The January 4 & 11, 2021 New Yorker is almost entirely devoted to a single 40 page article by Lawrence Wright aptly titled “Plague Year.” It brought to mind two other titles, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and HL’s own 2010 and 2012 Journal of The Plague Year that enjoyed Warhol’s 15 seconds, was attacked on the Times page one by Andrew Cuomo but still got a decent review in its Sunday Book Review.
HL’s Plague Year chronicled the roughly 17 months in 2006-2008 of the transition to governor, reign and resignation of the once presumed future president Eliot Spitzer. He was our protégé, law and tennis partner and we served as his Senior Policy Advisor during that elongated year. At the time, Spitzer’s administration, including HL, seemed so inept and painful, especially relative to expectations that had given Eliot a roughly 70/30 plurality, never before or since achieved, that we analogized it to the Great Plague of 1665. And we copied the title of Daniel Defoe’s fictional chronicle of a very real plague in London that officially killed 68,596 of London’s 460,000 inhabitants and was only fully “controlled” when the Great Fire of 1666 killed most of the rat and flea hosts of the Bubonic Bacillus.
Yea, analogizing New York 2007 to London 1665 was hyperbolic and after 2020 seems downright stupid. We resolve never to do that again. But in analogizing Trumpism to a plague, as we did in HL 100 “Chronicling Plagues Viral and Political” we were guilty of hypobole (look it up in the Urban Dictionary) even then (April, 2020). But since the comparison is not merely understated but grossly inadequate to describe the damage from Trumpism. To our nation, its democratic rules and institutions and to the spirit and many lives of its people. The United States’ and Americans’ collective resolution this year must be NEVER AGAIN.
Never again. I teach and write about international crimes – the courts and tribunals, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Modern history has bitterly proved ‘never again ‘ wrong and is still doing today. May we have the resolve to carry out your plea.