The other day this newspaper printed next year’s Pirate schedule. I liked that. I looked up opening day and saw that the season ends several days before October begins. The Bucs play Boston at home in 2020, July 3, 4, and 5. They play the Dodgers twice, both times in April. How odd.
I like looking ahead. Let me amend that. I like knowing others are looking ahead.
I like it when the folks who run the Fayette County Fair advertise the dates for the following year’s Fair on the side of the fairgrounds building you can’t miss while driving on Route 119, from Uniontown to Connellsville.
It shows that Fair officials are planning. They have confidence in the future.
Confidence in the future is the thing many of us are not feeling right now when it comes to the country; a 2018 survey found that 69% of Americans were either sad, angry, or fearful about the state of the country. I suspect a lot of this has to do with the fact that no one in charge seems to be looking ahead. When something does get done, it’s spur of the moment.
The anecdotes are thick and fast about how, even in the middle of the worst war of all time, World War II, Americans were planning a post-war future. Our confidence as a people was sky high then. If we could successfully fight two major powers - Germany and Japan - in conflicts that stretched around the globe AND be the arsenal of democracy, we could do anything. Anything at all.
We could and we did. We harnessed the atom; we created NATO and the international monetary system; we fashioned a domestic economy that was the envy of the world; we educated; we extended the American promise of equality.
The country recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. I watched several documentaries, including one at a small, neighborhood theater in McKees Rocks, after which a patron — a woman born in 1970 — approached us to say, in so many words, it was wonderful that the United States was able to create the rocketry and the technology capable of flying two Americans to the moon and back.
“Yes,” I said, “it makes you want to stand up and cheer.”
No one is cheering today. Of course, no one is giving speeches like the one President Kennedy delivered in Houston in 1962, in which he said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will ... organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
Then again, Kennedy and the others were members of the World War II generation: they not only saw but experienced what America and Americans were capable of doing, with organizing and planning.
The current occupant of the White House, who grew up on Vietnam and Watergate, appears incapable of planning much of anything.
Instead of walking “with the American people in their great diversity,” as Carl Sandburg said of Kennedy, Donald Trump dwells in a land where diversity is scorned and where what is organized is fabricated - like, his attempt last week in Monaca to take credit for the shale gas conversion factory that will eventually employ hundreds of full-time workers in Beaver County. (The factory was green lighted during the Obama administration.)
The country is in a sour mood. We are at each others’ throats.
We’ve seen this movie before. Anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant, the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s feared anyone who spoke and worshipped differently.
We were so frightened in the 1850s that we came undone, eventually, in 1861. The years 1919-1920 were frightening. Americans feared communism and radicalism and unionism. The Great Depression was frightening.
Even in the face of evidence that we could do it all, World War II was frightening. With millions of Americans cast to the four corners of the globe, the war years were lonely and scary ones for a great many Americans.
Fear of communism in the 1950s tore a hole in the political fabric. Vietnam was worse.
Still, for the most part, we continued to plan, we continued to anticipate the future.
What makes this moment different is the quality of national leadership. Congress hardly functions. Donald Trump is a disaster.
The president seems to enjoy spur of the moment, clueless decision-making; willful or not, it is part of his governing DNA. Where there is no planning, there is confusion. Where there is confusion, there is fear. Where there is fear, there is Trump.
It’s quite a spectacle: a third or more of the American people frightened by poor Central Americans. The nation that defeated Hitler AND communism reacting with abject terror to the prospect of social “replacement” by the bedraggled of Guatemala.
Give me a break. Better yet, give me a plan that looks to the future.
Richard Robbins lives in Uniontown. He can be reached at email@example.com.