Monday, February 8, 2016

What Happened??

Watching this presidential campaign has caused me to reflect on the beliefs my parents sought to instill in me growing up from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.  They had different ways of communicating.  Mom, who held positions in the local and state Democratic party, was always pretty direct.  Dad preferred to do it through the stories he told us, which contained the messages he wanted us to absorb.  Looking back, I'd distill the common points as:

1.  The United States was the best country in the world and we were fortunate to be Americans.
2.  In order to succeed you needed to work hard (that's not the same as saying "if you work hard, you will succeed").
3.  The treatment of Negroes (as they were called then) was a disgrace, in both the South and North. We needed to support the civil rights movement and I must treat everyone with respect.  The only basis for discrimination in treating people was their behavior.
4.  The Commies were bad, really bad.  Before I went off to college, Mom gave me a lecture on how to recognize a Commie front group.
5.  We had a obligation to help the neediest, those who could not help themselves.*
6.  FDR was a great president, the best so far in the 20th century.

Half a century later, I'm still with Mom and Dad on 5 1/2 out of 6**.  So how come when I look at President Obama, the grifter Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, an old man filled with bitterness, envy and greed, I think "what the hell happened to my party?", and find myself a card carrying member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy? (I'd include an image of my membership card here but we've been instructed to never display it to non-members; there's also a secret handshake and passwords involved.)

And lo, what Beast comes slouching towards us, to devour all? . . .  It's The Donald.


* "Those who could not help themselves" had a much narrower definition for my parents than it does for today's Progressives. ***

** Today I think FDR a great war president, particularly about the strategic decisions he made in the first eighteen months of the war; he did some good stuff about the banking system at the start of his first term; and, having listened to several of his Fireside Chats, can understand why he was successful in raising people's spirits during the worst of the Depression.  On the other hand, most of his economic policy during the Depression amounted, at best, to useless hand-waving and, at worst, to delaying America's recovery and the damage he did to the Supreme Court and constitutional law still reverberates more than 75 years later.

FDR and Reagan had the best Presidential temperament of anyone who held the office during the 20th century.  I'd pick Ike as #3, which only goes to remind us that temperament and temper are two different matters, since Ike was known to lose his frequently.

***  And speaking of FDR, here he is speaking to Congress in 1935:
The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber.  To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit . . .. It is in violation of the traditions of America.
When FDR discovered that the draft Social Security bill was not a contributory pension, he ordered it rewritten, complaining "This is the same old dole under another name".

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