I’m old enough to remember when the year 1984 was not only a year in the future but a year to be feared. Apocalyptic fantasies about ‘84 were commonplace and had a more terrifying immediacy than the much more distant year 2000.
But what people quickly forgot was how often such predictions were made and how quickly they passed. I don’t know when the end of the world will come or even what exactly that means. The end of the human race? The end of all life on earth? The Alderaan-like explosion of the planet itself? Whatever is meant, when it finally does happen I have a feeling that it’s going to be like the old steam engines of the past: you’ll be able to see it coming from a very long way off.
Yet Armageddon dates come and go and are as quickly forgotten as they are quickly invented. You should be forgiven if you have forgotten, for instance, that December 21, 2012, was supposed to be a particularly nasty day. Something to do with the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar coming to an end. Many took it seriously and believed in it, as if the universe organizes itself around the last future date an ancient earth people bothers to write down. Maybe they just got writer’s cramps? I mean, they had to stop sometime, right?
The whole trick about predicting the end of the world is involved in the bizarre notion of hoping you got lucky. I’m not so sure whose idea of luck accurately predicting the end of the world is, but thus far all such predictions have, by definition, missed their mark.
And yet the people and the politicians and the religious nut jobs who make such predictions seem to do all right after their doomsday adventisms fall flat, for the most part. It’s partly what keeps them coming back. There are no significant consequences for such predictions.
While it isn’t precisely an end of the world scenario, Donald Trump’s insistence that he will somehow be miraculously “reinstated” into the office of the president of the United States in August might as well be. Such a thing would mean the end of America as we know it, of course. But it’s not going to happen. I’m pretty sure about that.
But it’s interesting how Trump and his loony followers keep getting away with such nonsense with very little embarrassment or pushback. Who recalls that March 4, 2021, was supposed to be the date for Trump’s second inaugural? In fact, January 20 2021 was soberly posited as the date for Trump’s second inaugural by Kayleigh McEnany and many conservative TV pundits even after the election. That was when a bona fide loony member of the Trump squad even blithely and personally informed me about how sorry I was going to be when Trump became “my” president again.
Of course, this is Trump trying to stir up another insurrection without actually coming right out and saying it. Like the apocalyptic doomsayers of the past he’s hoping he gets lucky. If not he believes he has plausible deniability in that he never actually called specifically for an insurrection. He left all that up to Michael Flynn. Just as Flynn lacks the courage to take responsibility for his words, Trump lacks the courage to say such a thing openly in the first place.
Anyway, you need not fear such a thing. Trump and his followers are no match for the American army in the capable hands of the Biden administration. Even so, it’s troubling that there are so many stupid people willing to believe that democracy is somehow best served by a usurping tyrant. That is the failure of education and the inadequate distribution of common sense. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.