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On Wednesday of this week, I set aside the column I was working on (it’s not time-sensitive; I can pick it up again at a later date), prodded to do so by many reactions to the results of Super Tuesday. I am myself dismayed, to put it mildly, at the prospect of a choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, neither of whom I can vote for in good conscience. But I was more appalled and at the same time shamefully entertained by the excessive reaction, especially on the part of those for whom Trump’s candidacy—with a strong possibility of victory—is an occasion for apocalyptic pronouncements. I could easily fill a column with quotations from these self-styled sages.

But then my mood suddenly shifted: I remembered another election year, the start of a new century, in which we were faced with an unsavory choice between George W. Bush and Al Gore. In particular, I remembered the fantasy we contrived for an issue of Books & Culture: “Bono for President,” the cover proclaimed, and inside the mag, there was a delicious page featuring Bono’s “cabinet” and other key figures in his imaginary administration; Warren Sapp, for instance, as secretary of defense, and Philip Yancey as “Gray Eminence.”

I wish that, between now and November, some current mag would undertake such a project, according to the lights of the editors involved. I can practically taste this imaginary exercise, even though I have no idea what form the particulars might take. It would be great fun, for the people who put it together and for readers across our great land (still “great,” despite all the besetting problems, despite the muddle, despite the seemingly intractable ideological divisions). We will need such good cheer between now and Election Day, not to mention in the aftermath.

And apart from the sheer intellectual delight such an enterprise would engender, it would inoculate readers against fashionable excesses. If Donald Trump is elected, it will not mean “the end of democracy.” If Joe Biden is elected, the world will keep turning. That’s not to say that no disasters may lie in store. The unthinkable can become reality overnight, as a look at the day’s news will remind us. But there is something shameful, something sickeningly bogus, in the huffing and puffing of those who claim, for instance, that “what happened in Germany in the 1930s is happening again in the US today.” Even more shamefully, these lies are given credence by scholars. Talk about “the State of the Nation” has gone entirely off the rails.

I am not looking forward to the prospect of the next few months in this election cycle. I won’t be following the “news” religiously (but Wendy and I will be going to church each Sunday). I won’t be watching and listening to the candidates. I am myself a caregiver, and I have to take care of myself in order to do my job; I have to preserve my sanity. Neither will I be living in a bunker or a cabin in the woods. My wife Wendy and our daughter Katy and our dear, aging cat Nina will muddle along. Wendy and I will listen to Anonymous 4 and Anouar Brahem and the blues while we work on jigsaws. I’ll putter away on a review or a column. Via DVD (we’re primitives), Wendy and I, sometimes joined by Katy, will watch old episodes featuring Brother Cadfael and Miss Marple and Perry Mason, black and white noirs and slapstick comedies lovingly restored, the films of Majid Majidi and Akira Kurosawa and Aki Kaurismäki and many more. On many Sunday late afternoons, we will see and talk with our seven grandkids in Connecticut via the screen of my laptop.

I’m watching spring training games of the Chicago Cubs and looking forward to the regular season on TV and the radio (I have a baseball column for this space just around the corner). I’m surrounded by books and mags, not to mention the old-style newspapers that still get delivered to our house each day. And each day, weather permitting, Wendy and I will walk in the neighborhoods nearby. Wendy will groan when, on a nearby street, we pass the house of a man who has a flagpole with two flags: the American flag and a Trump flag. And on another nearby street, we will laugh as we pass the house with a little white dog who likes to sit on the back of a sofa, and who literally flings himself against the window, barking furiously, as we pass. It’s a wonderful life. 

John Wilson is a contributing editor for The Englewood Review of Books and senior editor at The Marginalia Review of Books

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Image by Gerry Dincher via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

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