I started out seeking humour for this post. I felt a deep need for something to make me (and you) smile instead of scowl and utter some choice words. I searched for a recent Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, or Don Lemon video to give us some chuckles this Sunday afternoon, but found none that made me even crack a smile. I turned to Alexandra Petri who writes humorous, satirical columns for The Washington Post, and instead of a humorous piece, I found one that moved me, that summed up part of what I and the people in this nation have been missing for the past three-and-a-half years.
I apologize for letting you down with no humour today, but take heart, for tomorrow is Jolly Monday!
Want a president who seems capable of human emotion?
Alexandra Petri, Columnist
August 21, 2020 at 11:29 a.m. EDT
Remember the little things? I barely do.
Remember feelings? Remember having a president who could express a recognizable human emotion? Remember prepared remarks?
Remember when you could make plans for the future? Plans that did not include a step where “a miracle occurs”?
Remember sending emails that did not include the phrase “How are you holding up?” Remember when someone said “How are you?” and you responded “Fine!” automatically without thinking? Remember when you could delight in the sight of the lower halves of strangers’ faces? Remember when there was only one thing that was horribly broken about America that made it potentially terrifying to send your child to school?
Remember time? I barely do. The days since February have been a kind of primordial tar-slick where months melt together and hours vanish in the blink of an eye. To say this year has been not great would be a grotesque and cruel understatement, like “It is what it is.”
Everything in 2020 is so bad in enormous ways that sometimes you forget that it is also bad in small ways. But it is also bad in small ways. And on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, as Joe Biden accepted his party’s presidential nomination, I remembered.
It’s 2020, and after nearly four years of Donald Trump, the bar for what might conceivably be presidential is so low as to be lodged somewhere in the Earth’s mantle. The moles who were sent to dig it out died of pressure and fumes, and then Elon Musk sent a robot in after them, and the robot also died. So when the Democratic nominee for president said something that sounded like what a human would say to another human in a time of grief, I was actually surprised. It has been so long since I heard anything like that from the current president, or anyone around him, that I had stopped even hoping for it.
We are a nation grieving and in shock, at the point where the number of lives lost has become so big that the brain deliberately breaks rather than contemplate it. We are at the point where people have taken to waving away these preventable deaths as an inevitable fact of life, competing to see who can sacrifice the most grandparents on the pyre of a Speedy Recovery. But by denying that anything is wrong, Donald Trump’s administration also has denied that we have any need of comfort.
“I know how it feels to lose someone you love,” Biden said in his acceptance speech. “I know that deep black hole that opens up in your chest. That you feel your whole being is sucked into it. I know how mean and cruel and unfair life can be sometimes.” These are simple words.
Yet Donald Trump has never said anything like this. “He knew what he signed up for, but when it happens, it hurts anyway,” is what the grieving widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson reportedly heard from President Trump in response to her husband’s death.
When Trump lost his brother last week, he mused, “He wasn’t a jealous person, he was a very smart guy. You know, he would be there and he’d be behind me and … if I had the No. 1 show, if I had big success, no matter what I did, even if it’s real estate deals or anything else, he was right there and in many cases helped me very much.”
“It is what it is,” he says.
To be a human being is so ordinary that we forget it is also a miracle. I hate that there is the possibility that we might have to spend four more years with a man who seems to have no idea what this small miracle is like. The first time in these past six months that we heard someone say “I know how it feels to lose someone you love” should not have been from Joe Biden’s acceptance speech.
It’s the little things. It’s the little things that break you.