In 1867 Charles Dickens reported on "the first meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything." A dozen years ago, on the centennial of that occasion, I became Senior Fellow of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Santa Barbara, California. I was reminded of these moments in history by the news that the Center, after years of seedy gentility, has found a new benefactor. It has been taken in as a ward of the University of California at Santa Barbara.
In recent years American politics has been distracted by a new and destructive pluralism. This new pluralism disorganizes public policy and sets group against group. Its paralyzing and disorienting effects challenge citizens, leaders and above all the president to elicit and affirm a new nationalism that will again put us in mind of what makes us a people and again give direction to our public affairs.The problem is not the conflict of classes. Indeed, we may look back with nostalgia to the class struggle of New Deal days, which did much to make sense of politics and policies then.
It's easy to dislike The Wiz (Universal), but it's also easy to like it. It's torrentially syrupy, calculatedly simplistic, and the star is weak. On the other hand, it's lavish lavish lavish: no one really believes in the syrup or the simplicities except as a medium through which some skills can operate; and the skills are there: almost every person connected with the film except the star is excellent. If you're going to spend $35 million (reportedly) on a remake of The Wizard of Oz, revised and updated with an all-black cast, you couldn't do a great deal better than this.
"Happy the country," Bertolt Brecht wrote, "which requires no heroes." But our country is unhappy, and it is looking for a hero. That's what the polls tell us, and have told us for more than a decade now—in fact, ever since Ted Kennedy's older brother was cut down at the threshold of victory in the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel. Not a martyr's death exactly, Robert Kennedy's, but that of a victim of the bitter mood he simultaneously exploited and tried to bend to hope. Will Teddy pick up the fallen banner? The question is being posed again for the fourth consecutive presidential campaign.
Edward Kennedy favors national health insurance, everybody knows. He also favors detente with Soviet Union, a break-up of the big oil companies, immediate normalization of relations with Communist-China, the Equal Rights Amendment and Medicaid-financed abortions. He doesn't think Russian mucking about in Africa should affect our willingness to negotiate arms limitation treaties. He co-sponsored the Humphrey-Hawkins full employment bill. He publicly criticizes human rights violations in Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Nicaragua, but prefers the "quiet approach" to the Soviet Union.
Jungle Beach at Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard used to be the toniest plage in Massachusetts. A haven for bathers clothed and nude, it derived its name from the thick brush that cut it off from the island's south shore road. Reaching the beach involved hacking through the thicket, but the reward was a beach free of the crowding, vendors and photochemical oxidants of more popular spots. That was until a syndicate led by Robert Strange McNamara won control of Jungle Beach in an estate sale.
Sometimes it seems, in these days of contract squabbles and franchise shifts, that baseball is a game best played in the mind, in what Roger Angell once called "the interior stadium." At the very least, it is a game peculiarly suited for recollection. Across our minds, on winter nights and summer mornings, we recapture the images of marvelous moments: of Willie Mays flying back to haul in Vic Wertz's smash in the '54 Series, of Carlton Fisk popping one out to win a game 21 years later, and so on.