Last Night

I went to see a discussion between Abner Mikva and Arthur Schlessinger, hosted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. In spite of his age and accompanying frailty, Schlessinger wove some interesting tales, and was generally entertaining. The group assembled here was a wide-ranging one to say the least, from a few who looked as if they hadn’t had a bath lately, right on up to Christie Hefner and Bill Marovitz, two of Chicago’s glitterati.

Anyone who recognizes the four preceding attendants can imagine the tone of the discussion; let’s just say it was fairly partisan Demo-speak, not surprising. I was taken aback, however, at the behaviour of much of the audience. Schlessinger deftly picked up Mikva’s leads, and proceeded to administer a light, verbal spanking to Bush and The NeoCons, accompanied by a steady chorus of tsks, sighs, and harrumphs from this head-bobbing peanut gallery. At one point, Schlessinger touched on the Bush Lied subject, refuting the very idea that he had lied, adding, “I don’t think he is capable of lying,” which brought about a raft of chortles from the all-knowing, intellectually superior audience. They nearly choked on their pretzels when the next words out of his mouth were that he views Bush as a man of integrity. This clearly was not a line the audience was expecting.

The evening then proceeded to a Q & A session, where the audience competed to see who could insert their nose the furthest into Professor Schlessinger’s hindquarters while still being able to ask a puffball question. Through some miscalculation, the microphone got passed to a man who challenged Schlessinger on his notion that the U.S. incurred no damage to its standing or interests by pulling out of Vietnam in the way we did, and the same would go for Iraq if we were to just up and leave. Heads spun round to find the rabble-rouser, and looks of horror were all over the audience. To his credit, Schlessinger responded rather graciously, basically agreeing to disagree.

I walked out of the Millennium Knickerbocker hotel thinking to myself, “Where have the adults in this world gone?” The people upstairs had conducted themselves at roughly the level of my kids’ grade-school assemblies, maybe less respectfully. Here before them sat a man who had rubbed elbows with more than a handful of U.S. Presidents, had witnessed and written about 80-plus years of the most dynamic world history, and all they could do was snicker, roll eyes, feign aggrievement, and then jockey to line up for a book-signing. They deserved to be at an Oprah taping.

2 thoughts on “Last Night”

  1. If you find that audience’s reaction to that pro-Bush comment, you’ll love this.

    On the night of September 11, 2001, I needed to join a group, burn a candle, and mourn with my countrymen. A new resident in Flagstaff Arizona, I had few friends, but one invited me to a “Sharing” led by two palm readers from town.

    I went expecting the crowd to be the new-age hippie stock typical of this college town with their uniform Anti-Bush leanings. I was not dissapointed. I almost left after sampling the casual talk by the door – “We deserved it., Root Causes, blah, blah…” But my friend urged me to stay.

    The pleasant surprise was the “chart-reading”. Both chart-readers led the “sharing” by doing the personal chart for “W”, then those for the U.N., and the World.
    Their predictions were incrediby positive:
    “Bush will win the war on Terror.” “The world will be more united and cohesive!” “Venus is rising in Uranus.” Their corduroy skirts and Birchenstocks beaming their credentials, underlining the infallibillity of their reading.

    The pierced twenty-something sitting close to my right slowly, brought her knees closer and closer to her chin with every agonizingly positive comment about Bush. It reminded me of my reaction to viewing the carnage in the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”. A slurry of “No way!”‘s and sighs permeated the hourlong sharing. My friend, a liberal professor newly transplanted from Vermont, shook her head in dissaproving incredulity.

    I smiled calmly to myself towards the end, my mind newly opened to the validity of Chart Reading as an untapped technique for picking stocks, and hugely gratified by the demonstrated ability of our most highly-regarded priests to explode our most cherished myths.

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