A Recent Journey Through the Status Quo by Will Harcourt
A great man died recently, as many great men, women and children do each minute of each hour of each day. In 1964, five years before this historic picture was taken, Bob Dylan said, "...the times they are a changin'." Time and circumstances are always changing, even if the changes are barely detectable, for individuals, families, small towns, large cities; great countries. Dylan predicted a shift in our mainstream culture and he was right. The long-reaching changes that germinated in the sixties can rightfully be underscored with that single phrase. One event began when John F. Kennedy declared that America would put a man on the moon within the decade. On July 21, 1969 that prediction came to pass. Neil Armstrong set man's first foot on the moon as Kennedy lay in his grave at Arlington National Cemetery, the victim of the most horrific assassination in our history. The sixties were a great and terrifying decade that permanently changed the American psyche. With all of the national events and cultural phenomena that have passed since Mr. Armstrong's monumental moment, my concern over present day circumstances and the fate of our country is greater than it has been for decades.
It often takes some time for me to gather my thoughts before I begin to write. On July 20, 2012 I was sitting in my apartment in Greenwood Village, CO. It was about 10:30 pm and I was restless. My customary late evening would consist of Letterman and Craig Ferguson, but the new Batman movie was premiering after midnight and for the first time ever I searched the internet to find the best place to see the film. From my location, the Century Theatre in Aurora had the most spectacular screen and audio. That would be my choice if I decided to go...which I did not; my predication for hating crowds kept me home that fateful night when a mad young gunman killed innocent people in one of America's calmest places to live. Our internal violence is not based on centuries of religious disputes, land rights, ethnic cleansing or revolving dictatorships. Since the settling of the west, the Civil War and the repeal of prohibition, our domestic violence is largely race on race, drug related or the acts of impulsive killers, but now we have an apocalyptic new breed of young people who plan mass executions; an especially disturbing creation of our own making. It's not the zombie wars or exotic model vampires; it's modern America where soon the neighborhood watch will become the neighbor watch focusing on quiet people who keep to themselves. Before moving to Denver I lived in the Philadelphia area for over thirty years, where murders are so proficient that the nightly news is a reading of the dead. It's time to take hold of the runaway violence in America street by street, community by community, in a non-violent movement to end the killing by simply placing our bodies in the way of bloodshed and saying, "No more!" Would our politicians take notice and formulate a policy that does not compromise common sense or the second amendment? One wonders. Living in Colorado for 11 months began to sensitize me again to the sanctity of life, and then the shooting in Aurora, and then I traveled to New York on business where my thoughts for this editorial started forming.
It's a political season in America, the big season; presidential politics accompanied by a national policy debate all geared to influence voters in one direction or another; to retain party loyalty or inspire defection; to maintain independence until the final moment of choice and then vote your conscience...political conscience and moral conscience and religious conscience...all balled together in one pull of the lever or punch of the card or push of a button, and so the country will go for another four years; except that we don't change the country anymore with elections, we just change or retain politicians and parties; minorities and majorities. In 2008 American elected its first black president based on his promise of change. Many reflected on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, how this event was the fulfillment of his message of hope delivered in his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech from the Lincoln Memorial to 200,000 civil rights supporters in 1963. King changed America and when Barack Obama beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary on June 7, 2008 (the day she suspended her campaign) I was overjoyed, dancing in the streets overjoyed. I am a dreamer and a "President Obama" was possibly a dream come true, but it wasn't too long before the air left the balloon as he deflated into a party politician. In spite of a hopeful 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Obama has proven to be inept at changing America, unless we allow him the additional years he requests to recover from the Bush "inheritance". For all of President Obama's intelligence and now, four years of presidential experience and perspective, his preeminent message to America is a rally call to class warfare. The alternative is to vote for upper management: Mitt Romney, an anti-Obama candidate whose innocuous campaign slogan, "Believe in America" is a futile command for us to believe in Mr. Romney. What for? America is in trouble; all kinds of trouble; deep, long-lasting trouble and our state of politics tops the list. In a time of great need for (I'll pick just two) gun control and revenue reform, we're debating birth certificates and personal tax disclosure with a modicum of emphasis on the pertinent issues of the day. We will hear a lot of rhetoric during the conventions and the debates, but nothing will change. It's depressing.
The economy and job creation is at the center of this election, but they really aren't political issues. The economy will take many years to recover and when it does, no sitting president will deserve the credit. The private sector creates jobs and revenues. One would hope that as the Chief Executive Officer of the nation, every president would take personal responsibility for the federal budget and tax policies that favor business development. A government with sound financial practices and constitutional accountability would certainly help the private sector by minding its own bookkeeping and spending habits, but like most of our personal scores, our country's credit rating has been lowered. Do our politicians run their personal finances with the same reckless abandon that they use in managing our fiscal policy? From the information on their tax returns, they do not.
Our political malaise and the Aurora shooting were weighing heavy on me as I entered the Lincoln Tunnel to meet a gentleman from Chile at the Four Seasons Hotel in midtown. Juan had been on Long Island visiting his vineyard. I was there to talk with him about dedicating his Chilean vineyards and others of his friend's to my company, Flawless Spirits, and the opportunities for mass distribution in China. After introductions and backgrounds and business, our friendly chat steered toward open seas. I was seeking an ally, someone to sympathize with my disdain for conditions in America in 2012, but Juan would have none of it. My groans about the national debt were met with a reminder that the entire world depends on the American economy for its leadership and stability and that the U.S. will never go bankrupt. I thought, "Stability? Is he crazy?" He didn't think so. Having lived on Long Island with his family for a dozen years, his perspective was a blend of American growth with the personal enhancement of being Chilean, educated in Germany and working in Japan and Australia. Juan's children were traumatized by his decision to move the family back to Santiago. "How, Papa, could we leave America?" "For a time, niños," was his answer, "Only for a time."
As I left Manhattan I decided to stop in Jersey City, NJ and have a look at the condominiums in a building called: 77 Hudson. Part of the Flawless Spirits strategy is the acquisition of a company just a few miles from there. Purchasing a penthouse with a dramatic city view has always been a goal. If I will be spending considerable time on the east coast, what better way to live than with easy access to Manhattan and incredible views at 1/3 the cost of an apartment on the island? The unit on the 48th. Floor was adequate in its construction and design, the building amenities complete; but what really got to me was the uncompromised view of lower Manhattan. There, where the twin towers once stood, was a tall, gleaming structure 3/4 clothed in bright glass: the new Freedom Tower. I was a regular visitor to the World Trade Center, but it took a few seconds to comprehend what was before me. Thoughts of that morning were quickly followed by gratitude and pride. My heart rate jumped and my eyes watered as I absorbed the presence of the building and an overwhelming sense of patriotism. After all of the delays, debates and criticism, my nation was completing her new monument to freedom, enterprise and resolve. As watching the towers fall into dust was etched in my memory, so was seeing the incomplete Freedom Tower for the first time. I returned to Colorado with a renewed sense of peace...and then came the shooting at the Empire State Building where an angry man took his hostility against a former office rival to its ultimate limit, killing him on the street with a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun before being killed in an exchange with two police officers eight feet away whose 16 expelled rounds wounded nine bystanders.
It's true: America is a complicated country and being an American is often complicated. While this election is maintenance rather than reform and new ideas, the twelfth amendment of the constitution dictates that we select a president every four years; senators and representatives every six and two; regardless of the qualities of the candidates. I don't expect a change to our electorate protocol in my lifetime, but I do expect that our process will implode at some point in the future unless there is a radical rise in the behavior and performance of our politicians. The press could once be trusted for unbiased political accountability, but no longer. We're on our own now. To help alleviate the stress we flock to movies about superheroes with dazzling visual effects and guaranteed happy endings where the salvation of our country is secured by a noble one or few. We laugh at satirical comedies like "The Candidate" to assuage the realities portrayed in "The Ides of March". Well, we all love movies.
The hope for change is too strong a currency for presidential candidates to devalue, but when will their motives, integrity and courage reach beyond popularity to compel those under the rotunda to join a commitment for change and the absolute requirement to protect and improve our society? Will our politicians ever grow-up? Will change prevail? Perhaps in the America of our near future with the sons and daughters of a new immigrant nation. Our current parties are working diligently to acquire their allegiance.
I hope that our next generations take some cues from the sixties, where great challenges and reforms were met with courage and conviction: Where city occupations were well-organized political demonstrations with clear platforms, not a grabass free for all to attract television attention. Where the message of "Make Love Not War" transcended World War II and Korea and brought the Vietnam War to its knees. Where men and women dedicated their youth to changing the status quo based on an agenda of creating a better America, not the perfect storm for political and personal gain: Men like Neil Armstrong, who risked his life to answer the call of a deceased president and fulfill a national promise that he made.
Are the times a changin'? Certainly they are. It may just take a while longer until we see it in the flesh and receive it at the ballot box.
Nell St. John - 2013
The Temperate Zone
by William Harcourt
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Welcome to my website. This is quite fulfilling, like an indoor hobby. When I was a young boy I enjoyed building model airplanes. Then came sports and I was forever outdoors unless I was listening to records or the radio or watching television. I've always had a restless mind. Originally, The Temperate Zone was the title of my first novel. I discovered this in 1987 while fiercely writing for long hours each day. The story is yet unfinished and is stored in the company of many others. Today much of my attention is directed toward business. Working with this website version of The Temperate Zone keeps me connected to the dreams and ideas that propel my imagination. It's a positive reminder and encouragement for me to believe in myself and never turn away from them. Will Harcourt