Before It’s Too Late…
Even Stoned And 16, I Couldn’t Have Imagined This Dystopian Election
Hello, 1968 me? Yeah, it’s 2016 me calling. Listen, I need you to do something. No, not for me. For your country.
(Sorry for the Selective Service joke, Pat. Don’t worry—I happen to know you’ll flunk the draft physical.)
This is me—that is to say, you—in the year 2016, writing to you—meaning me—back then in what you’d call now.
I (you) need your (my) help preventing a disaster 48 years in the future. If you think the politics in “Amerika” is a bummer in 1968, wait until you see 2016.
Unless you do something, a terrifying idiot is going to be president of the United States.
Otherwise, things have turned out groovy. You’re a little soft around the middle but still have your hair. Wife’s a cool chick. (I’d tell you more about her, but she’s currently in third grade.) The kids don’t yell at you as much as you yell at dad. You survived riding motorcycles. (When you take that hard right off High Street on to South Campus, some old bitch in an Oldsmobile is going pull out in front of you.)
Yeah, you’re a 68-year-old living in Squaresville, but mellow. (Wish I had that baggie of 20-toke “Are-we-high-yet?” Mexican ditch weed. This 21st century super-THC pot makes me paranoid, even though it’s legal.)
But that’s not what I’m writing you about. You’re a student activist (between beers) and an anti-war protestor. (I’ve still got the “Girls Say Yes To Guys Who Say No” button.)
You’re hip to what’s happening. Like the 1968 presidential race. You think LBJ’s a bad trip? How would you like an LBJ in a skirt?
We’ve got one of those like groupies have crabs.
Incidentally, in about 10 weeks LBJ will tune in, turn on, and drop out. Drop out, anyway. For real.
“The Making of the President, 1968” is about to turn uglier than a Mazola party in the DKE House basement passion pit on Sadie Hawkins Day.
Fat-ass, flap-jaw, party hack Hubert Humphrey, Gene “Roast A Weenie for Peace” McCarthy, and smooth operator, oh-now-you’re-against-the-war Bobby Kennedy will be scamming for the Democratic nomination.
Trying to rip off the Republican nomination, there’s the pig Nixon, the capitalist pig Nelson Rockefeller, and the pig who’s blown his mind George Romney. (“When I came back from Viet Nam, I’d just had the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get.”)
The racist pig George Wallace will run as an independent on the Racist Pig Party ticket.
Come November, the result will be as bad as a couple of weeks ago when you swallowed the tab of STP.
How, you ask, can things in futuristic, ultra-modern 2016, be worse?
Trust me. I am you. Trust yourself. Things are worse.
Dig this: A dude who’s more of a capitalist pig than Nelson Rockefeller, exploiting the proletariat with a TV show dumber than Lawrence Welk’s, who’s got all the peace and love vibes of Richard Nixon and is a bigger racist pig than George Wallace.
That’s the Republican front-runner.
Because… Because the American public flipped out. Long story. You’ll see when you get here.
And the Democratic front-runner is, as mentioned, Lyndon Johnson wearing a dress. (Actually, she wears a pantsuit. It’s something a guy named Yves Saint-Laurent invented in 1966, but you’ve never seen one. The co-eds at Miami of Ohio aren’t crazy.)
There are some other bad candidates.
There’s one called Ted Cruz that you can’t do anything about because he hasn’t been born yet.
There’s a black Barry Goldwater. Hard to get your head around. But he’s fading in the polls.
However, there are also some candidates who are… well, they’re bad too. But they’re like “I Like Ike” bad. They’re not heavy, freaky bad. They’re squares. They’re uptight. But they’re regular. You know, like dad.
And I really wish you hadn’t yelled at dad over Christmas break when he put up the “George Romney—Great for ’68” yard sign. Dad turned out to be okay.
Anyway, your mission, should you chose to accept it (and, yes, that’s still a popular culture catch phrase) is to make sure that neither Pantyhose-In-Cowboy-Boots nor the Pig from Uranus gets elected.
(Consult Issue #1 of Wonder Wart-Hog, Hog of Steel, winter 1967, “Wonder Wart-Hog Versus the Pigs from Uranus” by Gilbert Shelton for clues to the vulnerabilities of the latter. It’s on the floor under your mattress.)
The reason I’m choosing you (us) is because we’re about the same age as these jerks, which means that they are (were), like you are (I was), members of the “Youth Culture”—back when that meant something besides Botox. (Our wife will explain what Botox is later.)
In your day being young is a bond. It’s membership in a private club. “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” There’s even a secret recognition hand signal. I still use it, without the index finger.
You can get next to these people.
The awful Republican is named Don Trump. He’s a senior at Penn.
The awful Democrat is named Hillary (two l’s) Rodham. She’s a junior at Wellesley—exactly the same age as us.
It’s possible we know Hillary already. She went to Maine East High in Park Ridge outside Chicago, right up Harlem Avenue from Oak Park where we went to high school. She was in a Methodist Youth Group. We were in a Methodist Youth Group. We may have dated her. And erased the memory.
So I have a plan. I’ve enclosed money. (No, you didn’t get rich. A buck is only worth 15 cents in 2016.)
This Don Trump is the easy part. Skip some classes. I seem to recall you’re ahead of me on that part of the plan. But (I checked our transcript) your grades are shit this semester no matter what. Fly Youth Fare standby to Philadelphia.
Trump is the campus loud mouth New Yorker. You won’t have trouble finding him. Tell him you’re part of a commune that wants to pay too much rent for a crappy place in a bad part of town.
He’ll be glad to have coffee or a mu tea or whatever with you. (You’ll have to pay.) Slip the STP in his java. He’ll freak. He’s on the verge anyway. The cat’s been a space case since birth. Skip town before he starts peaking.
Way to go!
I just checked the mental hospitals in New York. A “Donald Trump Jr.” has been an in-patient in the psychiatric ward at Bellevue since January 1968. Good karma, man.
Getting rid of Hillary Rodham is more complicated. First we have to have a little talk with ourselves about politics.
Hillary Rodham—she’s “Hillary Clinton” these days because she married… What a long, strange trip it’s been… Oops, that Grateful Dead album won’t be released for another two and a half years…
Hillary Rodham has a longer radioactive half-life than the Grateful Dead, and half of them are—I regret to inform you—dead, gratefully or otherwise. But they’re still packing venues. (Joke from the future: “What’s a Grateful Dead fan say when he runs out of pot? ‘What a shitty band.’”)
But I digress. We were talking politics. Hillary Rodham Clinton has only one serious opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination.
He’s Bernie Sanders, a “New Left” type, and you think you agree with him.
Our politics will change over the years. Right now, you’re under the impression that you’re into communism. Like, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” says Marx. Far out. It’s the monthly check from dad.
Actually, a French socialist, Louis Blanc, said that. But, since you’ve never even read the Cliffs Notes for Das Kapital, I won’t hassle you.
Sometime in the 1970s you’ll finally get a job. You’ll be paid $150 a week. But when you get your first paycheck you’ll find out you net $78.63 after deductions for federal, state and city income tax, Social Security, union dues, pension fund contribution, etc.
And you’ll say, “Wait, I’m a communist. I’ve protested for communism. I’ve demonstrated for communism. I’ve vandalized for communism. I’ve been tear-gassed for communism. And then I get a job with a big capitalist corporation and I find out we’ve got communism already. They just took half my paycheck! I’m not Nelson Rockefeller!”
Nonetheless, you and I continue to share basic political principles. As you put it to dad at Christmas, “Get off my fucking case!”
This Bernie Sanders is on your case. Or he would be if you let him. He’s six years older than we are and still hanging around campus, mostly at Goddard College in Vermont, which even you call “Flake Acres.” He belonged to the Young People’s Socialist League when he was at the University of Chicago. You know the type.
Bernie wants to “organize” you. If you aren’t careful he’ll talk you into going door-to-door trying to get “underprivileged” people to register for food stamps and vote. Since the underprivileged people in southern Ohio are rednecks with shotguns who’re voting for George Wallace, you could get seriously shot.
When Bernie is rapping and you’re stoned, he sounds like he’s making sense, in a commie way. But he puts out bad vibrations. He’s not a head. He doesn’t smoke dope. But he’s too smelly to be a narc. He’s been married and divorced, and he’s going to try to grope spaced-out Sunshine who’s not wearing anything under her mumu.
And Bernie “doesn’t like” rock. He likes country music. Loretta Lynn singing “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).”
It’s the 1960s! That’s where you’re at. Meaning, Bernie doesn’t like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or “Their Satanic Majesties Request” or “Surrealistic Pillow.” Bernie doesn’t like Jimi Hendrix.
If Bring-Down Bernie gets elected, all of life will be like being trapped in a meeting of the Students for a Democratic Society writing the Port Huron Statement until the end of time.
He probably won’t get elected. But that’s only because of LBJ avatar reincarnation of Shiva the Destroyer Intercontinental Ballistic Sister Hillary Rodham.
You know that art major who chews her hair and thinks she’s a witch? Hillary is a witch. Wait and see the spell she casts on this guy Bill she’s going to marry who is the Town Dog-Catcher in East Jesus, Arkansas, or something, and the next thing he knows he’s on trial in the U.S. Senate for getting head.
Unless you make her chill out.
Wellesley is near Boston. Hillary’s a grind. She’ll be in the library. She wears a headband like our 10-year-old sister and the same big, ugly glasses as mom. Has a favorite pair bell-bottoms with weird (don’t look at them on acid) stripes. Kind of cute but a major frowny-face. You’ll spot her.
Wellesley’s an all-girls school so you’ll need and excuse to be there. Say you’re an SDS organizer. Hillary’s just starting to get lefty. Keep it platonic. (You’d know what that means if you’d done the reading for your philosophy survey course—“Deep Thinking for D Students.”)
Tell Hillary there’s this lefty deep thinker she just has to meet. It’s only 200 miles from Wellesley to Godard. The two of you can hitch.
(“Candidate Sanders: Hitchhiking should be legal, and made easier”—that’s a newspaper headline four years from now when Bernie runs for governor of Vermont as a lefty deep thinker and comes in fourth in a three-man race.)
Hillary will love Bernie. She’ll cop to his whole scene. She’ll never become a Democratic Party big wig working the levers and pulleys of power. She’ll never be The Man.
She’ll get stuck in Vermont, living in a yurt, chairperson of the Save the Snakes Coalition, one more old hippie burn-out.
Bernie will ruin her life. He’s already walked out on his marriage and he’s about to get some other chick knocked up.
And she’ll ruin his. Believe me, I have seen what Hillary can do to a guy. There’s this poor dweeb Joe Biden… But that’s another story.
Do your thing, young me. Let it all hang out.
And 48 years from now all we’ll ever hear about Bernie and Hillary will be in the Burlington Free Press under the head “Domestic Dispute.”
P.S. If you can get some nude Polaroids of the two, slip them inside the dust jacket of The Making of a President, 1968 by Theodore H. White, on the PoliSci shelves at Miami’s King Library. The book will come out in June 1969, and nobody has touched it since.
We’ll pick up the photos at our 45th reunion this fall—just in case.
Yours (as you will start calling yourself in two years), P.J.