When your normal empathy fails you

Two days ago, for a couple of hours, I struggled with the wording of a get-well post for President Trump. My mind went blank; my fingers recoiled; words escaped me. 

My angst was for naught: On Monday, Trump helicoptered back to the White House, stood on the balcony, defiantly ripped off his mask, like Batman returning home after a hard day in Gotham, and declared that Covid-19 was not that big a deal after all, and that perhaps he was immune to it. 

Even if the pandemic has killed more than a million people and infected tens of millions more worldwide, the president counseled that we can’t let the pandemic rule our lives. Not that big deal. 

Some in the nation may have shuddered with relief, though hardly the 210,000 who have died, their relatives, and hundreds of thousands of other Americans afraid of being infected, particularly those without health insurance, plus millions who are struggling with unemployment and the economic catastrophe caused by the pandemic. 

Late yesterday news arrived that the most unlovable Stephen Miller, the architect of much of the administration’s odious immigration policies, had tested positive for Covid-19. Again my sympathy chord didn’t respond, so I asked a friend for wording that would capture our thoughts and prayers. 

Miller: Trick, no treat.

“Prayers for what?” he asked. “For the rest of his hair to fall off overnight? For his pretty new wife to suddenly regain her sight and run off screaming down the street?” 

Some of my friends can be heartless, but in this case, a little cruelty is understandable. 

Tonight, there will be a televised debate between Kamala Harris, the multi-ethnic Valkyrie from California, and Potted Plant Pence, the barely animate Hoosier. 

The two contenders for the vice presidency will be kept apart by a plexiglass screen, similar to those the cashiers have at Costco, though likely a much, much larger and thicker model, plus 14 feet of dead air in between, just to be sure. Even then, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris leapt across the stage and sent Pence to Walter Reed Medical Center for two or three days to have his head reattached. 

Watch out for those nasty women, Mike. 

Stew and I won’t watch the debate. We’ve got two far more interesting commitments, the first being the second half of a remake of “Boys in the Band” on Netflix. Friends warn me it’s a pretty depressing movie, though I can’t imagine it being more dismal that watching cable news. 

After that we have, also on Netflix, the seventh episode of the third season of “Borgen,” a serial about Danish politics modeled after “House of Cards.” 

The star of “Borgen” is Brigitte Nyborg, fictionally the first female prime minister of Denmark, and all her personal and political travails. A fascinating show, though it leaves you wondering how Danish politicians have time left for intrigue after apparently spending most of their time drinking coffee and red wine, eating Danish pastries and having sex. 

And by the way, what exactly do those Danes do to sustain such a posh standard of living, other than designing funky light fixtures?

From our perspective, of two Americans living in the middle of Mexico, about 600 miles from the border, following the news from the States for Stew and I has become like peering at a distant planet through a telescope. The images can at times be weird, fascinating, incomprehensible and even frightening, as when the planet appears on the brink of drifting into outer space. 

But then I think of Nov. 3—just a few weeks away—and how political and civil life in the U.S. will gradually return to normal under a more honest, decent and empathetic leadership. Meanwhile, the worrisome planet will remain where it’s been probably for millions of years. 

I can’t wait.  

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