Amoeba’s Lorica: Vigilance

James Thurber's Quivering ManThe 2012 election season in these Untied States is – finally! – over. In the Presidential election, Mr. Obama has won.

And there is nothing new under the sun.

In 1936, under economic circumstances similar to, but more dire than, the present day, political pundits forecast a close race between the incumbent President, Franklin Roosevelt, and Alf Landon, a moderate Republican. It wasn’t close: Roosevelt won handily.

Hell, in 1864, the Republican party was so sure that its candidate would lose in November that they considered reconvening their convention. Then Sherman took Atlanta, and Abraham Lincoln won with about the same wide margin as in 1860.

In both cases, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba reads (he wasn’t there; he didn’t get the memo that amoebae are supposed to be immortal), the debate was ferocious. Sound familiar?

It’s not like there wasn’t provocation. In the earlier case, there was a war on, with a cost in blood (dead and wounded) of more than 7,000 lives a week – counting only Union casualties in the major battles – while in the later, the war was brewing, and meanwhile the jobless rate was more than 10% (down from a peak of more than 25% nationwide), and the Dust Bowl was doing a fine job of wiping out farms, livelihoods, lives.

Lincoln had to put up with demonstrations from hawks and doves that made the Vietnam-era protests look like a Campfire Girls singalong. Each side would scream “We need a Dictator!” – because, of course, the other side would ruin the country and thus needed to be summarily removed.

You might recall that Lincoln went down in history, not as a Dictator, but as a model President of a republic under stress.

Roosevelt confronted a Europe in which the people of various countries had installed Dictators – yes, you read that correctly; the Dictators did not install themselves, the people acclaimed them – and those Dictators were proclaiming that the “effete democracies” would soon collapse under their own weight. Which, given the weight of the picket signs under which practically every American who wasn’t working (see “10% unemployment”, supra) was marching under, looked kinda likely at the time.

You might have noticed that America’s “effete democracy” hasn’t collapsed yet.

YFNA is keyboarding these characters while the social media vibrate with the virtual screams of the disappointed. “Mr. Romney has lost, America is doomed!” Had it gone the other way, the wail would have been, “Mr. Obama has lost, America is doomed!” Already the word is out. “I voted for McGovern Romney. Don’t blame me!”

There really is nothing new under the sun.

The coming post-election days, YFNA suggests, are a time for vigilance. “Those other guys?” Well, no, not unless those “other guys” are the ones staring back at you from the bathroom mirror. (And if there’s one of you, and more than one of them, you might wish to get your glasses checked, or maybe lay off the rum and cokes before bedtime.) Vigilance, lest we forget that screaming and yelling is really a selfish, egotistical business that does little or nothing to pick the stuff off the floor and put it back on the shelves where it belongs. Vigilance, lest we sell our birthright on a soundbite, and discover what we had in our “effete democracy” only after it’s gone.

In the short story, “A Good Man”, first published in 1942, writer and cartoonist (see the top of this post) James Thurber wrote of his great-grandfather, one Jacob (Jake) Fisher, who “in his prime” was “the strongest man for many miles below the city” of Columbus, Ohio. Though neither Fisher nor Thurber knew anything of Festivus, the former was nevertheless one of its early proponents, as he was well known for dealing with his world through Feats of Strength. This included conflict resolution, which, if all else failed, would take the form of thrashing his opponent into submission.

One one particular occasion, Thurber relates, a thrash-ee was walking along a Columbus road when Fisher drove by with his wagon and horses, and offered the man a ride. The fellow demurred, probably figuring he’d made a lasting enemy and was in for another thrashing. (Eh?)

Git in the buggy!“, Jake roared. He got in – probably in a mad rush – to discover that Jake considered the earlier matter settled, he was prepared to move on and expected others to do the same. A disagreement, a defeat, did not define a person. There was – there is – too much work, too much living, to be done.

And, as a correspondent posted earlier today about all this, your neighbor is still your neighbor.


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