Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Acid Flash......Take 2

I don't know what started it.....but for some reason I have been flashing back to 1968 a lot lately. Reading a Vietnam novel doesn't help. Thanks, Denis Johnson.

Last night we watched the election returns from Hawaii and Wisconsin (Obama and I are Hawaiians....well, kama ainas, anyway) and in the middle of the story the networks suddenly switched to a Barak victory speech from Texas. I fumbled for the remote to switch back to instant reaction to any political speechifying (GWB, Hillary, the Pope, Deepak Chopra.....doesn't matter)......and was hooked before I could hit the ''mute'' button. I watched the whole speech. Obama went on about hope, and its modern definition: hard work with a glimpse of something better. I felt something stirring deep in the recesses of my mind.

What could it be? Nah......not "hope"! Gee, the last time I felt "hope" for our political system was.....uh.....1968.

Saturday night we did a small dinner party for a long time client....a very sweet, very community spirited woman. She owns a classical radio station and is president of at least a couple of really good non-profits. She cooks, and her office desk is in the kitchen. She composts and has a garden. There are community awards scattered all around: on the desk, in drawers, on shelves in the pantry, leaning against the wall in the utility closet.

Dinner started, and the political talk started. Uh oh. Everyone, including my lady, were heavily bummed that Romney had pulled out of the race. Romney? That two-faced huckster? Romney? These were smart people! I thought......

The talk continued, and the table was morose. McCain, it turns out is a barely acceptable hippy, a liberal free-spirit whack-job. Wait a minute! McCain is a liberal? Mr. 100 Year War? Mr. OK To Torture Now That I Need The Votes? Mr. Keep The Tax Cuts For The SuperRich? McCain is too liberal?

Turns out that the tax cut thing is the only redeeming feature of his candidacy.

I was kind of stunned and instantly texted Bennie S. for solace. "Help! I am captured by people who think McCain is a hippy!"

Then, it got worse.....they started talking about Democrats. Seems they all support Hillary, mostly because she will be easy for McCain to beat, in their view.....but also because she has "experience" and won't "rock the boat."

Obama is another story. People actually started growling. Barak is apparently a boat-rocker. Still, all the growlers deferred to the gentleman at the end of the table....a super nice, gentle gentleman. The gentleman allowed as how Barak was getting a break from the media because everyone is afraid of being labeled racist if they attack him. And that his cute blackness and appeal to whites is actually some kind of racist self-congratulation along the lines of "some of my best friends are Negroes."

Wait a minute! Who is that? Is he black? Gilda and I looked at each other. He looked sort of a Colin Powell kind of way. This is how clueless we have become. We no longer notice people's race as being remotely of interest. Come to think of it, the hostess is Asian....I think. So, who is this guy? What's his name again?

Ding! The bell went off, finally. The gentleman is not only black.....but the number one black scholar in America, this side of Cornell West anyway. Hoover Institute. Recent best seller about racism in America.

So.....prominent black scholar talking shit about Barak for the rich white folks? In the middle of Black History Month? Now I was growling. Fucking Oreo. Standing in the dining room, I could feel the wheels of power rumbling around giant grindstones, and all of them heading straight for Barak Obama.

Forty years ago this week, there were not dis-similar rumblings. The Democrats had an old whore in the running in the person of Hubert Humphrey. Old HHH had a firm grip on the old school levers of the Democratic fact he did not even bother to enter any primaries at all. Why? The deal was already done.....

The young folk and the other discouraged and previously disenfranchised types had both Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy to rally around. It was exciting stuff....Kennedy and McCarthy went back and forth, trying to out-inspire each other, and everybody else. There was a glow, there was a promise in the air, there was.......hope? I was 18, and going to vote for the first time.....and it was going to mean something. Maybe.

McCarthy won five primaries, Kennedy won four. Humphrey had superdelegates, so he didn't need to do anything....but Kennedy even managed to swipe some of them from him in Indiana.

Martin Luther King was not running for black people were...... but his moral presence loomed hugely....and cast a long shadow over cynical vermin like Humphrey and his slimy crew.

As of this date in 1968, Martin had five weeks to live.

I was at Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey visiting my sweetheart on April 4th, 1968. Corinna McCafferty was from Mobile, and the consummate Southern belle. I was smitten. I was wrecked. I was a mess.

Centenary was a finishing school in the strictest sense, and on the fateful day Corinna and I were having tea in a supervised area of the lobby. The chaperone brought us the news about MLK's assassination. Corinna literally jumped for joy. As in: jumped in the air, clicked her heels and clapped her hands. Oh, goody.

Now I was really wrecked.

Then, of course, two months later....after winning the California primary.....Kennedy joined Martin and Brother Jack, and all the hope swirled down the drain with them.

At the time of Kennedy's death this is the way the delegates stood: Humphrey, 561; Kennedy, 393; McCarthy, 258. Popular vote ran like this: McCarthy: 2,900,000; Kennedy: 2,300,000; Humphrey: 166,000.

And we wound up with Humphrey.....which meant "Richard Nixon" to anyone who could see further than the top of the Democratic slop trough.

What am I trying to say? Yes, I can feel a glimmer of hope....a faint stirring that possibly normal people might be able to wrest back the controls of the dream we call America......Unfortunately, history tell us: The Machine will not be denied.

Ohio and Texas are Hillary's firewalls. Ohio and Texas. Ohio has given us two bad elections in a row.....where they have conclusively proved that manipulation beats actual voters every time.....and it is really easy to keep black voters out of the polls. Texas? Don't start with me.

Worse.....on every network last night the big cool graphics showed the Obama states....and the Hillary states. On every show, Florida and Michigan were listed as Hillary states. Did I miss something? Who decided that? Hubert Humphrey? I thought somebody put a wooden stake in that fat bastard's heart decades ago.....

Now he is a pants suit.

So...thanks, Barak.....for making me feel 18 again for a few minutes.

I just wish I hadn't already seen the end of this movie.


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