History is not always studied; sometimes it’s lived. Right now, the way voters live the 74 days between Election and Inauguration, could help shape the history of a generation. I’m betting these days will be lived out better than many of the doomsayers are predicting. Here’s why….
At 86, I have the advantage of having lived through two Cubs Worlds Series, along with two Golden Ages of Hollywood. I witnessed the 1945 Series from the 3rd base line in Wrigley; then the 2016 Series from my TV armchair. Next, I witnessed Hollywood’s Golden Age during the 30s & 40s from my neighborhood movie house; then during the 00s & 10s from that same armchair watching late-night movie re-runs.
Whenever history repeats itself like this, there just has to be a story behind it. For me the story is this: Good things are usually better the second time around. If I’m anywhere near right, chances are we’re going to do okay during these 74 days. First, lets consider the two World Series….
* Being excited back in ’45 was mostly about just being there. At that willowy age you have no history behind you, no sense of time ahead of you, and precious little thought of being part of anything bigger than your passion for hot dogs & cokes. But now, squinting back through the many disappointing years, now I am seeing what wise men like to call the “big picture.”
In my scrawny teens, I couldn’t really grasp how I was entering the legendary legion of long-suffering Cub fans nationwide. Watching Detroit take us in 5, I couldn’t fully appreciate how this was my baptism into the kind of baseball fire that never cools. Your adolescent worldview was being branded with the Cub curse of un-redemptive suffering. Dad could have explained all this at the time; but in retrospect I believe he thought it best I learn for myself over the course of the win-less summers to come.
He did, however, offer this theological wisdom. “It’s OK, Jack, to hate the Cardinals on Saturdays and still go to Mass on Sundays; because you see, God gave us permission to hate the Cardinals.”
Over my years of hating the Cardinals, of enduring new rivals like the Mets, and of watching my beautiful Wrigley green give way to flashy signage, I stayed true to the curse of un-redemptive suffering. I was convinced Dad would have been proud. After all, most Chicagoans north of Roosevelt Road wore Cub Blue exactly like me from childhood to manhood right into old age.
This suffering, also borne by hundreds of thousands across the country, tells me Americans have what it takes to endure. Endure even the worst that may assault our political dialog between now and January. After all, our Cub Blue steel was forged long before many of today’s political culprits were even born.
In addition to gritty American endurance, there is also the glittering American bravado of Hollywood….
* As Dad put it, “One thing we had during both the Depression and the War is this gut feeling that things work out in the end.” As an immigrant who had found his American Dream, he took those happy-ending MGM flicks seriously. Not because he found the thin plot lines so believable, but I think because he wanted them to be believable. What you want in life often becomes your life.
In Hollywood’s first Golden Age, the studios gave their vast movie-a-week audiences a rich menu of what we most wanted — needed — to believe. Good guys finish first…crime does not pay….hard work is worth the sweat…so is the family unit….and above all, God is in his heaven and Presidents do his bidding.
These dream factories were headed by bosses who, like my Father, had migrated here for their dream. It was easy — and profitable — to sell that dream to us. But a funny thing about those dreams is they took on a life of their own. In the directorial hands of dream-makers like Frank Capra and Busby Berkley, they often became part of our sense of our country. Unique. Decent. Exceptional.
Rather than fade into time, this Age of Hollywood got a second coming. Its former rival, television, breathed new life into those Depression/War films courtesy of late-night re-runs. Millions of us are re-living those vintage American values. Unique. Decent. Exceptional.
Like World Series baseball, Golden Age Hollywood is back for a reprise. A reprise that seems to be saying: We have what it takes to close ranks. No, not in spite of, but because we have just endured the worst political campaign in our history.
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