THE LIGHT IN THE CORNER – Rich Paschall

The Way We Were, Rich Paschall

Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.

It has occurred to me that the formative moments of my lifetime have no point of reference for anyone born after 1990. I have sometimes referred to events that I remember well, only to have younger people, sometimes not even “young” people, look at me as if they can not relate to that time in history.

Perhaps it was the same when I was younger and hearing about things that were not that much earlier than my lifetime.  For example, I could not relate to the stories of the depression era, even though that point in time dramatically affected the lives of my parents and grandparents.

World War II was something we read about in history books.  I could not consider that my father was a member of our “greatest generation” and fought in the war. In fact he served in the 509 Composite on Tinian Island.  It never occurred to me to question him about the historic events of his time.

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were

The “Leave It To Beaver” and “Father Knows Best” days of the 1950’s are rather a blur to me.  I hold isolated memories of certain moments, some of them were good, others not so much.  I do remember getting to watch particular programs on our large 19 inch black and white television. It would be a long time before color television came along and we could afford one of those.

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line

Alan Shepherd was the first man in space and we watched it on television in 1961. Ten years later he walked on the moon. Sometimes we got to watch reports of the space program on television in school.

I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It was a time when it seemed like nuclear war was right around the corner. We had air raid drills at school. We got under our desks and covered our heads as if that was going to protect us from a nuclear explosion. We knew where the air raid shelters were located in case we needed to go there in non-school hours. I am pretty sure we stocked up on can goods just in case supermarkets and food supplies were blown into the next dimension.

Like many Americans, I know where I was when John Kennedy was shot. We followed the non-stop television coverage during a time when there was no cable or satellite television and no all-news stations. What could be more important than the assassination of our president?

Memories may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

I recall the assassination of Martin Luther King and the worries that followed. Then there was the assassination of Robert Kennedy. It was too painful to remember, but these things shaped our youth.

Martin Luther King

The Viet Nam War was not a moment in history to us. It was a long and complicated process that split America apart and brought protests to the street. Living in a major urban area, we always wondered if the unrest would reach us. The Democratic National Convention was here in 1968. Riots erupted in the park that now holds Lollapalooza each year.

timetoast.com

The break-in of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate complex in 1972 ultimately brought down a president. It all played out in dramatic fashion on live television. Today many scandals have the word “gate” added to the end. Young people likely have no idea why.

So it’s the laughter we will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were

The late ’70s brought us disco and urban cowboys. We were old enough then to go to clubs and dance like we knew what we were doing. Our music moved from social commentary to “dance fever.” It was a quick shift in the social dynamic. We also had gas shortages in ’73 and ’79. Yes, gas stations would run out of gas and there were times when you could only buy gas on certain days, depending on your license number.  I didn’t own a car the first time, and I guess I didn’t get around much the second time.

The ’80s were a time of community theater and new friendships for me.  I also remember the fallacy of trickle-down economics. It was the same failed theory as today’s failed policy. The Cold War ended, well sort of. The AIDS crisis began.

From there the rest of life intervened.  You know, going to work, paying the bills, trying to get by in a complicated world. There were issues of aging parents and family obligations. Then one day you are just older, like your grandparents were when you were young.

If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we?
Could we?

1987

Which of these events was the most significant in my life? I am not sure I can say. They all affected us in ways it is hard to tell many years later. But these are the ones that stand out.  It is the stream of my consciousness. They are the events that light the corners of my mind.  I did not write them down in advance. I sat down and just wrote them out as they came to me. Do these events mean anything to anyone born after 1990?

I wonder what are the significant historic or social events for those born in 1991. Someday these millennials will find that there are people who can not relate to what they are saying.

By the way, I got to see Streisand do this twice in concert. It was worth every penny.

You’re ALL out of order! Historically speaking.

MAD-Magazine-Anthony-Weiners-BackMy husband is astounded the people of New York could really seriously consider electing Anthony “The Peter Tweeter” Weiner. How can people be so dumb? Of course he knows the answer. He’s just in denial.

I reminded him how the good citizens of Washington DC elected Marion Barry, Jr. multiple times, even after he was arrested, convicted and served time for cocaine. And he’s by no means the only known criminal to be elected after being convicted and serving time. Sex scandals, corruption, bribery, extortion, armed robbery, witness intimidation, drugs, embezzlement, murder. You name a crime and we, the American people have elected someone who committed it. Was known to have committed it. Was convicted in a court of law for committing it. And we elected them anyway, frequently more than once.

And then we have the gall to complain about the poor quality of our elected representatives? And demand term limits?

We have term limits. They are called elections. If you don’t want them, don’t elect them. It’s not as if foreigners sneak over the border and vote for their own candidate. We nominate and elect them. It isn’t the Russians, the Pakistanis or the Mexicans. It’s us. And we keep doing it. If ever a nation has the politicians it deserves, it’s the USA.

It’s funny, if you’ve got the right kind of sense of humor. The Hall of Shame list is broken down by presidency, governmental branch and by scandal, many of which have cool names that resound through history. Watergate. Teapot Dome. Iran-Contra. Koreagate. Only the juiciest scandals get really good names.

The number of indictments does not represent the number of crimes. It just shows who got caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Keep in mind many people convicted under one administration were actually appointed or elected during (or by) preceding administrations. They just didn’t get nailed until years later.

nyh-08-09-1974

My vote for top scandal of my lifetime: Watergate. I doubt I will live to see anything that can touch it for sheer bizarre excitement. Watching it unfold was a total reality show immersion experience. Nowadays, they try to create reality, but that was reality. Everyday, some totally weird new stuff showed up on TV. I used to carry a transistor radio with me so I wouldn’t have to miss the daily hearings. (Note: Transistor radios were predecessors of computers. You turned them on and live sound came out, but no pictures.) I turned on the TV as soon as I got home to watch the day’s events unfold. Crazy stuff! The best live continuing series ever.

I can’t believe I’m waxing nostalgic for great scandals of the past. With all the hoopla during the Clinton and Bush administrations, nothing matched Watergate. But that was just the big one in my lifetime. Historically, although there was no electronic media to cover the event, the biggest government scandal in American history? Take a guess. Let’s not always see the same hands.

It was the Whiskey Ring scandal. It took place during the massively corrupt administration of President Ulysses S. Grant’s (R) and involved whiskey taxes, bribery and kickbacks. It ended in 1875 with 110 convictions. That’s the record, folks. Hopefully, it will never be matched, much less beaten.

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

Most crimes, serious or minor, were punished by slaps on the wrist. A couple of months, a small fine, probation or community service, most of which was made to “disappear” by a pardon from the next occupant of the Oval Office. Without regard for party affiliation.

In case you are detail-oriented, I put together a list of most of the elected and appointed officials on the Federal level who were convicted while holding office. It’s in a separate post, The American Hall of Shame. Originally part of this post, it was huge, so I gave it its own space. Wow, eh?

More than a few of the people who were convicted of crimes while in office were subsequently re-elected, some while still serving time. The list goes all the back to … well … George Washington. It doesn’t start to get really intense until the Reagan administration, not because there weren’t many criminals, but the because officials were virtually untouchable for many years. Everybody knew they were criminals, but no one was willing to point a finger.

Somebody might cut that finger right off. No, really.

See The American Hall of Shame for delicious details of the America’s elected and appointed criminals and scandals. History can be fun!