Saturday, November 26, 2016

Wisdom Is in Short Supply



I and 599 other students sat in complete silence in the largest University of New Mexico lecture room the afternoon of November 22, 1963. We had just heard that President John F. Kennedy was dead. Shot in Dallas, Texas. Most of us had spent our lunch break watching the live news on TV's in the dorms or the Student Union Building.

We had come to Sociology 101 not just because it was the next class on our schedule but because it was something to do besides watch the horrid images. And we figured if anyone could say something to make it all go away it would be Professor Varley.

He walked up on to the stage into the silence and wrote with chalk on the black board, Class Dismissed. And he walked off. We sat. Without words. As we rose to leave a student behind me loudly said, "At least the man who should be president will be now." I slugged her. I would probably have faced a week long suspension except that all classes were suspended for all of us so that we could observe history being made. I watched waiting for someone to say something to make it all go away. 

It seems I am often waiting for those incantations. I waited for the Warren Commission to say the right thing. I waited after Martin Luther was shot, and Robert Kennedy. The Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion seemed surrounded in silence. As my father lay dying I waited for him to give me something I could quote for years. I still had faith after 9/ll that wise men would say wise things.

Now trying to absorb the election of Donald Trump to President I find there are no right words. Some events are just beyond our ability to sum up in black upon white. I keep harking back to Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address, ". . . far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it will never forget what we did here." 

There are events in our lives which we will never forget. We will always know where we were when Walter Cronkite broke into As the World Turns to announce that President Kennedy is dead or the second plane it the Towers on live TV. Some things are just a huge disturbance in the force, to paraphrase Star Wars. They strike us dumb. That Donald Trump won the electoral college is not unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Every time I try to sum up the event I just cry. Not for Hillary's loss but for what our country will be like under a Trump administration.

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