More and more these days, it strikes me that I've become a decidedly anti-social person. With every passing year, I turn away a little more from a world that leaves me increasingly aghast. I've been on earth too long; I can't help but notice how the pieces are all fitting together. As curmudgeonly as it may seem, as I survey the landscape, I just don't care at all for what I see. But I still have one thing going for me: I'm not fool enough to expect anyone to believe things were "better when I was a youngster." I had this point driven home to me just recently when I pulled out an old scrapbook of clips I saved from when I was a teenager in the seventies. Quirky news items I clipped and saved for my amusement back then fill me not with a yearning for days gone by, but with a feeling of dread. It's all there in black and white: the creeping morass, the "malaise," our oft-maligned downer of a chief executive, Mr. Carter, warned us against. (He's still racking up points for his "negativity" -- guess I'm not the only nut left in the shell.)
Back in high school, I was naive enough to think we had them safely on the ropes. The Watergate affair and its attendant fallout was so encouraging. But three decades later, it's obvious my optimism was premature. Bombing innocent foreigners, depriving the American people of their civil rights, robbing the country blind at the behest of corporate cronies -- as it turns out, this stuff doesn't really bother people all that much. Hell, the man in the big chair does it today -- no problem. But the swearing was just too much. After the release of the transcripts of Nixon's White House tapes, the country realized that they didn't have a nice person in the White House. They just weren't comfortable having such a potty mouth for president.
After that, America stuck with candidates that seemed like ordinary family men, folks that reminded them of the guy next door. Mainstream media began giving more and more play to the reactionary "family values" that continue to dominate the discourse today. But back then, we considered it an aberration, the decadent death throes of an old order. If we paid any attention at all to such "spokespersons" as Anita Bryant and Pat Buchanan, it was only to laugh at them. When, after a highly entertaining local political contest, the despicable John Conlan lost the Republican primary to the equally hateful Sam Steiger, who in turn took a trouncing from the Democrat Dennis DeConcini, how could we not puff up our chests? How were we to know how much grass roots ground work these forces were laying? Who could have guessed how effectively they would sweep back up on the table what I had always believed to be be dead straw issues like personal liberty, freedom from theocracy and sane foreign policy? Perhaps if we had known then what we know now, we may have chosen more effective weapons against them than custard cream.