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Political Commentary: Searching For A Pasttime Paradise To Win?

When I was a high school senior, I dedicated myself to exploring music from by gone eras. I had heard from the older members of my family that the music of the 80’s, 70’s,60’s and older was just so much better than the music of today. With its more violent and materialistic content, with its lack of political or consciousness expanding awareness and with vocal performances that seem inorganic and manipulated, the music of today, to my family and to a wide swath of revisionist and nostalgic critics from the early 2000’s, was simply a falling away from the good ole days. Like a rat after cheese I went through every album I could find, I adopted the  look of a Led Zeppelin fan, the lingo of a Eugene Wilde fan and the political machinations of as many 60’s hippie bands as possible. I thought I was doing my family proud, I thought I was becoming a better person and most of all I thought I was doing something useful for the modern man in me. But the past is prologue for a reason, it’s always cherished and seen with rose colored glasses. People who couldn’t give two cents to listen to the Rolling Stones are now somehow their biggest fans, people who would never go to woodstock now pine for its innocence and people who couldn’t name one member of the Eagles obsess over their unfortunate breakup. This is all to say that people, myself included, have a problem with a pastime paradise and you don’t have to look any further than this past week’s political news to see that a prominent 2020 presidential candidate is at the center of controversy because of it.


So if we are choosing a candidate, let’s choose one that reminds us of that, of the hard won victories and who  stands against evil men; unless we want to see the past turn the present into anything but a paradise.


A pastime paradise evokes Stevie Wonder, who titled his classic song with those two words. His message : most people spend their lives looking and living backwards because its finite and it can be manipulated however we wish it to be. Joe Biden this week manipulated a scary past in which Segregationists, a legislative party that was a de facto wing of the old southern democrats/dixiecrat party that hoped for the end of the negro race and oppossed any and all civil rights legilsation, we charmingly easy to work with. Biden mentioned how he used to work with James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, two high ranking members of Congress. Now Joe states plainly that he disagreed with them about almost everything, but that he appreciated the civility they displayed when they simply had to work together. These two men, who would give no quarter to an entire race of their changing America, horrible in their disposition and fear mongering in the tongue. O well, at least despite their dangerous and hateful policies they were civil to a fellow white man. Now I get it, Joe often makes gaffs that show he’s out of touch and these comments reveal a man who, because of his whiteness, can appreciate an enemy who looks like him. But for many, comparing the past in this way to a present in which, to Joe, the republican party is so uncivil that democrats cannot find a way to work with them with civility, is stating that somehow republicans, all of whom I  admittedly say are problematic in some of their policy positions, are somehow worse to deal with than two pastime paradise men who pined for a pre-civil war America. This is simply a dangerous exaggeration on Joe’s part.


No Joe, as much as Congress has transformed into a place for postering before a media that is so vindictive and vigilant that comradery seems like treachery and cooperation across the aisle seems more like a risk of bad press than a good idea and yes I understand that Joe is a member of a great multitude of people his age and who lived before him who said the past was a place for two to become one in a way the present can never be, still I lament his comments. But not because I think Joe didn’t know any better, because Joe certainly does. No I lament them because people are acting as if seemingly everyone isn’t guilty of the same pastime paradise foraging. 

Republicans constantly forage through the past for the glory days, for a junkyard of values, policies and tid bits to justify themselves currently and critique the present, what do you think Make America Great Again even means? In fact, that was a slogan from a Ronald Reagan Campaign. Republicans have jumped on a Trumpian train heading straight back to 1950, a time that Candace Owens and other black conservatives can enlighten us about how surprisingly good they were for blacks, even though blacks who lived through those times say the exact opposite. It’s a time when whites who were born in the 1980’s  or 70’s remark as a white picket fence and cool glass of lemonade on the porch type of America that won two world wars and was right for being in Vietnam, that was stopping communism and treating blacks better than anywhere else in the world, that was segregated but surely equal , at least equal enough, right?

The problem with the pastime paradise thinking is that its a human thing, not a republican or democratic  thing. Adults pine for college when their midlife crisis hits harder than their sons or daughters can hit a preschool soccer ball. Teenagers pine for childhood cartoons and recess when the SAT or ACT hits harder than a bad case of acne. Politicians pine for days of civility when they want to remove the guilt from their record as modern critics dissect everyone they’ve ever worked for or worked with. Its revisionism and it’s not going anywhere. We are a memory making race and many memories require revisionism simply because, well, we don’t remember them enough/ correctly.

 But Joe’s lack of care for how it would sound to laud any aspect of two politicians who wanted to manipulate the federal government to utterly crush all blacks is an example of Biden being far to comfortable being in the leader in the polls for the democratic nomination. It’s a mistake that comes with leeway, and a long rope called forgiveness that Joe thinks he has since people love him more for his electability in a world where Trump must be beaten no matter what than they will be inclined to choose to support Sen. Sanders or Sen. Harris or any of the other 21 candidates on the democratic side. But I urge you to consider why the past does sometimes deserve our nostalgia. Great deeds were done in spite of the two segregationists Biden so extols, this country began to live up to its lofty promises and ideals, finally, up from slavery came a black lead movement that moved the hearts, minds,money and policy of blacks and whites for the sake of good. So if we are choosing a candidate, let’s choose one that reminds us of that, of the hard won victories and who  stands against evil men; unless we want to see the past turn the present into anything but a paradise.

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