dog day afternoon

It was in the interest of absolutely nobody to get to the bottom of anything whatever. People were no longer “caught” in the old sense on which most people could agree. Induction, detection, the very thrillers everyone was reading were obsolete. The jig was never up. In every city, at the same time, therapists earned their living by saying, “You’re too hard on yourself.”

Speedboat, Renata Adler

Are people inherently good? I don’t really know if I believe that. I once worked with a woman who was very kind to me when I went through the hospice process. Her boyfriend had died of cancer just a few months earlier and she’d cared for him; she sent me lots of encouraging emails and loaned me books about grief. But also, a year later, she told me that when her neighbor’s cat wandered onto her property and disrupted her garden, she took it to the Humane Society and told them it was feral and asked them to euthanize it, and then when her neighbor asked if she’d seen his cat anywhere, she lied and said she hadn’t. “I’ll keep an eye out for him,” she said. “I’d be a wreck if one of my dogs ran away.” 

I want to believe the world should be a better place, is what I’m saying, but it’s very difficult to count on people to consistently do the right thing. People talk about wearing a mask or socially distancing as if it should be the most obvious thing a person can do, and philosophically I agree with that, but also, some people are just raccoons with hominid features and minds like morality roulette wheels. Sometimes they do the right thing, sometimes they give you rabies. 

Dumpster fires are everywhere, and some of them burn most brightly in the hearts of Americans. At 5:30 every day, even if he’s at the golf club, the President summons a weary press corps to a news conference which he starts anywhere from twenty to forty-seven minutes late. He slurs his way through prepared notes, the same notes every day, then does a kind of absurdist open-mic set, then takes a handful of questions that he responds to with rivers of unintelligible horseshit. When he does this at the golf club, the members wander in with their sticky glasses of Franzia to take in the show, occasionally booing the press and cheering for him, the last ambassador of the endangered Great White.

Inevitably the cable networks realize there will be no actual news, that this is yet another campaign rally disguised as governance, and cut away. After, presumably, the members of the golf club unholster their Lugers, fire a salutatory shot into the air, and sit down to a sauerbraten dinner while Wagner operas are piped in across the PA system. 

We have entered the Dog Day Afternoon phase of the Trump presidency. Where before we could well enough ignore him and bide our time, now the scope of societal unrest has reached a place where we tune in only because we are hoping the SWAT team will finally seize him from the tarmac and end this intractable standoff.

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