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Is 2020 the new 1939?


Today is an emotional down day. Polls tightening everywhere. 538 has Trump’s disapprovals shrinking, his approvals ticking up, amidst reports he’s making inroads with college-educated white and Latinx voters. Today’s Chronicle has a headline “Independents veering to GOP.” Anecdotes say Trump’s threat that Antifa will invade the suburbs is working. The anti-mask, “COVID is fake news” movement is spreading. The crowd booed the “Moment of Unity” at the Texans-Chiefs game. All bad omens. Meanwhile, where is Kamala? She’s become the invisible candidate. And while they’re getting Biden out there, and he’s saying the right things, he still—to me—seems wobbly. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the debates.

Of course, I have to take this depression in context. After six months of shelter-in-place, my mental state is increasingly haggard. The air this morning in Oakland is the worst in a week—which is saying a lot. As soon as I woke up, I wondered who the hell was barbecuing at 6 in the morning? It wasn’t barbecue: it was smoke, thick and acrid. Like everyone else in this situation, I don’t know whether to stay in the house all day—with the windows shut–or put on my mask and venture outdoors to stretch my legs. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Four years ago, Trump’s impending victory (I knew it was coming) landed me in the hospital with heart valve trouble, brought on by stress and worry. This time, I’ve vowed not to let it happen again. Maybe, on some subconscious level, I’m preparing myself for a Trump win, so that when/if it happens it won’t catch me by surprise. If he does win, I ask myself, what do we—Democrats and anti-Trumpers—do? Take to the streets? Give up? Keep on keeping on? I don’t know. And in that uncertainty, all the creepy things in my feral imagination crawl out: after Trump’s second term comes Don, Jr. Or maybe Ivanka. Or Jared, building on what increasingly looks like his successful Middle East intervention. Or maybe collective Trump family leadership. Are we looking at decades of Perons, I mean Kims, I mean Assads, I mean Trumps? What does that even mean? They continue to stack the courts with Kavanaugh-type rightwing judges. Hitler did the same thing. One of the first things he did, on becoming Chancellor in 1933, was to institute Gleichschaltung, the “reorganization” of German culture and society into the Nazi mold. That was bad news for German liberals, socialists, Communists, artists, trade unionists, and of course Jews. The actors change, but the plot remains the same.

I had a dream last night—actually, it was in the hypnagogic period before the onset of full sleep—in which Trump was in charge of everything, and he ordered his MAGA troops to arrest undesirable elements. They came for me. I suppose reading, in The Great War for Civilization, of Saddam Hussein’s murder squads rounding up and slaughtering Kuwaitis, Shiites and Kurds in the aftermath of the Gulf War, when we allowed his Republican Guards to escape and regroup, made me jumpy. Saddam didn’t want to give up power, and he was really pissed at what he thought were his enemies, whom he proceeded to eliminate as ruthlessly and efficiently as the West allowed him, which was completely. Trump too doesn’t want to give up power. And he really, really hates his enemies—Democrats, liberals, LGBTQ people, environmentalists, human rights activists. And his own Republican Guard—an increasingly strong, restive internal militia—would, I think, have as little interest in keeping me alive as Saddam’s thugs had in allowing Shiites and Kurds to survive. That was the sum and substance of my dream. And it was, needless to say, scary.

Frank Figliuzzi, a former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the F.B.I., told Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC that “2020 will go down as the year the truth died.” 1933 was the year that truth, and democracy, freedom and sanity, died in Germany. If 2020 really is the death of truth in America, then we are in for a very tragic time. But, hey, maybe this is just my boredom and depression, worrying about nothing. Let me look at the positive side. Don’t worry, be happy! (insert happy face emoticon)

  1. “reports he’s making inroads with college-educated white and Latinx voters” How can that be? Are those people deranged?
    Recently I was contemplating the possibility of Trump getting re-elected, and I thought: “How much will that really affect my life?” And the first thing that popped into my mind was: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. How much longer can she hold out? Then I thought about our nieces and great nieces/nephews (my wife and I have no children), whose future will be affected even if mine isn’t.

  2. Good points, Bob Rossi. I think we’re all thinking of RBG. We have to win this election–we really do. Each of us has to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

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