I‘VE TAKEN IN all the US presidential and vice-presidential debates. Over the years these have become highly rehearsed and scripted affairs, meticulously polished and doubtless focus group vetted and — well, who knows what else the candidates do these days. Computer modelling, maybe. Virtual reality simulations. Testing on non-human animals. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that media experts and pollsters and psychics are also consulted. The result of all this engineering is debate not unlike processed food: enjoyable, but who knows what’s really in it.
ON SEPTEMBER 12, the Democrat nominee for the 1960 Presidential election addressed the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in a speech which begins as follows:
THE DISCERNMENT of the Almighty’s will in weather is a practice of such antiquity that one may consider it a founding art, and until the early 16th century our species’ principal mode of meteorology. Much of the Old Testament is dedicated to the routine business of parsing natural disaster, for the exclusive purpose of teasing out its esoteric grammar of retribution. At the professional apex of this undertaking one finds the prophets. The Book of Amos for instance may be termed weather-centric, organized as it is around cataclysm and opening with the following pronouncement: “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa — what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.”