It is mid-October where we are and The Observer finds ourself again at one of these moments — plentiful in the last few years — when you, Dear Reader, know something that we don’t.
Where we are, The Observer is 19 days from the most important election of our long and complicated life. Where you are, meanwhile, there’s a good chance that all has been resolved or is at least on its way to resolution, whether that means a massive landslide for order and decency, a confusing debacle in which goggle-eyed poll workers are left to parse every hanging chad and “is this pen working?” ballot scribble (been there!), or — God forbid — yet another Electoral College squeaker that reinstalls this golem, this creature, this damp sack of grievances in the shape of a man with a piss-colored wig on top, for another four years in the presidency and maybe another four years after that. The Observer has seen nine U.S. presidents in our time, each of varying honesty, honor and decency — excluding the last, of course, who appears to have not a shred of any of the above — so we can assure you that even the worst presidencies do, in fact, end. So if you’re in the future where a large red clock on the wall of the Oval Office is now counting down the minutes and seconds until this nightmare is over in January: Congratulations! We knew you could do it! If not … well, let’s not force Your Old Pal to think about that too much right now, shall we? For ol’ times sake?
We know they always say that about elections, by the way: that it’s The Most Important Presidential Election of Our Lives. It’s the oldest trick in the book, as old as a creaking snake oil salesman’s wagon, designed to keep you tuned in and interested while “Meet the Press,” CNN and Fox News intermittently sell you laundry soap guaranteed to help you fight the scourge of ring around the collar and medications you should ask your doctor about even though side effects may include vomiting, bleeding from the ears and a compulsion to vote for a mentally ill former game show host. In this case, however, The Observer fears we may be actually talking about The Most Important Presidential Election of Our Lives, the one that will matter most to the way it all turns out, by which we mean the story of the life of every person reading this, including Yours Truly, and the life of every American yet to be born. It is for sure The Most Important Presidential Election of Our Lives since the last presidential election, when this country seriously screwed the pooch. The Observer believes that night will someday be used by historians to demarcate the moment when something seriously broke or was set on the path to repair, like Anno Domini.
Elections have consequences, sure. But do they have to be so dire? A monster pandemic on the loose, 210,000 dead and counting, a nation on the verge of tearing itself apart, a Supreme Court straight outta “The Handmaid’s Tale,” an economy that crashed so hard it augered into the earth deep enough to strike lava, and on and on? These are memorable times, brothers and sisters, and not for the reasons you usually want to remember things. But, as the last four years have shown us: It can always get worse. Where you are, maybe we have already started to close the door on this sad era, turning back toward something like normalcy and sanity, back toward something approaching a forward gear after four years when American progress has seemed to roll back down the slope like the great boulder of Sisyphus, not propelled by gravity this time but by the eager hands of those hungry for The Good Ol’ Days that were, in fact, only good for rich white men. Where The Observer is, though, the door is still standing open, the lock shattered apart, all the vile things pouring out, as they have been for the past four ceaseless and relentless goddamn years.
The Observer is rambling now. Forgive us. To tell you the truth, we are nearly petrified with fear, one of the millions of people in this country with a light case of PTSD dating from November 2016, when America’s promise seemed to sit down next to a tree somewhere and go to sleep like Rip Van Winkle, slumbering but hopefully not dead, as the vines crept over its sleeping form. Did the sleeper begin to stir on Nov. 3, Dear Reader? Did America’s flatline begin again to beep, almost as if by a miracle, stronger with every blip? Or is it more of the same? How we wish this could be a two-way conversation! How we wish we could be where you are now, reading this, things on their way to being sure again maybe, or more confused than ever. At least then we could plan. But we digress.
The Observer, that old and romantic fool, still believes in America. This country broke our heart in the fall of 2016. We’d written another Observer like this one before Election Night then, Your Correspondent peering into the dim glass of the future to try to see what shapes, dark or light, swam in its depths on the other side of Halloween. We tried to prepare, but didn’t do so hot. We will say, however, that it took until maybe this summer for the Trump presidency to finally get worse than we expected it might be. At last, with the unmourned deaths of more Americans than our last five wars combined, Donald Trump exceeded The Observer’s terrible expectations for him and the darkness those who voted for him unleashed on our land.
Does The Observer dare to hope here in mid-October, the season of ghosts? Do we dare to take the long, determined lines of early voters as a sign, the way the Greeks interpreted the movement of birds to discover the will of the gods? Do we dare to believe in America’s willingness to turn its back on monstrousness again? Will the sleeper stir? Or are we the hollow and stubborn frauds our enemies always suspected us to be?
If you see The Observer in November, you will tell us how it all turned out, won’t you, Dear Reader? Please say you will.