The More Things Change

…the more they stay maddeningly the same.

The More Things Change

I just read John Ganz’s When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s and found it very unsettling. As I said in a recent column: NOTHING HAS CHANGED!

We’re spending billions to go to the moon almost 60 years after we first landed there, and billions more on going to Mars (which will be uninhabitable for all but the uber-rich, who’ll need it after they finish ruining Earth). Why don’t we instead spend that moolah on figuring out some really important stuff, like curing cancer and dementia, tackling climate change, or mastering interstellar travel?

(That last one is a bug of mine. Unless we can disprove Einstein’s theory that matter can’t go faster than light, we’re all screwed, blued, and tattooed — stuck here on this soon-to-be-unlivable orb.)

No wonder authors like Ganz write about the past. The future is too bleak. The book brings back many 1990s personalities — including David Duke, Rush Limbaugh, Ross Perot, Jesse Jackson, Pat Buchanan, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Clinton, among others — some of whom are still in the news.

Ganz’s argument is that the “dark legacy” of the Reagan years and their aftermath has poisoned us to this day. Many of the people he writes about, he says, either vied to take up the Gipper’s mantle or tried to dismantle what he’d wrought. I tend to agree.

Did you know Ronald Reagan was a true, almost fanatical believer in “the existence of live prisoners” from the Vietnam War still being held in that country? His “obsession” with the POW/MIA movement led him to declare the issue his administration’s “highest national priority.” He even authorized a mercenary incursion into Laos “based on satellite photos that showed shadows that analysts believed were ‘too long’ to be cast by Asians.” I presume that theory has now been debunked, considering the many Asians currently playing in the NBA.

Ganz is a good writer, and his descriptions of the turmoil in America during the 1980s-90s move right along. The Soviet Union was collapsing. Saddam Hussein was on his way to being vanquished. America basically ruled the world. A brighter future beckoned.

So, what went wrong back then? The same thing that’s going wrong now. Some Americans are always unhappy with their lot. They complain about high mortgage rates of 6 percent in 2024 when, in the 1970s, they were 20 percent. They complain about high gasoline prices now; back then, there was no gasoline to be had.

The subtitle of Ganz’s book includes the words “con men” and “conspiracies,” both of which plague us today. When will we ever learn?

Lawrence De Maria often thinks about writing nonfiction but lacks the imagination to do it justice. So, he’ll stick to fiction.

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