Thursday, June 30, 2016

This Idea We Call America

America, President Obama has famously said, is an idea. 

But what exactly that idea is is open to discussion.

For Donald Trump and the current crop of nativists, America is a white, Christian country which they want back again. This is, of course, an argument which depends on a short memory and narrow perspective. In this view, "we were here first" means we put down our stake and claimed the land and anyone coming by after that is an intruder, an invasive species.

Of course, human beings probably arrived on the North American continent during the stone age, migrating from Africa, across Asia and down into what we now think of as America. From the point of view of "native Americans," they were here first, so they have claim and everyone else is an intruder.  But of course, those "native" Americans are no more native than those who arrived on the east coast centuries later. 

Those native Americans did not arise here out of some pre human hominids but immigrated like every other group who followed them. They simply arrived before other human beings.  Those native Americans were nomads, following herds, mostly buffalo, and they did not even have a concept of owning land, or fences or borders any more than seafaring men thought of owning the oceans. The sea faring explorers might plant a flag on an island, but the water was not something men could own. 

Once the English colonists arrived, they brought deeds to various chunks of land from the King of England across the ocean, which meant no more to the Indians already living in those lands than these pieces of parchment meant to the wildlife, the deer or moose or birds living on these chunks of geography.

But once Europeans set up fences and forts and ports, other Europeans arriving by boat had to play by their rules and places like Ellis Island became portals to life among the civilized in America.

Of course, for several centuries there was another portal of entry: the slave ships, which brought the only population to our shores who did not want to be here in the first place. For the slaves, America was probably their idea of the fifth circle of Hell.

But, for the most part, the claim to belonging in America has had to do with the idea of I was here first or I own this land or this river and if you want to live here, you have to deal with me. 

Thus, we have the idea of borders and Mr. Trump's wall.

We also have now the idea of the gated community.

The idea of America was clearly quite different for the Plains Indian who followed the buffalo, who claimed no turf and recognized no borders than the idea of Philip Sheridan, who, after the Civil War, went West to slaughter those Indians and to herd them into "reservations."  The idea of America for my grandfather, fleeing violence in Europe, was probably closer to the idea of a refuge.  Later his idea of America probably changed, as he faced the brutality of union busting, club wheeling policemen who were owned by wealthy capitalists.  And that idea is different from Jefferson's idea of a land where the noble farmer could thrive, which was different from Hamilton's idea of a land where merchants and entrepreneurs and financiers  could thrive. 

Most of those who gained power on this continent have embraced the idea of America as having to do with property and ownership. 

Freedom is always claimed as an animating idea of America, but I'm less convinced this has been the central driver of American values more than the idea of property.  Once man's freedom can be another man's bondage, whether it's the slave owner and his slave or the segregationist who wants to be free to repress the Blacks in his own state or the Koch brothers who want to be free to destroy unions so they can freely exploit their workers.

The more I see of Europe or South America or Asia or Africa, the less sure I am that America is really all that different from the rest of the planet.  I suspect I am more like a German living in Berlin today than I am like an American who was living in Virginia in 1776.  What has shaped me most is the time in which I'm living than the place of my ancestry. 

My father claimed he was a "closet patriot." He did not like to advertise his affection for his country. He thought showy patriotism was inevitably phony. He said he paid his taxes in full and on time and that was his version of patriotism. 

And he always said he'd rather live in America than any other country.  Looking around today, I have to agree with him, even if I'm not sure what exactly this thing, this idea, "America" actually is.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nigel Farage and the Politics of Resentment

Nigel Farage Smug Enough 

Brexit happened for many reasons, but among them is one which is familiar to any American who has tuned into a Trump rally: resentment against an inchoate winner class. 

Nigel Farage, an English member of the European Parliament provided a vivid performance which revealed the monster behind the mask just after the votes were tallied.  Mr. Farage, who went to work in The City, the English version of Wall Street, after high school rather than going off to college, taunted the French, German, Spanish and Italian members, saying that despite their pedigrees and their elite status, none of them had ever had a proper job, or had ever had to meet a payroll or ever actually had taken entrepreneurial risks and so he, Nigel Farage, was actually their superior. And what really galled him, was how they had once  laughed at him, disrespected him years earlier when he spoke of England pulling out of the EU. 

"You laughed at me then," crowed Mr. Farage, "But you're not laughing now!"

You could just seen the shaved headed, tatooed, hunched crowd at a Trump rally raising a cry of exultation, had the Jumbotron been showing Mr. Farage's performance in New Hampshire. 

Mr. Farage has long railed about how the European Union has sneaked a political union into the structure of the EU, distorting and deforming treaties to serve the purposes of bureaucrats who desire a new world order.  I kept expecting him to invoke images of the black helicopters and blue helmeted soldiers who serve the nefarious will of the new world order, crushing the independent souls of sovereign nations like England. 
When England Stood Alone: Wasn't fun then. Won't be now. 

The survivalists of Wyoming and the Dakotas, who imagine they live off the grid,  and who  lay in arsenals of assault rifles in anticipation of the Armageddon which they know will come with those black helicopters and blue helmets, must be playing Mr. Farage on continuous youtube loop.

Stock markets seem to be settling down and now the pundits are saying, actually, Brexit will not shake the foundations of world economies, but rather it will likely affect only England much, and the European Union less. The former England of Great Britain will become less vital and might find itself not so Great, when Scotland and Northern Ireland separate to leave the English and when their restless Welsh cousins grumble about splendid singularity.
Global Warming Victim. Let's not think beyond our borders

Years ago, I traveled to Scotland where  merchants accepted my British pound notes,  but when I crossed the border into England, my Scottish pound notes were spurned as worthless.  I found this evidence of a certain arrogance on the English side. The Scots, then, as now, were open and welcoming,  where the English were not.  That same character flaw has not come home to roost for the English.  

To be sure, there are those in London who do not share the provincialism, who relish the hubub of the Babel of voices in London just as New Yorkers love the diversity of their city. But London is not England, and England not London, anymore than New York is Peoria. 

The English will have to work out their fate for themselves. The rest of us can only wish them well, but they have made their own bed. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit: England Goes All Hobbit

Brexit has spawned more comment than actual effect, and likely will continue to do so for months.  
From New Hampshire, the story looks like entirely different stories depending on who's telling  it.  
Version 1: Brexit is simply the English reacting as the American colonists did when frustrated by the control exerted by an arrogant and distant English king.  "You say the price of my love is too high,"  King George sings in "Hamilton." For the Brits, Brussels is a remote and heedless bureaucracy raining down absurd and unworkable rules.
Version 2: Brexit is simply an expression of  fear of foreigners flooding into England and turning a white, homogeneous country into a melange of races.  Much of the Leave campaign focused on threats of England swamped by young Turk males--although Turkey isn't even in the EU quite yet.  Stories of Muslim immigrants molesting white women in Germany New Year's eve were the British equivalent of those Mexican rapists flooding across the border. Oddly, or not, the strongest opinion against immigration, against dark others was found among the places where there was the least of it. In London, which some say is more cosmopolitan and diverse than even New York, the vote was heavily in favor of staying in the EU and keeping borders open.

Versions 3,4,5 ...n:  Brexit is a misunderstanding; Brexit is an expression of an island people who think God made the channel who is man to undo it?; Brexit is...fill in the blank. 

Donald Trump responded masterfully, at least in the short clip I saw:  "The people have spoken" he shrugged, with none of his usual bombast. "They want borders."
In a way, Mr. Trump encapsulated his genius and his appeal in that simple answer. Break down a complex thing with a simply answer. Cut the Gordian knot with a single stroke.

Reading the piece in the NY Times by a twenty something from Alwesford, a small town in England which sounds like an affluent, insular version of the shire in the Hobbit books, the fundamental urge which he identifies is the urge to circle the wagons and retreat back into the familiar and comfortable.  People who grow up in this happy shire do not want to leave. They are happy where they are, and when they are forced to look beyond their beloved green hills, they leave safety, and all the aesthetically pleasing things they have been raised to love: lush fields, brick homes, blond hair. 

It reminded me of the "experiment" I ran in my exam room. I posted a Colors of Benneton ad in my exam room, directly across from the exam table. When I stepped into the room, if the patient was American, he or she typically was looking at the ad, beaming, loving the kids of all different races arm and arm.  But when the patient was European--English, German, French, Italian, Greek--they typically were not smiling. Sometimes they looked quizzical but they were not responding warmly to that image, at least not overtly, no response written on their faces, not like the Americans. Maybe Europeans smile less than Americans; it was not a scientific experiment.

Americans, at least Americans of the upper class patients I was seeing in those days in that office, were happy with the idea of a Starship Enterprise, with a crew of every race and wide diversity, going forth boldly forth into the unknown, into the new,  going boldly where man has never gone before.  But for the voters who rejected the EU, going forth boldly was to be  wrenched traumatically from the shire.

I have not done the same experiment with my new patients, in my new town. This is a demographic composed mainly of folks who may have graduated high school and now work at Dunkin Donuts or, at best,  Town Fair Tire. They live within 50 miles of where they grew up.  They cannot leave the small towns they grew up in because they cannot get a job based on credentials: They get jobs based on knowing someone local who gets them in.  Globalization is not an adventure into which they willingly and go boldly forth, but a threat.

 I don't know how they'd react to the Colors of Benneton ads.

Listening to some of the members of Parliament who favored leaving the EU, I was persuaded xenophobia and a desire to return to a white shire were strong elements. As one said, a Bulgarian felon who had a relative in England could move to England without so much as pausing at the border, but an American flutist could not. Anyone beyond the EU finds immigrating to England very difficult, and yet over 300,000 immigrated to England,  despite England's lack of enthusiasm for these particular immigrants. England can no longer pick and choose.  All that is disturbing for many English. The fact is, Swedes do not much like paying health insurance premiums for the Spanish, but they do not mind so much paying for other Swedes. English do not relish putting Syrians on the roles of the National Health.

But  the bigger concerns coalesced around a bewildering array of rules which thwarted British business from selling manufactured goods, crops or services across the Channel.  The execution of the project was clumsy and maddening.

It may be that a United States of Europe was simply swimming against too swift a current.  As different as the farmers in New Hampshire were from the plantation owners of Georgia, they still spoke the same language, read the same Bible and even occasionally intermarried.  Ultimately, the Americans had to fight a war over differences of a moral nature--slavery.  So, even among people who had more to unite them than separate them, the similarities were not enough to prevent a messy attempt at divorce. The wonder is that the United States did not dissolve into tribalism, and has not over the ensuing century.  

It may be true that for some Brits, Brexit is just Trump-ism with an accent. Nobody is wearing hats saying Make Britain Great Again, or as the Trump hat really means, "Make America Hate Again."  Not yet.

Clearly, Trump has taken pleasure in seeing the power of anti globalization exert itself.

Just as obvious is the scare Brexit has sent through Democrats, who see an outcome of inward turning which the polls did not predict.

But this story is still being written. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Limits of Sympathy

Makers, not "takers"

This morning, on NPR a story about some Boston facilities to treat opioid addicted people told of how heroin addicts do not like being revived with naloxone because the drug blocks the receptors for heroin and precipitates an acute drug withdrawal, so typically the addict, once revived, bolts of of the facility in search of another dose of heroin.  

There are other problems not addressed by naloxone:  typically the heroin addicts pop benzodiazepams like Valium, and other drugs, once the high from the heroin ebbs, to prolong the good feeling, so they often arrive at the facility with slow pulse and low blood pressure which are not induced by the heroin but by the follow up drugs.

They interviewed some of these sad souls.  I used to see people addicted to heroin when I was training in a big city hospital, but much more often, we'd see alcohol addicts and we certainly saw nicotine addicted people.

As Chris Christie noted, nobody ever told him or his family that his mother should be denied help when she developed lung cancer because she had been a smoker and brought her disease on herself--we respond to the need, and hate the sin, but not the sinner.

On the other hand, anyone who has been on the front lines of this sort of care and gotten to know addicts as they repeatedly present themselves for help knows the sense of anger one develops as people return for help time and time again. 

Mrs. von Doenhoff, my high school history teacher used to bark, "The only right you have in life, is the right to starve!"  We thought she was a sort of neo Nazi at worst or a Republican, at best.

But there comes a point where you have to ask, am I part of the problem? This is the concept of the "enabler."

Is the "heroin epidemic" something government ought to believe is its responsibility to solve?

The assumption in every news report is that we owe care to these "patients."  The focus is always on how little or how much money the government has appropriated for the care of these afflicted citizens. The story has been, oh, look how we are failing these unfortunate countrymen. 

Perhaps the question ought to be: Ought we be doing more...or less?

Where the decisions must be made

There are reports concerning housing violent mentally ill people at a prison rather than at a hospital facility in New Hampshire.  Apparently, if you house them at a prison the state cannot collect federal dollars for health care, but it may still be cheaper because the prison is already constructed where new construction would be needed for construction on hospital grounds.  But where do people who bite the attendants or who try to strangle their keepers belong? What do we owe them? What do we owe society when it comes to protecting normal citizens from their homicidal fellow citizens?

This is the nerve Mr. Trump tweaks when he shouts President Obama cares more about the rights of perpetrators than he cares about the people they harm.  We have to worry less about who we might hurt, Mr. Trump says, and we ought to care more about who they have hurt. In Trump's case, the "they" are Muslims, all Muslims, but this rhetoric comes from the same well--we are the victims, not them.  I've not heard Mr. Trump talk about heroin addicts, but I would be surprised if he expressed much sympathy for them. He might blame their addiction on President Obama, of course, since Obama is the source of every problem, according to Mr. Trump. 

Looking out for the wretched refuse of American life

When we say healthcare should be a right, I do think of Mrs. von Doenhoff. Healthcare may be a right, but does that give someone the right to wake me from sleep, drag me out to an emergency room to treat the tenth overdose of a man who has no intention of doing anything but seeking his next high?  Someone has to pay people to render care which citizens claim as a right. 

This is the sort of thing Democrats should be discussing. Heaven knows, Republicans have already discussed and decided these issues. 

But where are we, as "liberals" when it comes to the management of society's dependent, failed citizens?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Policy and The Donald

Thing about "policy" is it's a word about "rules."

And rules are general prescriptions for behavior based on patterns of behavior  the rule makers have recognized.

So when Mr. Trump sees a pattern--Muslim men shoot non Muslim Americans, he makes a rule: NO MORE MUSLIMS. Okay, that's it, no more Muslims because "they" are dangerous.  That one attribute is all you need. Profiling, yeah, I'm politically incorrect, so sue me. That's the Donald.

Yes, it's true we had San Bernadino and now Orlando where whackos tried to explain their psychopathology as something admirable: I'm with ISIS. And of course, ISIS, being an organization of psychopaths blows kisses right back.

The fact that Auora, Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City, Charleston, Columbine were not done by Muslims doesn't matter. The Donald has a short memory--that much we all know. 

Thing is, sometimes there are patterns. (And if we can't identify patterns, we make them up.)  

Chris Rock has for years been wonderful about identifying patterns of crime, going way back to Saturday Night Live.

As Rock notes, if you hear about a grandmother hit over the head, pushed down a stairwell for her Social Security check, Black guy.  "We may be stupid," Rock says, "But we aren't crazy.  You hear about somebody's head cut off and their blood drunk and smeared on the walls: White guy."  

And, he adds, when Blacks hear about some bank robbery gone wrong and people killed all the Blacks are saying to themselves, "Oh, please don't let it be some Black guys."  

Just think how Muslims must feel every time a mass shooting occurs. 

Still, I am so glad, every day, my grandfathers got on the boat came to America. Most of the Americans I know look at a playground full of kids of every race, of mixed races of all backgrounds, playing together, their parents chatting along the fence rails and it's the Starship Enterprise.  For these citizens, that dream has been realized.  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Qui Tacet Consentit: Ken Burns Speaks

Mr. Burns

Ken Burns gave the commencement speech at Stanford. 

He told the audience he had carefully avoided taking political sides over the 40 year course of his career because he wanted his histories to speak to everyone; he did not want his efforts to be dismissed as partisan.

Why he thought a series on baseball or jazz or the national parks would be taken as partisan, I can only imagine, although he did lard them heavily with stories of how Blacks were kept out of the major leagues and how Louis Armstrong was forbidden to play with white performers in New Orleans.

But at this time in our nation's history, he decided to jettison that stance and without naming him, clearly identifying Donald Trump as something unlike any other candidate with a serious chance to become President.

Burns said:

"You know, it is terribly fashionable these days to criticize the United States government, the institution Lincoln was trying to save, to blame it for all the ills known to humankind, and, my goodness, ladies and gentlemen, it has made more than its fair share of catastrophic mistakes. But you would be hard pressed to find—in all of human history—a greater force for good. From our Declaration of Independence to our Constitution and Bill of Rights; from Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the Land Grant College and Homestead Acts; from the transcontinental railroad and our national parks to child labor laws, Social Security and the National Labor Relations Act; from the GI Bill and the interstate highway system to putting a man on the moon and the Affordable Care Act, the United States government has been the author of many of the best aspects of our public and personal lives. But if you tune in to politics, if you listen to the rhetoric of this election cycle, you are made painfully aware that everything is going to hell in a handbasket and the chief culprit is our evil government."

It is a relief to hear someone, anyone, but especially a historian, flatly state that federal government can be a force for good.  We almost never hear any politician, even a Democratic politician say this forthrightly.  

Some years ago, I wrote Mr. Burns to see if he'd help some Hampton Democrats organize a media campaign against Scott Brown, who was trying to unseat a Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Never got a response. I guess he was still cleaving to the idea of remaining impartial. But there comes a time when silence implies consent. Qui Tacit Consentit.  If vitriol goes unanswered, it becomes accepted, received wisdom.

Ever since Ronald Reagan delivered that line, "Government is not the solution; it's the problem," we have had Democrats running away from embracing government as any solution out of fear.  Part of the appeal of Bernie Sanders is he does not shrink from proposing grand government solutions, for healthcare and for education and likely for other things. 

Reagan said, the scariest  words in the English language are: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." And all the knuckleheads out there still roar when they hear that line.  

Oddly absent from Mr. Burns's list are  Medicare, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights act.  And those are just the federal programs we can be thankful for and  American life would be far worse without.  

Here in New Hampshire we have borderline personalities who have congregated under the banner of Free Staters, who are essentially anarchists, who believe public schools, public roads, public safety, fire, and police should not be governmental but given over to "free enterprise."   These pathological specimens live in an alternate universe where paradise is every man for himself and the idea of community is an anathema.  
One of our better angels 

One can only imagine the life histories of these individuals, as they spun down into an ossified brain state in which "Hell is other people" has become a creed.

We see these pathetic men carrying rifles into public gatherings, proudly packing sidearms in parking lots outside political events, men so demeaned in their own minds they need a gun to establish their self importance and potency. 

There will always be deranged and psychologically wounded among us. The problem is when they find a leader who appeals to this pathology and exhorts them to believe their particular brand of mental illness is a good thing.

We have to go back in history a considerable way to find leaders who rose to power on the strength of such pathology: Hitler, of course, is the classic example, but remember Lester Maddox, Jefferson Davis and any of those Southern racists who loudly proclaimed the superiority of the white race and the sub human status of blacks and Indians (now called Native Americans.)
Better than we deserved

For Republicans, the choice may be a little more difficult, but even Republicans will have to ask themselves if they are Republicans or Americans first. 
pied piper of pathology 

Ultimately, this is about what the idea of America really is.  If you think of America as a place which celebrates differences, embraces diversity, faces the demographic changes sweeping across our continent, then you have to vote against the Republicans.  If making America great again is really code for make America white again, then you vote for Mr. Trump.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Fen Shui of the Scythe

Connectedness is a strange thing. This morning, I mowed around my flower beds, trimming serpiginous patterns.  The neighbor's boy mows our lawn every other weekend. He is saving up for his first car, and the income from mowing is important to him, so I had to go over and explain to his father I'd be mowing just the front lawn which faces the street so I could get a Fenway Fen shui effect there, but his son could count on doing the sides of the house and the big back yard running down to the woods. We respect the rights of labor here in this part of Seacoast New Hampshire.  I am now connected to that boy's dream of his own car. 

The sun was so bright, I brought up my painting from the basement to my driveway, so I could paint in natural light for a change. It didn't make my "art" any better--in fact it was like an aging woman looking in a mirror in bright light--sort of discouraging. But I did block out the colors and it was nice standing in the sunlight and the gusty winds,  which have pushed out the heavy summer air for the weekend.

Then I sat down with the Sunday New York Times on my front porch in the rocking chair and read the wonderful article by Jeremy Hastings describing his day with a scythe in his hand, on an island an ocean away, in the Inner Hebrides, off Scotland. He described starting on an outer ring of his lawn in a way designed to allow ground nesting birds to fly away before he could do them any harm. He was mowing in Scotland; I was mowing in New Hampshire, both taking about the same pleasure from it.

Accompanying the article was the wonderful painting by Winslow Homer, "The Veteran in a New Field," and Hastings quoted Tolstoy describing the pleasure of cutting a field of hay with a scythe.  Now the thread ran to Russia.

I've lined up stones I gathered from the beach, 3 miles away, and lined the flower beds with them.  It's the best art of which I am capable, sort of a paleolithic caveman level of art, but still. 

These are the pleasures of country life.  

A good friend took a train down to New York City and emailed me from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the Homer painting hangs. She said she could have spent all day there, all week, but she had to get to a Eugene O'Neill play.  Such are the pleasures of the city.

It's June in the Northern Hemisphere.  We are all connected.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Revolution Last Time

Having dinner with my kids and their wives before the New York primary I was surprised to hear one say, "I don't want a revolution. My life's just starting."  She is twenty something, grinding through the seven separate exams to be certified as an architect, having finished a graduate program at Columbia in architecture, the daughter of immigrants. She is on the cusp of a new life, one she has worked hard for, and Bernie Sanders strikes her as someone who might disrupt all those plans. All that is understandable, but my Bohemian son, the musician, who lives life on the edge, feels the same way. He is into a dozen projects, cobbling together a career and there is enough uncertainty in his life for him to feel  inclined to embrace a great unknown. All of them were voting for Hillary in the New York primary.  

I thought, "This is just the demographic Bernie is supposed to own."
Bernie Wins Burlington Mayorship

I voted for Bernie in New Hampshire, but as I told my friends--I'd rather see Hillary President.

The thing about revolution is that it's risky, and can veer off in unanticipated directions and when I last saw a revolution in full swing, as much as I wanted change and hated the entrenched powerful forces being attacked, I was not thrilled by the folks who were leading the charge.

Revolution Turns To Mud

They seemed to have nothing better to do, and they struck me as superficial and I could not imagine them as old people clinging to the beliefs they espoused--Tom Hayden wouldn't allow Jane Fonda to own a clothes washing machine because it was too bourgeois and it was part of an economy which oppressed the workers. I kept comparing Tom Hayden to my grandfather, who joined the first, unsuccessful Russian revolution, who held guns and when things fell apart, he had to leave his homeland and start a new life. None of these 60's "revolutionaries" were going to leave America and start over if the "revolution" failed.  They were weekend revolutionaries. 

Meet Your New Leaders
There were simply too many people who seemed to be opportunists saying things they thought might buy them some immediate advantage, but they couldn't really believe that engineering and science and all technology was just a tool for the venal and powerful to keep the masses down.

One thing you can say for those delusional adolescents who are hopping airplanes for the Middle East to fight with ISIS--at least they are all in. They are idiots, of course, but all in.  So many of the 60's revolutionaries were playing at revolution. They hadn't thought things through, but they had some underlying voice in their brains which told them not to go too far.

Unappetizing Authority
The vicious racists who ruled the South had to be opposed, and the Black Freedom Riders who faced them had real dignity, but the white kids who walked with them struck me as somehow phony. Those white kids could and likely would go back to their suburban communities, their Ivy League colleges and their future  lives in corporate America--these white kids were just playing at revolution, slumming really. Of course, there were some who were very brave and some who died for their Black friends, but there were too many whose commitment was questionable.
Those Black folks, however,  had no where else to go. They had their backs against the wall. I could believe they did not just want revolution--they had to have it.

Thugs with Badges

The war in Vietnam had to be opposed, and the kids my age who opposed it were not phonies. Our lives were literally on the line.  My friends had already gone and I was scheduled to go. My brother was over there.  We had our backs against the wall.
Fighting for Freedom Vietnam Style

The sexual mores of the time were absurd and destructive: Be a virgin until you are married; never have more than one sexual partner your entire life, and, if you were Catholic, don't use contraception. That meant, of course, women had to stay at home raising kids and could not have careers and families grew to financially untenable sizes.  That had to go.

Better than War

But the alternatives put forward by the revolutionaries went beyond what even I could embrace.  I liked wearing clothes in public and thought sex probably ought not occur, even between consenting adults, in public places. 

Also drugs.  Never could see marijuana or LSD or cocaine as anything but weakness.  If you couldn't get in the mood for sex without these, there was something wrong.  If your own un-medicated senses were inadequate to appreciate a gorgeous day in New Hampshire, a swim in cold water, the fragrance of gardens, then you were pitiable, not someone to emulate.

The revolution of the sixties tied a revolt against malignant racism, with revolt against government authorities who foisted endless war upon a nation which refused to believe we had any good reason for making war and the sexual revolution, which was necessary to liberate women from the status of being baby making machines who had no better prospect in life than earning the title "Mrs." It was all of a piece, although some people embraced one or two parts of the rebellion, not all three. But even someone like me who embraced all three could not help finding many of the leaders, much of the rhetoric, repellent. 

You could understand, yes Louis XV and Marie Antoinette might be decadent, but eventually, with enough heads in baskets and the tumbrels filled, you began to feel a wave of nausea carrying the revolutionary tide. Okay, the Czar was arrogant and needed to go, but what swept across Russia over the ensuing decades, the thought police, the gulags, the millions starving to death for the sake of a bankrupt ideology, then you began to wonder about revolution as an instrument of change.

If you had to go combing through the pages of history for a revolution which was both necessary and, overall, benign, the American Revolution comes as close as any. Men like Hamilton, Washington, Franklin and Adams kept it under reasonable control.  We didn't have anyone like that in the 1960's, save for Martin Luther King, and thank God for him. He kept the most important leg of that three legged stool strong and firmly planted. 

Bernie When

So, yes, I love listening to Bernie. There is a lot left to change.  The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer and the government can and should do something about that. 

But there are some people who are poor for a reason. There is nothing much the government can do about that. Even Jesus observed: there will be poor always.

We can only do what we can do, and leave the rest behind.