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Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

Kathleen Parker

Riffling through a haphazard array of papers left unattended on my desk for longer than I care to admit, I didn’t find what I was looking for, but happened upon a newspaper column from a couple of months ago that I’d intended to share. It’s by Kathleen Parker, an alleged conservative who, in these days of right-wing extremism and the awful situation we face with an enormously incompetent and dangerously unbalanced man heading our government, seems to have modified her outlook, as have so many conservative pundits.

In this piece, the Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist offered a sober and dismal view of what has become of the national psyche and our country’s leadership.

She wrote of dreaming about a conversation with President Trump, and that he was “courtly, humble, erudite and wise.” She woke up and realized she’d actually been dreaming about Adlai Stevenson, who lost twice to Dwight Eisenhower “in part because of his excess erudition. In today’s jargon, he was too thinky. Mine was a dream of wishes, obviously, for we suffer no such excesses today.”

Ike and Adlai — leaders to build a dream on

Adlai Stevenson

President Dwight Eisenhower

Parker said she was not disparaging Ike, as he was called, the World War II commander beloved as “the father figure who would take charge while Stevenson was still seeking the deeper meaning of things.

“Trump couldn’t be more different than either man, a testament to how much times have changed … Trump’s own battlefield was real estate and, by his own telling, his college sexcapades were his Vietnam. He’s no Ike, in other words. As a 140-character thinker, he’s no Stevenson either.

“The unraveling of civilization began decades ago, but it seems no coincidence that the chaotic tempo of our daily lives corresponds to diminishing cognitive abilities resulting from attention spans that mimic a honeybee’s.”

William Faulkner

The pundit continues that she asked a friend, “‘Can you imagine reading Faulkner now?”’ and that hiser (my gender-neutral pronoun) response was no. (After reading his 40-page epic short story The Bear in college, I couldn’t imagine reading him again, either, but dove into The Sound and the Fury several years ago and found it both riveting and confusing as hell.)

We got what we asked for.

“And Donald Trump, who proudly prefers television to newspapers and Twitter to books,  is our president. We’ve all exhausted our stores of punditry in trying to explain how and why The Donald won. Trump figured out how to match his primitive drives to the modern needs of his supporters. But what now?”

President Trump

Parker then launched into a thoroughly clear-eyed and profound appraisal of where we stand with this president and the abysmal mind-set into which we as a people have evolved.

“In just over six months (almost nine now), Trump has managed to alienate our allies, shatter our international standing, demonstrate no leadership ability or essential knowledge, fire or replace people in key positions, and exacerbate global tensions with his lack of discipline, maturity and self-control. Who can save us from ourselves?

“There are still plenty of deep thinkers out there, but who is listening? Who is reading? Who among those who can contemplate the future – as opposed to retweeting this-just-happened – is even willing to lead? And what, finally, is leadership in an era when centuries-old institutions are failing and commonly shared beliefs are no longer common or shared?

“Well, somebody. Someone who can help people understand the daily chaos with the erudition of Stevenson, the humanity of Eisenhower and the wisdom of one we’ve yet to know.

“Now there’s a dream worth pursuing.”

Trouble is, it’s just that – a dream. Who indeed is listening, and who is reading? Precious few. And so we will continue to elect people to public office who act against the common good, and lead us relentlessly to our own demise.

#TheBear #WilliamFaulkner #KathleenParker #AdlaiStevenson #TheSoundandtheFury #PresidentTrum #WorldWarII #DwightEisenhower

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