Sunday, the rains came — in a measurable amount for the first time since early August. September had seemed like an extension of summer dog days, with the heat lodged in the mid-90s under cloudless skies, day after day. The ground was scorched and dusty and hard as bone. But Sunday afternoon, the rains finally came — in a noisy, unruly downpour that sustained itself overnight and into the next morning.
On Monday, coffee made, I walked outside in a rain jacket, squishing across my soaked lawn to pick up the Commercial Appeal, knotted into its tiny plastic bag, sealed against the elements. I returned with wet bare feet and the feeling that fall had finally pushed its way into town.
The morning paper was thin and filled with news I'd mostly read online — sports scores I already knew and not-timely analysis from Saturday's contests. But game analysis is game analysis, and who doesn't like reading about their team when they win? Go, Tigers.
I can't help it. I like a newspaper with my coffee, a ritual I can't seem to let go of, even though the Chess Quiz guy died and that feature hasn't been replaced, and even though I'm seldom unable to resist Word Jumble, which occupies more minutes than it should sometimes: NROPE, AZUEG, AUNAGI, HRETIM. The six-letter ones are harder.
And I like some of the CA's young reporters — Desiree Stennett, Micaela Watts, Jason Munz, to name three. I think the local coverage is getting better and is pretty solid, most of the time. I learn enough to keep my subscription rolling, despite the paper's absurd print deadline.
I poured another cup of coffee and checked my email and saw the morning notice from the Daily Memphian. I went to their website and read as much as I wanted to. The DM has the best sports writing in town, for my money ($7 a month), but the utter lack of national news keeps it from being a full news source of record and gives it something of a small-town paper feel. I do think it's a necessary read for anyone wanting to keep up with what's going on in the city.
Then I checked Twitter — where the news begins and where the reaction to it is gratifyingly instantaneous. That's mostly because of President Trump, who drives the national news cycle with his tweets — mostly to our detriment. Still, if you're a news junkie and you're not following newsmakers, pundits, journalists, and, yes, the president, on Twitter, you're doomed to reading secondhand news, after it's been through the spin filters.
The night before, Sunday, I'd been startled to read a tweet out of nowhere from Trump that stated he had decided to pull U.S. troops from Syria after talking to the president of Turkey, leaving our allies in the fight against ISIS — the Kurds — mostly defenseless against soon-to-invade Turkish forces. It seemed like a terrible idea.
On Monday morning, the critics agreed, including a number of Republicans who saw Trump's move as impulsive, ill-considered, and a betrayal of a loyal ally. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, who has morphed into a groveling supplicant of the president since John McCain's death, called Trump's move "shortsighted and irresponsible."
He added (on Fox News!): "This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we've made, thrown the region into further chaos. Iran is licking their chops. And if I'm an ISIS fighter, I've got a second lease on life."
The president, ever-sensitive to criticism, tweeted in response: "As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)."
And America went nuts — retweeting the president's comment, mocking it, marveling at it, using it as a punchline, creating memes about "great and unmatched wisdom," etc. — as America does, these days. So it goes.
I have little doubt that Graham will be back under Trump's skirt soon, and that the seemingly endless deluge of appalling news and the flood of whistle-blown malfeasance and noisy political bloviating will continue — until whatever fate awaits us in these stormy times comes to pass. Make no mistake: A reckoning of some sort is coming. It is as inevitable as the change of seasons, as unavoidable as an overdue downpour on bone-dry ground.