How quickly doomsday is redefined. As a third-generation St. Louis Cardinals fan, my universe was permanently altered on November 2nd, when the Chicago Cubs ended 108 years of miserable baseball and won the World Series. Billy Goats and Bartman became afterthoughts when Theo Epstein's latest creation took Game 7 in Cleveland with perhaps the best team assembled since the late-1990s New York Yankees.
For those of you insisting we should all — Cardinal fans included — take at least a small measure of joy in the Cubbies finally escaping lovable-loser status, I'll remind you that a significant part of Cubs culture is hating anything remotely associated with the franchise of Musial, Gibson, Ozzie, and Yadi. In marital terms, make an enemy of my wife, and you've made two. Dark baseball days ahead for yours truly.
Then, of course, came November 8th. And perspective on misery. On madness. On the reshaping of what we considered order, normalcy. Watching the election returns Tuesday night felt like slowly impaling myself with a long sword, however impressive CNN's John King's mastery of the "Magic Wall" might have been.
A person unfit for the U.S. presidency in ways we didn't even measure an election cycle ago — he grabbed their what? — was elected to be leader of the free world. As North Carolina and Florida went full Donald, as Michigan and Wisconsin established their Trumpish standards, the world was left to consider the next four years under the watch of a man whose disregard for those who don't look like himself (especially his actual self) threatens the comfort level of every such person in the country.
I've felt the shock of elections before. When Peyton Manning's Heisman Trophy was given to Charles Woodson in 1997, I told myself I'd never again consider the result of a vote a certainty. Human opinion is too varied, too cynical, too easily persuaded by today's weather, stock market report, or promise of walls to keep out all the baddies. But I considered Hillary Clinton's election last week a certainty. Foolish me. Foolish 60 million of us.
The irony of these two violent twists — as I see them — of American history's timeline? Hillary Clinton is a Cubs fan. Think she wouldn't have relished welcoming Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and friends to the White House in a few months? Now we'll likely see the American president insist on comparing his hand size with that of Jake Arrieta or Aroldis Chapman. (Please fates, let this photo-op happen.)
Long live the Cubs. Honestly. Should Lucifer himself show up at my doorstep, I'd trade four more championships for Wrigleyville to reverse the election result that makes Donald Trump America's 45th president. Barack Obama brought intelligence, decency, compassion, grace, and humor to the White House, qualities we know (especially now) are not a given.
Obama was not a perfect president (we've yet to see one), but he became a face and voice for the United States that the rest of the world grew to like. It's hard to imagine our friends in South America, Europe, or Asia warming up to the idea of Trump in their living rooms. This is unhealthy in an age when the world is connected more than it's ever been.
Oceans are no longer enough to practice isolationism. Build walls, and, instead of keeping the baddies out, you're actually closing yourself in. Donald Trump has no conception of this, especially in metaphorical terms.
My single greatest fear about a Trump presidency? The reports that Trump doesn't read. Take away interest and curiosity, and a man is little more than the flesh and blood you see in front of you. If we are not learning, if we are not exploring, we are settling for standards defined by others, standards that may or may not enhance the growth of mankind. And we are prone to limiting exploration in the interest of a perceived comfort zone. This is the world I believe Trump embraces.
There is no "art of the deal" in world affairs. Profit alone cannot and should not be the compass guiding an American president. Compromise. Flexibility. A willingness to listen to those who disagree. These are the traits of this country's greatest presidents: Washington, Lincoln, both Roosevelts. They made policy — and got their way — without walls, metaphorical or otherwise.
I'm prepared to endure the Chicago Cubs' reign. Donald Trump's? Like so much of the world, I intend to hold tight to the people and values I love.
Frank Murtaugh is managing editor of Memphis magazine and covers sports for the Flyer.