RUNNING AWAY WITH MY IMAGINATION

I was glad that the Brits finally voted out the Conservatives, the party of Brexit and Boris Johnson, that led the UK into long-term stagnation and rot. But I was over the top when the French came together to make sure that Marine Le Pen’s National Rally fell far short of a majority that would have handed them the government. I remembered years ago, when things were close and Bernie and I were in Paris, people came out in droves to make sure they didn’t get in. This time was even closer, and yes, almost as soon as the election was done pessimism took over about how the French government will forge on, made up of last-minute alliances of disparate parties.

But I can’t forget that the French people, confronted by an inward-looking, far-right populism with Islamophobic, anti-immigrant and antisemitic tropes, said a loud Non! They’ve done this for 80 years, since the fall of the Vichy government. They remember their history.

“Don’t let your imagination run away with you. Come November, the Big Man is coming back.”

“To tell you the truth, Aussie, I am letting my imagination run away with me. We’re both running away together because imagination is my best friend.”

“What happened to me?”

“Our media emphasizes how unhappy everyone is. You know what Gospodinov said?”

“A Communist?”

“Georgi Gospodinov, the Bulgarian writer.”

“Who cares?”

“Speaking of the past, he wrote: No nation wanted to give up its unhappiness. It was raw material for everything, an excuse, an alibi, grounds for pretensions … [T]he crude oil of sorrow is their only inexhaustible resource … [T]he deeper you dig into it, the more you can excavate. That’s why imagination and I are running away together.”

“What about me?”

“I think this country will come together around someone, probably close to center, who’ll not only avoid the debacle of 2016 but will actually show respect for democracy and lead us in some imaginative way for the next 4 years. That won’t be Trump and it won’t be Biden.”

“You liberals are never practical.”

“There are times, Aussie, when imagination is the only practical way to go. Imagine it, and it can happen. Even in the face of so many things—social media and partisanship, climate change and AI, migrations of populations across the globe and numberless refugees, not to mention the overwhelming power of money—we can maintain our optimism about people’s ability to govern themselves while creating more space and opportunity for others.”

“OMG, you sound like Obama: Yes, we can.”

“I wish Obama had been more radical. He was too cautious, maybe because he was black. But lately his words resound in my mind: Yes, we can. We can cast Trump to oblivion, if not to prison, and let a new generation of leaders take over.”

“No matter what happens, you’ll always wind up feeling disappointed.”

“I once read a study, Aussie, showing that Americans are very volatile voters, that as soon as they vote for someone in November, by the person’s inauguration in the end of January they’re ready to change their minds. But I have trust.”

“In imagination?”

“In everything. I trust the earth I step on every day, the way the day lilies shrivel up and die but new ones come up, in the way storms tomorrow will rejuvenate the ponds so that the tiny fish now scrambling for water can survive, and if they don’t survive another, more adaptable, species will. In the way the seasons will take us into dark and then light, in the way my children will learn to love life as I do.”

“You don’t have children.”

“But I have imagination, which tells me that much is still possible. The heat makes it impossible for us to walk on the afternoon—”

“I’ve noticed.”

“—and the leaves are as stationary and thin as paper, but Aussie, there’s so much motion behind that lack of motion, so much comfort in how they cluster together, like states or even countries, such vast wisdom that brings them forth in spring and lets them drop in fall. That same wisdom brought up Trump and will let him drop, raised me and will let me go. Trust, imagination, and ice cream–they keep me going.”

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