2012: The Make or Break for Americaby admin on 06/19/2011 12:54 PM
AGENDA GAMES: How Today’s High-Stakes Political Combat Works.
By B. K. Eakman
EPILOGUE: THE “IT” YEAR OF 2012
First, the “It” girl—a concept that means more than mere “perfection.” The “It” factor captures that certain “something” one can’t quite define, but that redirects the attention from anything else whenever “It” appears.
Professional entertainers and those celebrity-centric people who follow this sort of thing attribute the term to Elinor Glyn, who wrote the magazine article that inspired the It film in 1927 starring Clara Bow—although the honors for this particular perception of “It” actually go to Rudyard Kipling.
But no matter. In frenzied succession, there followed a series of “Its”: female celebrities, “It” hairdos, “It” fashions, “It” songs, foods, and even exercise regimens. All seemed to define their era, the prevailing mentality, or even an entire generation.
By extension, the “It” phenomenon took on another meaning, as in “This is ‘it’!” Whenever “It” appeared, everyone was to understand that “It” was irreplaceable; that “It” would never be—
and could never be—superseded. So, “It” also took on yet another connotation: “The End,” or “The Defining Moment.”
In American politics, the “It” moments came with the close of World War II (“happy days” were here again), with the Communist takeover Saigon (the first “war” America ever “lost”)—and in 2012, the first time the Republic had ever been thought of as “threatened.” The “It” years—the years everything changed, up close and visible.
Since the 1970s, traditionalists and patriots have seen “It” coming, and dreaded that there would come a time when American ideals would not just be ridiculed in the media, but dismantled by the courts. They worried that elections would eventually be manipulated to such a degree that American values and ethics could no longer be sustained. In the year 2012, the crossroads became clear.
But for this author, it happened in a most unexpected way.
The following is a true story:
I was sitting with a neighbor in a café over lunch. It was the week before Christmas, 2011. Though this neighbor had never been a particularly close friend (given our wildly divergent political views), we had lived in the same community for so many years, and even helped each other out on so many occasions, that we were, one could say, on very good terms as long-time acquaintances, if not exactly confidantes.
Many of my other neighbors jokingly called this woman the “resident Commie” behind her back, mostly because she proudly and openly admitted to being a Marxist in the hippie-dippy days of our 1960s youth. She had participated in protests and demonstrations, somehow managing to squeeze them in amongst her college studies and various doctoral degrees.
But on this particular day, she was protesting something altogether different. She confided, to my astonishment, that she was leaving the Washington area—this place where everything is vital and “happening”: the museums, the Kennedy Center, the Fireworks over the Capital on the Fourth of July, the plentiful ethnic restaurants, and Capitol Hill. She was headed for fairer fields in the Great Southwest, of all places—home to the same Confederacy and “rednecks” she had often denigrated.
“But why?” I asked, perplexed. “I mean, you just revamped your entire house two years ago!”
Because, she said, “I don’t like the turn the lifestyle has taken here.” What’s more, she saw “no change in sight, regardless of who’s elected.”
My neighbor was blissfully unaware, apparently, that the District of Columbia and its surrounding bedroom communities exemplified the very lifestyle for which she had once demonstrated, marched and chanted slogans during our coming-of-age years—the only era, we both once thought, that really mattered.
Regardless of our politics (we didn’t even know each other then), we imagined ourselves on the cusp. We were first-wave Baby Boomers, born immediately after the War. The “times, they were achangin’,” and lucky us, we were part of “It”! We were the “It Generation,” the Ones Who’d Change the World.
The disappointed, graying visage looking at me from across the table came as something of a shock. Instead of being a smug representative of our “It” generation—her side had “won,” after all—there was only “Me.”
Despite her multiple Ph.D.’s in cutting-edge disciplines such as women’s studies, political “science” and environmentalism, in my neighbor’s mind, the “Its” had accomplished next to nothing, leaving the “Me Generation” in charge.
Like most young people our age, I was never part of the “It” crowd, having stupidly declared a major in a financially responsible (if not particularly emotionally satisfying) career. I’d looked around for (and gratefully found) Mr. Right, rewarded my parents with respectable, if not exactly stellar, grades, and “ate my peas” (to use a quip from President Obama).
So, I was mightily disturbed to hear that now, nearing retirement age, anybody at all was actually in charge, much less this “Me Generation.”
“It” was all very confusing… When did “It” turn into “Me”?
Was it merely “all so simple then,” as per the song from the tear-jerker film, The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford?
Well, from the way my neighbor was now shaking her gray locks, things certainly hadn’t turned out as expected.
“Too many rules…,” she complained. “And surveillance cameras—can you believe it, @#$% surveillance EVERYWHERE?” In cathartic-like fashion, she elaborated:
… Can’t even take your dog for a romp in the woods without some @#$% lazy pig snooping around making sure you have a baggie clipped to your belt! And no trash cans! All these taxes, and not a single @#$% garbage bin to dump your baggie full of droppings! Do they really think people want to walk for an hour in the great, green outdoors with a bag full of p_ _p in their hands?
And speaking of TAXES! For what? The lights go out every time we have a little rain! In the Capital of the Nation, for God’s sakes! I mean, this isn’t 1950! Aren’t we due a few upgrades for all this money we’re shelling out? And my prescriptions….”
By now my neighbor’s voice had reached enough pitch to draw attention:
“Do you believe,” she continued, “that just two weeks after being hospitalized for a hysterectomy, my pharmacy gets grief from the frigging government over a two-bit bottle of pain medication! I mean, you’d think I was asking for crack, when all I wanted was a refill that my doctor had already approved!”
I smiled. In commiseration…among other things….
As my neighbor carried on with her laundry list of grievances, my mind wandered: For some reason, I fancied how she might have looked as a 10-year-old, riding a bike and thrilling to the feel of the wind blowing through her hair. I imagined her frolicking into the school building in the morning, flagging down a friend in the hallway—no gauntlet of metal detectors and pat-downs standing in her way. No concerns that some monster would jump out of nowhere and start shooting.
I imagined her laughter and delight as she and her siblings lighted “sparklers” on the Fourth of July. She might have caught me smiling, but it was not at her rant. Rather, it was at the image of her enjoying buying a gooey ice-cream sandwich from a machine at the local theater on a Saturday afternoon, with no notion of some entity called the “food police.” Or as a teenager, with a bunch of other kids at Tops Drive-in, ordering a burger—and the best, thickest milkshake in town.
I pictured her…or maybe I was picturing us—or maybe the little girl in my mind’s eye was…me…?
The 1960s Boomers. The “Me Generation.”
Whatever became of those of us who were hopelessly…well, “nerdy” in today’s lingo? Never “brave” enough, or “popular” enough, or self-serving enough to qualify for the “It” crowd. All those “Me’s” who didn’t have the leisure (much less the parental support) to demonstrate against anything! We didn’t know it then, but We were still in the majority—on our way to independence, selfsufficiency and self-reliance. Unfortunately, press accounts of the 60s pretended otherwise, so we had no idea. “Changes … they were a-comin’,” the pundits said. And the world would belong to the counterculture radicals. It would be the “It” kids—like my nowgrown neighbor—the “radicals” and the “counterculture” fighting against the Establishment—who would rule America.
Yet, somehow “We, the People” had found each other and reconnected, in cities all around the country via the Internet. We may not have been actual classmates, but we had similar stories, and deep down each of us knew an “It” day is a-comin’.
And now, apparently, so did my left-leaning neighbor.
So, she had decided to run, to run away—down to “Dixie,” of all places.
I wondered if she realized that the great liberal activist folk singer we all loved, Joan Baez—even with her astonishing voice and range—today would never make it past the stage door with her signature piece, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The word “Dixie,” in any context, is so politically incorrect that it cannot be uttered in public. Like the old Christmas standby, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” Baez’s “Dixie” song is a relic of the past, when terms like “husband,” “wife” and “fiancé” were not referred to as “partners” in TV ads.
What a difference a few years makes! I mused.
My neighbor, unfortunately, will not escape the rules she helped precipitate—and now despises—in the Great Southwest. So, who, will stand as the “resisters” now? Which side will throw in the towel—or maybe throw down the gauntlet? “It” was kind of hard to say.
The world’s billionaires and the “mainstream” media work long and hard to narrow America’s choice of candidates, be it national, state or local races—and no matter who, technically, sits atop the heap with the most endorsements from average Americans. Yet, both the media and the political parties tell us, over and over, that “every vote counts.” Most people think it doesn’t.
What if “We, the People” did the unexpected? What if a candidate played the game and tricked the pollsters? Polls, after all, are mostly extrapolations from a sampling of a few hundred individuals. The media pays attention to them? Should we?
With a start, my attention returned to my grumbling neighbor. Just how “radical” was she? Would someone like her—a member of the “It” 60s-counterculture—be a help or a hindrance now?
Maybe my neighbor’s frame of mind was merely signaling a “fight or flight” response—like before the Nazis invaded Poland in the 1930s, or before the tanks rolled into Hungary in the 50s, or ahead of the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s… Maybe she’d go to the polls at election time and vote the way she always had—Left.
In any case, my neighbor’s angst made me think: Maybe this was really “It”!