Here we go again

Off hiatus, two-plus years later. Things aren’t perfect — but isn’t it wonderful that you don’t have to turn aside, squint, and grit your teeth when the Leader of the Free World opens his mouth?

Not just that. Besides the cranial equipment and the grit of galvanizing personal experience, the new sheriff’s got grace, dignity, and…

We’ve shown the world a new face that reflects both our better nature and the hope that possibility brings.

I was 12 when Jack Kennedy was elected President. I think I’ve already said that the Sisters of the Holy Cross got us down on our knees every Friday afternoon after Labor Day in 1960 to pray for a Notre Dame victory on Saturday and the Senator’s on the first Tuesday in November. Avenging Al Smith aside and the other baggage of acquired faith, even at that age I remember a broad sense of cultural shift. It wasn’t as dramatic, of course – stability, prosperity, the stewardship theory, and the absence of the 24-hour “news” cycle made it so. Sherman Adams, Checkers, the Republican cloth coat, and the “kitchen debate” occurred, and remained, in context. (Well, okay – the foreshadowing thing.) Francis Gary Powers didn’t hold a candle to Abu Ghraib; at least there was an intelligence-gathering excuse that made sense if you said it fast enough. Hell, Kennedy had to invoke Quemoy and Matsu and a manufactured missile gap to even get the media to associate his name with national security.

Oh, and there was the same queasiness among the elders about young Jack’s tender years and lack of experience. He’d only served three years in the House and was barely into his second term in the Senate, after all. (Eisenhower had no prior political experience and Truman logged just 10 years as a Senator before being elevated to the Vice Presidency, but never mind.) I saw my all-time, favorite political bumper strip on my paper route that year. Emblazoned in bold red letters on the upper-two thirds was “I MISS IKE!” Underneath, in barely discernible blue, was “Hell – for that matter, I miss Harry, too.” I remember a cartoon in the New Yorker: two overstuffed codgers sitting in wing chairs in a paneled club, one glowering, the other pleading. “But, Edgar – if you’re not going to vote for either of those whippersnappers, who are you going to vote for?” Nixon was four years older.

Even factoring in my own immaturity and the onset of poisonous adolescent hormones – big stuff. Youth, rhetoric, culture, and fashion kindled the imagination of a Cold War-weary society. The dedicated spirit and the broad calls to citizenship and to civic service. Camelot.

It ended badly. Assassination. (Murder?) LBJ sustained (fulfilled?) the cause but widening war smothered its spirit. Two more bullets, before ballots this time. Retrenchment. (Most of my fellow young “revolutionaries” – I was one birthday short of voting age, pre-26th Amendment – were too sophisticated to choose the Happy Warrior over the Trickster.) Paranoia. Corruption. Impeachment. Cynicism. Two “outsider” governors, the Peanut Farmer (nuclear engineer, but never mind) and The Great Communicator (no visible means of support). CNN, then the rest. Bush the Elder and two more “outsider” governors. Fellatio. Impeachment. Attack. Paranoia. Corruption. Cynicism. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Yes, we did. Things got bad enough that we righted the ship, deliberately or not, and we had a lot of help from both candidate and circumstance. Having just celebrated the traditional Myth of 100 Days, are we becoming the change we sought? Or can we still merely slouch along until we’re swept away?

It’s plausible – or is it? For your consideration: Xenodu.


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