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Peggy Noonan Takes Hayride, Eats Pills, Wonders How A Headless Man Can Speak
Also, she's not totally sure you should vote.
Ah, fall! A season of so much joy! A season of leaves falling, cashmere coats, and warm apple cider spiked liberally with Old Crow. A season of school returning and children in adorable costumes and adults imitating those children with costumes that somehow made them mostly look like extras in an orgy scene from an episode of SVU.
Thus was Peggy Noonan, sister in good standing in the Order of the Halcion Murk, driven to enjoy her favorite activity of the calendar. She had taken the train upstate — which meant Westchester County — to the village of Sleepy Hollow, to participate in some of the town’s annual Halloween festivities. The Gothic mansions! The Jack O’Lantern Blaze ! The hayrides where you were crammed into a tiny wagon with the other hoi polloi that had descended on the town for the same reason as she and joined her on a spooky ramble through darkened woods, dragged along by a tractor manned by a sullen teenager.
This particular hayride, however, was empty. It was just Peggy, a wagon, piles of sweet-smelling hay, and a gallon Ziploc filled with various medications that she kept dipping into like a bag of Pop Rocks. Who was even driving the tractor?
“I am,” rang out a disembodied voice. Peggy squinted at the dark figure that had appeared out of nowhere, sitting regally in the tractor’s seat. So strange, the sights one saw in a dark wood while zoinked out on a fistful of buffalo tranquilizers. Why, this one did not have ... could it be the inky darkness like a caul over her startled eyes ...
“No, you are seeing correctly that I do not have a head.” The figure spun around to face her, yet the tractor continued meandering along the track. “For it is I, the Headless Horseman, returned again on this All Hallow’s Eve to search for the shattered remnants of my skull left behind on the battlefield after being hit by a cannonball fired by those infernal redcoats. And also, I promised your editor at the Wall Street Journal that I would make sure you hit this week’s deadline.”
“So, now!” he continued as Peggy tried to figure out whence the booming voice was emanating, since the man before her did not have a head. “What fires your imagination this week, Peggy? Still thinking about William F. Buckley ? We can work with that .”
Buckley replied that he too wished the votes of the more knowledgeable were given greater weight as this would ensure conservative victories for generations. My goodness they joked around in those days.
“They certainly did! Why, Buckley himself told so many funny jokes, like ‘White Southerners shouldn’t let Negroes win elections ’ and ‘That murderous sociopathic dictator Francisco Franco was good, actually .’ Boy, there was nothing funnier than William F. Buckley when he was in the zone. The man was a walking Johnny Carson monologue.”
My modest hope as Tuesday approaches is that all ballots be cast only after much thought.
"And I just want to find my head!" cried the Headless Horseman as he upended a flask and poured it down the opening where his neck ended in a void. "But here I am haunting these woods for like the two hundred and fiftieth year in a row, having witnessed the breadth of American history, and still no noggin."
If at this point in your life, for whatever reason, you don’t care that much and haven’t bothered to learn much and get a sense of the candidates...t hen I say it would be honorable to hold off and spend the next few years studying. This would be an act of humility. Democracies can’t continue without at least someone being humble.
“Do you think this reverse psychology of shaming people into not voting because they haven’t taken the time to research each candidate in depth will work? I know not, Madam. What I do know is that the voters do not need to go take a few history classes at the Learning Annex lest they miss, say, Kari Lake’s subtle and nuanced views on border security.”
The wave we are in has been building since the spring and summer of 2020 and the protests and riots sparked by the killing of George Floyd. That period has never been fully appreciated as the time of trauma and disorder it was, with small businesses going up in flames and some downtowns turning into war zones.
“Not even a slight acknowledgement of how George Floyd was murdered, and how the resulting protests tied into America’s long history of treating Black lives as disposable? Of lynching innocent Black men and women? Of the historical echoes of race relations so perfectly embodied by a white man kneeling on a Black man’s neck until he was dead? As I mentioned, I have seen the entire breadth of American history from the Revolution up to today — well, I haven't exactly seen it, you know, what without a head that contains eyes and all that — and I can say without qualification that this is a lot of horse hockey.”
On Wednesday evening the president made his hastily called closing argument. It was aggressive and sloppily divisive. Immediately at the beginning he painted the attack on Paul Pelosi, then went to 1/6 and Donald Trump ’s Big Lie. All these things were and are terrible and deserve continued thought and attention. But Joe Biden deployed them politically[.]
“Is an assassination attempt on the speaker of the House and an attack on Congress to halt the peaceful transfer of power and continued lying about election fraud that has led to threats against poll workers and conservative promises to challenge every result somehow not inherently ‘political,’ or have you been huffing jars of expired olives again?”
Would that have worked? No! Nothing will work right now, it’s a midterm and voters are mad. So just be as constructive and realistic as you can. There’s nothing wrong with seeming beleaguered when you are, or asking for help when you need it.
“At which point you would have said the American people are turning against him for showing weakness, because they prefer strong, confident presidents and Biden came off as some namby-pamby liberal who reads too many self-help books.”
You’re getting crushed by unpopular policies . The answer is to change them, not how you talk about them. How you communicate your feelings about the facts isn’t the issue—suburban women don’t care about your feelings. They care about real-world things.
“My good woman, did you not just say that Biden should admit he’s beleaguered and needs help? In other words, to show vulnerability? Good god, please put down that jar of olives.”
Those serious, thoughtful voters I pine for? I hope those elected next week are worthy of them.
“Ma’am, there’s a good chance the voters in Pennsylvania and Georgia are going to elect a medical quack and a brain-damaged football player to the Senate. The thoughtful voters will get worthy candidates when the Republicans choose to nominate any." The Horseman's hands rose as if to grasp his head with his hands in frustration, only to flutter in midair as he remembered that there was no head to grasp.
"Gah," he snarled. "Fuck my head. There's always next year."
And with that, he faded into the blackness of the woods from which he had first appeared. Yet the tractor continued on, dragging the wagon back towards the lights of Sleepy Hollow. She urged it to go faster. The woods were a cold and dark place, and she still had a deadline.