Doom and Gloom and the Amazon: Halloween Edition

illustration from the Library of Congress

Well, my son Ned who lives in Nuremburg and contracted the Coronavirus early in its planetary conquest, informs me that cases in Germany are again spiking, and sure enough, my phone flashed during last night’s woeful Braves game with the news President Emmanuel Macron has slapped a 9PM to 6AM curfew on the great cities of France. These Post-Christian Europeans with their rational approaches to contagion have been much more adept than we mega-church-building North Americans at containing the disease, so if the virus has returned with a vengeance to that venerable continent, you can bet we’re in store for a not very merry Christmas nor all that happy of a new year.

Add to that dolorous prediction, the reality that roughly half of the US population is going to suffer despair this autumn because their presidential choice will not be inaugurated on January 20th.  

For the Trump faithful, a Biden presidency will bring about the destruction of suburbia. The well-trimmed hedges and lawns of planned communities will soon be covered in the choking kudzu of socialism, with its artificially high minimum wage ushering in hordes of immigrant workers usurping the American way of life. No one will be safe to walk the sidewalks as the police will be defunded and public safety left in the hands of patriotic militias roaming hellscapes in a never-ending dystopian action movie.

For Biden supporters, a Trump presidency means the end of the American experiment as our democratic republic follows Russia, Hungary, and Turkey into the realm of authoritarian kleptocracy. All too soon, they fear, Trump’s visage will appear on Mt. Rushmore while Ivanka’s profile will replace FDR’s on our dimes.[1] A never ending torrent of his mean-spirited and mendacious tweets will corrupt our children with the Trumpian ethos of amorality, and no one will be allowed to protest because fascist militias will terrorize hellscapes in a never-ending dystopian action movie.[2]

Envy, O my brothers and sisters, the tribes of the Amazon. Here’s a snippet from Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosas 1990 novella The Storyteller:

The great trauma that turned the Incas into a people of sleepwalkers and vassals hasn’t yet occurred [among the Amazonian tribes]. We’ve attacked them ferociously, but they’re not beaten. We know now what an atrocity bringing progress, trying to modernize a primitive people, is. Quite simply, it wipes them out. Let’s not commit this crime. Let’s leave them with their arrows, their feathers, their loincloths. When you approach them and observe them with respect, with a little fellow feeling, you realize it’s not right to call them barbarians or backward. Their culture is adequate for their environment and for the conditions they live in. And, what’s more, they have a deep and subtle knowledge of things that we’ve forgotten. The relationship between man and Nature, for instance. Man and the trees, the birds, the rivers, the earth, the sky. Man and God, as well. We don’t even know what the harmony that exists between man and those things can be, since we’ve shattered it forever.”

So, if once again, we find ourselves in lockdown, stuck at home in a quarantine, it might be a good idea to abandon our screens  – this blog included ­– and wander back into the three-dimensional world and pay a bit more attention to “Man and the trees, the birds, the rivers, the earth, the sky. Man and God, as well” as Llosa’s narrator Mascarita suggests.

Oh, yes, and to keep a wary eye out for those militias. 

photograph by Jason Chambers

[1] By the way, when is the last time you’ve meted out change on a counter to pay for something?

[2] Quick news quiz. Which of the five freedoms of the First Amendment was Judge Barrett unable to recall in yesterday’s Supreme Court Senate Hearing?

Illustration by Patrick Bremer via The New Yorker

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