This past weekend, we took a chance on driving to Sacramento to see my son and his family, whom we hadn’t seen for almost six months. We prepared for it and packed food and survival gear as if we were making a run through the Donner Pass in wintertime. But even watching the California fires on TV doesn’t prepare you for the wall of smoke, fine ash and grit that’s your constant companion from the moment you pass through the Tejon Pass until you hit Sacramento. Traffic on I-5 through the valleys was as light as I have ever seen, both coming and going; not only were the cars gone but there were only a very minimal number of trucks. It’s as if California has stopped, shut down and is just waiting. We arrived in Sacramento and checked into the Hyatt Hotel that is directly across the street from the State Capitol building and typically bustling, and it was near the same—empty! We saw 15-20 guests total and it felt strange and a bit surreal, kind of like we had checked into the hotel in the movie “The Shining.” We took some almonds to Capitol Park, just across the street, to feed the squirrels and there were barely a half dozen around. Apparently, they had hunkered down wherever squirrels hunker down and they weren’t coming out either. So we spent the weekend in and out of my son’s pool and talked about how life had become surreal, kind of like a reality show about an apocalyptic sort of the end-of-days scenario. People are certainly acting like it’s the end of days.
Just a few observations: There was a protest march around the capital, kind of a mixed group, adults and children, maybe 50 total, carrying signs calling to Save Our Children, and the kids were chanting “you can’t have me,” which seemed kind of strange. Later, I read that there had been protests all over the country much the same, organized by the QAnon followers who apparently are convinced that COVID-19 is a fraud—a plot—despite the hospitalizations and deaths, which they suspect are all fake news. They think it part of a plot to manipulate children by delaying schools or forcing online schools and there is some sort of “deep state” conspiracy to steal the children or at least steal their minds. At its craziest, it’s some believing that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were running a child-selling ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. On its saner conspiratorial side, it’s the belief that we are, in fact, in an apocalypse, that these may be end days with anti-vaxxers and petrified parents joining together, and watching crazy right wing websites and online groups preaching things like the illuminati and “deep state” conspiracies and hidden knowledge and secret reports, or reports just unearthed that prove conclusively to them that it’s true to those that have the knowledge. The problem, as they see it, is that we (the uninformed) just refuse to open our eyes and resist the knowledge (whatever that means) and if we would only just open our closed minds we would see the truth. When you try and narrow it down and get them to talk about what they believe, or what’s the secret report they heard about on an internet interview show that’s absolutely convinced them of something, it’s like trying to deal with Trump, with the ball constantly moving on and everything being mixed up in occasional truths, half-truths and quarter-truths and just outright lies. So, I tried a different approach, asking, “What is it that makes you feel good about knowing these hidden truths?” Because clearly they think that there really are conspiracies and their knowing about it makes them feel better. The conclusion I’ve come to is that many of us, if not most of us, can live with uncertainty of our world, or at least the randomness of life. But many people cannot. It makes them profoundly uncomfortable and leaves them feeling helpless and vulnerable so they look for something that ties it all together and restores a comfort level.
This is not just a hypothetical brain dump on my part, this feeling of being in an out-of-control world. There is a Republican National Convention going on this week and their political operatives understand this quite clearly. They are selling apocalypse. They are selling end days. If Biden/Harris get elected it’s game over for America. The radical left, the socialists, will take the reins of government and it’s all over. At first they tried to say that Biden was a closet lefty but it just didn’t sell. Biden’s been around too long; America knows him. He is what he’s always been, a centrist Democrat—one who, over a long political career, has been able to work both sides of the aisle and, fundamentally, I believe he’s a decent, nice guy with some character. So they shifted. Biden is a nice guy, but he’s just a weak guy and he’s very old and these tough lefty operatives like Nancy Pelosi and AOC will just eat him up. Also, the streets are exploding and they charge Biden’s too weak to handle it. “If you support the ‘Blue’ (cops), you must support Trump,” is the mantra. The reality is that over the next few months there will be protests in the streets, probably even riots. I just looked at the tape of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. It is truly startling. It’s broad daylight. Blake’s car is parked at the curb with his three children in it. Blake starts walking around the car with two cops right behind him, guns drawn, maybe two to three feet behind him, walking right along with him. Blake opens the driver’s door and one or both of the officers then fire six or seven shots into his back right in front of the children in the car. Someone across the street filmed it and it’s shocking footage. Look at it. Think of yourself as a Black person asking the same question. Is there a conspiracy?