s end, to the “oh shit” moment on March 11 when major sports leagues just cancelled everything all at once, and a meeting the following evening for our Dem Club executive committee turned into a quick conference call in which we cancelled our own March meeting. Two straight weekends which I had blocked off for Ohio primary GOTV were also cancelled. Then, after a ridiculous on-again off-again Monday, so was Ohio’s “St. Patrick’s Day primary” itself, along with the volunteer voter-assistance shift which I was prepared to brave.

Then within the following week basically everything was cancelled, and most people/employers with sense began a stay-at-home policy even before Ohio’s Department of Health issued an official order.

Now we face a looming pandemic and economic implosion, and… yeah, one can feel the winds of that hurricane I sensed coming, and they’re picking up. “Le vent se lêve.”

Transformers vol. I issue 75, art by Geoff Senior

I spoke with an 80-year-old aunt, this week, who is just old enough to remember a bit of life during World War II.* She concurred with what I already suspected, that this is already the most extensive disruption of day-to-day American life since then. Most of us, in terms of personal experience, are off the chart.

All of this is still just beginning, too.

Aside from recording these impressions, it’s difficult to find any meaningful comment to make. Too many leaders seem unfit for this moment’s responsibilities, and our systems of socioeconomic organization certainly aren’t at all up for the job. At the same time, most people are clearly so desperate for the reassurance of a qualified leader that they just project that concept on to whoever holds a formal leadership position, and even a total shambles may not shake their belief. Which, having lived through Sept. 11, 2001 and what followed, is not new. But it’s deeply depressing to conclude how non-anomalous that experience really was.

After growing up during a weird, two-decade period during which our culture sort of just played hooky from any serious events, I have spent two decades since then watching history resume its visitations, upon systems absolutely hollow and rotten and seemingly incapable of renewal.

How am I doing. Great, just great.

* Funny story, though. Among the memories she related from WWII, she recalled nightly blackouts. In Monticello, Iowa. Which I guess is either a hilarious instance of overreaction, or a touching demonstration of the social solidarity prevailing nationally, take your pick.

2 Thoughts on “Strange Days

  1. I’ve been trying to craft a response to this since yesterday.

    I’ve got nothing. Except maybe to say that you’re at least not shouting into the void. :\

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