The joke didn’t land, but I’m still hearing the thud. 

The last line of my column published Sunday gave some readers cognitive whiplash, and I’ve been hearing about it since. If you missed it, please read it here, but after digesting this disclaimer. 

The column was a look at a group of “protestors” who believe without a hint of doubt or irony that Donald Trump not only won the election in a “landslide,” but that he will remain in office come Jan. 20, when President-elect and Scranton native Joe Biden will take the oath of office. Their group delusion was explained to me by a young woman who hears Trump’s every empty word as holy scripture.

The following five paragraphs are capped by the offending sentence, highlighted below:

As the sun slipped behind the squat skyline, I gave Lee my contact information and asked her to call me on the Monday after Joe Biden is inaugurated the 46th President of the United States.

“It’s not going to happen,” she said. “Trump won —”

“I know,” I interrupted. “In a landslide.”

At the intersection of Mulberry and Penn Avenue, I hopped in my car and cranked up the heat. As I waited for any hint of warmth, I couldn’t resist asking myself a question that has haunted me since I turned and walked away from Seung-Mi Lee.

What if she’s right?

Some subscribers naturally read that as a personal expression of doubt about the results of the election or the primacy of empirical fact. I have no such doubts, which I thought the column clearly communicated. Biden won. Trump lost. Fire burns, water is wet… 

I unintentionally muddied the waters when I tried to make a serious, specific point with a glib, simplistic quip. My intent was to express my alarm at the ease with which some Americans embrace unreality and the depths to which they have been conditioned to accept obvious falsehood as gospel truth. 

My point was that long-term exposure to the relentless assault on Objective Reality we experience daily is enough to make anyone question his or her own sanity. I walked away from the young woman not with any doubt about the veracity of her delusional claims, but genuine concern that some of us are living in a post-truth bubble that may not burst when Trump’s presidency comes to an inevitable, merciful end. 

It’s tough to make that funny, particularly in a short sentence. My mistake was trying, anyway. Thanks for calling me on it. I’ll do better next time.