The year I graduated from college , I got a summer job as a counselor at a rather benighted sleep-away eight-week camp somewhere up in Vermont. One of the kids at the camp, maybe aged ten or eleven, was a compulsive liar. He not only lied about things the rest of us could not check on, like how rich his parents were or the fabulous places in the world he had been [this was back when ordinary middle-class children were not world travelers], but even about things happening at the camp that we all knew about and knew he was lying about. It was weird. He did not seem to do it to gain anything. He just lied. When you confronted him and said, “But I was there! That is just not true!” he did not back down or even seem at all embarrassed. He just went on lying. I was only nineteen, and more worried about the fact that the camp director was a crook and might not pay us at the end of the summer, but I guess if I had been older and more sophisticated, I might have floated the opinion that the kid was a pathological liar, or something like that.
Why am I telling you this? Well, strange as it may seem, it is a reaction to the vigorous debate that has been going on in the comments section of this blog in the past week or so. On the one hand, I love it that people read my blog and are moved to engage in debates about it and by way of it. On the other hand, all of this is making me reflect on the fact that I really personally and immediately know very little about what I have been writing on this blog, and after a while that begins to trouble me.
I mean, I have no hesitation calling Donald Trump a pathological liar. But I have never met Donald Trump. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I have not ever met a single one of the more than sixty million men and women who voted for him for President. Maybe what he does is all calculated. Maybe it is inaccurately reported. Maybe all politicians are like Trump. I don’t know any politicians either. I think maybe I have in my eighty-two years met and talked to one City Councilman, a couple of members of a town School Committee, and one, or maybe it is two, members of the House of Representatives. That’s it. No Senators, no Governors, no Cabinet members, and God knows no Presidents [although I did shake Obama’s hand once on a rope line in the White House.] Odd as it may sound, I have actually met many more really important people in South Africa than I have in the United States.
There is a lot that I do know, of course, up close and personal, as it were. I know my name and where I live [not trivial when you are eighty-two.] I know a lot about the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the philosophy of David Hume. I know a lot about the economic theories of Karl Marx. And that ain’t chicken feed, as we used to say [although I do not actually know what one feeds chickens.] But I really do not know why people voted for Trump, or why they voted for Clinton or Johnson or Stein, for that matter.
What I do know is that as I was walking this morning [in unseasonably warm weather, by the way], I found that I was not puzzled or curious about what had happened in the election, and I was not depressed about it either. I was angry. I was angry because sixty million people I do not know have robbed me of sleep, of equanimity, of hope, and of some measure of pride in what my country seemed on the way to becoming. I was angry because I am going to have to spend the next four or more years fighting desperately simply to stop people I have never met from doing bad things. And I was angry because no matter how much I bestir myself, as I did yesterday evening when I went to an NAACP protest at the North Carolina State Capitol, there is precious little I personally can do.
Now I must go shop for dinner [I do know how to do that!]. A little later, I will tell you about the protest meeting last night.