Over this past extended weekend I managed to make a pilgrimage to the old college town where my youthful aspirations hit the bitter wall of reality or something like that. Returning to my alma mater always mingles happiness with regret, or more accurately the pleasant feeling I have when I venture back is always mixed with the knowledge that the time is past and I'm in many ways visiting the ghosts of things that weren't lived as memory relives them.
I suppose the short term for that is "nostalgia," except nostalgia's popular usage is of an unproblematic return, a longing to restore a supposedly unified past and is essentially a conservative sentiment in that it simplifies and mythologizes a time of purity or clarity that never really existed.
As it happened, I had my son and daughter with me -- my wife didn't make the trip, being busy with dissertating -- and we went to the Creamery for some ice cream. We sat down next to a man and two women who looked to be in their fifties and immediately I wished we hadn't, because the man was pontificating about the evils of the estate tax using a reducto ad absurdum approach, although he would only understand it as something he heard from that pillhead Rush Limbaugh (the example was laughable, something about a guy who sold two things in his hypothetical store, cigars and some other commodity that I forget but was also regulated and taxed, and basically the point of it was that the store owner's money was taxed about a million times and somehow that should be reason to abolish the estate tax -- I nearly fell asleep...)
Anyway, I felt I was watching that Jack Van Impe show that runs on UPN or some channel like that on the weekends and has Jack blubbering on about some alleged affront to religion and this scary little woman pipe in every now and then with "Oh they don't understand, do they?" or "Amen" ETC, because that's what this guy's companions were like..."Oh those Democrats..." and "The Activist Judges, tut tut." I was embarrassed thinking these shit for brains dittoheads might be fellow alums.
Then they turned to foreign affairs and the man went off on protestors, arguing that the things "they" say about Bush are horrible and he'd like to see them take a plane to Iran and say the same things about the Iranian President and see how far it got them. He pronounced smugly, "They'll get beheaded after about three words." He seemed to think he'd proven a point, but I was wondering what that point was. I mean, is he suggesting that the US should adopt repressive speech policies similar to Iran? Because it seems to me that a cornerstone of US democracy is the ability to oppose the government vocally, whereas he seems to think that exercising those rights means you should go to some repressive country where you don't have those rights. Umm...we're not in Iran and I for one am not interested in scrapping our Constitution in favor or Iran's or any other country's. So what's the point?
At this point I told my son somewhat loudly that the fight against fascism was never over.
I don't know if this party of troglodytes heard me, but they got quieter and started complaining about more domestic problems, such as the horrible behavior of university students these days and the awful job colleges are doing at molding properly docile bodies. In fact, the man began going on and on about what a great place Liberty University was because in his opinion it was a great academic school that monitored its students' behavior stringently.
So I changed my mind and figured this guy wasn't an alum, but was rather a parent of a college age child who was on a campus visit. Hopefully, he didn't like what he saw, because we've already got enough unreflective conservative zombies on the alumni rolls...