Sunday, October 4, 2020
Hope is the thing with feathers
Wishing on a star doesn't do anything. Maybe remind yourself what you are hoping for. And a little contact high, a whiff of the thing you want and probably won't get.
Hope certainly does not exert control over the world. It says something about you, probably something you already know. But that's it.
In the two days since it was learned that Donald Trump has COVID-19, a lot of my friends, in the living world and on social media, have either expressed their hopes for his recovery, sincere or half-hearted, or spoken aloud their hopes for his suffering or worse, sometimes then castigating themselves for those hopes.
I've tried to sidestep that exercise in futility. Not that it matters, but I hope he gets his ass kicked Nov. 3 and slinks off to prison in shame. But like any other hope, that doesn't make the related possibility any more real. Truthfully, I try not to even do that. Maybe, after writing eight books, the shine has gone off hope. Maybe because it seems so weak. Hope, Emily Dickinson wrote, is the thing with feathers. That's sweet and maybe sometimes true. To me, hope is the last coin in our pocket when all the money's gone.
Maybe because I'm less optimism driven, more fear oriented. What I fear is that the president will shake off his virus tomorrow, or later today. as can happen, and bounce back into the White House, potching his palms together and announcing that thanks to his iron constitution—a superman, really—and the overblown assessment of so-called "doctors," he has flicked the virus away, crushed it like a rock in his large and powerful hands, and is now ready to spread his wings and fly in his second term, as soon as the hopelessly corrupted and illegitimate election is put behind us.
I can see that happening. Hope is a dim, distant star compared to that. Hope is a splash of feathers on the lawn where there used to be a bird.
What I couldn't see—what most people didn't seem to see—was Trump getting sick in the first place, and I want to talk about that, because that's amazing, and speaks to the power of deceit. We all know—well, half of us anyway—that COVID-19 has killed more than a million people worldwide. And we know that 208,000 of those were Americans. And we could see that Trump didn't wear a mask and went around in maskless groups, rallies and meeting and rope lines. Day after day, in general disdain of self-preservation as weak and timid and girly and beneath his massive manliness. And while we didn't think it true, the fact was that he hadn't gotten sick, up to now, and speaking personally I just sort of assumed ... I'm not sure what. That it was all a show, that his minions and underlings—the United States government, remember—had created this antiseptic bubble around him. The president's daring was an illusion, a magic trick, and he was really as safe as a newborn swaddled in an incubator behind glass in a nursery.
See? That's why he lies. Because lying works. Even among the vigilant and the skeptical. That's why there are so many lies. Lie after lie after lie. It wears us away like water over a stone. That's how I feel lately. Worn away.
The lies get past our defenses, like the virus itself. Just as COVID-19 tricks the body, the president's lies trick the mind. Even though a person is stained as a liar, with 20,000 certified lies over the past four years, it is just so hard to accept. We keep forgetting. We keep insisting this is the new normal then going back to the old normal to sit in the ruins and sift the ashes. The media still asks him questions, provoking more lies, and nobody ever yells, "Stop! Why bother? Because he isn't telling the truth, ever." If Trump does die, you know it'll be two hours after his doctors have a press conference and give him a clean bill of health. Not only someone who lies, but someone who encourages deceit in others.
The weekend—if we can call it that—was strange, a sort of waiting, ear cocked, for a sound that might not come, compulsively checking the news even more than usual, which is really saying something. Staring in silence at our phones, scanning the skies for a sign, a portend, a wonder. Waiting, hope stuck in our throats.