Clive James: ‘We are told, over and over, that President Trump will destroy the world. How do people know this?’ | Life and style


In the continuing edge-of the-bed serial about my health crisis, we left me last week on the point of having an internal scan to see if anything needed patching. It turned out, however, that the operation would have to be postponed. There had been a communications failure, and the surgeon found out days too late that I had not ceased to take a certain pill whose effects would make it difficult for him to make any internal interventions against badly behaved blood vessels.

You don’t want to know? I know exactly how you feel, so I can promise that there will be no more said from me on this topic until the operation finally gets done. At the moment, I am getting set to prepare myself for it all over again. If a certain sameness creeps into my prose, you will understand. To hear about the iffiness of a forthcoming medical event is like being told, over and over, about how President Trump, once installed and inaugurated, will destroy the world. How do people know this?

I can remember a time when people of good will were equally certain that the newly elected President Ford would destroy the world by accidentally falling against the nuclear button. Though he could be lethal on the golf course, it turned out he was quite safe doing the rounds of the White House, although neither I nor anyone I know – nor, I wager, you – can nowadays give a clear account of what he did while he was there; except, perhaps, for his pardoning of President Nixon.

There were people who were enraged that Nixon got pardoned, but they were the same people who were enraged when he got elected. Their real enemy was democracy itself, which is bound, from time to time, to yield results you don’t like. When attempting to explain this point even to the brightest of my acquaintances, I have often been startled by the vehemence of their disinclination even to countenance such a possibility. Nor do they deduce, from the intensity of their own rage, that the whole purpose of politics might be to check the force of instinct. But at this point I should heed Brecht’s warning about the urge to elect a new population.

And just then, between paragraphs, the hospital rings to tell me that the very operation I promised not to bore you about is back on the schedule, only a week away. For a moment, it is like being told that I have an appointment in the sky with the Red Baron, but then I note that the sunlight flooding through my study window is more sumptuous than ever. Air below zero but light beyond glory: what a world.

Click to view the original article on The Guardian.


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