Often times, while living through the campaign nightmare, I dreamed of another American world. Anything but this.
With this in mind, I also looked at a photo of my fourth grade, born in 1972. Behind our heads, a collage was attached to the wall, a kind of tapestry that I could see quite clearly. It was reminiscent of the promise and chaos of a turbulent year so long ago. The promise lay in a segment with the words “Peace” and a green ecology flag, a black baseball player (Brooklyn Dodger’s second baseman Jackie Robinson, who died that year) and a clenched fist in the outline of the symbol for women (for the new feminism of this moment and the pursuit of equality for women).
The chaos of that era featured images of B-52s dropping bombs in Vietnam (a war that was still going on) and a demonstration for the racist Alabama governor and presidential candidate George Wallace (likely because he was shot and wounded in one was attack that could). A rocket marked “USA” reminded me that this country was still launching triumphant Apollo missions to the moon at that time.
How far have we come in less than half a century! In 2020, “peace” isn’t even a word in the US politically Dictionary; despite Greta Thunberg, a growing climate change movement, and Joe Bidens $ 2 trillion Climate plan, ecology was largely a foreign word in the elections in the past, when both parties were in favor of fracking and fossil fuels (even if Biden’s embrace was less tight); Major League Baseball has actually suffered A rejection in the number of African American players in recent years; and the pursuit of equality for women remains clear unfulfilled.
The bombing of course continues, although today these bombs and missiles are mainly aimed at various Islamist uprisings rather than communist ones, and this is often done by Drones, not B-52, though those venerable planes are still used to it threaten Moscow and Beijing with nuclear murder. George Wallace was, of course, replaced by Donald Trump, a racist who turned President Richard Nixon’s southern strategy of my elementary school years to a national presidential victory in 2016 and the regular one as president nodded in that direction by white supremacists.
Progress, anyone? My class photo even featured the flag of China, a reminder that Nixon had broken new ground the same year he traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong and ease the tensions of the Cold War de-escalate. All Americans hear today is that China poses a military and economic threat. that Joe Biden and some Democrats are supposedly far too China-friendly (they are not); and that Covid-19 (also known as “Wuhan Flu” or “Kung Flu”) was – at least for Trump and his supporters – a plague sent by the Chinese to kill us.
Another symbol from this tapestry, a chess piece, reminded me that in 1972 we saw the famous meeting between the youthful, brilliant, if mercury, Bobby Fischer and the Soviet chess master Boris Spassky in a match that provoked all the hysteria and paranoia of the Cold War. Inspired by Fischer, I started playing the game myself and became a card-carrying member of the US Chess Federation until I realized that my talent was indeed limited.
1972 ended with Republican Nixon’s landslide victory over the Democratic Senator George McGovernthat only carried my home state of Massachusetts. After Nixon’s landslide win, I remember bumper stickers that said, “Don’t blame me for Nixon, I’m from Massachusetts.”
Eighteen years later, in 1990, I briefly met the former senator. He attended a US Air Force Academy history symposium on the Vietnam War, and as a young Air Force captain, I hunted a book for him in the academy’s library. I don’t think I knew then of McGovern’s pre-eminent World War II fight record. He had flown as an experienced pilot 35 combat missions Win the Distinguished Flying Cross in a B-24 bomber for the successful landing of an aircraft badly damaged by enemy fire and the rescue of its crew. Nixon, who had served in the Navy during that war, never saw a fight. But he saw a lot of time at the poker table and won one decent sum of moneythat he would incorporate into his first political campaign.
Like so many “greatest generation” combat veterans, McGovern never bragged about his wartime achievements. However, over the years, this sane, honorable, brave American patriot has been associated with him far too strongly Peace, love and understanding. As a staunch advocate of civil rights, supporter of a progressive government, committed opponent of the Vietnam War, he would be smeared by Republicans as weak, almost cowardly in military affairs, and as an anti-capitalist (the crude equivalent of today’s democratic). Socialist Bernie Sanders).
Apparently, this country couldn’t and can’t accept a major party candidate who doesn’t believe in a colossal military establishment and government that primarily serves business and industry – or our 2020 election wasn’t Trump pence versus Biden Harris.
Channeling Lloyd Bentsen
Little did I know when I started writing this piece in late October that Joe Biden would actually win the most competitive election of our lives. What I knew was that the country that once produced (and then rejected) thoughtful patriots like George McGovern was in this country serious decline. Most Americans are desperate for change, so pollers tell us whether we call ourselves Republicans or Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals or Socialists. Both campaigns, however, essentially only promised us their own versions of the status quo, however bizarre Donald Trump may have been.
In truth, Trump didn’t even bother to come up with a plan for anything, including controlling the pandemic. He promised just four more years to get America back on track, with another tax cut on capital gains. Biden saw a revival of Barack Obama’s legacy, with the “hope and change” idealism largely omitted. Faced with such a decision in an increasingly desperate country where Covid-19 cases were increasingly overwhelmed by state to state and hospitals, too many of us sought relief in Opioids or Gun purchases, bad habits like fatty foods and sedentary lifestyle, and willful negligence in terms of the most obvious pandemic security measures.
Since the Nixon and Reagan presidencies, and especially since September 11, 2001, it has been amazing what Americans accept as normal. Forget about peace, love and understanding. What we are seeing on America’s streets now are not anti-war protesters or even police officers Robocops Armed to the teeth with unjustifiable military-style weapons Acts of violence. Extremist “militias” like the Proud Boys are celebrated (by some) as “patriots”. Ridiculous QAnon conspiracy theories are taken too seriously, with political candidates on the Republican side of the aisle standing in line to support them.
Even six-figure deaths from a raging pandemic were normalized when President Trump stormed the country. applauded himself to maskless crowds Super spreader rallies for keeping Covid-19 deaths below the mythical figure of 2.2 million. In the meantime, the rest of us found nothing to celebrate that – in Vietnamese terms – could be considered a new body count, this time right here at home.
And when you talk about possible future body counts, think again Proud boys whom our president in this first presidential debate asked step back and stand by. Obviously not a militia, they could be better described as a gang. Close your eyes and imagine that all Proud Boys were black. Then what would they be called by the right? A threat to say the least, and probably far worse.
A real militia would, of course, be under local, state or federal authority, a chain of command and disciplinary organization, not just a group of estranged men in military disguise and pampering for battle. But too many Americans see them through a militarized lens and applaud these “boys” while waving blue lines for the police and shouting “all life is important”. Whatever flags they wrap themselves in, the truth is that they are nothing more than nationalistic Tyrant boys.
Groups like the Proud Boys are just the most extreme example of the US “patriotic” poseurs, parades, and pageants of 2020. And all of it together, including our lost and embattled president, makes for a red-white-and-blue distraction (and what for a distraction it was!) from an essential reality: that America is in serious trouble – and you can understand this “America” as ordinary people who work hard to make a living (or doesn’t work at all at the moment), desperate to maintain roofs over their heads and to feed their children.
It’s also a distraction from the reality that America has not decisively won a war since McGovern’s flight with all those combat missions in a B-24. It’s a distraction from the fate of some common Americans like George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor Jacob Blakewho have not only been manipulated and exploited but also murdered – hence the need for a movement for the matter of black lives. It’s a distraction from the fact that we’re not even discussing gigantic national security budgets that now exceed annually a trillion dollarswhile no one is blinking in a position of power.
Today’s endless wars and rumors of further events remind me that McGovern was not only against the Vietnam conflict, but also against those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, Biden voted for the Iraq war, as did Trump spoken at the time when he was only fighting to end this country’s wars in 2016, which he hadn’t done until 2020 – despite having established a new military service, the Space forces. Biden felt the need to sharpen his own good faith for the war and recently said he would bring up “Defense” spending beyond what even Trump wanted.
If you want to indulge in my imagination for a moment I would love to channel Lloyd Bentsen, the 1988 Democratic vice-presidential candidate when he dismissed him as “not a Jack Kennedy” in a debate with his Republican counterpart Dan Quayle. With that in mind, I want to say this to both Trump and Biden after the recent Covid-19 campaign nightmare: “I met George McGovern. George McGovern could have been my friend in another reality. You, Joe and Donald, are not George McGovern. ”
Prior military service is not required to be president and commander in chief, but whose finger would you rather have on America’s nuclear button: Trump’s, who dodged the heel spur draft; Biden, who avoided the draft with asthma;; or a leader like McGovern, who served heroically in battle, a leader willing to seek peaceful ways because he knew so well the blood-splattered war?
A historical tapestry for fourth graders for the end of 2020
What about a fourth grader class photo today? What collage of images would be behind their heads to portray the promise and chaos of our days? Surely Covid-19 would be represented, perhaps by a mountain of body bags in portable morgues. Surely a “Blue Lives Matter” flag would be there and a Black Lives Matter flag would be raised. Certainly a drone that shoots hellfire missiles, maybe in Somalia or Yemen or another distant front in America’s endless war of (not on) terror would emerge.
And here are a few others: certainly the flag of China, which this time represents the growing tensions and not the rapprochement between the two great powers; certainly a trump card Super spreader rally filled with the exposed expression of what I like to consider the all-too American “ideal” of “live and die free”; certainly a huge one Firenado Rise from California and the west, perhaps linked by a hurricane flag to represent another Record year from such storms, especially on the Gulf Coast; Certainly, some peaceful demonstrators have been macedated, verbally abused, or attacked by heavily armed and unidentified federal agents simply for caring for the lives of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among other.
And I suppose we could add something about sports to this collage, maybe a picture of soccer players in empty stadiums kneeling as one for racial equality. Look, sport used to unite us across racial and class boundaries, but in his sad presidency Donald Trump only used sport to do that share us. Complex racial relationships and legacies have been reduced to slogans: Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter, but what ended up black and blue is America. We have beaten ourselves to a pulp and it is the fighters, especially Donald Trump, who have benefited the most. If we are to make racial progress in America, this kind of self-inflicted club must come to an end.
And what would be missing from the 2020 collage that was included in my 1972 collage? In particular, clear references to peace, ecology and equal rights for women. Assuming that Biden actually takes his place in the Oval Office on Jan. 20, even though the most angry and vengeful man in the world is now sitting there, these three topics would be an ideal place for him to start in his first 100 days as President (Along with creating a real plan to contain Covid-19, of course): (1) Seek peace in Afghanistan and elsewhere by ending America’s catastrophic wars; (2) put the planet first and act to curb climate change and save all living things; (3) Revive the Equal Rights Amendment and treat women with dignity, respect, and justice.
One last picture from my fourth grade collage: An elephant is shown on a slightly flattened donkey. It was meant to capture Nixon’s resounding victory over McGovern in 1972, of course. But despite Biden’s win last week, can we say with confidence that the donkey is now at the top? Certainly not McGovern’s day, as Biden has already talked about austerity at home and even higher military spending.
Unfortunately, it has been a long time since we regained American idealism and stood up for much less war and much more aid for the weakest among us, including the planet itself. How sad that we don’t have a leader like George McGovern in the White House than a daunting one new year coming up.