It’s 1956. I’m in first grade at Washington Park Elementary School in Totowa, N.J. It must be in the fall, shortly before the presidential election that year, and one day my whole class was lined up and marched in formation out to Union Boulevard, the one and only main street in Totowa, where we were positioned along the sidewalk to see….
Nixon!!!! That’s right f’ing Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon. Nixon was at the time running for re-election as vice president on the ticket headed by Dwight Eisenhower.
Did I know anything about Nixon? Of course not. I was only 2 in 1952 when he made the famous Checkers speech. That of course was the first real public clue that ‘I Am Not a Crook’ would be a recurring theme throughout his long political career. It showed Tricky Dick to be petulant, petty and somewhat pathetic. If you haven’t seen the Checkers speech by the way it is an excellent introduction to the bizarre cultural/political environment that was America in the 50’s. The Checkers Speech
But while I knew nothing about Nixon I was in fact a boomer. And what made boomers boomers is that most of our fathers were in World War II. My dad was not an exception, having been stationed in the Pacific, so for him and the whole generation of adults like him there was no greater hero than General Dwight Eisenhower (other than maybe General Douglas MacArthur who later proved to be off his rocker). So as a family we supported Ike and I suspect he was a pretty decent guy (aside from his choice of running mate).
What occurs to me now is that weren’t we doing exactly the sort of thing that we accused various despotic regimes of doing? Parading the populace and especially the children out for demonstrations of adoration for despicable leaders.