I will turn seventy-four on my next birthday and have been pondering lately the changes in American life and politics that have occurred since I was a child. Harry Truman was president until I was six years old, but I remember more about his wife Bess and his daughter Margaret than I do about him. Because I was born after WWII, I recall a childhood of safety and order in our Indiana home, where life was very much like that in the idealized family TV shows we watched on our primitive black&white set. I loved school. I had no awareness then of certain evils, like the closed-minded persecutions by Joseph McCarthy against those accused of Communist sympathies. Other political and social phenomena escaped me as well. Ignorance was indeed bliss to me.
As I aged, I naturally became more aware of injustice and political wrangling between Democrats and Republicans. However, I don’t recall any time of such bitter and vicious political division until Nixon and even more so the amoral tactics of politicians like Newt Gingrich. Now, however, even his winner-take-all ethos seems rather tame in current Washington, where back-biting attacks seem to have become the norm. No holds barred. The most troubling thing is that “winning” has become almost like a sport, even more important than what is probably good for the nation itself and even the world.
Many Republicans will say that our current president is up-front in not pulling his punches about everything and everyone. Twitter has become America’s face on the world stage from a puerile man with no pause button to temper his rage and terrible need to put down all those who have opinions that differ even slightly from his own. He is like a recalcitrant child in a room of adults, some of whom think it’s cute that he said someone is ugly or has a big nose. Diplomacy, as a result, is experiencing a slow death in Washington, as though Don Rickles has become the new resident of the White House, where doting fans chuckle at the resident man-child’s gaffs on a daily basis….or cower behind closed doors because of them.
The world is watching more closely than ever before, but that doesn’t matter to the resident egomaniac whose only values and desires center around money, “winning,” snide insults, and being worshiped. It is terrifying that the man’s attention span is usually that of a distracted child who can hardly read. More terrifying still is the number of cow-towed cronies who are our leader’s enablers and hand puppets, scared of their own shadows on a platform always teetering on the verge of collapse in the face of tantrums and a vengeful nature of psychotic proportions. “Winner take all” is the current philosophy, regardless of the nation’s needs. The only worse leaders I can recall, besides Nero in ancient Rome, are Idi Amin of Africa, and Maduro of Venezuela. Now, the Democrats are developing some spine to face facts and deal with them accordingly, despite the president’s legions of blind and obliging marionettes.
What I wish all current politicians could remember is that the world is watching and recording all of this, and history will look back at what is happening now (as it does on Nixon). Cowards who fall into line behind a tyrant because they’re afraid of losing their own status and prestige will be remembered without pity or affection as the scared toadies they really are.
Compromise will return eventually, because it will have to, along with awareness that money and power will not save the country or the planet, facts to which many current leaders have turned a blind eye because of greed and/or terror. JB