Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Silver Alert-Ron Paul Goes Missing

Silver Alert-Ron Paul Goes Missing

I grew up in a working/middle class garden apartment complex.  Many of the men worked in factories, drove trucks or heavy equipment.  Women stayed home with the kids, many others were librarians, bank tellers, or teachers.  Except for a few salesmen and middle managers, if you saw an adult in dress clothes, it was either for a religious service, a wedding or funeral.  These were plain folk.

One day, when I was perhaps six or seven at most, one of the men came home wearing a toupee.  Dozens of people, adults and children, came out to see it.  I remember him standing there with his wife-he was all decked out in a suit and tie.  A strand fell onto his forehead and he proudly pushed it back.

As a small child I knew very little about hair, other than there was some sort of state law that required males in our family to have a buzz-cut.  This toupee seemed an odd thing to me.  While actors might wear wigs, real people either had hair or they didn’t. Yesterday he didn’t have hair, today he did. He didn’t look at all like himself, and I wondered if he was well. I asked my parents afterwards, who just shook their heads.

For some odd reason, this incident, which I hadn’t thought about for close to fifty years, occurred to me upon reading of the recent disappearance of Ron Paul. 

Where is Ron Paul? He hasn’t withdrawn from the race, he still is drawing some votes in the primaries, although in ever diminishing numbers.  His son, Rand, has been seen in public many times, and shows no outward signs of grief.  The media seems to have moved on, more captivated by the spectacle of Newt making a spectacle of himself, and Santorum channeling his favorite professional wrestler.

Without Ron Paul in the debates, a different voice has been stilled, and we are back to the two major parties and their entirely predicable positions.  On the economy, Democrats tend to look to government as a protector of the powerless.  There’s no problem that can’t be cured by a program. Republicans see government as tool to further the interests of big business, so unlimited tax cuts, subsidies as far as the eye can see, and special interest legislation are the guiding principle.  Both sides see paying for things as unnecessary. On social issues, Democrats seem loathe to ask people to set personal limits.  The GOP, on the other hand, has a playbook right out of Cotton Mather.

If you are a moderate, or have principles that don’t fit precisely into narrow categories, you are out of luck.  We used to have practical people in both parties looking to solve problems in a non-ideological way.  Now, only rigidity is prized, and you have the Grover Norquists of the world seeking out victims in the same way the French Generals in World War I did-shooting a few of their own soldiers “to encourage the others.”

And that, inevitably, brings me back to Ron Paul, because Libertarianism seemed to be a respite from the two major parties vision of government as an all-powerful tool to benefit their respective constituencies.  I liked listening to him.

And, Ron Paul appeals to younger voters.  The bipartisan reality of bloated, intrusive, sloppy Washington filled with cynical blowhards turns them off.   A few months ago, my son reported that while many of the students in his dorm were lukewarm towards President Obama, they were very intrigued by Ron Paul.  He explained that Obama had disappointed people, and Paul, with his caution about using the military, and his truth telling on things like Social Security (which few of them expect to get) excited them.  In my middle-aged sagacity (cynicism?) I tried to explain about the poetry of campaigning and the prose of governing, but I don’t think I made much of a dent.  Maybe my son and his friends were right?

So, when Ron Paul went silent, I found I missed him.  I went to his website, which touts him as “America's leading voice for limited, constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, honest money, and a pro-America foreign policy.”  I read through his policy positions.  And I found myself disappointed.  Other than his distinctly non-neocon approach to foreign policy, and his trademark opposition to the Federal Reserve, the website was essentially indistinguishable from all the rest of the GOP candidates, past and present.  It is as if his consultants have plopped a big black Rick Perry toupee on his greying head so as to appeal to the Republican primary voter.

That’s sad.  What happened to the Ron Paul of big ideas?  The one who emphasized the poetry of freedom, limited government and personal responsibility?  Are his handlers and prose-meisters holding him hostage?  

Elections, at their best, are a renewal-a chance to look again at tired thoughts and to force change in the best way possible-through the ballot box. Do we really need seven more months of stale ideas and strident spin?  Doesn't anyone have anything different to say?

I’m ready for a Silver Alert. Find Ron Paul and free him.  Please.