Are You Experienced?

“If ever the time should come when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”

                                               –Samuel Adams in 1789

(I) Interviewer: Thank you for coming in today.

(A) Applicant: Sure–I hope that we can work something out. I think what your organization is doing is very important.

(I) Today, I’d like to ask about your experience, especially as it relates to some of the political events that have occurred during your life. What’s the first time you recall something important going on in the country–anything related to government, maybe the first time you were aware of current events.

(A) That’s actually a pretty easy one, and I guess appropriate because it helped me and other folks roughly my age to understand what the stakes were. I was in the second grade, and one day in November the Principal came on the loudspeaker and told us the President had been shot and killed.

(I) Mmmm, makes sense, I guess something like that would be memorable. Do you remember anything else about that event?

(A) Not all that much, just the sort of typical things like my teacher (Mrs.Coffee) crying, my mom for the first time in my life sitting and watching something on TV. I remember a few images from the funeral, partly because some of them have been repeated over and over in recountings of the event. Like John John saluting, the riderless horse, then all the Oswald stuff, Jack Ruby, all that.

(I) Vivid recollections. Any others that are particularly memorable?

(A) Well, having the question asked, and thinking about it awhile makes me realize how much happened during those years. And maybe there’s a tendency to focus on the bad stuff: the shadow of nuclear devastation was long and dark. It was common to rank the places where we lived on the target list. We practiced hiding under our desks, and heard rumors about kids whose families were building fallout shelters.

(I) Oh, yes, there was already a clear dividing line between those who could afford to survive, and those who couldn’t–and I guess those who were realistic to know that nuclear was an escalation that would make a short-term survivability plan kind of silly.

(A) Yes, and after that, futility of a different kind with Vietnam, the casualty scorecard every night on Walter or Chet & Dave–the numbers made it seem like it was only a matter of time before the bad guys ran out of dudes. There was no way to know when I was in the 7th grade that the thing would still be going on long enough for us to have to sign up, get lottery numbers, all that. But I think one of the main factors that guaranteed major protests was the draft; there was no assurance that the congressman’s or the CEO’s son would be exempt, as there pretty much is now.

(I) Then on the heels of all that, more assassinations, Watergate, the Energy Crisis, Iran-Contra, The Desert Wars, 9/11…yikes.

(A) Good word yikes, but nothing could have prepared me for The Time We Elected the Worst Person in the World president. It sickened me partly because of the more personal experience I had, with some of the types of people who have the most to lose from the policies that this gang has put forward so far. I worked at a Boy’s Club Camp near Atlanta for four summers, right after high school and through most of college. These were inner-city Atlanta kids who paid $2.50 to come to camp for a week. Gave me a close-up view of a legacy of injustice and abuse that’s hard to reconcile with our lofty ideals. No one who did that work could have believed that great is in the rear-view mirror, and that we just need to do a U-Turn to get back to it.

(I) I appreciate your recollections. And it sounds to me like you’re exactly experienced enough to be one of the millions that will help us resist greatness ungrounded  by goodness.