Saturday, August 09, 2014

A 40-Year Memory: He Resigned!

He was a very sad, sick, paranoid man. Probably an alcoholic. As is so often the case in such situations, he was therefore his own worst enemy. He was not the worst President in history. Far from it. In the midst of his illness he did some things that were almost out-of-character, except for his own self-importance, grandiosity, and narcissism. In today's Tea Party-era, he would be considered an unfit for office "liberal." But it was not his politics that brought him down. When you put your politics into such a toxic personal environment, you are doomed.

He was later pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford. It seemed self-serving and a bad idea at the time. It was not. It saved our country much pain and even worse division. As of this date in 1974, the political storm of Watergate was over, the reign of Richard Nixon finally brought down. He would probably have been the first president to be impeached AND convicted.

On the morning of August 9, 1974, Nixon gave his farewell to his staff. Toward the end he had what Bob Woodward has called a moment of clarity and said the following:
Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.
This could probably explain much of what happened. Nixon was a man filled with fear which often leads to anger and hate. He brought his own defeat.

Which, 40 years later, is what scares me about much of what I see and hear today. The levels of anger and hate is almost visceral at times. It is paranoid and seems good at building "enemies lists." What may keep us from another Nixon-type event could be that at this moment this is not based in one man with a lot of power. While hate may bring on its own defeat, the scary part may be what it does on its way down.

May we not, as individuals and as a nation, fall prey to the always easy road that hate seems to lay out for us. May we instead continue to talk, even in disagreement, and see that we are a diverse and powerful people when we stick with our greater values that have allowed us to survive, even a man like Richard Nixon.


Gregory Chamberlin said...

"It seemed self-serving and a bad idea at the time. It was not. It saved our country much pain and even worse division."

I believe the political animosity we are experiencing today arose out of Ford's pardon of Nixon. A prosecution of Nixon, while costly, may have demonstrated that the reach of a president is truly limited; that even Presidents are not above the law. Since then, we've seen the power of the Presidency expand, Congress becoming more and more superfluous except for a stage of political theatre, and the growing emphasis of winning office at any price. Nixon for Watergate, Reagan for Iran-Contra, W for Iraq---we've become blasé about violations of the Constitution. Perhaps if Nixon had been found guilty Constitutional integrity might have been highlighted.

pmPilgrim said...

Greg- That is an interesting insight. Sadly, the issue would never have centered on the constitution, most likely, and stayed on "high crimes and misdemeanors" instead. But it is worth thinking about.