Before Coffee: Cycles

May 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

My dad turns 90 next Saturday, and I believe he still has every necktie he’s ever owned in his closet. It’s fascinating to look through them, actually; they tell the history of men’s fashion from the 1940s to today. Well, probably to 2000, really. I don’t think Dad’s bought a new tie in the last 16 years, because why would he need to?

His reason for keeping all those ties is that fashion runs in cycles, and he believes that someday we’ll all be wearing ties as wide as a fat baby again. I have my doubts.

But things do run in cycles. I was reminded of this just last night, when Tracy and I watched Trumbo.

Not to get too political, but I—like almost everyone else—have been watching the current election cycle with a mixture of horror and confusion. What the hell happened to this country? How did so many Americans become so full of hate and fear that it made them blind and stupid?

It seems like a new thing, but when you watch Trumbo, you realize we’ve been there, done that, and apparently did not by the t-shirt or even take any photos; we simply don’t remember that all this happened once before, and it didn’t work out all that well last time.

Because Trumbo is about the Communist witch hunts of the 1950-70s and its devastating effect on the lives of 10 screenwriters in Hollywood—particularly Dalton Trumbo, played by Bryan Cranston. It shows America at its worst. (At least, I hope that was our worst.)

Substitute “Muslim” for “Communist,” though, and the America of the McCarthy Era looks a lot like America right now. Instead of Hedda Hopper, we’ve got Donald Trump; instead of Joe McCarthy, we’ve got Mitch McConnell. We’ve got troops in the Middle East instead of Southeast Asia. We’ve got turmoil in the Supreme Court because a justice has died at a key time.

But the biggest similarity between then and now is that we’re still so focused on imaginary threats—who believes in what god, who is using which bathroom, who has what colored skin—that we’re not dealing with the actual threats.

Last time, the actual threat was nuclear armageddon; this time, it’s global climate change. Last time, a few men held the power to end the world, and they knew it, and they didn’t do it. This time, we all hold that power, and only a few of us know it, and the rest don’t want to think about it or, worse, want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend it’s all part of the “natural cycle.”

Sure, and maybe those wide ties will make a comeback, too.

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