Radio Free New Hampshire: ‘The truth is not ours to control.’

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Michael Davidow

By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire

Our house has wild blueberry bushes in the back along with ticks and the occasional deer. We collect the blueberries, we suffer the ticks, and we cherish the deer because we are city people at heart and we don’t know any better.

 The berries attract birds and a bird recently died back there. I don’t know much about that either. It was sad. I took a shovel, I dug a little hole, and I buried the poor thing.

 I also put a rock over the grave and said out loud, “rest in peace.” My good deed for the day. These are the dog days of summer.

Those hearings they have been holding in Washington about the January 6th insurrection: they brought in a television executive to spice them up, because they didn’t trust the American people to care about them otherwise. They should have held them in autumn if they wanted people to take them seriously. Autumn is the beginning of the school year, the beginning of hard work. People begin to pay attention to things that need to get done, starting in September. Summertime, you’re lucky if you manage to bury a bird.

Autumn is also election time, though, and I suppose the Democrats wanted to have this work finished by then in case the Republicans take over Congress and decide that January 6th is better off forgotten. Hence this off-season spectacular, competing with baseball and re-runs of whatever.

I haven’t seen any polling data yet to indicate that these hearings have succeeded in changing anyone’s mind about Trump and how he tried to kill our country. Those who liked him to begin with still like him now. I am not sure what it will take to change their minds. Facts don’t do it, nor do reasoned arguments. I had sympathy for these people once because I also considered Hillary Clinton to be a shameless hack, and the forced moralities of the left are not much less noxious to me than the forced moralities of the right. But I’ve lost my ability to countenance such posturing.

Thankfully, however, owing to Sam Alito and those other harpies on the Supreme Court, who have gotten very busy in the past few months charting out our next fifty years for us, I am not even sure it matters anymore. Trump is finally starting to take his final form: as an expression of something rather than the thing itself.

 And what that is, is a fundamental summery-ness, a vast and troubling non-seriousness at the core of our national politics, in which we no longer deal with the substance of our problems, but only with how they make us feel. On both the left and the right, we have gotten hooked on easy virtue, on telling other people how to live rather than making it possible for them to figure it out on their own. And that way lies not only grief, but also a fundamental disconnect with the nature of our existence. Because whatever we think we know, we don’t know. The truth is not ours to control. It’s ours to grasp and lose. That’s science.

A few years back, I found a nest in a tree that was low enough to the ground to see inside. There were three baby birds in there. I’ve seen pictures of baby birds, of course, and I’ve certainly seen some chicks here and there. But these particular fledgelings fascinated me.

Their eyes were closed and their beaks were open, way open, with their heads tilted backwards, facing the sky. I don’t know if they were hungry or if that’s just what they did. Anyway, those beaks looked almost soft, almost pliable; their triangle pink throats seemed almost fuzzy; very little seemed to separate these living creatures from their environment. The line blurred between animal and plant. Their avian consciousness, their bird intelligence, whatever they possessed to lift their plane of being above their physical surroundings: none of those things had kicked in yet. They seemed mechanical. Yet they needed to eat.

Time is fleeting, life is precious, and I am convinced that the whole thing must seem like an illusion when we come to the end and try to add it up. The present annihilates the past and it’s hard to grasp one’s own reality through any length of time, much less the reality of any other soul. Yet all politics, all government, all society rests on this premise: that we care about each other.

These are the dog days of summer, and I am a New Englander, so I am not much good at summer. At least it has baseball to watch. That will tide us over until it gets cold again.   

He is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project,  The Book of Order, and his most recent one, The Hunter of Talyashevka . They are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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