white polo shorts faint bells of political affiliation
The small brass ship’s clock in my study now chimes out seven faint bells. The ringing reminds me that it’s also time to rewind the brass souvenir. I purchased it in the south of Spain in 1978 ‘right around the time that the old gray warship Farragut made its way stateside on the tides that flow by the Rock of Gibraltar. How slowly the hours go by, but how quickly 4 decades fly. Mr. Patti taught us in Latin class, “Tempus fugit.” It means “time flies.” But he never taught us then youngsters the phrase of how time tends to repeat itself, much like the faint bells of the old ship’s clock that needs rewinding every eight days or so.
This week, President Donald Trump’s voice rang out across the floor of the joint meeting of Congress. His was much the same as each president’s State of the Union address, as well as the memories of every preceding president’s administrations of four, or even eight long years. In remembering them all, we all would serve ourselves well to also remember our former compliments and criticisms whose words waxed and waned upon the tides of our own affiliations as with Trump we make our way back to the port of our own political comforts. For you see, like the ship’s clock, even a grandfather clock needs rewinding, just to keep its pendulum swinging from left to right and then left again. Both the democracies of presidential administrations and of wind up clocks, the swinging pendulum turns the gears that strikes the chimes and repeatedly move the hands of time from where they are to where again they once were. Does anything really change?
When I awoke from the president’s address, I witnessed a backhanded slap story proclaiming how Trump indeed has Wall Street’s economy moving in the ‘right’ direction, but how it has also ‘left’ most Main Street families behind. The story was of a black man sitting with his wife and family on the floor of a well appointed living room. He said that he sees more billionaires and millionaires being made, but it hasn’t changed his life at all.
The man’s words rang faint like the bells of the clock in the study, but how equally low rang the 20 year old echoes of special prosecutor Ken Starr, President Bill Clinton, and a single white mother who worked the lonely midnight shift at the once Shop and Dine on Hyde Park Boulevard and Lafayette Avenue, a few blocks from Niagara University.
That long ago night in her store I saw the newspaper headlines of the progress that Starr had made in his investigation of the wayward president, and I proclaimed in my glee that they were going to get the man who flew back to Arkansas to witness the execution of Willie Ray Rector, a mentally ill black man, just to show the law and order, white, Moral Majority crowd that he was tough on crime. My adorations of Starr disturbed the grimacing clerk. She snapped a frustrated and scowling sneer at me, saying that she wished that he would just leave Clinton alone.
“Why would you want him to leave him alone,” I asked. She then told me of the millions of dollars that Starr was spending to prosecute the president, a part of which,
she said, she could be using.
“I have to work two jobs in order to pay my mortgage and to put shoes on my daughter’s feet,” she said.
But the dissonance in what she said next shocked me. It also proves that both the hands of time and of politics, despite how loudly or lowly the chimes ring, eventually finds themselves back where to where they once were.
“Besides,” she continued, “I think that (Clinton) is doing a good job.”
“What makes you think that he is doing a good job?” I asked. She responded, “Look at the stock market. It’s booming!”
I looked down at the small and struggling single mother, and there exclaimed, “Didn’t you just tell me that you had to work two jobs just to pay your mortgage and to put shoes on your daughter’s feet? What do you care what the stock market is doing?”
The stock market, as it was with the black man’s family 20 years later, didn’t directly affect her. She clammed up, I made my purchase and left that corner market feeling sad for the woman and her misguided political affiliations and affections, just as I do for so many today who reside on both sides of the boundaries of the grandfather clock’s political pendulum.
President Clinton is very wealthy today, as Democrats ask a special investigator to impeach Trump. Back then, as now, the stock market booms while there are women working the night shift at 7 Eleven type stores around the country. For the most part, they are disengaged with the local politics that directly impacts them; but like the faint bells of ship’s clock in the study, or a grandfather clock in the hall, they recite Washington millionaire lawmaker’s fleeting and repeating brags about Wall Street’s prosperity, sometimes loving it, sometimes hating it, depending on who’s giving the speech.
The lives of both groups chime out in my heart as faintly as the seven bells of the ship’s clock that hangs in my study. I will rewind it; but it in a series of every four hours, it’ll only chime and wind down again.