In November of 1980 I was living in England and the day after this particular Tuesday on that year – it was a US election year – the young guy next door came across to our place.
He was an 18-year-old college student and his face was a veritable mask of grief. Not really, but I wanted to use the expression “mask of grief”. Anyway, he was a bit distraught and told me he didn’t want his life to be over at this tender time, but he knew the big war was coming because, as he put it: “You Yanks have gone and elected that fascist Ronald Reagan and now we’ll have a nuclear war.”
For the umpteenth time I attempted to explain that I wasn’t a Yank just because I came from the other side of the Atlantic (a lot of Brits we found had a difficult time dichotomizing between Canadians and Americans), and I also expressed he was being just a teeny bit hysterical. But then I also thought that when I was 18 I also suffered from a certain hyperbole of my political thoughts.
I said I didn’t know much about old Ron other than he was a kind of 2nd rate actor and was once married to Jane Wyman and was a kind of reactionary California governor. And also, to the dismay of a lot of liberal thinkers, he had decimated the infinitely well-meaning, intelligent and decent Jimmy Carter.
That part was rather sad, forsooth. But the election of 1980 put me in mind of the US election today. It’s nowhere near result time yet, so this is merely a comment because, in some respects, there are some similarities and I sincerely hope the outcome this time is diametrically different from what it was in 1980 when a decent and hardworking president was annihilated by a person who had seemed for all intents and purposes to be a fulminating right-wing poltroon.
As it turned out, as we all know, there was no nuclear war and old Ron evolved into a slightly addled but decent president who managed to see during his watch some amazing world events and to even establish a relationship with his former arch-enemy the then Soviet Union. Not such a bad innings.
I worry about his one, too, in similar context. Mr. Obama is, like Mr. Carter, a decent, articulate, intelligent man but also like Carter, has proved to be something of a disappointment, at least in some quarters. And Mr. Romney has some of the reactionary taint of Reagan about him.
In truth, the mentalities of some of his political acolytes scare the crap out of me, when they aren’t offending all that I believe in. Let us hope he’s merely tolerating them for the moment should he actually (God forbid) win the day.
For me, I hope he doesn’t win the day. But, as a non-Yank (as I tried to explain to my young English friend) I have no say in the matter.