Jonathan Kahane: ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ ! or ?

  •   mactrunk

Published: 11/25/2020 9:00:51 AM


Please pardon my punctuation, but I didn’t know which punctuation mark was more appropriate to use to conclude my opening sentence. Many of you (I hope) will recognize that my first line is the title of the song that is associated with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1932 presidential campaign, which was meant to signify his ability to lead the nation out of The Great Depression. I’m hoping that President-elect Joe Biden will be capable of escorting our country out of our current “Great Depression,” albeit of a different sort.

I did vote for Mr. Biden; however he wasn’t my first choice. I felt that Bernie Sanders had a better notion of how to lead us to a better place. I toyed with the idea of writing him in, realizing that Massachusetts was safely in the Biden camp. I was eventually swayed by the argument that a larger popular vote for Biden would signal more of a mandate. I’ll be second-guessing myself for a long time. I also believed Biden when he said that he recognized the strength of the progressive movement in America. Sanders has expressed an interest in joining Biden’s cabinet, specifically as the secretary of labor. Let’s see if Biden was only paying lip service to Bernie’s support which surely helped him win.

In junior high school, I got addicted to reading the daily newspaper — particularly the editorial page — because of the wonderful columns by the late Russell Baker in The New York Times. Since then, I have tried to compose insightful and meaningful essays often infused with Bakeresque humor. It occurs to me that one of the major aims (if not the major aim) of an opinion piece is to try to influence the reader to take at least a small step or two toward the writer’s point of view rather than alienate him. The letters and columns which I have read in the Gazette recently, along with the rallies and protests in the streets, seem to more likely be fostering the second Battle of Gettysburg. People are screaming and throwing things at each other, and some are even carrying handguns and toting assault rifles. The first Battle of Gettysburg was more than enough, thank you.

In high school, I read Dale Carnegie’s book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” One evening I met a bunch of my buddies by the Nedick’s in front of the old Madison Square Garden. We were going to watch the hapless and hopeless New York Rangers try to score a victory, or at least a tie, against the mighty Montreal Canadiens. After the first period, I went to the concession stand to get a dog and a Coke. It was mobbed. I decided to try one of Carnegie’s methods. In the middle of the mayhem, I politely said to the counterman, “I know you’re busy, but could you please get me a hot dog and a Coke?” OK, it was an Eddie Haskell moment, but it worked. My friends and I laughed about it all the way home. The Rangers lost, but I learned something.

Whenever I make an important decision, I often wonder how my parents would have reacted to my opinion. In this case, I think they might have smiled and reminded me of the numerous times I came home from the neighborhood Bronx PS 8 schoolyard with a black eye and/or a bloody nose having employed my 10-year-old Voice of Reason.

Granted we were fighting over critical issues like baseball cards, “Spaldeens” and stickball games. We could hardly be blamed. Neither Joe Louis nor Rocky Marciano would have stood a chance out there. There were no Marquess of Queensberry Rules in force in Bronx schoolyards.

As far as this schoolyard urchin is concerned, as long as it doesn’t come to shots or blows, perhaps there is hope for the future now. Let’s return to the business of finding common goals using discourse and civility rather than using boorishness and violence. That’s my 75-year-old Voice of Reason speaking.

“Happy Days Are Here Again” ! or ? We’ll see soon enough.

Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton. 


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