Looking forward to a more productive week in quarantine now that martial law and the end of our democracy appear to be off the table for the time being.

The disturbing emergency alert sound from my phone (for DC’s 4th curfew night) makes me think of an air raid siren. The blaring is an apt metaphor for this presidency.

Minnesota Governor Walz’s assertion that ongoing riots are no longer about George Floyd ring true in a way. But were they ever about one man? Floyd’s death was certainly no one-off. The protests—and the participation of so many young people—should give pause to those leaders who would gloss over this society’s brutal injustices and disparities.

I watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) last night. Despite the many differences to today’s world and the oversimplification of the state political machine, the politics in the film strike me as relevant to our own time. Thing is, though, it would probably resonate with Americans regardless of ideological or party orientation. Anti-Trump people could take its anti-corruption and pro-democracy message to heart. Pro-Trump people could embrace how the Washington outsider triumphs, and credulous pro-Trumpers could go for the anti-corruption, pro-democracy stuff too. Finally, the rough-and-tumble quality of the political game would resonate across the political spectrum.

To stand in Mann’s study today, with editions of Goethe and Schiller on the shelves, is to feel pride in the country that took him in and shame for the country that drove him out—not two Americas but one. In this room, the erstwhile “Greatest Living Man of Letters” fell prey to the clammy fear of the hunted. Was the year 1933 about to repeat itself? Would he be detained, interrogated, even imprisoned? In 1952, Mann took a final walk through his house and made his exit. He died in Zurich, in 1955—no longer an émigré German but an American in exile.

– Alex Ross, “The Haunted California Idyll of German Writers in Exile,” The New Yorker, March 9, 2020 issue.