Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Those long drawn-out arguments among Baby Boomers brought us Trump

"Wow, so disappointed in America right now."

That was my daughter Annie's reaction this morning on Facebook.

I said similar things during my 65 years, even before the arrival of social media. I said it in November 1972 after Nixon clobbered McGovern. I was 21 then, even younger than Annie. I lived in Massachusetts, a little bubble of Democratic blue among all the red. We thought McGovern would stop the war and make the U.S. a kinder and more peaceful place. I worked the graveyard shift at a Boston hospital. While all of us orderlies and nurses and techs walked around like zombies, one of the physicians made the rounds and said that Nixon is the one now, suckers, and all of you lefties are in trouble. We were, but somehow we made it through. Most of us anyway. More than 22,000 more Americans and another million Vietnamese died between November's election and the declared end of the war in April 1975. Many GIs returned with wounds to the body and the soul. The rest of us moved on, or thought we did.

Despite the election landslide, Nixon won by less than 1 percent of the popular vote. As always, it was the Electoral College who clinched the win. And the southern strategy, which counted on turning all of those white middle class Democrats into Republicans. He used their hatred of civil rights and college activists to stoke the flames of hatred. Fear and hatred can work, as we just rediscovered.

Nixon went to China. He resigned, which made us lefties all warm and fuzzy. Jimmy Carter won the election over Gerald Ford. Carter was a Southerner but we thought he had warm and fuzzy feelings about America. He would usher in a new progressive era. Instead, in 1980, we go the shining city on the hill with Reagan. I lost friends over that election. Many arguments with family members. Those arguments continued into the presidencies of both Bushes.

The arguments continue. It has been important to act, to be involved. It's a life's work, not something you do for a couple weeks every four years. It helps me get out of bed in the morning. I continue to live my life as the best possible human being I can be.

One thing is clear. The arguments of 1972 continue. They will continue as long as the cohort of Baby Boomers remain upright. The scared ones will continue to be fearful and to vote those fears. Liberals like me will keep open minds and welcome the new, including those children who make up the Millennials. We've left them in the lurch. Perhaps it was the argumentative nature of our generation, caught in the whirlwind of civil rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, and the changing demographics of immigration. We never quite resolved all of those differences. And now they have emerged again with the presidency of Donald Trump.

Presente! Keep on making trouble.

No comments: