Sam Uretsky

Yesterday’s Party

This is the year that everything changes. For years, Patek Philippe has been advertising wristwatches that cost as much as an automobile, in some cases a luxury automobile, and kept time almost as well as a $20 quartz wristwatch, with the slogan “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” It was a brilliant concept that appealed to the desire for immortality. It’s not practical to build a pyramid, or endow a church where three priests pray for your soul at every mass, but you can still get a wristwatch ($12,000 and up) that will give you a place in eternity. This is the year that ends. According to the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014, “They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.” Incoming freshmen don’t wear wristwatches – if they want to know the time they check their cell phones.

This is also the year that Amazon released the new improved Kindle e-book reader at $139, which means that dedicated e-readers will probably slip below $100 during the Christmas shopping season. It was also the first year of the iPad, which might supplant the dedicated e-book reader in a few years. It will take time before electronic readers can really replace books — there’s a lot of technical stuff to be done first — but the future is in sight.

It is also the year that the Republican Party went into an irrevocable decline. There’s the frightening possibility that, like Samson in the Philistine temple, they want to take the rest of us down with them, but the party that once offered a big tent has given in to temptation for a quick win, and they may never recover. On Aug. 30, 2010, the New York Times carried a report headlined “Orange County Is No Longer Nixon Country.” Orange County, 3.1 million population, is leaning to the left, and this year the percentage of registered Republicans has dropped to a 70-year low. The change has less to do with political philosophy than changes in demographics. The population is increasingly ethnically diverse at a time when the Republicans seem to be rejecting diversity, and is basing its campaign on xenophobia.

The effects of the Arizona laws intended to reduce illegal immigration, while possibly effective in dealing with the immediate problem, has rightfully antagonized people of Hispanic descent nationally. Rufus Glasper, chancellor of Phoenix-area Maricopa Community Colleges, has been quoted as saying, “Just as importantly, the many Latino citizens and lawful immigrants who attend college now face the offensive and discriminatory prospect of incessant demands to show their documents.” In New York, Rick Lazio, running for governor on the Republican line, seems to be basing his entire campaign on his opposition to the proposed Park 51 community center near the site of the World Trade Center attack. One of the justifications for building Park 51 is that the two mosques already in the area are too small to meet the needs of the current number of worshipers. Based on the 2010 census, over 48% of the children under the age of 5 are members of racial minorities. In contrast, fewer than 19% of people over the age of 65 are members of racial minorities.

Beyond racial minorities, Republicans have opposed gay rights, and their focus on Christian beliefs and breaking down the wall between church and state is antagonistic to Jews as well as members of other faiths. Sarah Palin’s concept of a real America, which excludes city dwellers, may play well, but the areas of fastest population growth in the past decade have been suburban regions (+13%, urban +10%, rural +3%) which, if not as progressive as the major urban centers, tend to reject rigid right-wing ideology. In Colorado, Dan Maes, a Republican gubernatorial candidate is warning that efforts to encourage bike riding in Denver threaten to turn the city into a United Nations community. The Denver Post quoted Maes as saying “This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms.”

There will still be wristwatches and books 20 years from now, just as there are still horses and pocket watches. There will still be a Republican Party, but if they continue to strip away more and more layers of American culture they’ll become an artifact of the past that they can’t bring themselves to leave.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2010

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