And so, as we enter this Jewish New Year, (5769) which commenced last evening (when it was also Mrs. TD’s and my 17th wedding anniversary), and as of now (around 13 30 on 30 September 2008), I see the stock markets have rallied a bit to recover around 300 points of the nearly 800 point drop in the Dow yesterday, though inter-bank interest rates have risen somewhat alarmingly… it’s time to take a bit of “stock” (perhaps a poor choice of words!) BTW… via Bruce the Veep, here is a Gallup poll showing most Americans favor a different bailout plan– a much more progressive, populist one that, as Barack puts it, recognizes the suffering on Main Street as much as on Wall Street. Not that any of us will hold our breaths.
But first… before discussing the depressing news of the world, I’ll just talk about myself. I note that it’s cross-country season again… last week’s season opener at the 83rd running of Yonkers (America’s second oldest marathon) had me crash through a surprisingly fast (given that I was deliberately walking a fair amount in the first half) 2:18 or so opening lap, only to give it all back in the second half to finish in around 5:19, an unfortunate time as it put me in at “108,” a technically unscored finish, but as they gave me a medal, I count it anyway as marathon 19. Because there’s no rest for the weary, and it looked like the only way I could sneak New Hampshire in without an overnight stay, I got up around 2 am on Sunday, and drove over 200 miles to Keene, NH (where Obama signs slightly outnumbered McCain signs, though Sununu signs dominated Shaheen signs of which I did not see any) for the 31st running of the Clarence DeMar. [Here’s a bloggy perspective from someone at the other end of the field… you know, the front of it.] Anyway, back to me… as in Yonkers, around a deliberately conservative 2:18 first half, after which, alas, the inevitable was succumbed to on a course even hillier than Yonkers’ legendarily hilly course, and I brought it in around 5 minutes slower than Yonkers, but still alive, and more importantly, with 20 marathons (and 10 states!) safely in hand. The season’s schedule has three more of these– Chicago on 12 October, Marine Corps in our nation’s capital on 26 October and the traditional season closeout at home in NYC, each of which promises field hundreds of times larger than the last two.
Meanwhile, it seems that John McCain’s grumpy old man act does not appear to be playing well, while the economic meltdown would, one would think, intriniscally help the party out of power. FWIW.
Does any of this really matter in the big picture? Honestly, I’m almost of the view that the machinations of this election cycle are about damage control; the heart and soul of the nation and its future as anything like the pinnacle of civilization and moral authority and economic might that we enjoyed since the Second World War had, in my view, seem to have been irreversibly flushed away with the reelection of the Bush Administration in 2004. A Democratic Congress in 2006 did little or nothing to reverse this fact, possibly because it is, in fact, irreversible. Not that Barack can’t take us to being a better country– for what we will be– than McCain (or God forbid, Palin) would lead us to be… I have no doubt he will, and I have no doubt that he’s the man for the job: thoughtful, careful, gentlemanly, as opposed to the sniveling old grumpy ex-abused POW who nonetheless sold us out on torture. I’m just saying for those who believe that the unique greatness of post-WW II America–our recent past– can be retrieved for our recent future… I just have grave doubts this is possible. We are a country that let fear (and, as always, racism and bigotry) get us to this point. We behaved as if we were somehow owed American exceptionalism from God, rather than had it because we earned it by behaving in an exemplary manner (as we really had done from George Washington’s time until the moment that George W. Bush was sworn into office). Instead, we are now just another country… which is my point.
In other words, we as a nation limp and shuffle into the 2008 elections much the way I have limped and shuffled to the finish in Yonkers and Keene: still on our feet, but tired, and in huge need of a shower and a rest, inadequately trained and prepared for the missions we have taken on for ourselves. While the nature of my chosen sport is that, notwithstanding other competitors, I go it alone, being a nation is a team sport. And yet, we have chosen to go it alone when convenient to do so. And the results have spoken for themselves. While we can still destroy the planet (so can Russia and China, and Britain, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea can probably destroy most of it as well)… can we even defeat an irregular insurgency? Can we even capture OBL… just one freaking man!? We can’t even rebuild a thirteen acre hole in the ground, let alone a flooded historical city. Though we have the means, we don’t have the will to pay for basic essentials, such as health care or education, for a huge portion of our citizens. And now, it seems, we have to question how much longer we will even have the means. And I don’t even want to talk about potential environmental catastrophes (we are spewing out greenhouse gases at the high end of “worst case scenarios” even as massive Arctic and Antarctic melt-downs happen in front of us as fast as the financial meltdowns, with nary a peep about doing anything about it other than that there’s “a controversy”… and Al Gore is fat).
So… the future… will happen, but it will not necessarily be that recognizable compared to the recent past. A lot of assets have been squandered– and I’m talking about moral assets as well as financial/material ones. We have much fence-mending to do, and I have every confidence that we will be competently led to do so. But I really do think we have to start adjusting our expectations accordingly. The good old days are probably just that: old, and a fear, gone. I sincerely wish I was wrong– that after the next 3-5 years of this banking crisis recession (and it’s going to be at least that… hopefully not longer or worse)… that we’ll have recovered enough to be back to rosy “morning in America” bulls*** just in time for yet another Republican charlatan to f*** it all up again.
I just no longer think that’s how you bet.