The Observer’s weekly column in the November 24 2016 CE edition of the Arkansas Times
The Observer’s grandfather on our mother’s side was a crackerjack fella. Grew up in the sandy hills north of Conway. County boy, through and through. During hog-killing time in December 1941, the story in our family goes, when word of Pearl Harbor reached his little community, he and his friends loaded into his T-model truck and made the rough journey to the first speck of civilization that included an Army recruiting office, where they all enlisted. By the time my grandfather got to the office where he would sign on with Uncle Sam, the story goes, his truck was so squatted with the weight of young men who had hitched a ride to save democracy that he had to crawl along in low gear.
And now, 75 short years later, we have elected as the president of the United States of America a man who is busily surrounding himself with racists, xenophobes, war-mongers and scape-goaters, the whole operation cheered on by white supremacists who have skulked forth again from the dustbin of history. My grandfather and those boys he rode with to Conway in the winter of ’41 would come to be quite familiar with the aims and attitudes of men of similar ilk in the years after coming down from the hills, as they were blasted into manhood or out of this world all over Europe and the Pacific.
The Observer never knew our grandfather. He died of a rare cancer before The Observer was born, possibly the result of being some of the first American boots on the ground in Nagasaki after V-J Day. Yours Truly doesn’t know what his politics were, but his grandson has a hard time believing the country boy who loved this country so much that he was willing to drop his hog-killing knife and sprint for his duffel bag when Lady Liberty called would be in support of installing a proud white supremacist as a “strategist” two doors down from the office where FDR once sat, composing letters to American mothers.
We read in the New York Times that last Saturday in Washington, D.C., in a building named for Ronald Reagan, an outfit called the National Policy Institute held themselves a good ol’ fashioned rally. Speeches against Jews, part of the keynote address in the original German, and finally a rousing Nazi salute as those assembled cried, “Heil!” Look it up if you don’t believe me. Then, if you’ve got a relative who fought in The Big One, ask yourself: Where is thy ghost, grandfather?
And another thing: This is not, by the way, “sour grapes.” We’ve heard that a lot from conservatives recently, most of whom are so busy cheering because Team Red caught the most Pokemon that they can’t grasp that what has happened in this election is not, in any way, normal. What they can’t seem to understand is it’s not the election that has people marching in the streets and depressed at the thought of the next four years. It’s the man who was elected. Believe this or not, but The Observer can say with a 100 percent money-back guarantee that if a miracle Electoral College write-in vote were to flip the presidency from Trump to Mitt Romney in mid-December, the news of four years of President Romney would be greeted with tearful huzzahs and shirtless, drunken waving of Old Glory on the lawn of The Observatory. Why? Because we can be fairly certain that Mitt wouldn’t say or do something before lunch on his first day as president that might start World War III, crater the American economy so deep we all have to go back to horse and buggy, or make constitutional law professors start communicating solely by carrier pigeon about their plans to bury cherished books under the toolshed. Dorito, not so much.
Then again, what does The Observer know? We feel so often these days like Cassandra, the daughter of the King of Troy. The Greek god Apollo gave her the gift of being able to see the future, but when she rebuffed his advances, he cursed her by making it so no one would ever believe her. And so she was forced to live the horrors that befell her people twice: once as prophecy, and again at that which she could not convince her countrymen to stop. That’s half this country now, watching as the other half dances a celebratory jig to beat the band.