When Sinning Isn’t Fun Anymore, Like Spumoni

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Michael Davidow

By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire

Thirty days has the month of June, and it will be nice to get through them. Covid causes me to sin like this: wishing my life away. I love my family, but our dog is its only member whose company I still enjoy.

And after ten months of enforced companionship (ten? three? Tuesday? spaghetti for dinner, anyone?), even he does not seem so keen on me any longer. He gives me that look as I pat his head, the same one I give my son, when he proposes that I help him with a jigsaw puzzle.

Wishing one’s life away is worse than a sin, anyway. Sinning is supposed to have some entertainment value. But this wishing business is an empty affair. Self-centered, self-defeating, and self-fulfilling all at once. Rather like electing a sherbet salesman for president.  (“They want a leader,” Marlene Dietrich once said. “We all want one. The Germans are like that. They wanted their fuehrer, and they got him.”)

Speaking of sherbet salesmen, then: favorite summer memories follow.

Badgering your mom to buy the box of spumoni ice cream at the store, because the colors look so cheerful; opening it at the end to eat all the chocolate and leaving it for your dad to eat all the green kind.  (And he’d get to a certain point, midway through the box, and he’d be hoping to hit that chocolate, and his spoon would break through to empty space instead. I like to imagine some French engineer getting the same surprise, midway through tunneling under the English Channel. Zut alors! )

Memory number two: this one isn’t even my own. It’s a national memory, that I share because I am an American.  And I only know it from a photograph. But it’s one of the most charming photographs ever taken. It shows Bob Haldeman leaving Washington, D.C., after resigning as Nixon’s top aide. He is heading into a world of trouble— criminal charges, political retribution, and social obloquy for starters.

But he and his wife are on an airplane, and they are sitting with Hubert Humphrey. Everyone is smiling, and their smiles appear genuine. They were on that same plane strictly by coincidence. He said later that Humphrey had been quite gracious to him. 

Haldeman had been known as a hard and unpleasant man, and he worked for someone even harder and more unpleasant. Humphrey, of course, was a notoriously soft touch. I am not surprised that he was able to be friendly to one of his most steadfast political opponents. But the funny thing is, I am not surprised that Haldeman was able to be friendly back. I would not even be surprised if they had actually liked each other.

Anyone who has read my columns in the past knows that I have mixed feelings about Nixon. The Nixon that we have all learned to despise would fit right in today, towards the center of the Democratic party. He started the Environmental Protection Agency. He recognized the Peoples Republic of China. He supported urban development. He appointed various Democrats to important political positions; he courted the support of labor unions and won many of them over. 

He also came up in politics the hard way, of course. He lost the presidential election in 1960 largely because the mayor of Chicago was able to steal more votes for the Democrats in Cook County, than the governor of Illinois could steal for the Republicans in the south of that state; from which he took the wrong lesson (steal more votes).  He then lived through both Kennedy’s and Johnson’s presidencies, and those two men both vastly enjoyed sitting behind that desk, more historical incidents from which he took the wrong lesson (use your power ruthlessly).     

Yet in the era of the shameless sherbet salesman, and the cruel parade of pariahs who back him up, the Nixon presidency seems like a dream to me right now; like a soft summer day, to cherish and recall. Just imagine if we had a Republican party today that dealt with society’s problems, rather than denied them; that stood up to its sickening leader, and deposed him; that fought for something more than the right of rich men to get richer. Where are all you people?

Maybe in July.

Michael Davidow is a lawyer in Nashua.  He is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project.  His most recent one is The Book of Order. They are available on Amazon.

Views expressed in columns and opinion pieces belong to the author and do not reflect those of InDepthNH.org.

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