OK, it was wrong of me to say last week that we should deny health care to Republicans except for aspirin and hand sanitizer, and thank you to the many readers who kindly took me to task. It was so wrong. And I withdraw the idea that death panels should circulate through red states searching for the obese and slow afoot, the wheezy and limpy, spray-painting orange stripes on their ankles, marking them for future harvest. That was very, very bad.

Republicans have the same right to quality health care as anyone else, and you can quote me on that. Even people who are crazed stark raving berserk by the thought of a president with three vowels in his last name deserve to be treated with kindness and dignity, and shot with tranquilizer darts by game wardens and wrapped in quilts and taken to refuge.

What has come along to change my mind? Fall, magnificent fall, in all its grandeur, when the maples are blazing with glory, like young romantic poets dying as they are writing their best stuff. John Keats died at 25, Shelley at 29. Stephen Crane was 28. Franz Schubert was 31, and Mozart was just a young married guy with a couple of little boys, neither of whom did much in their lives. One of them had musical talent but was crushed by the burden of his father’s fame. (Great men probably shouldn’t have children, so keep that in mind if you are wildly brilliant: Use a condom.)

The maple trees stand in the yards of we stolid Midwesterners and they cry out for unbridled passion and heartbreaking beauty and fabulous golden yellows and blazing reds, and they tell us to quit our jobs and fly away in pursuit of hopeless romance and a life of dance and poetry and of course we don’t listen to the bad advice of trees, we go right ahead fixing our children’s lunches and asking them what they want to be for Halloween, and then the rain falls and the wind blows and romanticism is gone, a heap of rotting leaves on the ground.  

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