Shalom Auslander's Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir and the story collection Beware of God are published by Picador.


Someone stop this galloping hope

It came suddenly, swiftly. It spread during the day, rested and grew stronger during the night. A disease, an epidemic. A madness.

I am, for now, the lone survivor. There is nowhere left to hide. Not in the bars, not in the cafés. The infected walk the streets of my town with a curious, jaunty gait. They greet one another with broad, sickening smiles, often stopping to high-five each other and say, with a wink, "Yes we can". The manager at the coffee shop. The waitress at the diner. The owner of the local bookshop. All have been struck with this disease, this ailment old as Man.

I have thought about adding security at my house. I have thought about buying a gun. I have thought about phoning the Center for Disease Control in Washington, DC.

"You need to send someone out here."

"We can't do that, sir."

"Why, damn you, why?"

"Hope isn't a disease, sir. Now please get off the line."

The fools. The mad, stubborn, crazy foo...


I live in a fairly typical Northeastern, liberal, left wing, Bob Dylan-revering, Bush-hating, Clinton-defending, homosexual partner-marrying, war-protesting, patchouli-wearing, Huffington Post-reading, earth-saving, hybrid car-driving, corporate America-blaming town. I moved here ten years ago, for the trees and for the fresh air, but mostly for the cynicism. Everyone was pissed off. I don't know where the expression "having an axe to grind" comes from, but if I'd opened an axe-grinding shop then, I'd be a wealthy man now. Everyone was against something, and they gathered, Saturday mornings, on the village green in the centre of town, where they waved placards of outrage and hung hand-painted flags of discontent. Afterwards, inside the cafés and coffee shops, they sat with copies of the New York Times and complained about the mainstream media and the corporatocracy and the kleptocracy and other words mated with "ocracy". I don't watch the news myself, or read the papers, but it was nice to see that people were mindful enough to be hopeless. I was home.

And then, on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama won the election.

Now listen: I supported Obama. I thought he'd do a better job then McCain, if only by living out the length of his term and not making us suffer through yet another new presidency. I even gave him a bit of money. But ever since he won, it's been nothing but rampant hope and unchecked optimism. And it's scaring the shit out of me. It's making me nervous. I'm a Voltaire in a village of Panglosses. This belief in the ability of mankind to change the way we are – to care, to reform, to heal: it's insane. Anyone taking anything resembling an objective look at the history of humanity would find no reason at all to believe it. I feel betrayed. I feel fooled. My neighbours aren't wisely cynical anymore, they are foolishly hopeful. Dangerously hopeful. They mock the religious and read Richard Dawkins (or at least carry his books around so people think that they do), but shit, they might as well find a church and fucking pray; a being, corporeal or otherwise, is not going to lead us to the kingdom of heaven. I get it, I get it – we can't go on, we go on. But we don't go on whistling a tune and kicking our heels and pretending Godot's going to show up. We go on despite knowing that he won't. Because even if he does, trust me, he's going to be wearing jackboots and carrying a rifle, and he's going to impose martial law and open some concentration camps. I'm not immune – I hope Barack can fix some of what was broken. I hope he can resist going to war, I hope he can help repair the economy, I hope he can, after eight long years, pry the Church's insistent, bucking cock from the State's prolapsed rectum. But I also know that a few years after he does, someone else will come along and happily reinsert it. And we'll go back to war. And back into debt. And then someone else will come along, and perhaps they'll fix it all again, but more than likely they'll only make it worse. My point is this: life, as the saying goes, is a series of ups and downs (I would argue for an edit to clarify the ratio of ups to downs, but let's stick with the current wording for now). Life, then: a wavy line-graph that rises and falls, rises and falls, and falls, and falls, and falls, and rises a bit, and falls.

Continues in the print edition. Order now.



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