When I was quite young, I became obsessed with the stories of wealthy Jews who could have escaped the Nazis had they been ready to forfeit their wealth, but who hesitated until it was too late and ended up in the death camps. What I fixated on was not the money but the notion that there might be times in my life when I had to recognize a threat [or indeed an opportunity] in time and had to act at that moment if at all. In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I recognized that this was one of those moments. If I delayed getting out of Hyde Park [I was teaching at the University of Chicago], by the time I tried to leave the roads would be jammed and it would be impossible to get a flight. I had reservations on flights to Canada and Mexico [depending on which way the wind was blowing] and stocked my VW bug with a Geiger counter and dried food.
Thirty years later, in 1992, when Esther Terry invited me to transfer from the UMass Philosophy Department to the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, I instantly saw that my welcome into the department would depend on my eagerness to join it, and instead of saying judiciously “Well, that is a very interesting idea. Let me think about it.” I said “yes” without missing a beat, and spent the last sixteen years of my career happy as a clam.
This time feels that way to me. I am very fearful that if Trump wins re-election, my world will be made irreversibly worse in major ways. I do not want to look back, during my last years on earth, and regret that I did not do more to stop him.