““I grow old.. I grow old… I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled..” The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
I wasn’t going to blog on politics. I really wasn’t. We’re not a political blog. But then Marcus did and it sparked a lively conversation. And I decided I could rationalize it by saying it’s in my DNA. I grew up in Washington, DC, where, when you’re talking about the neighbors at the dinner table, you’re talking politics.
But this isn’t really about politics. It’s more my personal political journey. My first “political” act was triggered by my mother when she dragged me downtown to see the funeral cortege of President Kennedy in 1963. She said it was something I would probably never see again. I remember the flag-draped coffin, the horse with its saddle and stirrups on backwards, the tears and somber expressions. But I had a more personal connection to that event also. I went to the same high school as Luci Baines Johnson and was sitting across from her in study hall when the principal came in that Friday afternoon, beckoned Luci out of the room, and rocked her (and our) world forever.
In 1968 I was supposed to take a semester off college to work for Bobby Kennedy’s campgaign. It didn’t happen. The assassinations kept piling up. Camelot was dead. Vietnam raged. I marched. I protested. I started working for an underground newspaper. Then I dropped out and hitchhiked across country. I thought I was headed to a hippie commune in Colorado where everyone lived off the land. What I found was a crash pad where people subsisted on peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. I kept going and was in the middle of the Nevada desert, six hours from Las Vegas, with a back pack, sleeping bag, and no water, when something kicked in. What was a nice Jewish girl doing in a place like that?
I got myself back East. I re-joined the system. Went to grad school. Started working in TV news. Helped produce the Watergate hearings and watched them twice a day. Then the impeachment hearings. Moved to Chicago. Worked at a PR firm. Eventually started writing.
Why the personal disclosures? Because I’m now on the older end of the Baby Boom, and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek says there’s a difference. Which can affect whether you support Obama or Clinton. If you’re a younger Boomer, born after 1955, you tend to be more hopeful, reject the politics of the past, and support Obama. If you’re an early Boomer, you don’t. (Btw, the Outfit is split down the middle and I suspect our politics are too)...
I’m on the older end. For me, the disappointments of the Sixties, the Seventies, and the past 7 years are still raw. Messages of hope, of redemption for the future, just fall flat ... even with such a likeable, eloquent candidate as Obama. I find all his promises just that-- abstract, feel-good ideas. (Remember “if it feels good, do it?”) I keep thinking the guy is a politician first. Trying to win an election. I doubt that we’ll see any fundamental change in a system where civil servants spend their entire careers working in government and presidents spend a maximum of eight years. And I admit it – I subscribe to the “other shoe” theory of politics. I fear that something bad is going to happen if we get our hopes up too high.
There’s a thoughtful piece worth reading in the New Republic’s “Washington Diarist.” In “Forever Young,”, Leon Wieseltier says your politics comes from how you view the world:
“The question of whether Barack Obama will make a fine commander-in chief finally depends on your view of the direction of history in the coming years.” The author says, “I cannot escape the foreboding that we are heading into an era of conflict, not an era of conciliation.”
I agree. I just can’t ignore that there are people—even entire nations -- that want to destroy us and that they’re devious enough to pick on an untested leader with limited foreign policy experience.
Am I a skeptic? Yes. A cynic? Probably. Clearly on one end of the Boomer spectrum. But I don't want to ruin it for you. Those of you who are full of hope for the future, enjoy. Get involved. Make it happen. Some things will change just by having a Democrat in office (assuming we beat McCain). Just don’t expect me to join in.
So... which type of Baby Boomer are you? Does it even make a difference, or am I just whistling ts elliot?