Somewhere in The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton writes: “He felt he was in possession of some impossible good news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an adorable triviality.”
The year 2020, which is creeping to a close, contained very few adorable trivialities and one grand and damnable calamity — the pandemic — which opened like a sinkhole beneath us.
I must, as we slide down toward the socially distanced ceremonial finale in Time Square, get hold of Chesterton’s The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond, which, I’m told, contains this prophetic line: “Politicians do not understand much, but they understand politics. I mean they understand the immediate effect of mobs and movements.”
We’ve had mobs in 2020 and, for movements, the disingenuous rabble organized under the ameliorative and deceptive title, Black Lives Matter. Of course they matter! So does the nuclear family which BLM has targeted for disruption. You have to read down pretty far in the group’s manifesto before getting to the alleged reason for its founding, i.e. police violence against blacks. (As for the nuclear family, political commentator David Brooks wrote a protracted argument in favor of re-imagining the nuclear family in Harper’s. I read it. I was not convinced. Far from it.
Which reminds me of another Chestertonian bon mot someone turned up for me in G.K.’s collected essays: “Politicians will not make a land fit for heroes to live in. It is heroes who make a land fit for all the other poor people to live in; even such poor little people as the politicians.”
Now, let’s imagine a socially distant mob in Time Square doing a very, very slow countdown….10…..9……8…..7…
Backwards! That was 2020 alright. And it looked so good, so promising last year — so balanced and symmetrical up there in lights and in the headlines. Not long after the lights faded, the ink dried on those headlines (on what few broadsheets remain on what newsstands remain) and the page refreshed on our laptops and iPads, 2020 turned into annus horribilis. We’re still dealing with the hangover.
But our hopes are young, even if we aren’t, in a decade that’s still young.
Happy New Year!