Michelle Goldberg is one of the best opinion writers — maybe the best — working at The Times today. I find myself agreeing with almost everything she writes. I wish I didn’t agree with her this time.
“Lately, I think I’m experiencing democracy grief. For anyone who was, like me, born after the civil rights movement finally made democracy in America real, liberal democracy has always been part of the climate, as easy to take for granted as clean air or the changing of the seasons. When I contemplate the sort of illiberal oligarchy that would await my children should Donald Trump win another term, the scale of the loss feels so vast that I can barely process it.”
This is Michelle Goldberg writing in the New York Times last week. I know exactly what she means. Lately I’ve been filled with deep despair over the sorry, sorry state of our country, a growing sense of impending doom. Here’s an example of the kind of news that keeps me up at night (and bear in mind that the one, the only, good thing about having Parkinson’s disease is that I am never at a loss for sedatives): We have the Senate Majoritty Leader Mitch McConnell, openly stating that he and the entire Republican Senate caucus — more than half the jury in the trial phase of the impeachment — will be taking their marching orders directly from the White House, and it gives me none of the I told you so compensatory pleasure that in my younger days would have come naturally, like a lovely, smug rainbow during a vicious thunderstorm.
I have tried to understand the other side. I really have. I’ve got friends who are Trumpies — not close friends, but rather Facebook friends, and I try to take their posts seriously. I like them as individuals; I’ve known them since we were kids. But I can’t help it: I devalue them with every horrible thing they post. I see them as less and less than fully human. And I am deeply ashamed of that.
Moreover, despite the self-assurance of the “M*A*S*H” theme, suicide may or may not be painless, but if Rump wins again, we ‘ll all have one more reason to find out.
Goldberg: “The Trump presidency has been marked, for many of us who are part of the plurality that despises it, by anxiety and anger. But lately I’ve noticed, and not just in myself, a demoralizing degree of fear, even depression. You can see it online, in the self-protective cynicism of liberals announcing on Twitter that Trump is going to win re-election. In The Washington Post, Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and a Never Trump conservative, described his spiritual struggle against feelings of political desperation: ‘Sustaining this type of distressed uncertainty for long periods, I can attest, is like putting arsenic in your saltshaker.’”
Please pass the salt.
Goldberg also writes about a woman from Georgia who she met while covering the special election that ended up flipping a House seat from red to blue.
“‘It’s like watching someone you love die of a wasting disease,’ she said, speaking of our country. ‘Each day, you still have that little hope no matter what happens, you’re always going to have that little hope that everything’s going to turn out O.K., but every day it seems like we get hit by something else.’ Some mornings, she said, it’s hard to get out of bed. ‘It doesn’t feel like depression,’” she said. ‘It really does feel more like grief.’”
Goldberg is not merely onto something. She’s hit the nail right on the head. The depression, the fear to the point of terror, and the deep nausea of which she speaks are the defining emotions of our time, at least for Goldberg’s and my “plurality.”
Back at the small Conservative synagogue at which I attended Sunday School, we were bombarded with Holocaust facts and stories. At the time I thought it was overkill (so to speak). Meanwhile, in the public school I attended, we learned nothing about it at all. The ninth grade me concluded from this wide gap in experiences that Jews were overly paranoid. Now, with the president calling neo-Nazis “very fine people,” and seemingly the only thing standing between me and an even more efficient Auschwitz is the Christian right’s belief that the presence of Jews in Israel is somehow crucial to the Second Coming, I am, as my coreligionist Fagin sings in “Oliver!,” reviewing the situation.
According to Goldberg, I’m not being totally paranoid, or, at least my paranoia is shared.
“Three years ago, said Karen Starr, a psychologist who practices in Manhattan and on Long Island, some of her patients were ‘in a state of alarm,’ but that’s changed into ‘more of a chronic feeling that’s bordering on despair.’ Among those most affected, she said, are the Holocaust survivors she sees. ‘It’s about this general feeling that the institutions that we rely on to protect us from a dangerous individual might fail,’ she said.”
The only word I dispute is “might.”
Question: Why is Adam Sandler, currently the world’s most famous Jewish comedian, starring in a film called “Uncut Gems?”