I was brought up by evangelicals so I can understand the fervent campaign to elect a revolutionary socialist to the White House. My people believed that we alone knew the mind of God and that He loved us more than the ignorant pagans around us. So when I see the old revolutionary shake his fists and shout against injustice, I relive the righteousness of my childhood. Happy times. I haven’t felt half so superior since.
It’s more satisfying to be part of a militant righteous minority than to be in the anxiety-ridden confused majority — to be a nightrider rather than a passenger in the long wagon train. The problem with righteousness is that it isolates you from those who are less righteous, which is okay if you’re self-sufficient and living in the woods but if you depend on others, you need to cut corners. When I was 20, I looked down on people who hadn’t read the right books, but then one day you need to call a plumber and your world starts to broaden.
But I’m an old man and the world belongs to the young. I am only a tourist, so I guess I will go drink some toilet bowl cleanser or maybe move to Iceland. I enjoyed Reykjavik when I was there years ago with my pal Bill Holm, an Icelander. We roamed around town, eating herring, and he got good and drunk and I watched and took notes. The language is so complicated that Icelanders don’t want to hear you try to speak it — Icelandic for “I have done more for Christianity than Jesus” is Ég hef gert meira fyrir kristni en Jesús, which is a mouthful — so they speak excellent English.
Iceland felt small and comfortable and America feels much too large and ungovernable, on the verge of fracture, and this time the issue is the love of children. Half the country seems fully committed to lousy public education and spotty health care and the freedom to pollute air, water, and soil as you please, leaving our children to face desperate crises by 2050 if not sooner. A society that tends to the elderly and lets children fend for themselves is looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. In Iceland, you’re paid child benefits and get paid parental leave as a fundamental right. It is better for society if children are brought up by parents rather than in the woods by wolves. (Duh.)
What keeps me in America is baseball and also the fact that my wife is herring-intolerant. She can’t live in a country where you might go to someone’s home and be served fried eel. I can’t live without baseball, a rational game. Soccer is not, it’s like volleyball without a net or hockey without sticks. And in America I’m somewhat clearer about the bounds of decent behavior so it’s easier to be cranky without running the risk of being enrolled at the Home. The other day, in a bunch of aging lefties, I announced that I see no problem with Mike Bloomberg spending a couple billion on his campaign and people listened politely. Nobody threw organic kale at me.
In America, I could join the Elks or Moose or the Order of Hoot Owls, an exclusive lodge of cranky men and wear mystical capes and swords and bow and cross my heart and make secret rituals part of my life. I won’t but I could. I won’t go to Las Vegas and take up high-stakes poker either but I could. In Iceland, I wouldn’t have those options.
Meanwhile, we live in this movie in which the Top Guy is cruising, enjoying the incredible helicopter service, the motorcades, the precision of the Marine guard salutes, the microphones all pointed his way. He opens his mouth and great blatty ignorance comes out and a vulgarity you wouldn’t accept from your child’s sixth-grade teacher, but here he is, a New York developer pretending to be president. He is heading for re-election and we’re watching it happen.
I know that if I sat down to dinner with Republicans, we’d have a good deal in common with each other, and almost nothing in common with the Current Occupant. He is among the strangest presidents in our entire history. Why are we drifting toward the cataract? Who will take the oars?