“To Seek a Newer World”

John Leake | January 25, 2024

Republished with permission from John Leake

Last Sunday evening my mother hosted a dinner party. The subject of politics arose, at which point she observed: “I don’t know if I can endure a Trump-Biden rematch, with all of the craziness and quarreling. It’s so dispiriting.”

All the women at the table agreed. I tried to console them that at least a possible Trump victory offered the prospect of entertainment, but they didn’t find this persuasive.

“I’m sick of both men and wish they would retire instead of tormenting us all,” my mother said.

During Trump’s presidency I was a steadfast defender and was frequently ostracized for it. I still believe he is an infinitely better candidate than President Biden. However, it seems to me Trump is encumbered with several problems that make him ill-suited to lead the country forward and to heal its dreadful divide.

First among them is the inescapable fact that a huge swath of the country has been programmed to hate him. Anything he says – even if it’s truthful and sage – will be automatically rejected by this large cohort.

It’s doesn’t matter that their loathing is largely irrational. Humanity has always been governed more by feelings than by rational considerations. Likewise, there is no sense in saying (as many of my friends do): “To hell with these emotionally-dysregulated fools.”

On Trump

The collective malaise and neurosis with respect to Trump runs too deep and it won’t be resolved. We Americans must find a way to live together and find common ground. If Trump is elected, the country is going to spend another four years in a loony bin of rancor and strife.

My assessment of candidate Trump will make me extremely unpopular among his supporters. They can take consolation that my opinion of Biden is even grimmer. Biden was never popular among Democrats when he was young and strong and had the gift of gab. According to a long report published in Politico on August 14, 2020, President Obama remarked to a fellow Democrat during the 2020 primary campaign, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f— things up.”

Given that the average retirement age for most professions in the United States is 65, why has the Democratic Party chosen as its candidate an obviously senile man who will turn 82 on November 20, 2024? To me, this strongly suggests that President Biden is not the chief executive of the United States, but the puppet of unelected interests. To use a variation of the old saying “the Emperor has no clothes,” I declare that “the President has no higher-level cognition.”

The Birthday Celebration In Los Angeles

On Monday I flew to Los Angeles to attend Robert Kennedy Jr.’s 70th birthday celebration in West Hollywood. Sitting next to me on the flight was a fellow Dallas resident going to LA to attend a trade show. We fell into a discussion about current affairs, and she confessed that, although she has long identified herself as a Republican and Trump supporter, her heart sank at the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch.

About 230 guests attended Kennedy’s 70th birthday party, but it still had an air of intimacy, with none of the the bombastic and garish spectacle of most political events. Del Bigtree gave a talk in which he pointed out that if we get another four years of Biden, about half the country will reject all of his policies and pronouncements out of hand. Likewise, if we get another four years of Trump, the other half of the country will do the same. As he put it, Bobby Kennedy Jr. lights the way forward, out of this dark chasm.

Kennedy’s confidante and security chief, Gavin de Becker, gave a touching tribute in which he talked about the presidential candidate’s love of nature, abiding curiosity about the reality of the world, and steadfast willingness to listen to other points of view, even if they challenge his own.

“Even if you don’t agree with all of his positions about everything, you can rest assured that Bobby will always strive to ascertain and tell the truth of any matter.”

Kennedy is Open Minded

Though I don’t agree with all of the positions that Kennedy has stated over the years, I know from various reliable sources that he does indeed have a rare ability to consider new information and opinions. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that – alone among major public figures – he took the time and effort to consider the indications that vaccines (so long a Sacred Cow) may in fact be harmful to some people.

Kennedy’s speech was a model of classy understatement in which he thanked his friends and his wife, and briefly reviewed the lessons he has learned over seven decades of life. I was most impressed by his statement – clearly spoken with heartfelt conviction – that his best and most satisfying moments were those in the service of truth and goodness.

“Every time I did something in the pursuit of my own advantage or to indulge my selfish desires, the results were vile,” he said.

Highlight of the Evening

For me, the highlight of the evening was a speech delivered by Tony Lyons, cofounder of the American Values 2024 PAC and president of Skyhorse Publishing. As I have long been a poetry lover, I was thrilled to hear Lyons recite the latter half of the final stanza of Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” which has long been one of Kennedy’s favorite poems.

Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

I’ve always preferred Tennyson’s poem to Yeats’s rather gloomy “Sailing to Byzantium,” in which he too addressed the question of what is left for a man entering old age. I suspect that when my fellow Texan, Larry McMurtry, sat down to write his masterpiece, Lonesome Dove, he thought about Tennyson’s poem.

’Tis not too late for this tired and beleaguered republic to seek a newer world. In recent years we’ve been made weak by time and fate, but we can still muster the strength of will to strive, to seek, and to find a better country for ourselves and our children and grandchildren. I believe that RFK Jr. is now our country’s best hope for embarking on this formidably difficult endeavor.

Besides, he has not been made weak by time and fate. Even at the age of 70, he can still bust out 24 pull-ups (I’ve seen him do it).

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