Author: Alvira, Marco

November Fourth

November 4, 1958…a swept wing, jet powered B-47 Stratojet crashed outside Abilene, Kansas. Three crewmembers survived; the jet bomber was totaled; its nuclear armament did not detonate. My mom was in the maternity ward at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco that day. I don’t think she was watching T.V. that particular Tuesday morning. Being a Catholic hospital, I’m sure some of the staff might have been listening to the radio as the newly seated Pope John the XXIII spoke from the balcony of St. Peters Basilica. As I was a difficult birth, born butt backwards (that’s not exactly how my mom used to state it), I’m positive the young 19 year old Missouri gal in stirrups was, herself, invoking the Lord’s name. Jack Kennedy was elected to his second term in the Senate that day. I don’t know who was running for what office in the City or in California that year, but my mom couldn’t have voted anyway. For the benefit of all the youngsters who might be reading this, the voting age back then was 21!

Three very newsworthy events standout in 1968, just ten years after my birth: the assignations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Even for a young T.V. newsaholic like myself, the events of August 1968 in Chicago were shocking viewing. Billy club wielding police cracking open the heads of young protesters. Kids lying on the ground being stomped by booted “peace” officers. My dad and grandfather on the edge of the couch hollering at the television set, “Bust their commie heads!” My mom in the kitchen doorway, wide-eyed, with her hand over her mouth (her family had always been FDR men). Some say the nation lost its naiveté when President Kennedy was assassinated. I say the country’s soul was rent that year, like the curtain in the Temple, by the political violence that was everywhere in the media. In two years, life had rocketed from a bucolic, suburban post Leave It To Beaver self-image to a country in the midst of a cultural revolution. Oh ya, and if that weren’t enough, Richard Nixon won the election.

Twenty-two years later, it was a gorgeous fall afternoon, not unlike those we’ve experienced the last couple of weeks. The sunlight was golden and the Central Valley foliage was a myriad of red, yellow, and orange. I sat in my car at a stoplight listening to some oldies on the radio. I couldn’t help but ponder whether the nation had returned to happier days. Certainly there had been some political rancor between Democrats and Republican in recent years, and there was the Iran-Contragate Affair, but Tip O’Neal and Ronald Reagan seemed to keep the country moving. Vietnam was a vivid, yet distant memory. I was positive that the nation had learned its lesson there. The Berlin Wall had come down and the world seemed on a path toward peace and free from the threat of war. Times were ripe with hope for a young father like myself with his new family and his first home. What could go wrong?

Four years ago, my birthday fell on another election day. This one would go down as one of the most significant in American history: my country had elected its first African-American President. I was never so proud as an American. I was old enough to remember the civil-rights marches and remembered first hand many of the injustices dealt to Latinos in a state even as liberal as California. Regardless of one’s own political dogmas, there was no denying that we had taken a huge leap forward in our attitude toward race.

Until recently, I have always looked forward to elections, especially those for the Presidency. This year, however, for the first time in my life, our election process has left me with great lassitude for politics. If the Citizens United decision weren’t enough to damper my political mood (allowing unlimited amount of cash to pour unfettered into the election), it seems that the nation as decided to pitch ideological camps with mutual destruction their intent. By my historical reckoning, we have not seen such division since the Antebellum (pre Civil War). It’s impossible to settle into an evening with one’s favorite book or T.V. show without three phone calls from pollsters, party operatives, or someone advocating a state ballot proposition.

A barrage of bumper sticker sloganism and hackneyed platitudes has supplanted cogent political dialogue. Several of my friends have stopped speaking to each other this year. I never thought there wasn’t anything between friends that a cigar and brandy couldn’t cure, but great is the vitriol in November 2012. Our Message Board etiquette once kept political enmity among our Association members at a distance. It seems that a great majority of us bluegrass folks now talk off Board on Facebook. Of course, the rules are few there and discourse is often strained. A positive I see is that at least a declaration of “what is bluegrass” has been left off both party platforms.

Posted:  11/4/2012

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