Many years ago when I was a teenage boy during a late WWII August, thinking a lot about girls and cars and colleges, I had a bad haircut. As the barber removed the apron from my chest and dusted the nape of my neck with powder, I looked in the mirror to discover that my much admired (by me), head of hair, was no longer sitting securely on my head. I was skinned. This was not the fashion at that time. The barber called it a summer haircut. I knew it was something done to hardened criminals as they enter prison for extremely serious crimes. Only murderers and bank robbers deserved such a haircut. And only Paul Muni and Cagney and Bogart in Warner films ever looked this way.
My fault, I knew. I was lost in the reading of a LIFE magazine that featured Rita Hayworth, and as my father said later that day, "that's what happens when you don't pay attention." My mother, famously beautiful, wise, and kindly simply said, "Relax, it's only a bad haircut. In two weeks you won't remember it. You've got to learn that there's a difference between a bad haircut and real troubles. Hair grows back. But some important things you lose never do." She spoke from the heart, having escaped the pogroms of Czarist Russia as a small child only to lose her mother and a beloved sister and brother to tuberculosis in her early youth, the result of the miserable conditions in the crowded tenements of the Lower East Side. That family did not grow back. She was left adrift heartbroken and penniless at thirteen, but she was very beautiful and found work as a fashion model, made a good marriage (more or less) and was a guiding moral force in the lives of my late sister and myself.
Although my mother supported Jewish charities at that time (1930s-40s) when many European Jews were in desperate straits, my mother also gave her money to the Salvation Army, the NAACP and to Catholic Charities -- she looked beyond the needs of her own people and saw the hardships of others in an emotional three dimension, people in trouble were people like herself, be they Jews, African Americans, or Christians. Maybe that gets to Mitt Romney sooner than I thought, because not having seen his tax records we are unable to know if his charities extended beyond that of his Mormon church. It is one thing to give to one's personal and religious family, quite another to offer help to those who do not "belong." I long to hear from the non-Mormon poor black family that was helped by him. It may well exist but if it does I hope he forgoes the modesty his wife Ann bragged about (amazing these Romneys can even brag about their modesty) and let's us know about it.
Now back to that haircut. These days I take my late father's advice to pay attention, not only on the barber's chair but in front of my TV set. I know that bad things happen when you do not pay attention. The whole country failed to pay attention as W led us into the Iraq war, bringing with it a huge deficit financially, morally, and in terms of human life. We know that we can't look for help from the press or the TV charmers to do our fact checking for us. Even PBS prefers to remain neutral -it is as if the election was a not so thrilling horse race and they were talking about the speed and record of the horses, their stamina, their trainers, their riders, and yes, as in the case of the Koch brothers, their owners. Everything is done to trivialize the consequences of the race. Failing to point out the lies told by a Ryan or a Romney at the time that those lies are spoken, and allowing these lies to fester and grow. For me this is a betrayal by a free press of their obligation as guardians of the truth. Isolated by their prestige and by their wealth they do not allow themselves to express concern for the dangers inherent in this election should Romney become our next president. And so old actor raging at a chair and pretending that the president is seated before him, cursing and bumbling his way into hateful talk at the convention is just the kind of joke the press loves. Something to mock, but not to evaluate cogently.
If the past is prologue, the Republicans will continue to make deep cuts into social services, police and fire protection, teaching staffs, social workers, creating a more fragile, endangered society. This helps to keep the job numbers down, create greater unemployment and create talking points for their war against President Obama. The past four years have demonstrated their desire to defeat this president even at the cost of the country's well being and prosperity.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this Republican campaign -- after the war against truth and the war against women - is the war against science -- except science in the cause of developing new weaponry and feeding endless dollars to the military. We can no longer reject the notion that the denial of global warming by the right is an act of war on the very earth we share. But all these wars are interlocked -- part of the same Republican world view. The Republicans would like to concentrate on the economy while downplaying their "social values" that scare many voters. But the fact is that these two are inextricably linked. If all you care about is upping the jobs numbers by creating more low level poorly paying jobs, then you have done little to make a better America, or improve the quality of life in the country. Their notion is to divide the issues and conquer -- jobs, jobs, jobs, and the hell with education and the quality of people's lives, lives, lives.
Much has been said and written about the desire of the Republican Party to control the reproductive rights of women. But by denying abortion these champions of freedom fail to understand that they are acting in much the same way as the Communist Chinese acted when they demanded abortion from a family that has one child.
Last but far from least will be the Romney-appointed courts. I can easily envision Romney appointed courts that will for generations incrementally peel off all the progress we have made for a more equitable country. Trust me, I am not having a bad gray hair day. I still have most of my hair and some of my wits. But if Romney/Ryan prevails, unlike my hair our democracy will not grow back in again.
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