Returning from New Hampshire

By David Grima | Sep 12, 2019

By special arrangement with the state of Maine, they agree to let me live here in peace for most of the year, and I agree to get out of state at least once a year to leave them in peace, too.

Last weekend was the date of my annual excursion to more exotic parts, which generally means New Hampshire.

It’s the right time of year to go. Many things begin to change around now, and there is a sense we all share that the year is moving on from one kind of thing to another. One small example of this is the news item I scribbled a note about from the Aug. 22 Courier saying that crafters are being sought for the Oct. 5 craft fair in Searsport which, according to the Minister for Cultural Af-fairs, is likely to be just the first in a series of such events that will take place almost continuously through the Christmas season.

Another demonstration of the turning calendar is the return of so many students to their various schools. Late in August I went down again to Newcastle to meet the entire incoming junior class at Lincoln Academy and ply my trade for their benefit, which means giving them a fairly good picture of where the jobs and careers are likely to be found in Maine, and how to figure out what kinds of wages they might earn by indulging in various kinds of gainful employment.

I usually start by telling them that I wish someone had given such practical advice to young people when I was their age, but the truth is, we never heard a word about it.

* * * * *

There is plenty of evidence that another cycle of time is winding down, as just about everybody starts to tune into the forthcoming elections for the esteemed presidency. I hope it is still esteemed as much as it used to be. Without a doubt, there have been some rough moments lately for this most high office, as I tried to explain last week. Perhaps, then, the following thoughts were provoked by a weekend spent in our only neighboring state, which always takes presidential elections so darned seriously.

Naturally enough, the Democrats have been making the most of the 2020 election season. They want in. And while I have managed to mostly tune out much of the background noise associated with this four-year cycle so far, certain pictures seem to be getting clearer in an overall sense.

I cannot be absolutely certain, but it is beginning to seem that there are two main strands in the developing political scene at present.

Some candidates running for election appear to perceive that what the people really want is a modest sort of cultural revolution that will reset the course the country will follow for years to come. A smaller number seem to perceive that all the people really want is a return to some kind of normality, or what passes for normal, at least.

If it really does work out that these are the two main themes that are going to be on offer, then we are in for an interesting election season that will see very little going on in the middle of the road of American politics. (Who said, “May God save us from living in interesting times”? He had something there, I think.)

Almost certainly, the dividing line between these radically different visions is to be found in the age of the electorate. The younger ones seem to want the revolution, which is being proposed most loudly, ironically enough, by the oldest candidate.

On the other hand, my gut instinct suggests that many older people would really be happy to settle for a return to relative normality.

It’s a simplistic analysis I am presenting, as much political prognosticating often is, and there are many subtleties in all parts of the question. For example, many older people do seem relatively satisfied with the current confusion in politics, although I suspect they will change their minds eventually if the things now working themselves through the system actually bear the full fruit of their disturbing potential.

But for now I will stick with my two themes of analysis, the contrast between the demand for revolution and the desire for a less stressful peace, if only because this view seems to help explain the current range of things happening, and the tensions that seem to exist about which vision will best have a chance of surviving the electoral process.

Some facts must be considered. Young people are much in the minority these days. Unlike the heady days of the 1960s, when all kinds of apple-carts were being upset in the highways and byways of America, there is no Baby Boom to fuel demand for a restructured future. Today’s older generation, consisting in large part of those once-young Baby Boomers, many of whom were ultimately disillusioned, has become about as conservative as their own parents were. Today’s younger people have neither the experience of street politics which the Civil Rights movement gave to their elders, nor the personal skin in the game that the Vietnam War provided.

They do have other kinds of skin in the game, to be sure. It’s their future we are talking about, after all. What they don’t have is sheer weight of numbers, which means they might need to develop another kind of persuasive power. Because in elections, numbers do tend to count. And if you don’t have them, then you must learn to persuade.

I wrote many weeks ago about the declining U.S. birth rate, which means many things. One thing it means is that the dominant part of our current electorate is old and getting older, and with age often comes a measure of sour-pussedness and bitter crankiness, a kind of angry misery rooted in hopelessness and helplessness that Maine experimented with under its last governor, and with which much of America seemed to be enamored in the last presidential election.

The question for 2020 is likely to be whether the experiment with crankiness and despair was worth it in terms of restoring hope, or whether it proves to have been just a grand-scale wallowing in futile disgust.

I never knew despair to be a reliable road toward restoring hope, and the risk is that despair will break down and give way to something far more destructive.

In the camp that does perceive reason for optimism, largely our younger generation of voters, the question is whether they can find the character within themselves that will offer their elders a reasonable kind of hope, or whether they will demand that the whole house be torn down to the foundation and rebuilt from scratch.

Yes, I am exaggerating again, as I often do. But that is the general picture I see at the moment. I am speaking only for myself.

* * * * *

Returning from New Hampshire at the Fryeburg line on Monday, it took about five seconds for us to understand that we were back in our beloved Pine Tree State:

“This must be Maine, deah,” I offered in my most dreadful impersonation of Tim Sample. “All the friggin’ roads have been dug up.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 13, 2019 15:46

Profound to say the least David! I am impressed with the thought provoking words that brought me around to understanding. Much-ado-about nothing, perhaps.



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