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A momentous event that puts the Presidential race in perspective

By Dave Duffy

Dave Duffy

Issue #114 • November/December, 2008

My son, Jake, turned 17 years of age between issues. What a momentous occasion! Coincidentally, either McCain or Obama is about to be elected America's next President. What a minor event!

How can I say this? Elevating my son's 17th birthday above the election of America's President? Have I lost all perspective?

Jake installs a batten Dutch door he and his brothers made for the 2-story clubhouse they built.
Jake installs a batten Dutch door he and his brothers made for the 2-story clubhouse they built.

Hardly! Having your oldest son turn 17 just before the Presidential election gives you perspective. It contrasts honesty with, to put it euphemistically, truth bending. It highlights the vital personal decisions a young man must make to succeed at this critical stage of his life against the meaningless doubletalk of politicians who seek to win election no matter how many facts they must hammer and twist to fit the moment.

Do I sound too cynical about the political process?

My son, even while besieged by the hormonal flood that accompanies the teenage years, sincerely seeks truth to make informed decisions, while politicians, all too aware of the dark side of truth, namely, that it can be molded by clever men to appear to be what it is not, seek election to lead the rest of us.

Which event is most important? Which is the harbinger of good for the nation? I'll put my money on Jake and the thousands of other teenagers in his position. They'll create the future we'll rely on. We'll have to suffer through whoever wins the election.

If each of us reaches into our own memories, we will find events in our lives, peopled by heroes and villains and all sorts of characters in between, who made a significant difference in how we have lived. The heroes are the ones who stand out for me. They include high school teachers like Sister Helena, who taught me confidence in myself, my father, who taught me how to work hard, my older brother, Hugh, who taught me the importance of family, and my friend of 44 years, John Silveira, who taught me the meaning of friendship. I could go on and on, but no politician or political event comes to mind.

In my opinion, politics is a big circus populated by clowns. The only significant role they have ever played in my life is to hinder my progress or frustrate my belief in the innate goodness of mankind. They are the bogeymen of my memories, always meddling in the affairs of hard working people, passing senseless laws, and stifling the individual efforts of people instead of letting them combine to push the nation forward.

I see the Presidential election as a temporary spectacle like the Superbowl. Everybody is talking about it, but in the end it's relatively meaningless, at least when compared to youngsters like Jake gearing up to solve the world's problems.

It is a sad commentary on our times, I think, that so many people disagree with me on this matter. They think electing either Obama or McCain is one of the most critical decisions of their lifetime. They think it will dictate the future of America. It is a "group" mentality that has been fostered over many years by the colossus that makes up America's large political and bureaucratic establishment.

Well, I've got news for you. If you think getting a certain politician elected is going to favorably affect your life, you're in for a disappointment. Only you paying attention to the details of your own life will favorably affect your future. It doesn't matter worth a damn who becomes President.

Incidentally, the Large Hadron Collider in Europe is also revving up as I write this. John Silveira talks about it in his Last Word column on page 89 of this issue. The LHC is about as big an event as launching Sputnik, or putting a man on the moon, or coming up with Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. It will likely unlock the fundamental secrets of science and open the door to the TOE — the Theory of Everything. It represents the Holy Grail of science.

But you may not read much about the LHC in this Presidential year. It was one of those incredible scientific achievements that should have taken place in the United States. But 15 years ago the U.S. Congress, after spending $2 billion on it, killed the funding because of politicians' complaints the money could be better used elsewhere. It was an incredibly shortsighted decision, and now that Europe has built the LHC to the applause of scientists and engineers around the world, it is expected to cause a scientific brain drain from the United States to Europe. But I doubt you will hear much talk of either the LHC or the loss of American scientists to Europe from politicians.

But even though the LHC is obviously more important than America's Presidential race, I'm still leaning towards Jake's coming of age as the main event.




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