There is something here in the air of
When I attended the
It was a spirit pretentious and somewhat pitiful. It seeped throughout my generation and pervaded New England, like the ooze of industrial sludge which covered the ponds in towns like
In those days teachers still openly called themselves Marxists. But these pale, suburban political nihilists who came to lead us young people further into confusion were absurd caricatures compared to their fierce spiritual ancestors in
This condition was well expressed by the second generation, New Jersey Italian psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi – that would be Tony Soprano’s shrink - in an episode where she was having dinner with her yuppie son, who happened to be a student at Bard (Tony’s daughter also considered Bard – Yankeeland colleges like Bard represents a step up socially to Paulie Walnuts & crew). She asked him how his studies were going and what he was studying. “I’m studying some of the Deconstructionists,” he told her. Her sardonic response: “A Deconstructivist. And your grandfather a General Contractor.”
This episode flashed to mind last year when I brought my son to one of the most formidable of
There was a time when all New Englanders knew who Joshua Chamberlain was and honored him. Joshua Chamberlain was a soldier from
But when we went to look at the college, the perky undergraduate who gave us the tour had little regard for “the soldiers” that they used to make such a fuss over. Indeed, she could barely conceal her contempt. That was before they allowed women on campus, she pointed out, although I didn’t see the connection. Things were different now, she said. Now you could take a course on “the evolution of Bart Simpson,” she told us with great enthusiasm and flourishing of the arms.
So this condition not only afflicts the pitiful fictional children of the New Jersey suburbs like Dr. Melfi’s - neither masters nor men, and stuck somewhere in the ozone between gentry and proletariat - but the traditional New Englanders of greater means and their schools as well. From Joshua Chamberlain to Bart Simpson in just 40 years. Seems like a paraphrase of my Marxist math teachers from university days, who often quoted Trotsky’s famous New Man dictum. How did that go? Every man a Plato, every man a Lincoln, every man a Marx . . . ? But here we have it: Every man a Bush, every man an Oprah, every man a Bart Simpson.
So I was pleased with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a New Englander like myself, when he refused to submit to the Demon Spirit and call the new spruce in
"I grew up with a Christmas tree, I'm going to stay with a Christmas tree," Menino told reporters on Thursday.
This is not really about Christmas trees. It is about refusing to be territorialized by the language and the pseudo-anthropology of Revenge Demons. Regular viewers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer know what Revenge Demons are. (See I don’t have anything against pop culture studies, per se.) They are spirits which identify at every turn with the discontent, rather than with the civilization. They come out of the earth just when you are doing something joyful, healthy and family-like, such as trimming the Christmas Tree or stuffing stockings, and they attempt to disrupt the situation.
Buffy is the avatar and front line of defense against Revenge Demons. In Buffy World, men are no longer men and they no longer have the political will to defend themselves, their traditions and their families. Indeed, family is a shattered shard of the past and men who once defended the hearth have been made cowering wimps by these Creatures from Beneath the Earth. So Buffy – (for aficionados, she is technically the Earth Mother Incarnate and we call her The Slayer) – has to take it back by herself and her few heroic mortal apprentices.
Christmas is prime time for Revenge Demons, as the Christmas Tree and its sacred celebration descends to the spirit of the English-speaking people like no other and goes to the core of our spirit. The crazy Puritans who settled up here in the northern hills tried to ban Christmas and did so successfully for awhile. It was only when the more sensible English, Irish, Portuguese, Italian and French came over later that things returned to normalcy. But as we see today in
But the Christmas Tree ruckus, like the annual crèche ruckus is only one manifestation of Revenge Demons. The spirit seems to pervade the Democratic Party like a virus, to some degree infecting almost all Democratic contenders and aspirants to public office. It is this spirit which lifts up the hearts and minds at the thought of new hope for the sick and the weak in the world at a Global Initiative Conference, like the one Bill Clinton recently held, then sinks them when he invites Mick Jagger to make his presence felt (did somebody say Symphony for the Devil?). It is this spirit in which his First Lady, when she finally condescended to speak to the general public in a general interest woman’s magazine in her husband’s first term, venomous commented about “taking back this country” from the “damage done in the Reagan administration” (will somebody tell this woman that 49 out of 50 states voted for Reagan?) It is this spirit which bewilders the average working man and woman after a anomalous candidate like Howard Dean, governor of a state with no actual economy and whose main run of citizens consist of vacationers and retirees, destroys the chances of victory for serious Democratic contenders in the last Presidential primary. It is this spirit which leads the Democratic Party’s most out-of-touch rank and file to appoint him to be Party leader (and leaves them crippled in their fund-raising attempts). And most unfortunately, it is this spirit which invariably pervades the rhetoric of he who held the Democratic Party standard against George Bush in the last Presidential race.
It is a spirit which seems to come, as
I think Democratic politicians today should be sent to court-ordered therapy, much as first offenders are sent to Anger Management therapy for minor infractions. The therapists would all wear t-shirts which said, “It’s a management thing. You wouldn’t understand.” I’d force them to watch some of the recent C-Span shows, like the one featuring Newt Gingrich on “Road to the White House” this past week. It shows Gingrich talking about business management. It shows Gingrich talking about attending class recently with W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality control strategies of manufacturing, which allowed
Gingrich might be running for President pretty soon. This is how he will present himself to the public.
If the Democrats are going to survive the Jacksonian Presidency of George Bush and not self destruct as their New England Whig ancestors did, they need a new start. Tom Menino appears to have immunity from Revenge Demons. He is a good manager. I hope he runs for Governor of Massachusetts. Perhaps Menino could lead us to the other side of the river.
The first thing Democrats have to ask themselves is what candidates do we have who are noted for management? Wes Clark, Russ Feingold. But by far and away
He is a breath of fresh air in a party that is suffocating itself to death.
Warner said recently to the graduating class at Virginia Military Institute, “I come from the business world, where you have to look beyond the next horizon to survive. If you don’t have annual goals, two year goals, and five year goals -- you’re out of business before too long.”
When was the last time the Democrats had a candidate from the business world? When was the last time a Democrat had a five-year plan?