Conundrum: A paradoxical, insoluble or difficult problem, a dilemma. Yep, that’s me, confounded by a conundrum and delivered to the chains of a dilemma. Hmm. The Shakespearean question whether to be or not to be shall work itself out soon enough, it’s the ‘whether to do or not to do’ that confounds my soul and mind.
Shall I do as Luther, Clarence and all those bent and worn old timers out at the whittlers bench tellin’ of horses they rode, ladies they’ve known and conquests they’ve made? Or maybe explain the art of felling giant red wood, surviving the wild frantic dance of the grim reaper, or living on the shores of the beautiful blue Pacific engaged in one of America’s chanciest occupations and its culture of hard living, hard drinking rough and tumble Timber Jacks; of evading the bears panthers and the furtive stare of ‘Big Foot’ lurking there in the shadows of California’s bottomless canyons and it’s deep dark forests.
But no, the distraction’s of a national election keep tugging at the elbow, turning one aside from the peaceful dreams of an old man reliving the past wherein a stable society filled with friends, neighbors and family, to the cold hard reality of social disruptions and a political culture of recrimination, retribution and neighborhoods divided.
The emotionally driven chaos rolls out into our living rooms each day in the form of grotesque caricaturization’s that confuse fact with fiction, twisting our emotions, warping our perspectives and affecting our rationale to the point of strange and bizarre machinations where reasoning and understanding is no longer a virtue, where truthfulness is a debility and dishonesty is honored with reward and the the food, though repulsive it may be, nourishes the beast and remains palatable enough to those who swallow it.
In this most important of political seasons somehow we find ourselves with two of the most objectionable presidential candidate’s surely the people might find had they been searching: scandal ridden Hillary Clinton whose dirty laundry is plain for all to see, yes, even without it being “exposed” by Fox News, and at the opposite pole, Donald Trump a rough-cut brawler with language of the street.
With Trump it’s a double battle, one for the hearts and minds of the voter, the other with recalcitrant elements within his own party. Trump is to the Republican establishment as Florida Rep. Alan Grayson is to the Democratic establishment, primal to the point of embarrassment. On the other hand Trump “ain’t no Clinton.”
Clinton, whose fallacious character is well documented, (whose false claim of coming under sniper fire during the Bosnian War may have helped Obama win the 2008 primary) added to the equation of distrust by misrepresenting the cause of the Benghazi Libya attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans - struggles daily with deteriorating credibility by consistently contradicting herself in defending against charges of breach of security in the ongoing private server/deleted email fiasco, and the State Department/Clinton Foundation pay for play scandal. Today polling shows she is distrusted by most Americans, many of whom support her regardless.
There is an excuse of course, or an “out” if you will, for supporting a candidate that otherwise might not be considered for a position of Public trust. And that excuse is that the opposition candidate is worse still.
That line of reasoning lessens social embarrassment and absolves the voter’s conscience of any social or moral accountability to the ethical standard publicly held.
One may notice that not only have American politics changed over the past few decades, but also public attitudes. The “hope and change” that promised unity and equity peace on earth good will toward men eight years ago has instead produced cynical attitudes amongst the populace, distrust of public institutions, a worsening of social divisions and moral lethargy where once stood time honored cultural values.
There is no defined or “biblical” date that it began: a good man does not “back slide” over night, rather, his decline is a long slow process, a little here a little there until at last he reaches a place of spiritual destitution. But if there is no definite point of change from what we were, to how it is now, the historical landmark for the cultural divide may be defined in the “bathroom ordinance.” (A pronouncement by the Obama Administration that public rest rooms should be sexually integrated to accommodate those (few) who feel nature failed to align them with their correct sex.)
The “misguided” of us who may be a bit “shy” and believe we should have a right to personal privacy, especially concerning our bodies and our body’s basic biological functions, are accused of defending institutions that were created not by obvious differences in gender, rather by racism and sexism. But, as they say, “I digress.” The proposition here is that we have passed from one social/cultural era to another, one which may be used to date time and events much like BC and AD is used to identify a turning point in world history. Perhaps it could be called BTI and ATI: Before Toilet Integration and After Toilet Integration.
Were we politically conditioned to the change? After all we have a president, not withstanding an admirable family man, who told us he intended to fundamentally change the way American’s do their business and lied to the public for four years (over the objection and the advice of his own advisers) about the Affordable Care Act. (If you wish to keep your existing health care insurance you can keep it, your own hospital etc., health care costs for the average family will be reduced by $25,000) all transparently false, yet in today’s society, jaded by a constant surge of political corruption, has become an acceptable way of conducting governmental affairs; and now with the candidacy of H. Clinton, public lassitude toward accountability stands to set the standard of both social and governmental behavior far into the future.
It would not have happened in former times where societies demanded accountability of its leadership. Johnson declined to seek a second term because America went to war in Vietnam under false pretense (Gulf of Tonkin) causing social disruption and violent protests across the country, and Nixon was forced from office, not because he committed or masterminded the original crime, but because in a misguided sense of loyalty to his own, tried to protect those who did the “committing.” Even the Republican establishment was offended by the larceny and helped to send him packing.
Today’s society is much different. Today’s society has been desensitized by the blatant political corruption emanating from the sacred halls, by the endless scandals that sweep through Washington like a Tsunami with little concern to the governing body because it ”owns” the scales of justice. It’s clear that in today’s America there is a two tiered system of justice, one for the politically elite who have built themselves an impenetrable wall of political protection against any criminal accountability, while the man on the street is held to a strict code of both civil and criminal justice and accountibility. This lack of political accountability in government appears to be the new “norm” and will not likely change if the political associations who, by long practice established it, continue to hold office.
Don’t count on the conscience of the nation to turn things around; those who are Democrat will vote Democrat regardless, and the Republican’s are in disarray, only the independent who pledges allegiance to no party may pull us back to our original values and idealisms; once energy is set in motion the momentum is not easily halted or reversed.
Had Hillary Clinton’s time been that of Nixon, no doubt she would be guilty of impeachable offences. But not today. Today, her failings are of no consequence, her “virtue” adamantly defended, and those of us that demand accountably of government institutions discredited, mocked and demeaned.
Republican’s might have presented a far better choice for president than Donald Trump, yet it is not he swamped in an endless sea of political scandal, refusing to hold news conferences for fear of being asked embarrassing questions about indefensible activities, who arises each day to new and damning revelation’s of subterfuge.
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity: now where have we heard that before?
In the end, everyone must answer to his own conscience, to his own ethical values and standards and eventually - perhaps futilely - the writer keeps coming back to his.
Perhaps the values of my generation are outdated: certainly they seem not to apply in today’s market. For folks having lived nigh onto a century the values that sustained our generation seem no longer to exist, replaced rather, by a new set of principles where accountability is no longer a prerequisite for public office.
Remember the J.R. Williams cartoon series Out Our Way? One of the themes was captioned “Born 40 Years Too Soon.” That’s me. My philosophies and conscience just don’t seem to fit the modern concept of ethical conduct held by a new progressive society. A society more “Doonsebury” than Gasoline ally.
To do or not to do. Actually, to practice or not to practice my own personal values presents no conundrum at all. Whether to write about them in such a volatile political season is the question. Does any of it really matter?