‘Back In Time’ Helps Moving Forward During Pandemic

Growing up in a rural Hancock, Wisconsin where my grandparents were my neighbors, my dad had the one car for his job, and my siblings were too old to be fun meant I learned to adapt to living life with plenty of time for self-amusement. I have thought often about those years during this pandemic. In just a couple months it will be nearly a year since this health crisis took hold of our country. And this home.

And yet there are reasons to be grateful. This home has had nothing more serious to contend with this year than mold spores and tree pollen. Too many others have had to face tragic situations with this virus that make me feel totally powerless when following the news—my first instinct wanting to make things better. The only thing we can do here is to follow the advice of medical professionals, and respect the needs of nurses and other essential workers by largely staying at home.

I had a number of thoughts along these lines very late one night during the holiday weekend when James brought out a speaker that links with an iPad. He hit the play button and our home was transported back to the 1940s with the Jack Benny radio program. The comic was shopping for Christmas gifts and the cast of regulars added to the timeless humor. How do you make a Venetian blind?…..Poke him in the eye!

As I listened to the big band music and the laughter from the studio audience it was a reminder of how an inspiring backward glance can be a tonic as we move forward. One could see the cheer and companionship of the radio listeners those decades ago around the radio in the kitchen or living room of homes across the nation. It took so little, comparatively speaking, to complete and satisfy the needs and desires of those listeners.

I recall what was termed in my childhood as ‘long winter evenings’ where the comfort of a warm home, books, and some comedy shows on television constituted a pleasant time. As the radio show ended, and James played another Benny seasonal episode, I thought about how most people in the city are probably not aware of just being content in the moment, not needing to run to and fro.

I have read and heard much about what is being described as ‘pandemic fatigue’ which accounts for millions who traveled for Thanksgiving and decided to shop in stores over the past weekend. There is almost a requirement among many to be anywhere but home–even when common sense and science say we need to stay put.

Those wanting to experience the atmosphere of what I am writing about can do so with a new production of a classic Christmas story. There is a free radio production of A Christmas Carol performed, produced, and made available thanks to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. It premieres at 7 PM on Dec 1. That venue has created this annual tradition for their stage for more than 40 years. This year they used their creativity to keep the tradition alive, and safe for the cast and the audience.

I heard about this production on WGN this week with the added advice that to have a most spectacular experience wear headphones as the sounds—just like they used in the radio shows of the 40s’–will be masterfully applied.

Old-time radio will clearly not be the tonic that will lift the sail for all who are feeling limitations during this pandemic. But it will place the listener into a different mindset for an hour. And that is worth a lot these ‘long winter evenings’.

And so it goes.

Donald Trump To Be Overshadowed by Barack Obama–Bookends To One Term In Office

If Steve Inskeep writes it, I will read it.

I have much respect for his insights and ability with words. Which is why Inskeep’s column Monday in The New York Times was well received at our home. With Donald Trump exiting the White House comes next the decades of work by historians who will place him in the narrative of our nation–a topic I hit upon with some regularity on this blog.

Inskeep allowed for this topic to be well encapsulated on the Opinion page of the paper. I have selected a few paragraphs to make the point that Trump will be not the oversized person he yearns to be, but will likely be overshadowed by the Black president he tried, and utterly failed, to diminish.

President Trump’s critics warn that history will look unkindly on his effort to overturn a democratic election. This forecast, while understandable, may be wrong. History rarely looks on one-term presidents at all.

Few presidents who served four years or less find an enduring place in the popular imagination. One term is not long to influence a country so large and dynamic — and a president’s failure to win a second term can be a sign that he didn’t. If you are not from Indiana, you may not know my state produced Benjamin Harrison, a one-term president who was different from President William Henry Harrison, who died after one month in office. Few people visit the statue of James Buchanan in a lonely corner of a Washington park, and in my life I have met just one enthusiast for Chester A. Arthur.

One-term presidents who escape obscurity often did something beyond the presidency — like John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, or Jimmy Carter, whose much-admired post-presidency has lasted 10 times as long as his term. John F. Kennedy’s legacy rests, in part, on legislative achievements that passed after his assassination. Others are known for their failures while in office: Warren G. Harding for a corruption scandal, Herbert Hoover for economic calamity, Andrew Johnson for being impeached.

We can’t be sure what history will make of Mr. Trump, whose term featured scandal, impeachment and calamity, as well as a pandemic. His story may not be over; he remains at the head of a powerful movement, and reportedly talks of running in 2024. But to judge by information available today, he has a relatively narrow role in the American story: as the reaction to a game-changing president — Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump’s place in history may be overshadowed by Mr. Obama’s. Elected in 2008, Mr. Obama seemed to personify America’s growing diversity as a multiracial republic. His campaign motivated new voters, and he talked at first of transcending old political divisions. He said he wanted Americans to regain trust in institutions battered by 9/11, the war in Iraq and the financial crisis. He raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans, signed the Affordable Care Act, tried to break an impasse over immigration and approved a nuclear agreement to ease a long-running conflict with Iran.

The Obama presidency paved the way for Mr. Trump. He rose by relentlessly attacking Mr. Obama, promoting the racist conspiracy theory about his birthplace and falsely claiming that he favored open borders. Mr. Trump told voters in 2016 that he was their “last chance” to win before they were overwhelmed by immigration and globalism.

It is astonishing to recall how much Mr. Trump devoted his term to re-fighting the battles of the Obama years. Using executive authority as Mr. Obama had, he rolled back housing and environmental regulations, reversed transgender rights in the military, and branded antiracism programs as racist.

But on many issues he only partly succeeded. He withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement, but other nations did their best to maintain it. He abandoned Mr. Obama’s strategy toward China, but he struggled to make his own strategy work. He damaged the Affordable Care Act but never managed to repeal it, even when his party controlled Congress.

It was revealing that he publicly supported the most popular benefits of the health insurance law that he said he despised, such as protections for pre-existing conditions. His predecessor defined what health insurance should cover, and Mr. Trump accepted the definition.

Mr. Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord, but his successor plans to rejoin it. Mr. Trump ended Mr. Obama’s program giving legal status to some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, but the Supreme Court restored it, finding Mr. Trump’s action “arbitrary and capricious.” Though Mr. Trump took other actions to limit immigration, the most permanent symbol of his policy may be an unfinished wall in the desert. He neither erased all of President Obama’s accomplishments nor completed his own.

The epic conflicts he generated seem like perfect material for future history classes. It is easy to imagine a high school history book recounting the monthslong court fight over his effort to ban Muslims from entering the United States, followed by discussion on religious freedom and the Constitution.

But in those same textbooks, President Trump may be a minor player in the larger story of a democracy grappling with demands for a more equal society — an era marked by the election of Mr. Obama, the first Black president.

And Mr. Trump’s tenure already has a fitting bookend: On Jan. 20, he will be replaced by Mr. Obama’s vice president.

Prediction For Time Person Of The Year 2020–Two Pictures Share Front Cover

Each year since I was about age eighteen the arrival of the thick final issue of Time has always been something that has created anticipation. Who would be the Person of the Year? Then a deep dive into reading about the newsmaker over the holiday period. I also have enjoyed the way the person was presented on the cover along with reading about the factors that led to the final decision.

This year has been nothing short of a long series of blaring headlines that leaves the front of this upcoming edition wishing it could have multiple covers. The cover of this publication would have been a no-brainer had it not been a presidential election year with a one-termer leaving office, and a new leader elected by a record number of votes. Doctor Anthony Fauci, and the nurses of America, would have commanded the cover due to their intellect, tirelessness, professionalism, and compassion that has been demonstrated in the fight against COVID. I just know that a portion of the magazine will be devoted to these people who truly deserve part of the front cover.

But there is one person who has clearly made a tremendous impression on the nation, so much that his fellow citizens voted him to be the next president. That is what makes Joe Biden Person of the Year. Having said that, I know Joe is the type of man who would be touched if there was a medical professional on the cover in an artful way alongside his picture. It would take nothing away from him, in fact, it would underscore one of the prime reasons Biden was elected. Trump refused to treat the virus as a public health crisis. And America soundly rejected him.

Having a Biden/nurse front cover would be the perfect statement about 2020 as it would encompass the major stories of this nation’s year.