At this point in the modern plague, probably everyone is familiar with the old-timey plague doctor uniform. But why was it so macabre? For a bad reason, it turns out, but with good consequences.
Today is Spinoza’s 388th Birthday, and in his honor, I’m sharing one of my favorite anecdotes of his life – that time when he almost got torn to bits defending those two other guys who got torn to bits.
Public testimony submitted to the Michigan Board of Canvassers, Nov. 23, 2020:
“Your vote is sacred.”
From the time an American is a child, we are told this untold times. Our parents instill these words in us when they take us to accompany them to the voting booth. Our teachers tell us this when we learn how our government is work — or is meant to work — in our school rooms. Candidates promise us this when they come begging for those votes. I heard countless lawmakers — Democrat and Republican — utter these words on the House floor when I worked for the Michigan House of Representative for seven years.
Leaving Trump is like leaving an abusive partner – the only way to do it is to finally do it. There’s no guarantee once you do that everything will end up as you hoped. But I can promise you this: until you leave, no good change will come.
When I was 19, I was in an abusive relationship. Anyone who knows about abusers knows they’re most dangerous when you leave them. That’s why I worry so much for my country now.
‘Twas the night before Election Day and all through the land
Hardly a person was feeling good – not a child, woman or man.
The polls had be read, re-read and discussed at great length
The candidates dissected, all their weaknesses and strengths.
The Democrats lay awake unable to sleep in their beds,
as visions of doom replayed in a loop in their heads.
Trumphumpers, instead, gathered in their masses
Not wearing their masks and behaving like asses.
That left only me, neither worried nor rallying
But confident that soon all the votes would be tallying.
It’s true, the calls to disturb the election with violence are troubling,
And I don’t like the thought of a violent uprising bubbling.
But I have been reading the signs and I like all the portents
And to expect good news – I just think it makes more sense.
So worry if you must, and stay up all night fearing
But I’m willing to bet that soon we’ll be cheering.
So to the good-hearted, the just, the exhausted, the ones dying of fright –
Be of good cheer and look forward to election night!
Spinoza says that ALL things MUST happen exactly as they do because of everything that came before. We humans are a part of nature and not apart from it, and beholden to the same laws. That includes things like how you react to people who look different from you. Or what you will have for lunch tomorrow. Or who we vote for.
I can’t allow myself to slip into despair. It’s just not a place I want to be. So I began looking for a branch to grasp on the slide down that hill. And I turned to, of course, Spinoza. Because what use is philosophy if you can’t use it when you really need it?
We need a new national mythology, one that makes room for all of us. Everyone needs to be able to see themselves in America’s origin story. We need to all be able to take pride in where we came from and how we got here.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and James Madison get to form our origin story. In truth, the people who enabled them to have the time, wealth and energy to pursue such things were the ones who did all the hard work and only received punishment and pain in return.