Editor’s Note: Every now and then I like to
work around some aspect of my English major background. For those of you out there
who were also English majors, I’m aware that I’ve taken a somewhat complex
subject and oversimplified it. However, I don’t think the
average reader wants to hear some boring grammatical dissertation on when you
the “to” from the infinitive to get the subjunctive. Enough said.
of the more obscure aspects of syntax is the subjunctive voice, a grammatical
construction involving beliefs, hopes and wishes, as well as suppositions
contrary to fact. Notable examples include the Cowardly Lion’s “If I were
king of the forest” and Fiddler on the Roof’s “If I were a rich man.” In
such phrases, the normal subject-verb agreement (“I was”) is replaced with
the ostensibly mismatched “I were.”
subjunctive reflects the human condition. Proselytizers hoping to make converts
seem to think people can just choose what they believe, as if it were an act of
will. If I were promised eternal bliss (or $100) for merely saying I believed L.
Ron Hubbard to be a prophet, I could do so easily, but if I had to honestly
believe it, I might just as well try to pretend the Earth is flat and bourbon is
like to believe I look like George Clooney. That I can’t results less from
choice than from the mirrors on my walls. I’d love to think I’m as smart as
the late Stephen Hawking, but no one who’s met me would agree. And I’d like
to believe age has imparted enough wisdom that, if I could go back and live my
life over again, I’d be able to change some of the stupid and embarrassing things I’ve said
or done. But I stopped getting wiser at around 25, so, even with a
“do-over,” I’d probably just do or say different stupid things.
The world is full of things
I wish or hope were true, but can’t believe. For example, despite the
History Channel’s endless programming about Area 51, alien abductions
and ancient astronauts who’ve built everything from the pyramids to the
Golden Arches, I see the absence of hard evidence for UFOs as evidence of
absence. Besides, according to the laws of physics, nothing can move
faster than the speed of light, so interstellar travel isn’t feasible.
Warp drives, tachyons, wormholes and other forms of Star Trek/Star Wars
locomotion may be the stuff of science fiction, but ET probably can’t
I don’t believe in flying
saucers, but skeptics whom I respect have had close encounters that I want to
believe in, and I’d be pleased if aliens were coming here. I’d also
have no trouble believing in god, if it weren’t for the total lack of
evidence. Although I’m not thrilled with the cruel and irrational
theologies of evangelicalism and Islam — with their deities torturing
most of mankind in hell for eternity for practicing the wrong religion —
I’d be more than happy to see proof of a kinder, gentler, more-compassionate god.
And it wouldn’t take much to convince me of heaven — a color brochure,
slides of someone’s vacation in paradise, and I’m on board. Hell might
be a harder sell. (I think I’d need to see video.)
of overheated climates, I’d like to believe global warming is a hoax. However,
that would mean ignoring the vast majority of the scientific community and
siding with right-wing politicians, fundamentalists and mercenaries from the oil
company payrolls. This would be about as reasonable as accepting that Southern
Baptist preachers know more about evolutionary biology than the paleontology
department at MIT.
also wish I believed conservatives aspire to be good Christians, but
that’s always been iffy, and their cultish idolatry of Donald Trump
makes it increasingly implausible. Jesus never once mentioned any of the
Religious Right’s Big Three themes: guns, abortion and gays (GAG), and
Trump-worshipping evangelicals’ attitudes toward children and the
downtrodden, whom Jesus actually did speak of extensively, would probably make
the Savior gag. During the Sermon on the Mount, if you’d asked Jesus how he
felt about “the meek” and “the poor in spirit,” I doubt he’d
have answered, “Lock ’em up … in cages!”
like to think the 80% or 90% of the GOP now supporting Trump are acting out of
some sort misguided patriotism. But spending time with conservatives has convinced me
that most of them care as little for American ideals or democracy as he does.
Pre-Trump, I thought the Right and Left differed mainly on how to get
things done, but now it seems we lack any common ground of shared values.
many D.C. Republicans have simply abandoned their principles. Spineless toadies
like Lindsey Graham (R.-Moscow) fear being primaried and losing their seats (and
the money and power that go with them). Worse still, too many in the GOP — e.g.,
ubertoady Devin Nunez (R.-Mar a Lago) and bigot Steve King (R.-Berchtesgaden)
— share Trump’s values or lack of them.
want to believe the Democrats are serious about winning in 2020, but they
won’t get the rust-belt state votes needed to drag us out of the Trumpian
swamp by raising issues such as busing, reparations and the elimination of
private health insurance. And when all 10 Democratic hopefuls raise their
hands in support of non-mainstream causes, such as free medical care for
illegal immigrants, the prospect of four more years of Orange Mussolini
becomes ever-more frighteningly real.
I hope that, if defeated in 2020, or when his second term ends in 2024,
the president will step down voluntarily, but I have my doubts. Should he act on his
fantasy of emulating Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin and becoming dictator for
life, does anyone believe Mitch McConnell and his conservative sheep will
defy The Donald to protect the Constitution?
nothing changes, we won’t need the subjunctive voice to describe the “what
if” of eight years of corrupt anti-democratic and white supremacist rule. And
no matter what we believe, hope or wish, help doesn’t seem to be on the way.
Aliens aren’t coming from the heavens to rescue us, and, although the Trump
presidency may not be proof, it’s certainly evidence, that, even if there were a
god, he’s no longer on our side.
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