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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Idealism of My Age Joins with the Age of Today

I graduated from high school in 1963 -- so was a witness to the Kennedy election and to the "promise" of his promise. As I was very young and very idealistic I was bowled over by the possibilities he represented for this country. There were many of us who believed that because he was our president we would have equal opportunity for all, health care for all, and an end to racial discrimination. The world loved Jack and Jackie, life was beautiful, they were perfect -- we the young adults of the 60's were not prepared for the brutality of the nightmare which would follow.

In September of 1963 the "poor innocent child" that was me, flew the safety of my family cacoon in Connecticut and boarded a train in New Haven for Washington, DC. The memory of the next few months is harsh both for my development as a young woman on her own, but also for the unhappy events of November 22nd. The assasination of John Kennedy in Dallas was an event so monumental in my life and for others of my age and idealistic nature, that I think our psyche's still bear the scars.

Scars that would be brutally re-opened only a few years later with the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. The Viet Nam War, the hippy movement, the election of Richard Nixon, the violence of the police -- by the end of the decade our dreams and our idealism were shattered, our hopes, the making of a nightmare. The nightmare was underscored by the violence in Chicago during the convention of the Democratic Party. Politically, there was nowhere for us to turn, to be heard. The world seemed to fall apart and then the 70's happened. We left our beads and idealism behind, got jobs, married, bought houses -- in a daze. We 'dropped in' instead of 'out' and gave it up. The promise of "Camelot" faded in the memory but lurked forever in our souls. As so 'life happened' for me and my generation.

Watergate was a shattering experience for me. I detested President Nixon and his policies. I wanted to see the end of him. But when the end came I was overwhelmed by the tragedy of it. When he gave his resignation speech on television, I wept. This was after all the president of the United States and we were witnessing one of the greatest humiliations in our history. Impeachment was avoided -- just. What was most impressive about this time, especially considering the way Congress has operated since, was the bi-partisan nature of the investigation and the committee investigating what had happened. The Congress would do well to study that time when Congress seemed to understand it's role in our government and rose to the occasion.

Make no mistake about it, impeachment is exhausting for the nation and should not be entered into lightly. I believe in the case of Watergate, it was necessary to do if the President did not resign. But I also believe it was in the best interests of the country for President Ford to pardon Richard Nixon. The country had had enough and needed to move forward.

The last President I lived under, and one I voted for, was Jimmy Carter. His presidency was much more successful that most people realize. I was not impressed with him at the time. Like many Americans respect grew with his reputation after he left office. Unfortunately, his presidency was hijacked by the Iranian hostage situation. I always felt it a sad footnote that the Iranians waited until the very moment Reagan took office, but it was touching that Reagan sent Carter to greet them upon their release.

Ronald Reagan may have been 'the great communicator', but he never communicated with me! Though there are now aspects of him that I find intriguing -- particularly the 'penpal letters' that were made public only a few years ago. I suspect that he began suffering from Alzheimer's Disease well before he left office. I now have much more admiration for Nancy Reagan, for her protection of him. And I have admiration for their genuine love and devotion for each other.

At the time I was living in Britain and was thoroughly amused by the lampooning Reagan and Thatcher took from 'Spitting Image', particularly the segment, The President's Brain Is Missing. For me, living in England, the Reagan years were embarassing. I was more accepting of George H.W. Bush, until he literally wrapped himself in the American Flag during the campaign and with the Willie Horton ads. Also I very much liked and admired Michael Dukakis.

And then the Gulf War happened, Thatcher was ousted as leader of the Conservative Party and the World of the 60's was about to enter once again upon the scene in the personages of Bill Clinton on the one hand and then George W. Bush on the other.

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