What Would it Take?
My father is a communications and media professor, and he likes to make fun of his students for not remembering anything. His latest jab is to tell them they don’t have to worry about Alzheimer’s Disease — because they have no memory to lose. This would be sarcastic, were it not so accurate; but it’s not just his students. Western society seems to be in the grips of a collective amnesia that reminds me of the scene in One Hundred Years of Solitude when the entire town forgets everything, and the local fortune teller reads the cards to tell people what happened to them in the past.
In therapy work, it’s generally assumed that people who can’t remember the past have a reason for not doing so. It’s either too disturbing, they feel guilty about it, or the burden is too great. I would say that all three count these days. But lately, we’ve had a vivid, in-person reminder of something called Watergate — something we really should remember, and which it seems logical enough not to. Remembering Watergate, in essence, makes us responsible for never letting it happen again, or for copping to the fact that it has happened.
To most, Deep Throat was a long-forgotten movie character (in All the President’s Men) before he emerged from the recesses of secrecy and the past in early June, identifying himself by name: Mark Felt. He was the high-ranking FBI official and secret source who made the Washington Post’s exposes of the Watergate scandal possible. These were the articles, published between 1972 and 1974, that proved that Nixon really did know about the bugging of the Democratic campaign headquarters, and the associated money trail, and much else besides.
While we have a lot to thank Deep Throat for, I think it’s a good time to go over what else it took to bring down old Dick Nixon. I do so for the benefit of everyone who sees all the parallels between then and now: the war, the paranoia, the secrecy, the crimes and the lies, and the intense frustration with ‘we the people’ having no impact on government — but who is wondering ‘when something will happen’.
Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, the year that Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. The man who eventually presided over the most criminally intent White House before the present day came into power as two of the most articulate, beloved civil rights leaders lay fallen. Kennedy, for his part, had just won the California Democratic primary moments before he was shot. Had he lived, he almost certainly would have beat Nixon. Is it a coincidence that Nixon’s two most worthy opponents were murdered?
Nixon was elected (if you can call it that), in part, because he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. Whatever that plan was, what actually happened was that Nixon secretly stepped up bombing campaigns and spread the war to Laos and Cambodia, laying both countries to ruin and opening up Cambodia to the atrocities of someone named Pol Pot, a man on the level of Hitler. Though the war had officially begun just four years earlier in 1964, Nixon’s secret plan to end it dragged U.S. involvement in the war on for another six years.
Two short years after he took office, in the spring of 1970, Nixon made his infamous speech announcing that he had, behind the nation’s back, been bombing Cambodia, a neighboring country of Vietnam. U.S. campuses erupted in protest and fully one third of them were either closed down before the semester ended, or came close to being closed. This was the spring of the Kent State shootings: when the National Guard opened fire and killed four students, all of whom were either passers-by or photographers. If you want a taste of that era, dig out the Neil Young song “Ohio,” which was written, recorded, manufactured and on the radio just days after the shootings at Kent.
The next year came the Pentagon Papers story — a series of articles in The New York Times that proved, through secret government documents, that the Nixon administration knew about the atrocities of Vietnam, that Eisenhower had been warned by his generals not to get involved, and much else. The Nixon administration sued the Times to keep the stories out of print using the old national security argument, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the First Amendment. But the Vietnam War, tearing the country apart, dragged on.
This was the incredible backdrop for the events of the spring of 1972 — when five burglars with sophisticated bugging equipment, a lot of money and the phone numbers of very powerful people in their pockets, were arrested early one morning in the Watergate Complex, attempting to place eavesdropping devices in the Democratic National Headquarters. Quickly, this bugging was connected to an organization called Creep — the Committee to Re-elect the President. The thing I love most about the Watergate crooks is that at least they had a sense of humor.
You would think that the break-in, combined with the endless, devastating war, and Kent State (along with the lesser publicized shootings of students at Jackson State, SUNY-Buffalo and elsewhere), would have been enough to wake people up. There was, in reality, little else in the news. The war had come home. Bodies of American boys were arriving from Southeast Asia at a shocking rate. There was a cover-up to hide the truth about the war. And now Nixon was caught cheating on his opponents. His excuse was he didn’t know.
Consider that the Watergate story broke in the spring of 1972 and developed fairly steadily, such that by the November 1972 election, a lot of people, particularly in the political community, pretty much knew just what had happened. But Nixon won 49 states, losing only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
Meanwhile, in those years, the country had gone through its greatest activist phase since the American Revolution. The decade following the Kennedy assassination was a time of unprecedented community involvement, protest, and creative outpouring. There was feminism, environmentalism, a civil rights movement, and a lot of art, music and sex. Students had taken over college campuses — not just through demonstrations, but also through changes in curriculum, in some places banning the ROTC (the Reserve Officer Training Corps, a campus-based military program that would recruit students, train them as officers and send them to Vietnam), taking over student governance, taking important student organizations off campus for less administration interference, and many other changes.
And as for Vietnam, numerous people were aware of what was going on — despite our beloved Internet, far more than today. It was much more emotional, politically charged and polarized.
Still, Nixon, his war and his scandals marched on.
Then, one bit at a time, the shit hit the fan. There was a lot of help from Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Mark Felt and the editors of the Post, who kept up a stream of reporting that could not be avoided by politicians, the media or the public. And though it took a long time, the blood-soaked soil of the country was fertile.
Under the combined pressure of these developments, one by one, the “president’s men” — the top men of the Nixon administration — resigned, and some were convicted of felonies associated with Watergate. Some went to prison. Many spilled the beans on the whole affair. There was the issue of the Nixon tapes and the long gap in one of them. Google the story. It’s shocking.
Yet Nixon himself, as if enchanted by some evil spell, or charmed by presidential power, lived on like the undead. Yes, it has happened before, and it has happened recently. Somehow he kept enough people believing that he was totally innocent, or that he should be held blameless because he was president, that they were reluctant to associate him with the break in, or blame him for the war. But a movement against him was brewing. Finally, Republican leaders in Congress took action and, with their blessing, impeachment proceedings were discussed. It was at this point that Nixon resigned, in the summer of 1974. He quit more than two years after Watergate, more than four years after Kent State, and a decade after the Vietnam War had officially begun.
I forgot to mention that not long before he quit, his vice president, Spirow Agnew, had been forced to resign from office because of tax evasion.
Why, why, why did it take so long, even in a period of such monumental change, progress, awareness and creativity? We have to ask ourselves that today.
When Nixon quit, it was like a curse had been lifted off the country. There was true healing and a sense of closure. There was a sense that the people had their power back, and that we could do something if the times demanded it. The “Sunshine Laws” were passed, requiring openness in government. There was a rare, brief moment of transparency. And hey, his last major act in office was to end the Vietnam War, in the thick of the Watergate cover-up coming apart.
For those wondering what it takes to bring down a president or an entire administration, you now have a basis for comparison. The past is not always a good predictor of the future, and sometimes it’s a terrible one, but it’s usually the best one we have. By that method, it’s going to take a long time for people to gain their focus and find their voice. And the world scene may need to get a lot uglier.
Or, something, some factor we have not considered, may intervene. We live in different times than the mid-1970s and while activism is not what it was, there are other ingredients in the social mix, and the psychic environment, that help move energy faster than history would have us predict. The energy within us and surrounding us is quicker; time is moving faster. But at the same time, there are greater pressures. Some are personal: it was easier to get an education and to make a living 30 years ago. Few people needed to work three jobs to survive; people literally had more time for themselves.
Some of the pressures are collective: there is a very serious issue about how, once we start acknowledging the systemic problems for real, the list seems like it will never end. And we can’t exactly tear down the house and start over.
But we have to start somewhere, and here we are. As a community, be it world or local, we’re not in a particularly easy spot. The people who are aware are surrounded by many who don’t want to know. Those who tell the truth are swimming in an ocean of media that distorts everything and kills even the most important stories in four days. Our information comes from two main sources: a mind control machine called the commercial media, and the Internet, which has somewhat less credibility and far less short-term impact.
But in truth, nobody forces down our eyes. We know what we want to know, we have the choice to maintain awareness, and we are free to decide what we want to decide. We are free to acknowledge what is so. It’s a big job, I know. And it’s hard to take personally. It’s hard to carry the weight of the world. Fortunately, we’re here together. We really are.
Happy Birthday, Gemini!
Choose your friends wisely. They will have much power in your life, for good or for ill; they will impact many people around you, and your relationships will make a profound mark on your life. So it’s up to you to select your influences carefully, and relate to people as if they matter.
What you cannot do, however, is tiptoe around people. If anything, the message of the year is that you need to meet the people closest to you on equal terms, and persist in being yourself. Then, you will be freed from the unfair power that relationships have long seemed to hold over you.
There is the possibility that you will tend not to be honest with yourself about two points — anger and desire. There is another tendency that the first tendency will kind of disappear into the background. Then, it will have a third tendency to show up as an unidentified flying object in your relationships.
The way out of the maze is to start at the beginning, and acknowledge what you feel. Then, the second step is to be clear with the people around you about how you feel. It’s better if you don’t do this in a defensive or confrontational way, which will of course take practice. Just calmly state how you feel, making sure that everyone knows that they are not responsible; you just feel that way. Practice, yes.
But it will be practice well worth the effort, because if you can gradually clear out these inner hitches and begin to surround yourself with people with whom you can be direct, you will begin to experience some unusual clarity in your life. And, in particular, some old, nagging issues will begin to dissolve.
Indeed, with a little awareness, it will be an awesome year for clearing up old subject matter, spiritual matter, and psychological matter. It’s as if at this point you have advanced far along the path of growth of one version of yourself. You have reached a point where you are near a limit of that growth within the way you now think of yourself.
The next step is to go entirely beyond, which means beyond your plans, your ideas and your definitions of yourself. You can’t really plan for that, but you can learn to be honest with yourself, and you can learn how to feel truly comfortable doing so in the presence of others. What follows may seem like a miracle, and if it is, it’s the miracle of true growth.
Aries (March 20-April 19
What you’ve learned the past few days is information that you can put to use your whole life. The trick will be not forgetting what it was. You might want to write it down — or at least pay attention to the one brilliant dream or revelation that comes in the next 24 hours. This is a development that can, if you let it, change the direction of your life, and give you the space to change how you see and experience yourself. In truth, there are many such opportunities in the course of a lifetime — and it’s rare that we take advantage of them. This, however, is one not to be missed.
Taurus (April 19-May 20
A partner or close associate may seem to be changing faster than you can keep up. What’s happened, however, is that they were going through a series of changes they did not quite understand, which all of a sudden came (or will soon come to the surface. The thing is, regardless of what’s happening, you are actually dealing with a person who is negotiable. What they’re not feeling, however, is weak, and certainly not dumb, and certainly like their life lacks impact. What you need to decide is if their new position in life works for you. Without trying too hard, you may be able to make it work.
Gemini (May 20-June 21
Face a direct challenge directly and you may find yourself involved in a confrontation with no way out. Take a more compassionate approach, and let time work for you, and it will probably blow over. The thing is, if you’re provoked, it will be more than tempting to put up a fight, and despite the ego gratification you may get, you’ll probably lose, and it won’t help the person you’re dealing with, either. So, I do suggest you chill, or rather, be warm, use your listening skills, and basically, do nothing. Since you’ve already dedicated yourself to acting for the greatest good for all, what you want is not a question.
Cancer (June 21-July 22
The apparent conflict between what you want and what you think you can have is meaningless. What you want is the more certain of the two; what you think is speculative. Set your beliefs aside and you’ll feel a lot better. Give some new beliefs a chance and you’ll feel better still. But focus on your true goals and objectives in life and it will be very difficult for you to go wrong. The only thing that can really undermine you at this point is if you falter in your confidence. In those scary moments when nothing seems certain, let the feeling pass, and give trust a voice.
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23
You seem to have several solid ideas working to be born, ideas that have the ability to change you and change the world around you. In one sense, people are already under their effect, and you’re the one who is about to go through some kind of transformation and catch up with the people around you. It would help immensely if you left nothing up to guessing and maintained close communication about both your inner and outer developments as they take shape. What is happening is about everyone, not about any one person. The more you take that spirit, the better the results will be.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22
You are suddenly blessed with an unusual ability to relate to others, but on some subconscious level you may fear that you’re going to succumb to the pressure to change more than you really want to. Yet human contact is all about change. We become like one another, or intentionally less so; we take on or consider one another’s ideas; we have experiences together that form us into new people. At this stage, you don’t have to worry about negative influences as much as you do about responding in a passive way and missing the many beautiful opportunities at hand.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23
You are someone who frequently depends on people to take leadership. Lately you may have been concerned about the waffling of a particular person in your life, but soon you will no longer be able to make that particular complaint. Meantime, you’d be wise to take care of the important business and leave the trivial discussions for another time. Quite a few developments are calling for your attention, and the excellent opportunities you have now you will neither have for long, nor will you have them again any time soon. So remember what’s important, and remember what applies to this particular moment alone.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22
You have the power to work mental miracles this week, both in terms of your workload and the quality of what you create. You’ve seen times like this before — when you can run your Scorpio energy full throttle. You may wonder whether or how you can keep it up, or what might stop you — and the answer is that certain situation in a relationship which you must focus on. Whoever you’re involved with is in extra-sensitive mode and is likely to be more aware of you than you are of them. So take a little time out, let them know you’re paying attention, and listen to what’s on their mind. Then, you can go back to working your wonders.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22
Few people would describe you as someone unwilling to take risks, but you’re about to surprise even yourself. I suggest, however, that you not be in such a rush. Taking chances is one thing, and taking advantage of major opportunities is quite another. It’s precisely an opportunity, the right opportunity, that I suggest you combine with your daring quality. Timing is important, and you may need to wait a week or so. For the moment, I suggest you pause and ask exactly what you want out of the situations in your life. Know in advance which choices you would make under the best possible circumstances.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20
Are the relationships in your life complicated, or do you need to sort out how you feel about several people who are in truth very different from one another? You need to keep straight who is who, who wants what, who believes what, and who needs to be treated how. Perhaps it never occurred to you to do this, but in essence, you need to get organized and not cross your wires, or rather, mix your waters. You’re a good compartmentalizer by nature. This is an excellent time to keep your various compartments in order, and make sure you have enough time for everyone.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19
You’re an idea person by nature, but what you come up with this week would stun Edison. Ideas, however, are mere potentials, so I suggest you take the time to develop things one or two stages over the next few weeks — and not delay starting this process. Put what you come up with in writing immediately, and treat it like the precious thing it is. Then, in a series of methodical, successive steps, bring the idea into focus. Consider who and what you would need to develop it, including resources and an approximate timetable. The world, that is, your world, is moving fast right now — and the future is closer than you think.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20
You may think it a little strange to measure your integrity or spiritual advancement by the amount of cash you have in the bank, but I suggest you consider this notion. In any event, the next few weeks will present you with more than a few opportunities for acquiring the money you need to live the life you want. It could come into your life by any means; I am presuming, of course, ones that would make it past the ethics committee. Leave every door to income open, set goals and give yourself permission to exceed them. You deserve success, but more to the point, you deserve to believe in yourself.