Monday, August 9, 2010

Long National Nightmares

On this day, in 1974, Richard Nixon resigned. It's my earliest political memory. I would have just turned 9. My family was vacationing with several other families at Myrtle Beach (South Carolina), back when you rented a big beach house that didn't have electronics. I remember the grown-ups going down to the cars periodically to listen to the car radios.

I remember saying to one of the non-parent grown-ups, "Did you hear the bad news? Nixon resigned!" I couldn't imagine a president resigning. Grown-ups just didn't behave that way. The 1970's would be full of those kind of unpleasant surprises for me, grown-ups behaving in all kinds of ugly ways. I was luckier than most of my friends, in that I had a stable home with two parents who managed to continue loving each other.

I wonder what our elementary school children will remember from our own time period. It's a dark time economically--yet we've had those before. I remember a time when beef was close to unaffordable, and soon after that, chicken too. I remember gas lines. Happily, those times didn't stretch into a lifetime. I wonder and worry about our current jobless rate.

I'm not the only one. Paul Krugman has a terrifying essay in The New York Times today. And yet, I remain optimistic. I remember too many times in the past where I've thought, yep, this is it, we're an empire in decline. For example, I remember seeing Apollo 13 and feeling sad about being a nation in such dire straits. And yet, we were just at the beginning of a national expansion.

That expansion has come to a crashing halt. We are in the midst of a long, national nightmare of economic gloom. I'm ready for a sunny Gerald Ford type to tell us that it's over--some follow-through would be nice too.

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