If you live in the Deep South like I do—in a place that’s been described as the “buckle” of the Bible Belt– adding the descriptors “long” and “hot” to summer is superfluous. Every summer is long and hot. The only question is how rainy it’ll be. If the summer’s dry, the mercury will soar well past a hundred a good many days, and will ceaselessly linger in the upper nineties until at least mid-September. If the summer’s wet, the temps will moderate some, but that’ll be more than made up for in the blanket of sweltering humidity that will accompany the rains.
I have no inkling of my ancestry beyond my mother’s mother (my mother never knew her biological father and neither do I know mine, and of the four children born to my three sisters, only one of them knows their daddy, proving that evil is as durable and heritable as it is banal), but my red hair and blue eyes tell me that my kin probably hailed from a much cooler clime, perhaps Ireland or Scotland or even Denmark or the Netherlands. It’s hard to imagine how tough life must have been in the land of my heritage, wherever it was, for my ancestors to have fled and decided that enduring the God-forsaken hell that is a Southern summer was preferable to the place from whence they came. Along about the middle of July each year, I long to return to the land of my genetic heritage, imagining it is a land of pastoral beauty cooled by a brisk, ocean breeze; a place where the mercury rarely exceeds eighty degrees, and where the jack-booted, storm-trooper sun of the South has raised its heel from my neck and transformed itself into a demure maiden, peaking through the clouds to succor life, instead of oppressing it. It’s a nice fantasy that helps me through another sweltering day, when sweltering days are all that can be remembered, and all that can be hoped for.
But it’s not only the weather that will make this a miserable summer. In the US, though the election is not until November, and the party conventions are still weeks away, the presidential matchup has already been resolved. It is a two-horse affair, and the only substantive difference between the horses is their color. They both are impressively pedigreed, carrying around politically-desirable (among varying sectors) qualifications and attributes, personal and professional; they both have the tall, lean bone structure so favored by the marquee lights; they both are energetic racers, always eager to gallop at full speed to realize their ambitions. We will get nearly a half-year of a campaign, in this age of instantaneous communications that immediately amplifies every whisper to megaphone proportions, in a race where it would be difficult, except by skin tone, to tell the candidates apart.
It will seem there is nothing about either of the candidates that haven’t been thoroughly scrutinized and analyzed by the time the first cool breeze of early autumn arrives to sweep away the stultifying summer air. But sadly enough, the inquiry will mainly run to insubstantial character quirks and irrelevant utterances and associations and positions of each candidate on diversionary issues, such as abortion and gay marriage and female combatants and religion. There will be much talk of America’s future, but not any talk of how to resolve its most pressing, immediate issues such that America might have a meaningful future. There will be no real discussion about what must be done to put America on a path to solvency, or how to manage America’s imperial presence on the international stage, or how to renew the American promise of constitutionally-protected individual liberties.
There will be no discussion of these things because the two candidates are afraid that telling the truth would impair their prospects for election. Americans don’t want to hear that their country is going broke; that either austerity or insolvency awaits. They don’t want to contemplate how little equity remains in the house of freedom they inherited, having happily mortgaged their patrimony for the illusion of sustenance offered by a nanny state whose milk is running dry. They don’t want to hear that the Constitution, once it has been shredded to bits in order to engage international foes that pose no existential threat to the country, and only a miniscule threat to them personally, can’t be resurrected; that freedoms once lost are hardly ever regained, except through the same force they are arrogating to the very government that pretends to guarantee them.
The summer will see another of the more curious spectacles of the age—an Olympic games devoted to athletic feats in the service and glory of the various nations across the globe. Olympic athletes will compete, as has more or less been the case since the modern version of the games was instituted in the late nineteenth century at a time of rising nationalistic fervor, to prove the superiority of their nation through the vehicle of athletic prowess. Through the years, the games have been used to prove everything from a nation’s racial superiority (Berlin games, 1936), to the superiority of its social organization (roughly all of the games held during the Cold War). In no instance has any definitive proof been rendered. Jesse Owens, a black American, won gold in Berlin, much to Hitler’s chagrin. All the Cold War games proved about social organization—capitalist or communist—is that any old organization is perfectly capable of producing competitive athletes, if producing competitive Olympian athletes is the aim of the organization. To add to the Olympic drollery, this year’s games will be held in London, in the jubilee year of the queen’s reign. How comical. A festival for proving national superiority that never has successfully done so (thankfully), being held in a place celebrating a monarch’s superficial reign over a withered-to-nothing empire. What a poignant example of mankind’s folly.
The simmering kettle of European economic fish is apt to boil over this summer, which likely means the end of the beginning to the ultimate disintegration of the Euro. The Euro pot has been so ceaselessly watched that no one should be surprised when it finally boils, but financial markets are child-like, always credulous, even when the predictable and inevitable comes to pass, and once the first country (probably Greece) exits the Euro, the financial crisis will set upon us anew. Like the first time, the crisis will be complicated by the prospects of an American presidential election, which will seem to infuse even more unpredictability into an already uncertain mess. But like the last time, nothing much will be different, regardless of which politician pulls ahead. Ben Bernanke will again be the de facto leader of the developed world, and so the same strategy that didn’t work the first time—maniacal money printing—will be followed this time around.
The only saving grace to summer is that autumn, and football season, follows on its heels. But pro football has become a game of alley-oop basketball, with quarterbacks serenely standing in the pocket, protected on all sides, not by hulking offensive linemen, but by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s rule book, launching bombs downfield for receivers, who enjoy similar rules-book beneficence, to run under on their way to another dance in the endzone. Goodell might consider just doing away with defenders altogether, given how messy, and boring, things can get when defenders are actually allowed to defend.
On a personal level, if something dramatically bad doesn’t happen between now and then with his health, my first child (the leukemia patient) will begin college at Auburn University late this summer, and my second, and last, child (both of whom are aware of the identity of their biological father, which, unless my wife is really good at subterfuge, was me) will get her driver’s license. My day-to-day parenting responsibilities, that, since my son has gotten well, mainly resolve to driving my daughter around, will be over. All that my children will then seek from me is money. And don’t any of you parents reading this kid yourselves. Money is all your kids care about you, too, or is, if you have raised them steeped in this materialistic American culture. So, if I wish for my kids to continue to be interested in me (and my wife for that matter, but that’s a different story), I must start grinding out the dough. Thing is, I’m not really sure whether I much care if they remain interested in me. I’ve never bought into the idea that the purpose of raising children is to have someone care for you in old age. I don’t want to ever need someone to care for me in old age. If I need that sort of care, I would prefer to be dead. Maybe if I’m mean enough to my children in the interim, they will take me out at the first sign of weakness.
The summer of 2012 might be interesting; it might be, considering that it’s purportedly the last one ‘til the world ends, tumultuous. The only thing of which I’m fairly certain is that it will be long and hot, just like all the rest.