Jerry Waldie…In His Own Words
(Jerry Waldie was a thinker, among many other things. He enjoyed expressing those thoughts in the elegant, somewhat mannered language of his era. Below are two pieces, an essay and a personal reflection. The essay, on the hypocrisy of the Republican reaction to President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, is regrettably published posthumously. The reflections sparked by President Obama’s Inauguration appeared in California’s Capitol on February 10, 2009.)
I cannot believe the Republican Party has been chanting the silly, age-old, discredited mantra that the Democrats are socialists and that their present efforts to control the excesses of unbridled, unregulated capitalism will make America a “European Socialist Government.”
That same frantic accusation – socialism — was charged by fearful Republicans when Franklin Roosevelt proposed and enacted Social Security. The Congressional Democrats ignored the frightened threats of the Republicans and overwhelmingly supported the passage of Social Security.
It remains one of the most popular programs ever enacted by the government.
Few, if any, Republicans, today would now oppose Social Security. When President George W. Bush sought to privatize Social Security, Congressional Republicans refused to support him.
Apparently, then, Social Security no longer should be considered socialism by today’s Republicans and it no longer threatens our capitalist system.
And, when President Johnson proposed Medicare as a means of assisting our elderly in obtaining needed medical care, the Republicans opposed the idea, arguing that it, too, like Social Security, was socialism.
Yet, today — as was the case with Social Security – not a single Republican would vote against Medicare. They have come to understand that Americans do not consider Medicare to be a socialistic program that should be repealed.
There is a considerable amount of hypocrisy involved in Republicans of this era claiming President Obama’s stimulus package will lead us on the perilous road to European Socialism.
If Republicans now believe that Social Security and Medicare are no longer socialistic, then surely, the stimulus package is not at all socialistic.
So, why in the world should any rational observer pay any attention when a demoralized Republican Party reverts to their historically forlorn effort to frighten the American people by calling progressive legislation, socialistic?
To bolster their charge that the stimulus package will result in America becoming a socialist nation, Republicans claim that President Obama’s legislative programs, such as universal health care, are merely efforts to redistribute wealth, which, as every conservative chants, is the prime goal of socialism.
There is an historical national program supported by Republicans and Democrats that indeed does redistribute wealth in America. It is called the Federal Income tax, which, in its progressiveness, causes the wealthy to pay more taxes than the middle class.
And for the last eight years of President Bush’s reign, there has occurred as great a redistribution of wealth as our nation has ever experienced. Except, in this case, the redistribution favored the wealthy by cutting their taxes and thus shifting what heretofore had been a progressive policy of benefiting the middle class to now, benefit the wealthy.
I do not recall Republicans condemning the redistribution of wealth in this case nor do I recall their suggesting that Bush had become a socialist when he sponsored this massive redistribution of wealth.
It seems clear that the Republican Party is completely demoralized by the overwhelming rejection of their proposed policies by the American electorate. The people voted decisively for President Obama and his progressive program.
The Republican response to that national election seems pitiable. Socialism is not a threat to American capitalism, and it seems strange that Republicans believe it is possible for capitalism to be rejected as our economic policy.
I have never believed capitalism was in such disarray nor presented such a weak posture as, apparently, do the Republican fear mongers. Socialism will never be the choice of Americans unless capitalism refuses to accommodate the needs of all of our citizens — not just the wealthiest.
That is what Democracy is all about.
Like millions of viewers, I marveled at the excellence of the Inaugural celebration of President Obama. Every moment seemed unique and positive.
Not all such celebrations in which I had personally participated while in Washington, D.C. have had a similar positive effect on me. I do not recall any particular moment of President Nixon’s first Inauguration — though it certainly was not viewed by the huge numbers President Obama’s ceremony attracted.
Neither do I recall any single precise memory of President Carter’s Inaugural ceremony. I have a vague recollection of him and Mrs. Carter walking hand in hand in the parade that followed, but little more than that.
President Carter’s ceremony, like President Nixon’s, was far more subdued than President Obama’s unforgettable ceremony.
I did experience some fairly dramatic moments surrounding the Inauguration of President Reagan, though. I don’t recall any memorable highlight of the ceremony itself.
But, at its conclusion, my wife Joanne and I returned to my office where, for the past year, I had been working as a political appointee of President Carter serving as Executive Director of the 1980 White House Conference on Aging. Arriving at the office in mid-afternoon, there was a personal phone call awaiting me from Reagan’s newly confirmed Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.
I returned the call immediately, and was, not surprisingly, politely informed that my services were no longer desired by the Reagan Administration and, as a Carter appointee, would I please vacate my office by the end of the day.
Hard not to remember that Inauguration.
But the Inauguration I recall most vividly was that of President Nixon’s second term of office. Both Joanne and I had determined that, for us, personally, a celebration of that nature was not warranted on that day.
Both of us were ardent opponents of the Vietnam War. When President Nixon was first elected he had promised to end that war. Yet, in the four years of his first term, the war continued and U.S. forces suffered over 20,000 combat deaths with thousands more young men severely wounded. And there simply was no sign that the war was coming to an end as his Inauguration ceremony took place.
We decided we would be more comfortable on Inauguration Day if we, privately, with no public comment, visited young American combat casualties being treated at Walter Reed Veteran’s Hospital.
Every single moment of that visit remains vividly etched in our memories. We were deeply moved by the enormous sacrifice those young Americans had endured — and continued to endure — and we worried as to the future awaiting too many of them.
Our visit with one young soldier was particularly wrenching and seemed to validate the decision Joanne and I had made not to attend the “celebration” of Nixon’s second term of office.
We entered a single-patient hospital room in which a young man was lying on his stomach suspended in a hammock-like device. Seated quietly beside the motionless, terribly disabled young man was his Dad. We gently asked the condition of his son.
“He was hit over a year ago in Vietnam by a rifle grenade exploding near his back and has never regained consciousness.”
His son was in a vegetative condition and would remain that way for the rest of his life. The Dad told us the young soldier was their only child and that during the past year — every single day – he and his wife took turns sitting by their son’s bedside.
Joanne and I were rendered speechless. Tears were near. We murmured our pathetically insufficient words of sympathy and quietly departed.
As we left the father and his gravely disabled son, the T.V. on the wall behind him, in the otherwise silent room, was displaying cheerful and happy scenes of President Nixon’s Inauguration.
The loving Dad saw none of those joyous scenes.
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