FRESH AIR

Children’s camp in our woods

Last night I stood in the living room and watched from afar a screen showing Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

No, I’d written a friend who’d asked, I’m not watching the debate. I don’t want havoc and vituperation in my psychic system, enough there already. What I saw for a few minutes did not reassure me, and certainly not what I read this morning.

But what is this sense of relief that I’m feeling? What is this sense of lightness? My health has still not come back, still am not as strong as I’d like to be, but I feel better. Why?

Because whenever something happens that wipes away obfuscation, denial, and plain old stubborn obtuseness, it’s like the dispelling of the miserable heat wave we had here for 6 days. Gone is the heaviness, the humidity that makes it hard to breathe, the heat that permits no fresh air, the tired pessimism with which we wake up, open our eyes, and see the new day with a sinking heart.

That part of it is over.

Our president is a good president; he’s also a very good man, an increasing rarity in the current political climate. But he can’t continue leading this country from the White House.

And isn’t it great for that to be so public that no one can deny it any longer? Doesn’t it open the windows to let new breezes come in? After all the moaning and groaning, don’t you feel you’re breathing better? That you don’t have to whisper any longer or keep your dread in check?

I’m sorry for him that it had to come to this. I still remember that evening in early 1968 when I watched Lyndon Johnson give his State-of-the-Union address, and at the end dropped the bombshell that he won’t be running for another term. Fifty-six years later, when Joe Biden gave his State-of-the-Union—a strong address for him—I wished that he’d ended that address with the same words: I’m not running for another term.

He didn’t, and it’s a bit late in the game, but late is better than never. If only he’d do that now.

When we were in Montenegro, my brother and I stepped off the boat we were on with a few others, including a Saudi geneticist. We enjoyed talking, and when we boarded the boat, he turned around to me and said: “What will happen in November?”

I was loyal. “Joe Biden will win,” I said.

He shook his head slowly. “You think a man in his 80s can take care of this coming future? We in the rest of the world don’t understand you.”

I had nothing to say. He was right. Does Joe Biden even begin to grasp the scope of how AI will change our lives? Can he see far into a future of catastrophic climate change, shifting alliances, huge wealth gaps, and the fears that paralyze so many people, causing vituperative partisanship, maybe even warfare? Can he address something other than the Trump bug-a-boo? It’s a trap that Democrats fall into time and time again: Nothing matters more than getting rid of Donald Trump.

It’s the worst motto for a campaign and has Trump laughing all the way to the bank. Give him terrible publicity and he’ll parlay that into monopolizing every headline and news hour daily.

Joe has a good staff, people argue. He doesn’t need to know everything.

Sorry, in 2020 I didn’t vote for Tony Blinken or Jake Sullivan or even Jill. I voted for someone who could articulate and at least partially implement a vision I resonated with. Nothing to do with Trump and everything to do with such things as democracy, diversity, and support of a flourishing natural world, to mention just a few. I hope to have a chance to do that again in November.

You know how crazy it’ll be if he backs out now? We won’t be ready.

It’ll be a mess, but a galvanizing mess Kamala, Gavin, Dean, Pritzker, Michelle, who cares? Young voters will come back, engagement and enthusiasm will return. We’ll go back to arguing over respective merits and positions, and we’ll watch as a certain 78-year-old man is hoisted on his own petard, called on his lies and calumnies by a younger, vibrant competitor.

The election air will be crisper, healthier, more restorative. And we’ll meet each other in November’s voting booths with a sense of renewal rather than the finger-in-the-dyke gloom and doom shrouding our eyes for so long.

We’ll admire and appreciate Joe Biden for this final act of unselfishness and grace.

And we’ll breathe again.

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