I’ve never been nostalgic, romanticizing another place or time. Years ago, my forceful “No!” surprised us both when my dad asked me if I didn’t wish I lived in the “good old days”. I am happy not to live in a past where lives were hard and short, and where women and minorities’ freedoms were severely limited (of course, I now realize that while we are “free”, there is still much work left to do on “equal”). So I was surprised the other day to find myself nostalgic for at least one aspect of the not-too-distant past.
Somewhere around channel 100, I stumbled across the 1960 Presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy. I watched it much longer than I expected…not because the issues were interesting, but more as a sociological lesson. Three white men moderated the debate – we were still years away from women having serious roles in TV news. Each candidate spoke at a podium when it was his turn, returning to a chair when his opponent was speaking. They were given adequate time to address each question, providing thoughtful, articulate answers that made it clear what they valued and how they would work on behalf of the American people. They pointed out their disagreements with each other, but did so factually and respectfully.
The contrast to today’s loud and rushed affairs…timed to the next commercial which only incents the candidates to compete to be heard, the audience’s boos and cheers adding to the circus environment…was stark. Listening to a younger Nixon that I never experienced, I had almost forgotten that he was Vice President under Ike. I heard a thoughtful politician whom I could almost see myself supporting, if not for his future actions to which I am now privy.
For the first time in my life…for a brief 15 minutes…I was nostalgic. I wished for a civil Presidential campaign of substance and issues. The American people deserve it, our children deserve it. The issues ahead of us are too large, the stakes are too high not to focus on what we need to do. We’ve done this before…surely we can remember the path back.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” –Abraham Lincoln