In most cases, despair is a form of cowardice. Except in those rare end-of-the-road instances where hope is manifestly gone and acceptance is akin to valor, declaring that all is lost is just a way to avoid suspense and possible disappointment. If you pretend you can’t win — so the theory goes — you won’t feel the fear of losing and you won’t feel quite so bad if you do. The theory is wrong, but to the weak-kneed it’s irresistible. Notice how proud the despairing are, how hostile they are to any show of pluck or optimism. “You’re kidding yourself! You’re a fool! Give it up! It’s over!” That’s the sound of faintheartedness disguised as belligerence.
I took the week after Christmas off. I did nothing. I don’t do nothing enough, but this time I did a lot of it. No TV, no movies. A glance at the news from time to time to keep up to date (and to make sure whatever particular building I happened to be in wasn’t on fire or under siege). A few rudimentary social media posts, but not much. I spent time with my family. I read books. I worked out.
It gave me some perspective. Modern life is one long overdose. We overdose on information; we overdose on opinion; we overdose on entertainment. Not to mention the ceaseless exposure to nude and semi-nude bodies and sexual talk that keeps us all keyed up, on edge.
I’m not complaining. I love the internet. I love the new technology. I love the information age. But if you don’t regulate the input — if you don’t turn it all off sometimes — it has an effect. It creates a crisis mentality, a sense that everything is teetering on the brink and something must be done — now — right now. There are surely crisis moments in life and in history when this is true. Hell, it’s always true somewhere. But there are an awful lot of moments and an awful lot of places — I mean an awful lot — in which everyone is shouting that it’s a crisis but it’s just not.
No wonder the weak of heart take refuge in despair. It’s a way to deal with the crazy.
But I prefer not to.
Some of you may have heard that 2016 is an election year. An election — to paraphrase George Washington — is when the power on loan to officials is returned to the people. This is where we all fight it out to decide what kind of country we’re going to have. A thousand things may happen yet, but the most likely scenario at this moment seems to me to be this: Hillary Clinton runs against one of three Republicans — Rubio, Cruz or Trump.
Rubio and Cruz fit within the usual election paradigm. Rubio is a solid, mainstream Republican candidate. The Republican Party is a center-right party, and Rubio represents that. Cruz is further to the right than the Republican majority — and more in line with my own thinking — but a Cruz nomination would remain within the paradigm. Sometimes a candidate wins through superior strategy. Sometimes the party base gets its way. This would be one of those times.
Trump’s nomination, on the other hand, would be different. It would represent a paradigm shift, and not for the better. Trump is a lifelong left-wing friend-of-Democrats campaigning as a Republican for his own reasons. He’s a demagogue, and he’s good at it. Sometimes he speaks truth and often he spouts trash, but what’s the difference? He doesn’t believe any of it anyway. He’s simply saying whatever words he feels will tap into legitimate right-wing anger and working-class angst.
A Trump candidacy would probably result in a Clinton presidency and that, I suspect, would be fine with Trump. If, on the other hand, he went on to win the White House, I’m guessing we’d have four more years of the same kind of lawless and mean-spirited incompetence we’ve had for the last eight. American political life throws up hucksters like Trump from time to time, but usually we figure them out before they rise too far or do too much harm. I’m guessing we’ll figure it out this time too, but maybe not.
If Rubio or Cruz or any other decent Republican is nominated, I’ll support him with joy and enthusiasm against the dishonest, corrupt and anti-libertarian Clinton. If Trump gets the nod, I’ll become a one-man rebel outpost, preaching right principles in a dark time.
Whatever happens, I’ll do my little best to fight for a stronger, more prosperous and more free America. Because it’s a great country, the greatest ever, and the chance to fight for it is a gift and a privilege.
And because it ain’t over. Not by a long shot.