“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
The time has come… to talk about the elephant in the room of possible Progressive topics – the Trump/Cruz Primary. Trump is finally beginning a long, fiery descent into irrelevance (it will be Cruz’s turn next) but the damage those two have done to the American spirit should be recognized here while it is still fresh. The following is such a recognition. Note: This blog contains gratuitous sarcasm because the Trump/Cruz Primary simply screams for it. And besides…other bloggers started it. Also, the terms “conservative” and “Republican” are avoided if at all possible out of respect for what they used to mean. What has happened in this election cycle really requires new labels.
Curiously, Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, from chapter four of Through the Looking Glass, is a fairly good metaphor for the brouhaha. (Annotations are added just in case.) In the poem, a walrus (Trump) and a carpenter (Cruz) are walking along the beach bemoaning the presence of so much sand and discussing a possible way to clear it (wasting time on a contrived “disaster”). They come upon a bed of oysters (ignorant, naïve minions) and invite the group to walk and talk with them (the morally blind leading the willfully blind). An old, wise oyster declines (a relic from saner days), but many of the young and foolish flock to the adventure. After briefly bloviating (spewing political BS), the two con artists, interested only in their personal agenda, eat every one (consume their hearts and souls threatening the survival of the entire group). If you look at the original illustrations by John Tenniel, the Walrus and the Carpenter even resemble Trump and Cruz and there is no mistaking the oysters for anything but entities with a herd mentality who have enthusiastically embraced an empty, cynical sales pitch and (metaphorically) self-immolated. Voila! The Trump/Cruz Primary.
Reams and reams and reams of analysis and opinion have been devoted to the mess, most of it regurgitating the obvious, but there are a couple of observations, one original and one plucked from the pile, that are worth mentioning in an okay-there-is-an-elephant-in-this-room piece such as this one.
First, The Great Orange One keeps shoving the phrase “Make America Great Again” down everyone’s throat. The slogan is predicated on the image of a golden age of American world influence, but when this golden age actually happened, or even if it actually happened, has apparently not been important enough for the I-Am-Angry-Therefore-I-Exist crowd to address (or perhaps the liberal media conspired to quash the careful historical analysis presented by the Science-Denying-Intelligentsia). One might assume they mean the Reagan years, but the History-Reformulation-Shock-Troops have so cheapened that time with self-serving, contradictory interpretation and revision that it can no longer stand the strain. We must search further back – to the administration of a real conservative Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The horrific aggression of Hitler and his accomplices during World War II forced everyone in America – male/female, young/old, rich/poor – to band together and work as a team in order to survive. Individualism was set aside, social, political and religious attitudes and expectations were clarified, gender roles were firmly assigned, ambiguity was expelled, and a new social system took shape. By the time it was all over, everyone knew what he or she was supposed to be and do, how to interpret the past, and what to expect in the future, and confidence in the stability of this new system became critical to recovery and recuperation.
This was Eisenhower’s time. The Axis powers had almost conquered the world, and General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, was one of the identifiable heroes who had stopped them. A favorite of Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, he was courted twice as a presidential candidate after the war by the Democratic party but accepted the Republican nomination instead, served as president for two terms from 1953 to 1961, and is widely regarded as one of the best. America enjoyed indisputable peace, prosperity, and prestige as the leader of the Free World during the Eisenhower years, so this is likely the mythological golden age so many of the Fear-Of-Change-For-Breakfast group yearn for. The irony is that Eisenhower was nothing like the Trump/Cruz Death-Eaters who represent his party now. He was a gentleman.
Of course a huge book could be written detailing what was wrong with this golden age also, and subsequent generations are still trying to dismantle some of the “Establishment” zeitgeist, such as the unapologetic discrimination against, and segregation of blacks, women, LGBT, immigrants, etc. We cannot logically, after 70 years, sit in absolute judgement of the people who created a system that saved the world, but we can, and should, continue to judge what to keep and what to discard in our own time.
There’s the rub, and the second observation. The world is now, essentially, one – even though we don’t realize it yet – and many mid-20th century assumptions and conditions have become downright dangerous. We are all so intertwined and so well-armed we have to accept each other as equals and work together or die. In such a situation age, wisdom, and experience count at least as much as youth, enthusiasm and power. America is 240 years old with a 229 year old constitution. To exist as an intact country, with the same constitution, for over two centuries is pretty impressive, but San Marino is seven times as old as we are (1,715 years), and has a 416 year old constitution. Austria has survived as an intact nation for 1040 years (four times as long as America) and France for 1,173 years (almost five times as long). Let’s not even talk about Japan or China. The list goes on and on. In other words, America is the 300 pound middle schooler of the world and to continue to assume that we always know best, while typical middle school behavior, is…let’s see, what’s the word…stupid. If humankind survives, the U.S. is likely to mature into just another country, co-equal with the other adult nations of the world, and the spectre of this “demotion” is driving the Trump/Cruz-Lemmings over the edge.
That’s why the next few years are going to be difficult and possibly dangerous. But change is inevitable. We all need to accept it and work within it if we are to maintain the values we claim to hold so dear. Frankly speaking America needs to become more Progressive –more intelligent, more introspective, more inclusive and less hierarchical. And Progressives have to help it do so. That means we have to understand exactly what we are for and what we are against and, at the same time, welcome anyone, liberal, conservative or Cruz/Trump “Other”, who is willing to meet us halfway. We have a lot of answers but we don’t have all of them. To think that we did would be…what’s the word…stupid.