Friday, February 08, 2008

Sighin' of the Times

Rick Perlstein says the '60s and their emotional baggage won't be departing our national house soon. By which he seems to mean not in this electoral cycle, and perhaps not in my lifetime.

I realized that when I read this e-mail from a friend, a passionate Obama supporter who's a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement: "Who are you supporting for prez? You know my feelings -- and my son has been working 16-hr days for him up in NH. Kind of like his 60s ..."

I realized it again when I saw the online ad produced by Sen. John McCain's campaign, arguing that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton didn't deserve the presidency because she earmarked one-millionth of the federal budget ($1 million) for a museum commemorating the rock festival Woodstock.

I realized it, too, when Bill Clinton accused Obama of leaving the role of Lyndon B. Johnson out of the civil rights story, and when Sen. John Kerry announced his endorsement of Obama with a quotation from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- and both set off a strange bout of opinion-journalism shadowboxing over which camp, Clinton's or Obama's, better grasped the historical legacy of the civil rights movement.

I realize it anew just about every day of this presidential campaign -- most recently when a bevy of Kennedys stood behind Obama last week and spoke of reviving the spirit of Camelot, and when the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks responded by making fine distinctions between "the idealism of the generation that marched in jacket and ties" -- the "early-60s," which he took Obama to represent -- and the "late-60s," defined "by drug use and self-indulgence," of which the Clintons are the supposed avatars.

The fact is, the '60s are still with us, and will remain so for the imaginable future. ... We can't yet "overcome" the '60s because we still don't even know what the '60s were -- not even close.

Drat! Like the stepchild in a second marriage, I'm condemned to be forever trapped in the therapy sessions of a generation of fuckwits 15 years older than me.