by Todd Walton, February 1, 2017
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” — Martin Luther King
I recently watched several interviews with people attending the inauguration of Donald Trump, and I had to keep reminding myself these were not actors in Saturday Night Live skits, nor had clever cynics written the bewildering dialogue. These were real men and women, old and young, gay and straight, who were excited enough about the election of Donald Trump to travel great distances to witness the swearing in.
Each of the people was asked which of Donald Trump’s plans for America most appealed to them. One woman said, “He’s pro-Israel. All our other presidents have been anti-Israel, so this is fantastic.” Three of the men interviewed said they most resonated with Trump’s promise to strengthen the military, one of them saying, “I’m tired of us being so weak.”
One young man had traveled all the way from Georgia with his wife and son because, “This is the first president who ever cared about me.” When asked how he knew Donald Trump cared about him, the young man said, “Because he’s finally doing things for regular people instead of just rich people.”
A woman opined, “He’s about America first. Obama gave more money to other countries than to America. Trump will keep our money here and grow the economy.”
And there was a man who said, “Trump is gonna kick the corporations out of government and get things back to normal.” When asked what he meant by normal, the man said, “If you don’t know, I can’t tell you.”
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” — George Orwell
I ran into a friend at the post office yesterday. When I asked how he was doing, he sighed and said, “I miss Obama.”
“What do you miss about him?” I asked, thinking of those interviews with people who love Trump.
“Are you kidding?’said my friend, glaring at me. “Compared to Trump?”
“Not compared to Trump. What do you miss about Obama?”
“He wasn’t a lunatic,’said my friend, waving his arms. “Trump is a fascist crazy person.”
“Yes, but I’m curious to know what Obama did when he was president that you liked.”
My friend thought for a moment and said, “He pardoned Chelsea Manning.”
“I’m so glad he did,” I said, nodding. “How are your knees doing these days?”
“Much better,’said my friend, nodding with me. “How’s your shoulder?”
“Coming along,” I said, and then we spoke of the weather.
“Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.” — Dalai Lama
Facts, it turns out, are things people think are true because they want those things to be true. My facts are not necessarily your facts, and my facts are certainly not the facts of those who think Donald Trump is a wonderful guy doing wonderful things for America. Nor are my facts the facts of those who think Obama was a wonderful guy who did wonderful things for America.
And this is where gardening and the weather and rooting for the same baseball team come in handy. Humans enjoy agreeing with each other. My mirror neurons rejoice in agreement with your mirror neurons, and when our mirror neurons rejoice together, our entire body/mind/relationship systems rejoice, too.
When I was living in Sacramento a long time ago, I frequently went to McKinley Park to throw the Frisbee with a friend or by myself. I loved flinging the disc into an oncoming breeze and having the disc boomerang back to me. One morning on the greensward, I made an overzealous throw and my disc got stuck in a tree bordering the field, and by stuck I mean lodged in a dense tangle of branches about twenty feet off the ground.
I found a two-inch-diameter length of tree branch, about two-feet-long, and proceeded to heave that club at the tangle of branches in hope of dislodging my disc. I managed to hit the tangle several times, but the disc remained ensnared, and I was just about to give up when a man came sauntering toward me and raised his hand in greeting.
I had seen this fellow many times before because he was often at the park. I had never spoken to him, but I had seen him sitting in the bleachers watching tennis matches, sitting on a bench by the duck pond, and playing basketball on the asphalt court. He was often in the company of other men I guessed were unemployed, and I was afraid of him. He had never menaced me, but his clothes were ragged, his skin was dark brown, and he was one of the biggest men I had ever seen, and I do not mean obese. He was seven-feet-tall and his shoulders were so broad he must have had to turn sideways to get through a standard-sized doorway.
I stiffened at his approach and made ready to flee.
“Man,” he said, his voice deep and full of sympathy. “You hit that mess right on, six seven times. Wonder why that thing don’t fall down. Mind if I try?”
“Not at all,” I said, handing him my club.
“I seen you over here lots of times throwing that thing. You good,” he said, looking up at the tangle of branches.
Then he bent to one side, took aim, and hurled the club with such force and accuracy that the nest of branches was obliterated and the Frisbee fluttered to the ground at my feet.
“Wow,” I said, grinning at my hero. “Amazing. Thank you.”
“No problem,” he said, returning my grin.
“Would you like to play?” I said, miming a toss of the disc.
“I don’t know how,” he said, humbly.
“I’ll bet I can teach you in five minutes,” I said, not so humbly.
“I got five minutes,” he said, laughing.
So I taught him, and he was soon as good as I, and many times after we met on that field to play.
(Todd Walton’s website is Underthetablebooks.com.)