The 11th edition of the 10,000 Days newsletter goes out tomorrow. If you wish to receive it, look to the top of the screen and click your way to joining the other cool kids.
Meanwhile, here is the essay from the previous issue. Enjoy.
Chosen by the god of Row 19
Last night I flew back from a conference in New Orleans. The flight was at capacity, about half the seats occupied by teenagers, parents, and teachers from a Christian academy on their way to Philadelphia for a class trip. I know all about it because one of the chaperones had the window seat in my row and spent the entire 2 1/2 hours of the flight talking to the gentleman in the middle seat. How anyone talks for 2 1/2 hours baffles me, but these two introduced themselves as we taxied down the runway and by Baltimore had promised to look each other up in Mississippi, which is where they lived. Or so I gathered.
I wasn't really eavesdropping because it isn't eavesdropping if the people are talking too loud for you to avoid. The gentleman was a surgeon, looked to be in his early 70s, still practicing. The woman was about half his age, a mother of at least three. They were evangelical Christians.
They sounded like sincere, big-hearted, noble people. Their conversation was polite, encouraging, amiable. She had, I gathered, done some evangelizing in South America and was raising three Chilean girls she had adopted. He had stories about how faith had saved various family members. One would tell a story, the other would say "that's great!", and then they'd switch roles.
They were not people I'd want to spend much time with—I have no religious faith nor any interest in faith, and simply cannot be anywhere near that upbeat for 2 1/2 hours—but they seemed like admirable people. And they were convinced that their god had selected Donald Trump and made him president, and they prayed that Christians would turn out to the polls in 2020 because it was imperative that Trump be reelected to continue their god's work.
I closed my eyes and died a little inside. Not because they were Republicans, or conservatives, or even Trumpists. Because two people who sounded smart, well-intentioned, earnest, generous, and morally upright were still somehow convinced that a dumb, lying, cynical, amoral, greedy, unfaithful, incompetent, egomaniacal jackass had been hand-picked by the supreme deity to be their president. The surgeon made his case with a set of verbal bullet points. How else could a man who had never been in politics ascend to the highest office if not for the hand of god? What explanation might there be for defeating all the other Republicans who had sought the nomination in the primaries? How else could he have defeated an experienced politician like Hillary Clinton and the Democratic campaign machine? There could be no other explanation but divine intervention. And they prayed for his reelection because, above all else, Donald Trump "was a man who did what he had promised to do."
I hunched in my aisle seat and brooded. How do they not see that Trump has done nothing for people like them, except, perhaps, eased their fears?
And there it was, right in front of me. They had voted for the man who had pulled off one of the oldest tricks in the demagogue's kit bag—understand what scares a large group of people, tell them that not only are they right to be scared, they actually should be scared to death, and then convince them he is the one person who can stand tall and vanquish all that frightens them. My companions in Row 19 were convinced that only a man chosen by their god could accomplish such a thing. To them, Trump is a savior.
There is not a politician alive who could pull those votes away from Trump. Issues? Facts? Data? Reason? Not in play. i walked off the plane glad to be home but soured by my in-flight primer on the divine right of Trump. It was past 11 pm and I was tired, but I reached for the gin.