07 February 2009

9 richard nixon breaks my heart


i think the best way to look at it is like this:

richard nixon was not jfk.

this is the fundamental truth with which richard nixon wrestled.

that he was a nobody. a kid with a shitty childhood and an inferiority complex the size of south america. a poor quaker with no pulitzer and no father with enough money to buy him one. a paranoid peon who was robbed of the presidency by perspiration. a sad, lonely man who climbed to the top only to fuck up all he had finally won.

he seems never to have been young. look back at the pictures. he was always worn down. the five o'clock shadow at 10 a.m. the gullies beneath the eyes. the trenches around the mouth. the man looked 60 when he was barely 35.

look at the kennedy debate- they are contemporaries. it was kennedy who lived every day at death's door and yet you can practically hear the death rattle in nixon's bitter arthritic bones.

he was a man who never fit in. anywhere. ever.

he belonged in an age where the ascension to power was more brutal. where it demanded bloodshed and deceit. he could've played hardball with henry viii. he would've poisoned the king's bastards.

but nixon was a thoroughly medieval man trapped in modern times.

a man living in the age of television who looked utterly horrid on tv.

it's a testament to the american dream that richard nixon could become president. it's a testament to the tragedy that was richard nixon that he blew it every fucking time.

perhaps my heart was softened by the blurb in time describing how he and jackie passed notes back and forth from their deathbeds. or the funeral, where all the living presidents looked embarrassed and sheepishly bored, shaken by the vivid reminder that one can rise from nothing and, all on one's own, plummet right back down.

there was something wrong in that. in their embarrassment and shame. some lack of the respect that, admittedly, wasn't due, but had been agonizingly, debasingly earned.

the man who had suffered a thousand political deaths was gone. this seemed somehow monumental.

and yet, nixon is not monumental. his only real contribution to our nation's history being that all subsequent unethical hijinx are automatically suffixed with "-gate."

he was tragically small.

he was not jfk.

nixon was nothing.

9 comments:

paper wren said...

It is a good thing for Elizabeth Nixon wasn't around to take care of business. Who would I read innumerable books about if her life had been a lot shorter?

You know who I didn't fully appreciate in MAPH? G. It might have been the vomit incident that kept me away at the time, but if I could go back and talk Elizabethan history with him, I would do it in a second.

I would just be sure to wear a raincoat while doing it.

oline said...

my only real memory of G is a party at ham's where he cornered me against a refrigerator and spent FORTY-ONE minutes discoursing on why picket's charge should've ultimately been successful (um... no). and that dougo hovered just outside the periphery of this (dorktastic) conversation blithely oblivious to the "please save me" eyes i repeatedly shot his way.

Osutein said...

It saddens me that it took me a minute to recall who G was. And man, he never lived down that vomit incident, did he? As I said to E the other day on the bus, MAPH is the degree that never pays off, but keeps haunting your life years later in weird ways... like, how I'm writing this post on paper wren's old couch.

Anyway, I always thought G was pretty cool. But then I shared his dorktastic love of Central Asian history and after Croftie, he was my first friend in the Windy City.

Meggie said...

Per Mike...

He re-opened relations with China and turned them against the Soviet Union. He ended the Vietnam War that your beloved JFK started. He ended the draft and started the peace time all volunteer Army (yeah, Mike's seen a lot of "peace"). He began a truely strategic relationship with Israel. So, he did a *few* things. Oh, and he is living (or dead) proof as to why you should not tick off the FBI.

As stated up above--this is all from the husband. Not your Valentine. :)

Les Savy Ferd said...

I know nothing about Nixon and next to nothing about American History (especially AFTER the Civil War) but he seems like an interesting dude and for better or worse, a quintessential American president. i look forward to educating myself on his life and knowing more than, say, what I learned from that Kirsten 'no bra not ever' Dunst movie.

Regarding G, yeah, blast from the past that name. He was in my preceptor group and the poor kid found out that there was pretty much an entire book written about his master's thesis a week before they were due.

I actually have no idea what vomit episode you speak of as I was always the first to leave a party (because I'm that awesome). i do remember being cornered for at least 41 and a half minutes by G to be lectured how some time in the near future the united States will crumble into a bunch of balkanized republics because China owns us and will call in our debts and the world will only speak two languages mandarin and english and things fall apart, the center will not hold and on and on...

oline said...

oh, dick. so good.

yes, someone please enlighten us on the vomit episode. us early departers missed that one.

oline said...

and yes, my dick comment sounds bad.

paper wren said...

let's just say, a propensity for projectile at the end of the night.

Osutein, you still have my couch? Sweet! That couch is about 16 years old and traveled from NH to IL.

I saw N.F. this weekend, she is getting married!

You know who else my G and I were talking about? D.O. he had the glasses that change from dark to light in the sun and that was probably the closest thing to expressing his mood that I ever saw.

oline said...

PW, is N.F. the one who used to date D.F.? or the B who crushed on your G and became a loon? and who was D.O.? i never before realized people in M.A.P.H. had last names.
xo,
C.E.