Like many others, I experience the tension that Welsh poet Edward Thomas noted between the desire to ‘go on and on over the earth’ and the desire ‘to settle for ever in one place,’ words I recently came across in Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane’s extraordinary book about the intimate connections between language and place. The words struck me because I have reached an age when wandering is increasingly difficult and often lonely, but settling forever seems like giving up. So on I go.
Lately I’ve been musing about where I might go if Donald Trump should get elected president. I find the idea unthinkable, and yet I realize it’s possible, despite the fact that each time the man opens his mouth he discloses an emptiness of spirit, a disdain for truth and a capacity for self-glory that is simply unfathomable – reminiscent of Mussolini, “the master of make-believe,” in the words of Luigi Barzini, who “could not help being corrupted by his own spectacle.”
Mussolini once asked an ambassador who had just returned from a conference on poison gas, which gasses were the most dangerous. “Incense is the most lethal of all, your excellency,” the old man answered.
I’ll keep wandering. But the Trumpean spectacle – its bombastic language so alien to the America I want for my grandchildren – has reminded me how strongly rooted I am in this land. That we have enabled a man so unfit to get so close to the presidency is a testament to our carelessness. It’s time to reclaim our country.