The Age of Innocence
When you go to Disneyland you buy your ticket, go through the gate, and the first area you enter is Main Street U.S.A. Walt Disney worked closely with designers and architects to create an idealized early 20th century version of his boyhood town of Marceline, Missouri.
Though his parents were socialists, Disney was a conservative Republican who testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, produced a television ad for Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign, supported Ronald Reagan for Governor of California as well as Barry Goldwater’s presidential bid in 1964.
Disney’s Main Street, U.S.A. is reminiscent of the Victorian period of America and was described by Disney as, “For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of grandfather’s youth.“
The creator of a media empire, that today has annual revenues of approximately $35 billion, yearned for a simpler, innocent time in America’s history. When Disney was a boy America had just defeated the Spanish Empire, gained several island possessions spanning the globe, and was just starting to flex its imperial muscles.
The Philippine-American War began in 1899 and ended in 1902. During those three years Filipino villagers were forced into concentration camps with some camps incurring death rates as high as 20 percent. American troops tortured Filipino insurgents with waterboarding. Enraged by a guerrilla massacre of U.S. troops on the Island of Samar, General Jacob H. Smith retaliated by carrying out an indiscriminate attack upon its inhabitants. His order “KILL EVERY ONE OVER TEN” became a caption in a New York Journal cartoon.
By the end of the war 1.4 million Filipinos had been killed. Filipino historian E. San Juan, Jr., has stated the war constituted an act of genocide on the part of the United States.
Turn of the century America was a simpler more innocent time because nostalgia always wipes away the blood.
As Disney pined for the fictional Main Street U.S.A. of 1910, I too look back at an Age of Innocence from my own youth. And for me, the person that best exemplifies that era was Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Theodore Agnew.
Agnew is the only Vice President in U.S. history to resign because of criminal charges. He was charged with accepting bribes while holding office as Baltimore County Executive, Governor of Maryland, and Vice President of the United States. Agnew received his cash in white envelopes in payments that ranged from $1,000 to $20,000.
He called the allegations of bribery “damned lies” and vowed never to resign the vice presidency.
Then he resigned.
Agnew was allowed to plead “no contest” to a single charge that he had failed to report $29,500 of income received in 1967 with the condition that he resign the office of Vice President.
A No Contest plea basically means admitting you’ve done nothing wrong … but you’re pretty sure you’d get convicted by a jury of your peers. This is a great legal gambit if you’re the vice president of the United States but it doesn’t work at all if you’re busted in Florida with an ounce of marijuana and looking at 5 years and a $5,000 fine. Heads they win … Tails you lose if you try to pull a Nolo contendere routine in the Orange Juice State.
But I digress … Agnew slipped out of the noose, Nixon picked Gerald Ford as a replacement, and Nixon resigned less than a year later. About a month after the president’s resignation, Ford granted Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he may have committed while President.
Accountability has never been this country’s strong suit … unless of course we’re talking about a Democrat doing one of the only things Republicans seem to get really steamed about … having oral sex. Then a media circus witch hunt ensues culminating in an impeachment. But I digress again …
How much did Spiro T. Agnew take during the ten years he was on the take? A little over two hundred thousand. That’s what I like about the guy.
Sure he was Nixon’s attack dog. That’s what Vice Presidents are for. Agnew would go out and say something grotesque, usually written by Pat Buchanan, and if the populace didn’t howl in outrage and boil out into the streets … it meant that it would probably become national policy.
But Agnew was also a true man of the people. American Democracy at its finest. Anyone could afford to bribe him. For a measly grand or two you could buy this guy. If you couldn’t dig up enough cash, you could go in on it with a couple of friends. If you couldn’t pony up all the dough up front, Agnew would even put you on a payment plan so you could buy the Vice President of the United States in easy to afford monthly payments.
But that was a long time ago. The Pathocracy didn’t run everything like they do now.
Hunter S. Thompson once said we were more “free” under Nixon than during the Bush Cheney regime. He wrote, “Nixon was a professional politician, and I despised everything he stood for — but if he were running for president this year against the evil Bush-Cheney gang, I would happily vote for him.“
My nostalgia for the mid-seventies is narrowly focused. I appreciate the “hands on” corruption of Spiro Agnew. During the same time Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s psychopath in residence, was orchestrating the deaths of millions in Southeast Asia while plotting the overthrow and murder of Chile’s Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Marxist to become president of a country in the Americas. The psychopaths have always been among us, but back before the FOX News era they didn’t have the media cheerleading their agenda.
The fledgling empire that waterboarded Filipinos in 1900 was at it again in 1968 in Vietnam, and again in Iraq. Once The Empire finds a technique that works … it’s always at the ready in their toolbox.
To me 1970’s America is the Golden Age of Political Innocence. Agnew’s crimes were crimes I could understand. The scope of his villainy was human in scale.
Today the GDP of the planet is 58.141 trillion. The GDP of the United States is 14.119 trillion. The psychopaths in charge of this country recently put us all on the hook for 12.3 trillion. Some people may claim to understand the scale of that theft. I can’t. I understand a couple of grand stuffed in a white envelope in Agnew’s suit pocket.
More and more these days I feel like the tramp in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange drunkenly offering his opinion on Current Events:
“It’s a stinking world because there’s no law and order any more. It’s a stinking world because it lets the young get onto the old like you done. It’s no world for an old man any more. What sort of a world is it at all? Men on the moon and men spinning around the earth and there’s not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more.“
And then Alex and his droogies beat the shit out of him.
On that cheery note … Happy New Year.
The Age of Innocence January 3, 2011