Monday, March 6, 2017

College Boys and Soldiers

My 40th college reunion is coming up. Yes, it's a jolt to the system to realize that I've gone from a skinny young nerd to a skinny vintage nerd in what seems roughly the amount of time it takes to play an Orioles-Yankees game. I'm making the calls and sending the emails to my far-flung (but "curated") group of friends, trying to decide whether Baltimore in Springtime is all that appealing...or should we just wait for 50?

It can get a little hot in April in Charm City. In fact, it can stay a little hot well into September. Along with hot, Baltimore has a well-deserved reputation for humid. It excels at humid. This, along with Chemistry, and, of all things, German, caused me briefly to wonder just what the heck I was doing when my guidance counselor suggested Johns Hopkins and I thought "Hopkins, wow, great idea, Cushing, Halsted, Osler, I'm going to be a doctor!"

Reality can be a cruel mistress. Yet there was something besides an absurd Heat-Index reading that was different about my first few days in college—there was also the sound of ROTC candidates training in the practice field behind my dorm. A reminder of Vietnam and a fate—perhaps my fate—rather narrowly escaped.

If you didn't live through it, it might be hard to grasp the turmoil, anger, and anxiety of the late 60s and early 70s. Turmoil, because no one knew when or how the war was going to end; anger, at politicians who seemed unable to find satisfactory answers; and anxiety—deep fear—that you, or a family member would somehow find himself in a place that few wanted to be for a cause in which many did not believe.

Richard Nixon had called for an all-volunteer army during the 1968 Campaign. Whether he actually believed in the concept or was merely using it as a tactic is hard to say. But he was also looking for a way to defuse the constant anti-war demonstrations. These, he thought, were led by middle and upper-middle class families who were concerned that once their boys completed their college deferments, they would be shipped off to die. Take away their risk, and they would no longer care, allowing him to pursue his strategic aims unencumbered by organized opposition.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Populists and Plutocrats Unite!

I was in a 7-Eleven last Sunday morning for a restorative post-jog donut, when a big, late-middle-aged man with a MAGA hat and a matching red face came in. He grabbed a few tall-boys and a bag of ice, and made his way to the check-out line. To my reasonably educated eye (and nose) those particular tall-boys weren't going to be the first of the day.

In all the kaleidoscope of images from the first two weeks of Trump's reign, there is something about this man that I cannot get out of my head. To say he seemed out of place in my 83%-for-Hillary Congressional District would be an understatement—but there he was. Wow—a perfect specimen of a stereotypical Trump voter as if drawn in an editorial cartoon! Obviously, I wasn't actually going to interact with him, but this rara avis had somehow wandered into my cloistered neck of the woods and even allowed himself to helped by the Pakistani staff in the store. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Donald and Vlad Inherit the Earth

The news of the day is that Russian President Vladimir Putin will be a guest of honor at Donald Trump's Inauguration. He will be seated between Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and there are indications from inside the Trump transition team that the President Elect has asked Putin to give a second invocation, reportedly on a theme inspired by Matthew 5:5, to mark the friendship of two great nations.