The Hottest Day in History — After a cool, tranquil start

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

July 6th 2024

There really isn’t anything to suggest today is unusual. It’s 6:30, full light, and it’s 53 with a very slight breeze from the north. Perfect dog-walking weather, or so the dog, ancient but always eager, thinks. There’s a faint scorched smell in the air this July 6th, but it’s not residue from fireworks. They’re banned here, and residents, mindful of the fire situation, were happy to comply.

The faint odor is left over from the day before, until today the hottest day the town has ever recorded. For a few minutes yesterday, late in a bronze afternoon, it ticked 106.1, unheard-of in this mountain town.

It’s cool, it’s fresh, humidity is low. Thunderstorms are not in the offing, and there’s a mercy. Five miles away, the still-large snowfields of Shasta glisten in the morning sun. They look pristine, but weeks of heat have turned them into cornsnow, and the streams and rivers are all very cold white water.

It’s supposed to be 107 today, and experience suggests the forecast is a bit conservative. But the cool nights are a pleasant surprise; forecasts had us getting nights in the mid 60s, hideously hot for us. Nearly everyone in town depends on “mountain air conditioning”–using exhaust fans to suck the warm air out of the homes and replace them with fresh, cool night air. So after a silent mountain night, the house is fresh and cool.

There is birdsong, but this late in the year it’s subdued. A few whipoorwills and cheeseburger birds stake claims already taken, and in the distance a logging truck grunts its way up the hill.

There shouldn’t be a sense of gathering force, but I know better. In a couple of hours the morning sun will feel uncomfortably harsh. Insects will be silent, birds waiting under leafy canopies.

The heat is coming.

I think about the state of the world. Things there, too, have been unnaturally hot, a symptom of an underlying change. In the United States, the fever has been tumultuous. The Supreme Court has utterly abdicated its role as guardian of the constitution and ruled that yes, the president (or at least one particular president) is above the law. There is a historical precedent, even if the order is a bit different.

Then, as now, it won’t end well.

Biden seemed vague and confused during the debate as Trump mindlessly shouted the same prefabricated lies he has been shouting all along. It was painful to watch, but this, too, had a historical precedent, a warning from the past.

There was once a man who ran for high office. He was a criminal and even though he professed great love and patriotism, he led a violent effort to depose the government. He was hoarse, a hateful shouter who knew that you only needed to keep your lies simple and repeat them, over and over. He “uncovered” groups who were different, and could be scapegoated, and he could lie viciously about them. He worked up a social frenzy and convinced followers that they need only punish these groups and remove them from society and everything would then be fine.

After his conviction, he ran for office again. He was an absurd figure, short, dumpy, and not particularly bright. But he convinced his followers he was like unto a god, and there were hundreds of images of him, tall, muscular, chiseled, a stern, steely-eyed leader whose very presence challenged the sun itself. He, and only he, could restore lost greatness and respect to his land, and he could solve all problems. Sane people saw him as a bad joke, but his followers worshiped him. If he told them white was black, then by gawd white was black, although some moderates would argue it was a dark gray.

He didn’t win his election, getting only 32% of the vote, a plurality. But he came close enough that he could steal the rest, and all that lay in his path was one old man, a colossal figure in recent history, still a hero to many, but old, so very old.

The man bullied him mercilessly as his followers swarmed through the streets, beating political opponents and savaging members of the groups the man has scapegoated. The old hero gave in, and gave the man the role of leader.

Here’s where the order was changed. The man took power first, and then had the laws changed so that any “official act” he committed was legal. Once that took place, it was over. No more elections, and freedoms vanished in a growing morass of horror and lawlessness.

The Enabling Acts gave Hitler all the power he wanted and more, and yet they were nothing more than a change in the law that said any of his official acts were protected and he could not be punished for them.

The old hero he wore into submission was Paul von Hindenberg, a truly old man who died just a couple of years later. He wasn’t alone: before Hitler was done, some 45 million other people died.

The order has changed this time. The Supreme Court has passed its version of the Enabling Acts already, but Trump has yet to come close enough to seize power. Between him and that is an old man. Not as old as von Hindenberg was in 1932, and not nearly as feeble. But Trump and his brown shirts are working feverishly to cast him in that role, hoping, as always, that they can manufacture truth from lies.

Even the politicians and journalists who are shouting for Biden to drop his opposition to the new Leader haven’t paused to wonder why they aren’t shouting for Trump to step down. After all, the man is a criminal, a liar, a thief, a moral and ethical wastrel, and his only redeeming qualities are his incompetence and his short life expectancy. How does an evening of confusion in the face of shouted lies stack up against that?

We know what Trump and his followers want. Like Hitler, they make no secret of it, appealing to the same vile, vicious cretins that lie in the underbelly of any society. They betray in the name of patriotism, defile in the name of their god, and want simple answers to questions that don’t have answers.

But unlike the weather, this is reversible. Trump and his Nazis can be stopped.

It’s starting to warm up out there. The air is cool, but the sun is not fooled. It will put us to the test this day.

The morning chores are done, the garden is watered, pets are seen to, careful provisions for shade and water made. The house is cool, and even if we lose electricity, we should be comfortable and safe.

I know my history. I know what to expect, how to prepare.

How about you?

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