More decades ago than I am able to recount without shaking my old gray head and wheezing, “Where did the time go?” I got a little introduction to parenting via my second major adult girlfriend, who, at 20 had had a son with the husband she left for me. We’ll call him Eric. Complete jerk that I was in my waning twenties, I sort of resented Eric’s presence, and was a rotten, inattentive de facto stepdad. The whole experience served to make me very skeptical about my aptitude for parenting, which skepticism vanished pretty much the moment I met my daughter, right there in the delivery room. But that’s another story.
The one on which I want to concentrate here is about my having recently become Eric’s Facebook friend, and discovered, to my limitless horror, that, as he nears 50, he’s equally gung-ho for Jesus and Donald Trump. I got my first inkling of the former several months ago when he posted something about how God had cured his wife’s psoriasis. We began a zesty little dialogue about faith that began with my wondering why, if God were going to cure it anyway (and, being all-knowing, certainly he was aware that He would), He gave Wifey psoriasis in the first place. Well, to test her faith, naturally. Whereupon I wondered why God hadn’t just created a worldful of impeccably faithful persons in the first place, and saved everyone a lot of touble.
I wondered as well why God was more concerned about the psoriasis than about the juvenile cancer and malnutrition from which thousands of children around the world were dying while Wifey celebrated her recovery. When I admitted my inability to believe in an afterlife of the very literal sort in which Eric believed, he asserted that I was obviously mistaken — obviously! One of those types, you see.
If someone finds comfort in a religious belief I find intensely implausible, or even risible, and if no third party is injured as a result of that belief, more power to him. But then it turned out that Eric was an avid Donald Trump supporter, and fond of posting “memes,” as they’re wrongly called, that depicted the World Trade Center in flames with the caption “And we’re supposed to worry about offending Muslims why?” Another asserted that it was Time to Take Back Our Country! “From whom?” I commented. “From the majority of Americans who voted for Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 If so, how is it your country more than theirs?” When I admitted, at comment’s end, that Eric terrified me, his mom, my ex-life partner and lover, was sorely offended. “Lay off him,” she suggested, in slightly different words. “He’s got a good heart, and everybody’s entitled to their [sic] opinion.”
First things first. How does one with a good heart avidly support a political candidate who, hearing that his xenophobic rants have inspired imbecile thugs to brutalize a homeless person, tacitly applauds the thugs’ “passion” for his proposed ethnic cleansing?
As for everyone’s right to an opinion, couldn’t agree less. It’s an impression to which everyone’s entitled. You get to have an actual opinion only if you’ve troubled yourself to have a rudimentary idea of what you’re talking about. My impression is that Pluto’s status having been downgraded from the ninth and smallest planet in our solar system to — oh, this is embarrassing! — a dwarf planet is terribly unfair. By virtue of my knowing pretty close to nothing at all about astronomy, though, I am not entitled to an opinion — not unless I’m the sort of Murkan who, in response to a talking head spewing incendiary, but absolutely hollow, rhetoric on TV or radio — It’s time we took our country back! Let’s make America great again! — blurts, “ Hot day-um! That’s exactly what I think, I just realized!” through a mouthful of half-masticated Doritos.
What does Trump’s great popularity tell us, eloquently? That democracy doesn’t work. Granting the same number of votes to the head of the political science department at Stanford or Princeton as to someone thrilled by Trump’s proposal to deport 11 million undocumented aliens, and then invite The Good Ones back in through a special door in his great big huge humongous sea-to-shining-sea wall, may not be rampantly idiotic as any of Trump’s ideas, but they’re within sight of each other.
Testing, say I. If I need to demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge of traffic law before getting a driver’s license, how does it not make sense that I should have to demonstrate a basic knowledge of history and current events before casting my vote for The Most Powerful Position in the World?