Pin It
Caseythoughts I am a consummate worrier, in case you haven’t figured that out. Combine that with my passion for news, and you might then figure out why I haven’t owned a television in twenty years. Nail-biting worry in a ‘news junkie’ would not end well if a television of any size was thrown into the mix. There’s no inpatient therapy or pharmaceutical regimen for what I would be diagnosed with if a television turned to news channels 24/7 became a part of my daily routine. Kind of like Lyndon Johnson’s three TVs in the Oval Office, or like someone else we’ve heard about.

But the reason I write the above is because I am truly worried. Not afraid yet. I haven’t succumbed to fear since my year in the Sun, Fun, and Gun Club, otherwise known as South Vietnam. During my drinking years (officially declared over twenty years ago next month), I should have been very scared but wasn’t. This worry-not-yet-fear is about what is going on this scorching American summer.
I needn’t travel the well-worn road of current events, but a quick perusal of what is worrying me goes like this: Federal agents in unmarked camouflage fatigues in Portland, while city officials seem to encourage the continued dangerous showdown. Murder rates in Chicago, New York, and other major cities which are approaching 1970s levels of inner-city warfare. A fear that things are coming apart at the seams with school and work closures, millions unemployed, while police and social workers warn of a mental health pandemic in our nation’s homes, behind closed doors.

My old man memory tells me that there are parallels to 1968-69, and certainly Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Richard Daley, and Frank Rizzo told us that revolution was brewing. Well, Grace Slick and Abby Hoffman told us, too.

Somehow, maybe in a Pollyanna sense, that worrisome and revolutionary phase of the late 60s and early 70s had one element which seems sorely missing today. Although I was on the fringe of the craziness of the 60s and wearing jungle fatigues as the ‘movement’ wore itself out in the 70s with platform shoes, blue eyeliner, disco, and a CB radio craze, I remember something important about the so-called revolution of the 60s. There was a sense of humor, and a sense of wry irony that pervaded it all. Doubt me? Remember the Smothers Brothers, Mort Saul, Pat Paulsen, County Joe McDonald? We could still, kind of, laugh at it all, in between the slogan shouting and the tears in Ohio.

But in speaking of history and looking for parallels, I hope you won’t mind my passing on a couple of fascinating and lengthy quotes of the American experience from a couple of respected and thoughtful gentlemen.

The first is from Thomas Jefferson, writing to Abigail Adams in 1787, referring to an insurrection in western Massachusetts, which was a real threat to the established government. It became known as Shay’s Rebellion.

Jefferson: “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so that not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere.”

I guess we can see that quote in more than one way, and almost see Jefferson grinning maniacally while writing it. But note his feeling about ‘better exercised in the wrong than not at all’. Two-hundred years ago, from the man who literally told King George III to go to hell!

The other quote is a bit lengthy, but I felt its importance as I read it. H.G. Wells is known, of course, for his master work of War of the Worlds and perhaps less famous for what really was his magnum opus, The Outline of History, first published in 1920. It’s really a master work, even if it is a century old, due mainly to its stylistic writing and objective viewpoint. His comment in the Garden City Books edition, copyright 1920, page 740, seems incredibly relevant as we head to what appears to be an earth-shaking election in the midst of turmoil, much like 1920. Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke after his monumental failure at the Versailles peace talks. A lost generation came back from the trenches of Europe, while millions died from the ‘Spanish Flu’.

Here’s Wells a century ago:

“… the ideal of a worldwide educational government, in which the ordinary man is neither the slave of an absolute monarch, nor of a demagogue-ruled state, but an informed, inspired, and consulted part of the community. It is upon the word educational that stress must be laid, and upon the idea that information must proceed consultation.

It is in the practical realization of this idea that education is a collective function… the modern citizen, men are coming to realize, must be informed first and then consulted. Before he can vote he must hear the evidence; before he can decide he must know. It is not by setting up polling booths, but by setting up schools and making literature and knowledge and news universally accessible that the way is opened from servitude and confusion to that willingly cooperative state which is the modern ideal. Votes in themselves are worthless things… until a man has education, a vote is a useless and dangerous thing for him to possess.”

Imagine what Wells would think of the year 2020. 1920 produced Warren Harding, who was a scandal waiting to happen, ‘a return to normalcy’, in an era that is still an anomaly, between two world wars and a depression that 2020 is threatening to surpass.

Past may be prologue, and I will keep on worrying as we stumble through tomorrow’s news. Stay well. Thanks for listening.

Pin It