True story coming up, though I'm not sure what possessed me at the time, back say 2003 or so. This man in his eighties was appealing to me, pleading even, to explain why he could recollect the events of his youth with detailed clarity but drew a blank on what he had for breakfast. Some combination of his wryness and my giddiness prompted this pearl of chutzpah: "Your main job in the world at this age is to repent your sins, and you must have done them back then, not this morning."
This generation must have a lot of misbehavior from the Sixties and Seventies to atone for, because events keep sending us back there. North Korea is roiling, Iran is boiling and leftist nostrums have the rostrum. The government will heal all our ills and the media will provide the echo chamber while the United Nations saves the planet in cool little cars which barely fit two guys and a "Just Married" sign. The only reason the two-finger V peace sign will not come back is that it got hijacked and tainted by Nixon. Remember Kent State!
The difference this time around is the Flower Power is running the show. The Weather Underground is not even partly cloudy; it blows hot air down Pennsylvania Avenue. Our foreign policy consists of Kumbaya recitals and Eighth Step ("Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all") exercises. Out with the arrogance (read: Republicans), in with the apologies. Uncle Sam is no longer the scowling deacon who snitches to your mom; he is the permissive uncle who slips you a twenty and your first cigarette.
And yet, and yet, we waited in vain for the one word that was the centerpiece of Sixties and Seventies rhetoric, the catchphrase, the synecdoche, the shibboleth, the herald, the blazon, the hallmark, the trademark and the emblem. Finally, it has been uttered by the Community-Organizer-in-Chief himself. The magic word: "meddle."
WE MUST BE CAREFUL, says the President, considering the history of our relationship with Iran, lest we seem to meddle in their election. It is not that we lack the mettle, you see.
In the Sixties and Seventies, to meddle was the highest crime against humanity. America was meddling in Vietnam. The FBI was meddling in political associations. The establishment was meddling in your bedroom. The CIA was meddling in South America. And ultimately, most guiltily, parents were meddling with their college student kids, trying to make them kneel to The Man and lead hollow hypocritical sellout lives like theirs.
Mysteriously, Castro was not meddling in either Cuba or Angola, he was aiding indigenous populations to realize their legitimate aspirations. Eventually the leftist ideology predominated among the youth of that time, breeding a hypocrisy that mirrored the one they rejected. Except their parents were huffy, puffy and stuffy, but would lay their lives down for the oppressed of the world. These kids talked a good game but often covered for the atrocities of leftist regimes.
Forward to 2009 and rock-star Barack Obama announces the end of the era of heavy meddle. If we meddle, he explains patiently, we will be giving the bad guys what they want, a scapegoat. "There is no better way for the hardliners to beat back the reformers than by saying the United States is encouraging their protest." So now we have two reasons not to meddle. First of all, it makes us look like bullies. Secondly, it lets the bad guys be worse to the good guys because they can say that they are doing it to resist the meddlers.
This is a truly corrupt approach. We stand with the good people to give them strength. By definition that is meddling, and so what? The bad guys need no excuses to be bad. They do it all the time, with or without us. Who cares if they use our meddling as an excuse? It is merely one of the myriad excuses bad people employ promiscuously. The good guys are the ones who need backing to stand their ground, and they cannot count on the Sixties people. There is no medal for people who are afraid to meddle.
We conclude with the words of a long-time friend of this column, Argentinian politician Claudia Monteverdi, the former Miss Latin America. In her e-mail yesterday she put it pungently: "Tell Barack Obama there are moments when a man has to give the Che Guevara t-shirt off his back."
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