Tonight’s presidential debate was a fitting spectacle for a degraded nation. After ten minutes, C. left the room and shut the door because she’s much smarter than me. I just gaped at the screen, jaw-dropped and groaning. Five years ago, our president entered the arena as a cheap punchline, a six-car pileup causing gawker slowdown. There was the distinct sensation of millions of Americans laughing in the dark while a clown took the wheel. This man became president because of a craving for spectacle.

Published sixty years ago, Daniel Boorstin’s The Image remains one of the most clear-eyed assessments of the power of optics to cannibalize all common sense. But tonight’s event ripped past even the most dire warnings about “the shadow becoming the substance.” Tonight the shadow puffed itself into full authoritarian mode, refusing to honor the democratic process while telling white supremacists to stand by.

Switching gears slightly, there’s another quote from Boorstin that seems worthy of contemplation tonight: “Our great artists battle on a landscape we cannot chart, with weapons we do not comprehend, against adversaries we find unreal.”

Low – Shame

Long Division | Vernon Yard, 1995
Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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