A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reasons to Be Scared


It occurs to me, watching this exchange between Rachel Maddow and Frank Rich, that a lot of you whippersnappers are too young to remember what it was like before the Kennedy assassination. Rich himself alerted me to this in the clip, when he talks about how he sort of recalls the political climate in which the assassination took place.

Well, I remember it clearly, and a lot of the right-wing gabble of today reminds me of it -- chillingly. Kennedy's death turned him into a hero, and neutralized all of the vitriol. But when he was killed in Dallas, I wasn't surprised, because I knew what Dallas -- and the South in which I grew up -- was like in the early '60s. Visceral hatred of Kennedy was widespread -- irrational hatred, to be sure, given that Kennedy was a moderate, even center-right politician. In fact, the things that are said in public about Obama are mild, compared to some of the things that were said about Kennedy.

But there's another element that has changed: In the early '60s, the Republican party had a substantial and lively complement of moderates like Jacob Javits and Nelson Rockefeller. And the Democrats included fire-breathing right-wingers like James Eastland, Orval Faubus and George Wallace. In short, the political parties were less polarized than they are now. All of that would change after Kennedy's death and especially after the passage of the landmark civil rights legislation -- with some support from Republicans. In other words, bipartisanship was possible then. I don't think it is now.

So I'm scared, deeply scared by the tumult and shouting. And by the fact that no one in the Republican party has the courage and the conscience to try to put a damper on it. Those who do, after all, get mocked and smeared by talk radio and Fox News. These times remind me of the times of my youth. And that's not a good thing.

1 comment:

Judith Neuman Beck said...

Oh, Lord, you are so right.