MONDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2020
Professor starts enemies list: Carlotta Valdes was speaking to Jimmy Stewart deep inside the Muir Woods.
(In fact, her statements were filmed at Big Basin Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County. Either way, she was surrounded by giant redwoods, the oldest living things on earth. The footage was filmed for Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 classic.)
Valdes (1831-1857) had lived in California a century before. Now, she'd seized control of Kim Novak's person and, with Hitchcock's cameras running, she told Stewart this:
VALDES: How old?
STEWART: Oh—some, two thousand years, or more.
VALDES: The oldest living things?
STEWART (nods affirmation): ...What are you thinking?
VALDES: Of all the people who have been born—and have died—while the trees went on living.
"Their true name is Sequoia Sempervirens: always green, ever-living," Stewart said.
Moments later, as Hitchcock continued to film, Valdes inspected the remains of a giant tree which had been brought down and put on display. Its rings were marked with historical dates, extending back to the Battle of Hastings—and we don't mean Hastings, Nebraska!
As Valdes fingered the mighty tree's rings, her dreamy rumination continued. "Somewhere in here I was born," she said. "And here I died."
Reportedly, Stewart never accepted the fact that he had spoken with the historical Valdes. He always insisted that he'd been conversing with a character Novak, an actress, was playing.
In that way, Stewart missed a remarkable moment. In fact, in remarkable footage captured by Hitchcock, "Novak" had emitted the voice of Valdes—and Valdes was dreaming back over the sweep of human history.
A somewhat similar manifestation took place last Wednesday afternoon on one of our cable news channels. Suddenly, a panel discussion took cable viewers back through the annals of time
Professor Johnson was the speaker that day. On this occasion, the time travel went like this:
Professor Johnson was appearing as a guest on Deadline: White House. It already seemed likely that Candidate Biden was going to win the election.
Biden was on his way to the White House. The professor, like so many before him, was compiling his enemies list.
Earlier that afternoon, the candidate had given a speech in which he said that, while he'd run as a Democrat, he would also be a president for those who had voted against him.
"To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. We are not enemies," Biden had explicitly said.
As humans have done since the dawn of time, Professor Johnson pushed back hard against this way of thinking. In the oration transcribed below, he mused about the large numbers of people who voted for Donald J. Trump:
JOHNSON (11/4/20): America, by the slightest of disturbing margins, decided they wanted to pick someone who doesn't actively dislike the people who gave him the job.
I am disturbed by the fact that not enough Americans made that decision.
I am disturbed by the fact that you have large numbers of people who are like, "Yeah, a guy who leaves people out in the cold, and a quarter of a million people die of Covid, and harasses women and everything else like that, I want a little bit more of that, and I don't really know if I wanted the other guy."
So this election really shows me a lot of really disturbing things about this country racially, very disturbing things about this country from a gender standpoint, and I have to say this:
Because if Joe Biden becomes president of the United States—and I hope that he does, because he is not a dictator in the making; he seems to be a decent guy—I will immediately turn around my hat and be excruciatingly critical of him. Because you cannot come into this White House with the idea that these people aren't the enemy. They are.
The people chasing the Biden-Harris truck out of Texas, they are the enemies of democracy.
The people right now attacking vote counters in Detroit, they are the enemy.
Kyle Rittenhouse is the enemy. Mitch McConnell is the enemy. And if there's one thing that Democrats should have finally figured out in this campaign, you can't treat the Republican Party with kid gloves, because they won't treat you that way.
I hope Joe Biden just gave this speech to sound nice because everything isn't locked down yet. Maybe Senator Harris will have this idea should she become vice president.
But they have to go into this realizing they're in a war. The war for the soul of America will not end once he's inaugurated and I hope he remembers that.
With that, the professor finished his speech. Quite literally, he was already building his list.
A 17-year-old was the enemy; so was Mitch McConnell. As Carlotta Valdes sometimes reminds us during private consultations, we humans have always been inclined to function this way.
As a species, we're strongly inclined to split into tribes and to make enemies lists. The professor, feeling himself at war, hoped that Biden had been lying about trying to serve everyone.
The endless election is finally done. It's all over now but the reacting.
Does Professor Johnson's reaction make sense? At this time tomorrow morning, we'll start our discussion right there.
Tomorrow: Ways to identify others