PENC-IVE

1. It’s Tuesday, October 4, 2016. The election is 35 days away.

2. As helpfully reminded by Google, today is the 434th anniversary of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII. Why Google chose to focus on the 434th anniversary and not, say, the 433rd last year is curious but not essential to this tale.

The purpose of adopting the Gregorian calendar, with its leap years and weird month lengths, was to align the seasons with what people think the date should be. They had gotten out of whack – think about how, in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan keeps shifting earlier into each year, and you have an idea what was happening to spring before Gregory’s advisers came along.

By the time Great Britain and its American colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they had to make up 11 days. One day, it was September 2, 1752 in London. The next day, it was September 13. Talk about losing track of time!

And then think of the poor people born before 1752 who had to recalibrate their birthdays. One of them was George Washington. When he was born, the calendar in the Virginia house said February 11, 1732. And for 20 years, as he was growing up, he celebrated his birthday on the 11th.

Then came the calendar change. And now, February 22 became George’s birthday. A whole childhood of anticipating February 11 wiped away by forces beyond his control. Imagine how your kids would feel.

Anyway, let’s hear it for Pope Gregory and his calendar, 484 years old today – give or take a day.

3. Here’s why I’m sweating out tonight’s vice presidential debate:

Mike Pence is a heinous human being. His position on a woman’s right to control her body is out of the Middle Ages. His position on same-sex families is equally awful. And, of course, he subscribes to the Republican orthodoxy that rich people paying taxes is a scourge.

But unlike his running mate, he doesn’t look or sound like a buffoon. He speaks in complete sentences. His hair, while certainly something in which he appears to take great pride, isn’t freakish.

And if, as he’s more than capable of doing, the Indiana governor puts a respectable face on incredibly not respectable positions, he could stop the momentum of a GOP slide that has seen most polls tilt toward Clinton and Kaine. The fact that there’s still 35 days to go is enough time to wreak havoc.

4. So what does Tim Kaine have to do tonight?

He has to remind people that Pence is a jackass, too. That same-sex marriage hasn’t harmed anyone and allowed people in love to affirm their commitment. That women should not feel the scorn of the government when they make difficult choices regarding their bodies. That Pence once argued that cigarettes haven’t been proven to be a health hazard.

And he has to remind people that Pence had the godawful judgment to be Trump’s running mate. To be on a ticket with the least qualified person ever to run for president.

Is Kaine up to the task? I sure hope so. I think he’s a pretty smart guy.

But I am nervous.

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