Hello young 'uns. It's your old Uncle Randy back again with another story about life in these United States.
It was the spring of '73. I was in my mid-20s and, for some bizarre reason, decided I needed to move out of the city and experience pastoral life. Big mistake. I found a rental house near the entrance to Shelby Forest State Park, about a half-mile down the roadway from Reverend Al Green. It got boring and lonely in a hurry. I had a little .22 caliber rifle out there, and since there was nothing to do, I became such a good shot, I could shoot the "D" out of a Dr. Pepper can at 30 feet.
I was also a member of a band that had a regular gig at the Admiral Benbow Inn by the airport. Curiously, they called their airport lounge the Club Car and insisted the band assume a railroad-related name. We settled on the Breakmen in honor of the Singing Brakeman Jimmie Rodgers of Meridian, Mississippi, but we purposely misspelled it as an act of rebellion and because we enjoyed taking breaks.
Five nights a week, I commuted from Shelby Forest to the airport and back. The Club Car was full of itinerant strangers and drunk, horny traveling salesmen. Once, after I had sung what I thought was a stellar version of a Dave Mason song, a slurring voice from the crowd shouted, "Hey, twerp. Why don't you play something we might enjoy?" I left the city to find some peace, and I was catching hell instead. In truth, I was going crazy. Richard Nixon had been trying to kill me.
It was a weird time as well. The Vietnam War, the defining event of my generation, was winding down after Nixon and his fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger screamed "bombs away" on the nations of Cambodia and Laos. In the vacuum created by the Americans' departure, homicidal dictators emerged, ultimately causing millions of casualties.
On March 29th, the last American troops left Vietnam. The most divisive conflict since the Civil War had caused millions of people to take to the streets in massive anti-war protests and, in some cases, receive bloody repression from the police. Suddenly, this immoral war was over, and everybody just quietly faded back into the woodwork and went about their business as if there were nothing more to say.
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- Watergate — the reboot
South Africa had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission after apartheid ended to expose the country's worst human rights abuses and restore confidence in the government. Everybody in the U.S. just went fishing. We never reconciled our differences over the Vietnam War, which is the bedrock of our divisions today.
Nixon was the first president to intentionally polarize the nation for political purposes. The long-held rumor that Nixon caused the collapse of the 1968 Paris Peace Talks, telling agents of the South Vietnamese that they would get a better deal after his election, has been confirmed. Under his watch, an additional 20,000 American soldiers and countless Vietnamese died, proving him to be a vile liar, a soulless gargoyle of paranoia, and a proven traitor. His reward was reelection by a landslide.
But something happened on the way to the coronation. In June of 1972, five men were busted breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, which opened a Pandora's Box of break-ins, thefts, illegal wiretapping, slush funds, cover-ups, incriminating private tapes, and a personal enemies list of the president's critics who were marked for retaliation by the IRS. It was then that the public awakened and demanded an investigation. Televised hearings of the Senate Select Committee's investigation into Watergate and related matters began on May 17, 1973, and suddenly there was must-see TV and my tedious summer in the woods became fascinating. If you thought the O.J. trial was riveting, you should have seen the Watergate hearings. I watched the whole thing.
One week after the hearings began, a special prosecutor was named. Nixon fired him, only to have him replaced by an equally zealous seeker of truth. After a parade of despicable witnesses and 250 hours of testimony, the indictments began flying, and the truth of Nixon's treachery was fully exposed. He was impeached on charges of obstructing justice, abuse of power, and interference with the impeachment process. He resigned in eternal disgrace to avoid being forcefully evicted from the White House.
Anything beginning to sound familiar here? It took Nixon nearly six years to self-immolate; Donald Trump has accomplished it in less than six months. You know that saying that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it? Trump is supremely ignorant of history and, thus, is as doomed as Nixon. Trump's blatant criminality is in legal hands now and subject to the law rather than the whims of Congress. The only question remaining is whether he'll fight it or quit. My money's on the latter. The Watergate affair caused 40 government officials to either be indicted or sent to prison, including the U.S. attorney general, Nixon's key advisors, and his legal counsel.
Trump's in Nixon territory now. It will be a rerun of the 1973 summer of televised hearings and will get yuuuge ratings, better than House of Cards. Following Nixon's resignation, appointed President Gerald Ford said, "Never again must Americans allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to bypass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election."
Get the popcorn ready. We're all fixin' to binge-watch a tyrant's comeuppance.
Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog.