Allow me to be the last person in Montana to publicly state his views on the recent special election.
I’m so tardy because I was in Sacramento, Calif., on business, business of such importance that I couldn’t bring myself to jump on Facebook first thing Friday morning to lament the election of the Bible-thumping pugilist from New Jersey.
I also stayed away from Facebook, to be honest, because I was afraid I might refer to Greg Gianforte as the Bible-thumping pugilist from New Jersey, which would not have been fair.
Friday morning I was curiously at peace, which I had not been for some weeks, caught up as I was in the boiling passions of another election season, hard on the heels of the most alarming, surreal election season of my lifetime. All those passions evaporated in the first rays of the sun on Friday morning.
I recollected then that it was only a race for a seat in the U.S. House, one of 435 such seats, and that whoever was elected to be Montana’s only House member was unlikely to accomplish much of anything, for good or evil.
Just a few days earlier I plagued myself with what-ifs. What if Gianforte, apparently a biblical literalist, moved to cut all funding for NASA, on the grounds that its scientists believed they could see light that had left stars millions of years ago, a heretical notion in a universe but 6,000 years old?
What if Gianforte really was the land-grabbing plutocrat all my friends on Facebook have been insisting he was and he introduced a bill to sell Yellowstone National Park to Exxon, or perhaps to Jared Kushner?
What if Gianforte were to burst in on a press briefing with Sean Spicer and start tossing reporters around the room, by way of teaching them how to respect their betters?
But Friday morning, no. Even more notable is that besides being at peace regarding the House race, I felt no compulsion to comb the internet for details on President Trump’s latest assault on the foundations of Western civilization. Was this the blessed calm I had been seeking since, roughly, the midpoint of the Republican primary of 2016, when the unthinkable took on the first faint glimmers of possibility?
If so, it was no doubt related to the nature of the important business for which I had been summoned to Sacramento—to introduce myself to a young gentleman who had been born a week earlier, one day short of 37 years since the young gentleman’s mother had been born to Mrs. Kemmick and me.
Luciano is our second grandchild. The first was born almost five years ago, when the country was already going mad but didn’t seem to be in danger of cracking wide open. I think the seeds of the calmness that enveloped me Friday morning were planted by the vision of Luciano lying contentedly by the side of his mother, warm and pink and full of milk manufactured expressly for him, innocent even of innocence.
Next to this, everything else paled. This, the appearance of new life, was ultimately the only thing that mattered, as it has for uncounted thousands of generations, going back to those creatures that were not human but from which we humans would spring, the views of our new congressman notwithstanding.
During all that time, the obstacles in the way of our survival have been numerous, and many, many of them have been more substantial than the threat posed by the seating of a new congressman. Surviving, which is really the only demand that life makes of us, is what we do.
An election, even one involving fisticuffs, can’t compare with the wars, assassinations, riots and terror attacks that we have survived just in the six decades I have been part of the continuum that now includes Luciano.
I could wish for his sake that our politics might grow less contentious, but that might be asking too much—or too little, since what really seems to need changing is human nature. Every generation, no matter how fat and happy and prosperous, finds something to fight over.
If it’s not politics it’s differences in creed, race or accident of birth, with residents of one patch of soil urged to hate those living on a different patch.
Luciano’s generation might figure out how to make our fractured politics work, but with sadness I fully expect that he and his demographic cohort will resurrect some time-worn means of making their lives miserable. But in this little window of innocence, let me thank him for this interlude of peace.