Summer’s Over

Labor Day was late this year, so even though we had the warmest weather ever for our annual camping trip up near the Canadian border, the leaves were more than usually tinged with color. One mountain maple blazed fiery red on the shore of the reservoir as I floated along in a canoe at sunset.

Geese flew overhead on my early-morning paddles and they have continued to fly over my house in Burlington in the weeks since. Summer’s over. Summer, I think, is the only season that’s “over.” I admit, I know a few Vermonters who mourn in March when they have to put their skis away for another year, but it’s not the same. Spring is celebrated for its arrival (“Spring is here!”) and summer for its passing.

Summer was indeed short and sweet in the north country this year. It arrived on July 28th, when the rains finally stopped and temperatures rose out of the 60s. Although it came too late for the gardens and field crops, August was a blessed respite.

And now it’s cool again. The open, south-facing window by which I type, has a 55-degree breeze blowing through. The air is clean and cool, like water.

It was a short summer, Charlie Brown, in more ways than one. The summer I was 12, I broke my ankle playing football against older guys. Instead of the swimming and bike-riding I’d planned for that vacation, I sat on the couch, working the remains of a wire hanger down my cast, trying to scratch. By the time I was healed, school was about to begin.

This summer, America was lost in the morass of the health care debate. Instead of taking care of our many pressing problems, we lost weeks to lies about “death panels” and seeing Congressmen hung in effigy. Wherever President Obama traveled, he was met with people brandishing guns, exercising their Second Amendment rights to the fullest.

(In the mid-60s, the Black Panthers openly carried rifles and shotguns in public. There were few voices in the media defending their Second Amendment rights. The California state legislature tried – unsuccessfully – to outlaw the practice.)

In the chamber of the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Addison “Joe” Wilson (R-SC), in a screaming outburst, accused Mr. Obama of lying while the president was addressing a joint session of Congress.

Was it a racist act? Yes, I think it was – to a point. The other, and perhaps larger point, is that the Republican Party has been in open war against any Democratic president since Jimmy Carter was in office. Maybe they think Richard Nixon was unjustly savaged during Watergate, but Mr. Carter – and the office he held – were treated with disrespect. These attacks were more ferocious during Bill Clinton’s tenure and if the past eight months are any indication, the attacks on Mr. Obama will be more intense than any his predecessors endured.

When they control government, Republicans put themselves at the service of corporations and the richest of individuals, which is why they are currently out of power. Democrats, besides their predilection for ineptitude, are also conflicted. They are better representatives of the aspirations of average Americans, but they too worship at the altar of corporate power, whose goals are at odds with those of Joe and Marge Sixpack. (Which explains the ineptitude. It’s hard to plot a course when you’re trying to simultaneously sail in opposite directions.)

So summer is over and we journey into the cold months of long nights. The president who promised us hope is besieged and does his cause no good trying to find the middle as his opponents drag the debate further and further right.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claims in a fundraising letter that the 2010 mid-term elections will be the “toughest ever” for Democrats. This may be hyperventilation aimed at opening wallets, but it’s true that 2010 will determine the success of the GOP’s campaign of political pillage and burn.

© Mark Floegel, 2009

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