Light: Hope within the Great Depression
Certainly the greatest political campaign song ever, “Happy Days Are Here Again” was the theme of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1932 victory, the first of four. The time was the Great Depression, and America was in the doldrums. Unemployment was everywhere, bread lines appeared in every city, banks closed, farms foreclosed, and there was no hope on the horizon. “Happy Days” provided just that, a hope that somehow, sometime, the good life would return. Written in 1929 by songwriters Milton Ager (music) and Jack Yellen (lyrics), “Happy Days” would be repeated in 76 future recorded albums and featured in 80 movies.
Waiting all day in line for a job opening, the words and melody of the song gave at least some inspiration to men who felt ignored and let down by the country itself:
Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Darkness: A negative outlook today
Songs do not prosperity bring, but they do give hope that troubles are not permanent and that there will be a future. Today, 2019, the economy and lifestyles have never been better but, somehow, this matters little to the political class and our “public intellectuals.” “Democracy dies in darkness” is the daily reminder, page one, day-after-day, in The Washington Post. For its part, The New York Times has begun “Project 1619” to “reframe” the birthday of the country to August 20 of that year, when the first slave ship landed. Thus, the current profile of America by these criteria is, 1) a political culture fast-disappearing into dictatorship (Hitler) and, 2) a civilization based upon slavery and inequality (Marx).
The political divisions of red-blue, the challenges to the integrity of elections, calls for “transformative” changes in all levels of society, accusations of ethnic (“white privilege”), racial (“black lives”) divisions, and even hostility between the genders (“Me Too”) has left the entire American civilization reeling into cultural depression.
Rather than a unified public, it is fast becoming a fragmented society driven by self-absorptions on a vast scale. Inside each layer there is “us-them.”
The potential end of the democratic American “experiment” is normally blamed solely on President Trump, but often the full society is held accountable. In one single issue, on a single page of The Washington Post, there appeared two separate essays on this very theme. One, by Catherine Rampell, called “The death of democracy: a whodunit,” begins with this cheery note: “R.I.P. American democracy. You still had so much left to give! Whom should we blame for your untimely demise?” She concludes Trump, of course. but, eventually, the whole country, the Democrats, media, and ultimately the public: “Yes, Trump has repeatedly, egregiously abused his power. He fired an arrow at the heart of our most cherished norms and institutions. But it took the rest of us to ensure that he hit his target.”
Across the page is the same, by Michael Gerson, who blames Trump but also all other politicians who tolerate his regime: “Their tolerance for corruption seems limitless – and frightening. By what firm political principle would they condemn Trump if he closed down The New York Times… or arrested a few whistleblowers? None of this seems possible. But too many possibilities have recently become realities.”
These are not out-of-character examples; they represent a widespread view of the current national political condition. If accurate, the United States is as Russia was in 1917, Italy in 1922, Germany in 1932, China in 1949, and Cuba in 1958. Again, if they are correct, we can expect the following to occur under Trump: elimination of the Democratic Party, purge of dissident Republicans, closing of all print, electronic and social media, concentration camps throughout the country, elimination of all dissident local and state legislators, creation of single political party, “MAGA,” segregation of all stores, restaurants, and other facilities for MAGA party members, total ban on immigration, and withdrawal from the UN, NATO, and other globalist bodies.
While a partial list, the above is what we should mean when we say “death” of democracy. Whether or not today’s “resist” members actually have such in mind is questionable, but that, historically, is the logic of their positions. But do they even know the basis of their opposition?
One point: the list above involved regimes that executed opponents at will, by the millions. President Trump is many things, but a mass murderer?
Still, in all, the society is on edge, and shows no signs of recovery. If it either transforms into something unrecognizable or holds fast to tradition, it will, in any case, be scarred permanently from the ordeal. But the country survived the Great Depression and put “Happy Days” to use during and even after the ordeal.
What do we have to laugh at today? The pending impeachment hearings, threatened since November 9, 2016, will not be funny.
There is no song today, no relief in sight. America’s greatest comedian was Bob Hope, who entertained during the Great Depression and in five wars. Where is our “hope” today?
Gone With The Wind.