Friday, October 28, 2005

"Are we going the way of Rome, or is the President just having a bad week?"

Rich Leonardi of Ten Reasons attributes this quotation to Peggy Noonan in her most recent column. I can't find the quote, but essentially that's what she's asking. Of particular interest is this provocative anecdote:
A few weeks ago I was reading Christopher Lawford's lovely, candid and affectionate remembrance of growing up in a particular time and place with a particular family, the Kennedys, circa roughly 1950-2000. It's called "Symptoms of Withdrawal." At the end he quotes his Uncle Teddy. Christopher, Ted Kennedy and a few family members had gathered one night and were having a drink in Mr Lawford's mother's apartment in Manhattan. Teddy was expansive. If he hadn't gone into politics he would have been an opera singer, he told them, and visited small Italian villages and had pasta every day for lunch. "Singing at la Scala in front of three thousand people throwing flowers at you. Then going out for dinner and having more pasta." Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr Lawford, Teddy "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.'"

Mr Lawford continued, "The statement hung there, suspended in the realm of 'maybe we shouldn't go there.' Nobody wanted to touch it. After a few moments of heavy silence, my uncle moved on."

Lawford thought his uncle might be referring to their family--that it might "fall apart." But reading, one gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

And--forgive me--I thought:
If even Teddy knows...
After the last two general elections, and reviewing our military interventions in recent years (another subject for another day), I too am left wondering whether the Visigoths will appear over the hilltop any day now. Particularly telling was this Noonan quip: "You say we don't understand Africa? We don't even understand Canada!"

Good point... eh?

1 comment:

Rich Leonardi said...


The quote's my summation of the article, with a nod to Ms. Noonan's penchant for melodrama. She does seem to have her finger on the pulse of what many Americans are thinking, though, especially the puddleglums among us (myself sometimes included in that category).