I cried when the country elected JFK over Ike’s man Dick Nixon. It’s true; I was thirteen and a lifelong Republican, or so I thought. The Democrats got lucky again when we elected their Georgia peanut farmer, (although he turned out more than OK as an ex-President), and later, a glad-handing, wanna-please-everybody, philanderer who just kept […]Continue Reading...
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I blame no one.
NPR ran a piece this morning on a school that teaches 20-somethings some basic skills helpful to running an adult life: money management, making a bed, etc. Some, according to the reporter, think this is coddling—that they don’t deserve to have someone show them skills that others see as basic, skills you shouldn’t need help with.
When I went off to college in 1965, my mom intentionally taught me two new skills: how to scramble eggs and how to iron a shirt. These both came in very handy. I’d be glad to teach them to anyone today (except for the shirt thing, who cares?). Just having these two skills under my belt boosted the confidence of a young adult who was to have his confidence squelched many times for many years.
So what skills do young adults need today? I mean they know about computers and social media and activism and cause-based organizations and the chemistry and artistry of craft brewing and their music is amazingly sophisticated and they care and know a lot about the Earth and bio-diversity and sous vide and civil rights.
But unless someone has shown them how to clean the lint filter, how would know that this is why their clothes aren’t getting dry?
I remember so well how mystifying the world was at 20-something. I blame no one for not being able to put air in their tires when no one has shown them how.
Just about every day, I hear something on the news or Facebook, or in conversation that leads me to think, Wait a minute. Don’t you remember that….” whatever. And being a history enthusiast, even with all the faults and biases of historians (like Thucydides), I always like to replay in my mind the historical events I can remember that bring better understanding and, I hope, wisdom to my interpretations and imagined solutions to the problems and crises of the day. For people reading the same news who don’t know or remember the history, I feel sadness, and for the media, exasperation that they seem satisfied to spew headlines and leads that excite and feed our anxiety but fail to place today’s tragedies in context. We are left to cower, fume, and worry instead of pause, ponder, and prepare to be watchful for other news that might help us discern a trend, plan a response, or take an action that would get us engaged.
But, hey, the news is a business and not a public service, or charity, or “helping institution.” It’s on us to seek out the context and understand how this latest detail fits in a bigger picture (which they all do). Or cower.
Get with it. Globalization is good for you. Well, most of the time.Continue Reading...
I recently completed a vacation trip to California from Illinois, by car: Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada—and returning through Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Open spaces, not many people, an amazing number of wind farms —a very different experience from what you see east of the Mississippi.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this country up close. There’s just so much land, ready and waiting to be populated. And things look clean and neat and prosperous…at least from the interstates. I imagined America one or two hundred years from now with our West transformed by a new economy and the movement of many millions of people out of the crowded East and into the land of the big sky and roaming buffalo.
But for now, it’s not that hard to see why this part of the country is mostly Red on certain maps. Out there, the land invites you to dream about having the space to grow into your potential, your own way—you and your family, or tribe, independent of big government, big money, big data, creating and living out your destiny expecting liberty and personal freedom to stake out your claim, build your homestead, and keep it safe and secure for generations. Oh, give me a home, where the introverts roam.
How different the open country and small-town America is from the big cities, or even the suburbs of the big cities, where life is dominated by the interdependence of things. We are completely dependent on governing authorities, institutions, and businesses for safety, order, employment, income, opportunity, education, growth, entertainment, and fulfillment. We crave being settled in, with our basic necessities provided for, or at least with somewhere nearby to find anything we need or want. The dream of personal liberty is still alive, for most of us, but is tempered by the recognition that we find ourselves in the greatest country with the most prosperity in the world, wrapped in the cloak of semi-invisibility, which is not a bad thing.
But immigrants and Silicon Valley billionaire wannabes keep the dream alive. If you’re still new to the USA, you have come to live the dream and may have learned that as gold-lined as the streets may be, you have to excavate and sweat and persist to get your share. If you are new to a sense of personal wealth, that is, you reside in imaginary Silicon Valley, you can touch and taste being rich and that keeps you going toward personal freedom nirvana where money gets you in at the golden gate.
Anyway, when you travel out west, you feel the independence dream again, and it becomes easier to see why big skyers and small towners vote for the party of Jefferson, the brilliant gentleman, intellectual, slaver farmer. If it weren’t for the electoral college system, these folks wouldn’t stand a chance to be felt in presidential elections.
I loved our trip out West, to frontierland. All Americans should get out of the cities once now and again to see how healthy and friendly communities can be, not that it hasn’t taken generations of community-builders to make the great ones great. But community-building opportunity beckons, once again, out west, young people.
The GuyCicero.com tagline is personal reflections on politics, society and culture…. What better time to get political in what is shaping up to be a presidential campaign year destined to be among the great ones? Ought to make some use of that poli sci degree.
My track record at predicting who will make a good president is not impressive. As a thirteen-year-old, I was distraught at JFK’s election in 1960. This was the end of life as we knew it, but in a good way, as it turned out, despite the ultimate tragedy of it.
In 1980, I thought, “The country has drunk too much of its own Kool-Aid and elected an actor as president. What can they be thinking?” This was the only year between 1968, when I voted for the wrong guy, and 2008 when I did not vote Republican. My man was John Anderson (This was Hollywood versus the Midwest, in my view.). Of course, as we know now, Reagan made the right economic moves for the times … and was awful good on TV.
This year the only thing for sure is that I won’t vote Republican for the third election in a row, unless someone with an emotional age above 21 is nominated. Then, I probably still wouldn’t vote for them because of my utter disappointment in what it seems to mean to be a Republican these days.
Now, I understand that it’s been a slow news day for the past couple of years. Not. But why is so much time being devoted to coverage of the gang of 17, or however many Republican contenders there are? Well (as the Great Communicator was wont to say), we know the answer to that. Ratings.
Sorry for digressing, but as you see, there is just so much to be put out about this year. The sorry state of American presidential politics. The news media. And so much more. Guy will be busy.
Having reached the age of 68, I seem more and more compelled to think on the past. Mostly, in my time, I have felt like Little Big Man (a book by Thomas Berger and movie with Dustin Hoffman)—a witness to great history, but a very minor player. In telling my stories now, and the stories of others related to my stories, there may be meaning for readers in casting new light on events and trends and people that they knew, too. I hope so, but in any case, I am needy of getting them out of my brain and heart, even if they go no farther. If you feel like this, too, please do the same, for self-therapy if for nothing else.
Flash: Folk music star says, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm…no more.” Some clapped; some boo’ed; Pete Seeger fumed, but got over it. The rest of us took notice and tried to understand.
It’s embarrassing now to admit that I didn’t really get it. I’d been hanging on every word, exquisite line, image and metaphor in Dylan’s evolving folk music song book since ’62. I’d been to one concert, in Chicago, that was all blue jeans and acoustic: Don’t Think Twice, Masters of War, Only a Pawn in Their Game. While all the other folksters, who I loved, too, were singing about failed love stories that probably never even happened back in 18th century England, or mythologized criminals from another time and place, Dylan had re-written the American folk genre with his own personal stories and his own takes on current, actual events we’d seen on TV. Not that he was the only one, but only the most creative and prolific one, by many a mile.
Now, enough was enough, apparently. He wasn’t gonna work for Maggie, or her brother, or her pa, whoever they were. Jeez, now what?
But I love the more starkly drawn line between this year’s combatants: Progressives vs. Tea Partyers. Continue Reading…