by Bernie Quigley - for WesPAC, 9/17/2006
When Wesley Clark arrived in
Silver-haired Southern Generals had less than made their mark here in New England’s north country where
We get Willy Nelson today in Bernie’s TV ads. Everyone calls
Joshua Chamberlain, who with a small band of Down Easters, out of ammo and alone at the
I’ll say this bluntly: If you were raised in
All of our uncles and family people had served – in Mark Clark’s army in southern Europe, in General Patton’s tank corp – but in
Some generational theorists suggest it changed at a very specific moment at the Newport Folk Festival about two minutes away from my high school, when the howling lament of the young Triskster and generational waif, Bob Dylan, traveled his lonesome road from Minnesota’s border land wilderness to our little town. His first voice, raw and apocalyptic, would ring of Changing Times and echo the sentiments of John F. Kennedy’s speech writer, Ted Sorensen, particularly the great speech about the “new man of the Sixties,” Kennedy gave in Los Angeles when he accepted the Democratic nomination. It would electrify a new generation.
Kennedy was dead before that age could awaken and the mood darkened with his assassination. A different age would open when our eloquent and volatile Magical Animal changed from a wooden guitar to one electric at
It was not a good season for war. We’d seen too much of it. Raymond Aaron had called it a century of Total War. And with the advent of nuclear weapons, the world had changed intrinsically. The great physicist Wolfgang Pauli made the claim that the human psyche itself had changed; that is had been shattered and maybe destroyed.
But there was innocence to our American endeavors. French liberated by American soldiers at
Later, when I served in northern
Something left us when he was assassinated. Something from which we have not yet fully recovered.
You can always tell the character of a good man by the wife he gets. Nancy Reagan was smarter than Ronald Reagan and insiders say she was responsible for his brilliant second-term initiatives in
When General Clark signed the book in
General Clark brought thoughtful consideration and in depth analysis to the political condition. To us biased New Englanders, it was a little surprising for an army General, even for one who had served as NATO chief and brought peace to Kosovo. One of the most striking moments came a month or so later at a house party in
President Bush, who rises to a populist drumbeat and acts “from the gut”as he likes to say, has stated in personal interviews how he found thoughtful discussion in his classical Yankee education at Andover, Yale and Harvard to be contemptible. He finds it pretentious. This confuses us New Englanders, because he seems to hate us, even the 99% of us who went to ordinary schools. Yet to us up here it is clear that this Connecticut-born President is Yankee though and through and the only thing Southern or Texan about him is his desire to be one. He brings to mind Eudora Welty’s cat that had kittens in an oven and called them biscuits.
It works for him in the populist press, but this is not a way to solve problems.
As bad as this President is, for Democrats, the war on
It seems almost impossible today for anyone but Senator John McCain to question the administration as it presses on with the most disgraceful policies, advancing torture and interrogation methods more suited to the Viet Cong than Jack Kennedy’s America (or Telford Taylor’s, for that matter, or Dwight Eisenhower’s). Among the Democrats, only Wesley Clark seems to be able to manage to get through without shrillness and dark rhetoric. Perhaps because he is a soldier through and through. Perhaps because he is a warrior/scholar, like the Man in the
It is possible today to go back on You Tube and other internet venues and hear Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sing at
One of the wisest and most thoughtful observations General Clark made was on his last visit here to New Hamshire at the end of the primary. Those of us who had volunteered for him at the beginning were called to come again to
And this is what he said to us: “The Bush administration does not really represent the will of the American people. But if he is reelected, in five years it will.”
It was a chilling though and a lucid observation of cultural passages as they trail through political opinion and processes.
It came to mind yesterday morning reading about President Bush’s attempt to “redefine” treatment of prisoners and pass legislation that would create special military tribunals to try terrorist suspects and continue secret interrogations in clandestine prisons abroad.
Colin Powell said, in support of Senator McCain, “the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.”
The world at large and here at home, for these comments reflect us as well, as we have come to doubt our own moral basis. And if this is what we have become, we have failed ourselves and failed our Republic.
Powell’s comments were amplified as the night before we had watched the terrific and instructional movie Black Hawk Down, about American soldiers on a UN mission to
From then to now a process can be seen; one of retreat, one of arrogance, one of incompetence and one of hubris. The Somalian tragedy in hindsight began to look like Khartoum as it was to the Brits; the end of a power arc in world history which left Victoria’s Imperial England running in naked terror from the end of a spear. Jack Kennedy carried a flame cupped in his hands to these same places where we were welcomed, trusted and cheered.
Today the path seems open to McCain, who wants the Presidency badly. And that is good for the country as it will repudiate the Republicans who have brought us shame and disgrace at home and suffering abroad. But if generational theory is correct, and in hindsight it always has been, the thing that is supposed to happen at the critical turning point never does and we get something else entirely different and unexpected instead.
We are at such a critical historical juncture now. In times like this, just when we go looking for the new Eisenhower, we get Jack Kennedy instead; just when we go looking for the new John Wayne instead we get Luke Skywalker; just when we hope to see the new Pope John Paul appear among us, we get instead the Dalai Lama. It is then that the least expected happens. It is then that a lone, undernourished troubadour with a Biblical bent and the fire of free youth will change the world overnight simply by putting aside a wooden guitar for an electric one, and a whole new generation of men will put down their swords and grow their beards. It appears as an anomaly and it comes in the night like something out of Revelation; suddenly a Strong Man; suddenly Woodstock; suddenly a Hollywood actor turned politician; suddenly a Georgia Sunday School teacher and peanut farmer turned President; suddenly a Southern General. And everything moves forward from that moment, and everything which came before is suddenly forgotten.