End Time

"Doomsday," Kimotaker

End Time

I’ve been reading a voluminous book by historian Richard Landes called Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of Millenial Experience. It’s exhaustive. Whew! With contagious verve and overwhelming scholarly exactitude, the book goes into the many ways in which people all over the globe have thought that history as we know it was coming to an end.

It turns out this happens to people so often, no matter what their education level, previous condition or mind set, that I’m inclined to wonder whether we’re hardwired for it, or have it encoded in our DNA.

Take our current options in the race for the job of president of the United States of America.   When I look at our alternatives, I’m inclined to think the world must be coming to an end.

I’m totally impartial. I think they’re both horrible: him and her. Since he’s the one who, in my humble view, taps into the “end time syndrome,” I’ll look at her first. Not the whole candidate. Just a point or two having to do with her enabling symbiosis with a predator whose prey was women, since this blog is oriented toward our sex.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous column, I watched the interview of Juanita Broaddrick on NBC right after the impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton had fizzled. The story this respectable woman told, of having suffered a criminal rape by Bill Clinton — he sank his teeth into her upper lip so that he could tear her face if she fought him off — was wholly credible. I was unsuccessful in a prolonged effort to interest feminists in the matter, but in the process I did have occasion to talk to Juanita long distance for 40 minutes. She impressed me as thoroughly sane, normal and intelligent.

Recently, I read that she is selling her house, where she now lives alone, and planning to move to her son’s property. Why is she doing that? If the story I read is accurate, it’s because too many people have been found threatened or worse after they became inconvenient to the Clintons. I thought: haven’t they done enough to her? I did not think, “she’s crazy.”

So much for the aspect of the Clintons that touches our frail womanhood.

Now let’s look at him, her competitor for the big job. You can say this for him: anything he publicly promised to do, he has also publicly unpromised. He’s

THE MAN WHO CANNOT DISAPPOINT.

As his remarks about women embody a degree of coarseness that I find simply unfathomable, I’ll pass right along to other considerations. There is his oddball responsiveness to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s flattery, which some have linked to his cavalier approach to NATO, sole protector of the small nations on Russia’s border. There is his combustible temperament and strange personal vindictiveness. There is his use of an anti-semitic image, lifted from a neo-Nazi Web forum, to attack his opponent. Also, his notable failure to dissociate his campaign from enforcers whose cascading emails — referencing gas chambers — target Jews who’ve crossed him. The enforcers are not just Holocaust Deniers. They are Holocaust Advocates! In American politics at the national level, that’s a new one. And not a good one.

The reasonable, public-spirited and well-intentioned people I know, some of whom I count as friends, who intend to vote for him, seem to me to share one hope or fear: it’s end time.

One of the accompaniments of end time, according to Richard Landes, is the willingness to suspend disbelief and cast one’s hopes on a charismatic redeemer who will ride in, change the rules, turn everything topsy turvy, and by that method make everything come right again. Viewed this way, broken promises, broken protocol, broken precedents become evidence for the new dispensation. The redeemer will step onto the stage of history and make it all come right precisely because he does all the things that normal people deplore.

So what is this end time thing? By the way, don’t get me wrong. I’m just as susceptible to it as the next fella.

Although Jews have been seduced by false messiahs too (witness Sabbatai Zvi or Bar Kochba), on the whole, they tend to stick with what Richard Landes calls “normal time” – and I call “Jewish time.” You know, one thing after another, stick with it, hoe your row, respect the track record (yours and other people’s). With or without a horse, just keep lopin’ along.

I think that’s what is called doing God’s work in God’s world. But every once in a while – for reasons unforeseen in advance – things get to feel intolerable. It can’t be borne, not any of it, not even one more minute, and

we all want out!

About Abigail

Abigail Rosenthal is Professor Emerita of Philosophy, Brooklyn College of CUNY. She is the author of A Good Look at Evil, a Pulitzer Prize nominee, soon to appear in a revised second edition. Its thesis is that good people try to live out their stories while evil people aim to mess up good people’s stories. Her next book, Confessions of a Young Philosopher, forthcoming, provides multiple illustrations from her own life. She writes a weekly column for her blog, “Dear Abbie: The Non-Advice Column” (www.dearabbie-nonadvice.com) where she explains why women's lives are highly interesting. She’s the editor of the posthumously published Consolations of Philosophy: Hobbes’s Secret; Spinoza’s Way by her father, Henry M. Rosenthal. Her next book project will be Conversations with My Father. Some of her articles can be accessed at https://brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/AbigailMartin . She is married to Jerry L. Martin, also a philosopher. They live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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