Message from the 20th Century

Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette October 17, 2022

In September, a Boston Globe Op-Ed was titled, “The White House bowling alley is a symbol of what’s wrong with US politics.” It began “Not long after President Truman’s departure from the White House, Americans began ‘bowling alone.’ That is, by scores of measures–from bowling to marriage to trust in our neighbors–American unity has slowly slumped for nearly half a century.” 

The article caught my eye. I was old enough to have joined the Air Force when Truman was president. I was young enough to serve in one of the first US military units that wasn’t segregated, carrying local images of Civil War and WW1 veterans in 1940s Memorial Day parades.

Ten days ago, columnist Richard McCarthy wrote of falling leaves as metaphor for winter’s onset and aging. We’ve never met, but as writers find commonality in experiences. 


Are dislodging the comfortable with minimum din. 

 “They’re everywhere,” she says to no one

In particular. Her garden’s in autumn retreat

Another year is speeding through the trees

Bringing down leaves….

A week or so earlier, guest columnist Bob Couch of Easthampton made reference to Jack Kennedy’s book, “Profiles in Courage” to buffer his position that American’s aren’t safe in their homes from ‘Gestapo like” raids. His views deserve a place on the Gazette’s Opinion Page, but whether they’ll stand up to scrutiny is another matter. 

The Oath Keeper’s friend, Roger Stone, is nobody’s ideal of a great American. A search, like at Mar-a-Lago, must be unsettling when it happens.

Notably, a judge has to approve a Federal Warrant first.  

I agreed with Senator Jack Kennedy’s argument that elected office holders should bravely call out liars even if  it means losing their House seat. Couch may have been thinking about Representatives Adam Kinzinger and  Liz Chaney being drummed out of the GOP, but I doubt it. 

I confess to harboring assumptions, even worrying, about how my GOP/Trumpian democracy opposites are thinking. I laughed when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar chastised Kyrie Irving for posting and praising an Alex Jones “New world order” video, and costing himself millions by refusing Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Kareem on Kyrie’s thought process: “what happens when our educational system fails.” 

The city of Northampton was bipartisan when my Irish born dad became mayor in 1954, serving three terms, cautioning, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” Taking dad as my guide, I daily wonder why, “THE BIG LIE,” has taken hold with good people like my fellow columnist from Easthampton.         

Harvard’s Robert D. Putnam is a Research Professor of Public Policy. He’s an author of fifteen books on how America has changed during the last hundred years. 

In 2000, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” noted that American’s were losing interest in belonging to societies that had for generations defined a communities image of itself. 

In contrast, my sixty-two years in Northampton had the feel of common purpose. Politician’s clashed, businesses competed, but we tended to believe in each other’s basic goodness. Why not now?

Putnam’s “The Upswing,” 2020, updates many of his earlier studies by addressing four key topics: Economics, Politics, Society and Culture. 

In one way or another, Americans born in the 20th century dealt with all four topics. American history is marred by too many wars. No one born in the 1930s lived a dull life. Our parents would be called, “The Greatest Generation;” their children rode the tide of a mid-century economic boom. Education spread when public high schools became the norm. WWII kicked the economy into gear, Korea followed–and nobody wanted to look back at hard times. 

My St Michael’s class year was special. The Sisters of St. Joseph told us how lucky we were to graduate in 1950, a Holy Year. During the next one, 2000, we joined Ed and Mary McMahon for a trip to Rome. Our faith was strong with good memories. Clerical scandals then safely in the future. Ed and I worked in Democratic political campaigns. 

As a young conservative, I made friends in the Junior Chamber of Commerce. We Jaycees recited a creed, “America is a nation of laws, not of men,” which many today seem to have abandoned. Women would not be full members until a 1984 Supreme Court ruling. Pure misogyny!

By 1960, I was married with three children at 4B Hampshire Heights. We were saving a down payment in hopes of a house. Dad was in his third term as Mayor. His friend, Senator Jack Kennedy, was in the presidential campaign of the century against Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard M. Nixon. I was enamored by Jack’s winning campaigns, which grew when he called for a new generation of leadership in the 60s. Jack’s personal notes to dad and myself solidified  his place in family history.

Elections matter. October, 1962: Jack and his brother Bob found a path to end the Cuban Missile crisis. Everyone spent a fraught weekend praying for our kids, our nation, and its future. 

Which brings me to November’s midterms. 

“This year, the choice is between our democracy as we know it–messy, incremental, often frustrating–and a hard-edged performative populism fueled by resentment, misogyny and racism.” I agree with  Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Eugene Robinson.

May November’s electorate reject the shadow of fascism in those under the spell of a false prophet. 

VOTE in America’s hour of need–before it’s too late!

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