Readers, when the news broke of Donald Trump's infection with COVID-19 did you have the fleeting thought you hoped it would kill him?
If so, shame on you!
But the same shame on your columnist, too, for Brutish Ian entertained that very thought for a little while. Then Civilised Ian, shocked at his brutalised brother, put him in his place.
ABC Radio National's The Minefield (always "looking at the ethical and moral dilemmas of modern life") was quick to examine this very topic with its episode "Should We Rejoice That Trump Has COVID-19?"
The show's nimble-minded Waleed Ali sensed that perhaps 20 per cent of people "are cheering him [Trump] on to die". His co-host Scott Stephens, deploring the phenomenon but agreeing it exists, thought so many of us wanting the virus to kill Trump was another sign of the "imbrutement" (lovely, underemployed word!) of us by Trump and his awfulness.
Trump is a brute and behaves like a brute, Stephens thinks, and so has brought about such an imbrutement of so many of us that we are incapable of feeling humane feelings towards him.
"It reveals a lot, doesn't it," Waleed marvelled, "that a significant number of people are excited and are rejoicing 'Trump's got COVID!'?"
"It reveals that because everything with him is political that we are incapable of responding to him as a human being that might be in trouble. Because he politicises all of us he seems an unhuman in our reckoning."
One was grateful to this edition of the always-stimulating show for explaining our first, shocking responses to us. Trump has imbruted us.
But in my case it seems a curable imbrutement. After a mind-clearing walk in the garden and a finger-wagging lecture to myself (as I stood beside the hollyhocks) I was restored to thinking that it is a terrible thing that anyone, even a morally contagious brute who is a superspreader of brutish feelings, should be killed by this virus.
Who is the real Alistair Coe?
As I crochet this column (it is a Thursday morning) it was reported that more than 70 per cent of Canberrans had engaged in "early voting" well before Saturday's last opportunity to exercise enfranchisement's priceless boon.
In last Sunday's impossible-to-forget column I marvelled at anyone's readiness to vote early, calling it not early voting but premature voting, half-cocked voting. Why anyone would vote before all of an election period's promises and impressions are safely gathered in escapes me, especially since every new day of the campaign has bristled with parties' announcements of new policy miracles that will come to pass when and if they are elected to government.
And, still on my theme, those of you who voted prematurely did so without the essential information about hitherto mysterious Liberal leader Alistair Coe published in Wednesday's Canberra Times. Dan Jervis-Bardy's excellent and substantial piece Who Is The Real Alistair Coe? answered that big question none of you who voted before reading it could possibly have known the answer to. In your folly you have voted for or against Alistair Coe and his Liberals without knowing who he is. Your columnist, by contrast, will have voted on Saturday with a properly information-packed mind.
Dan's professionally even-handed profile gave one lots to think about.
Alas, though, I'm afraid that for me the discovery that "He [Alistair Coe] joined the ACT Young Liberals as a 16-year-old in 2000 when John Howard was Prime Minister" and then went on to climb up and up the rungs of the Young Liberals' ladder was a great disappointment.
It is only Thursday, and I am open to a change of heart between now and when I sally forth to vote on Saturday, but I'm afraid there is something unforgivable about anyone becoming, and staying a Young Liberal.
It is a tragedy that someone in their post-pubescent teens should already be a dry, withered, conservative, John Howardy thing at a time of their lives when, if they were emotionally and intellectually healthy, they would be bubbling with radical idealism, with probably impossible dreams of making the world a better place, of righting the world's wrongs.
At 16 a boy or a girl should be a dynamic, daring-to-dream, big-hearted Greta Thunberg not a pragmatic, narrow, cynical, fossilising John Howard or Bronwyn Bishop. It is a tragedy that any child ever becomes a Young Liberal (what were Alistair's parents thinking of that when they allowed it?) But it emerged from Wednesday's timely profile of him that this is a tragedy that continues to define and shape Alistair Coe. He remains forever Young, but is Young with a capital Y as in Young Liberal.
Eerily conservative "Alistair Coe was the only government or opposition leader to vote 'No' in the 2017 same-sex marriage [referendum]". Coe's teenage crush on John Howard seems to have endured. We all have irrational crushes when we are 16, but when we have lively, questing minds we grow out of them.
Coincidentally this week ABC Classic radio has been dwelling on the stellar but tragically cut-short career of the amazing cellist Jacqueline du Pre. As a teenage prodigy she was sometimes criticised for her "extravagant" style of playing but the great conductor Sir John Barbirolli to her defence saying (words to the effect) that the young really should be showing youthfully exuberant extravagance in everything, lest, in inhibited and cautious old age they grieve over never having gambolled and frolicked.
Alas, Young Liberals deny and cork up the natural extravagances of youth. One might say their premature engagement with ultra-conservative politics imbrutes them.
- Ian Warden is a regular columnist.