The Unfulfilled Deal
As many of
my readers know, I have been writing a book that compares the dysfunction of
which you are all painfully aware, that of a major cancer center in
organizational vertigo, and that observable every night since October 1 on the
evening news, US lawmakers making fools of each other, themselves and all of us
who voted for them.
In a recent
post I talked about the major tenets that I try to develop in the book: moral
relativism, criminal and near criminal behavior by otherwise good people,
groupthink and the unintended consequences of all three. But I have begun to
realize that describing human folly in Houston and Washington could not explain
the rage that was driving my writing both of the book and the blog. What could
might say, well that’s Len. He’s just angry. There is truth to that, but that
didn’t really explain what was driving the book and the blog. After all, I am
very fortunate. I am only a second generation American and have been allowed to
pursue my professional dreams several times over thanks to the marvel that is
the tolerance of MD Anderson to aberrant personalities like mine as long as
they keep producing and contributing (at least that used to be so). I have been
handsomely rewarded for my work in material goods and professional recognition.
I have a beautiful and smart wife who miraculously still loves me and I her. I
have 2 great kids and a brilliant daughter-in-law and even a grand-dog. What
the heck am I so angry about?
figured it out, I believe.
In about 1958,
when I was 10, I looked into the future and made a deal. It was a deal many of
the young people with science proclivities made.
The first part
of the deal was if I studied hard and did well in school, I would some day go
to the moon or at least into weightless space. Walt Disney told me so on the
Mickey Mouse Club.
deal was that if I was a loyal American and learned the Pledge of Allegiance
and Star Spangled Banner with my hand over my heart, I would live in a country
in which the government was a force for good. After all, we had won WWII and
saved the world, so would it be asking too much to have a government capable of
lifting up everyone in peacetime?
In 1958, I
thought this was years away, but on January 20, 1961, I knew it was a real deal
and that it would happen.
had piled up 2 feet in the street on Long Island and it had in Washington as
well. But it was Inauguration Day for
the first man ever elected President who was born in the 20th
century, so his streets were cleaned while mine were snow-locked dictating a school snow day off. That
day, in that famous speech, he called my generation to a life of service. To me
that meant he would make the government run and I would do my schoolwork,
become a doctor and vacation on the moon.
lasted until November 22, 1963.
day, the deal began to fade. It really had nothing to do with President Kennedy
other than his embodying my dream and saying he would make it a reality.
Instead, the news events of my life beyond the moon landing, have not furthered
my dream or the deal at all. Watergate, Iran Contra, Monica, 9/11, Iraq and now
we are going to forfeit on our financial obligations while elected members of
the legislature are telling us it wouldn’t be so bad to have the full faith and
credit of the longest lived democracy in the history of the world compromised.
believe that is why I am so angry. I did my part. I studied and passed all the
tests and collected the gold stars. Where’s the moon? Where’s the good
I was 15
when JFK was killed. I was young, naïve and foolish. But for the past 50 years
I have seen my lifetime dream and the long ago deal erode to the point that a
film about a space disaster no where near the moon is topping the box office
and one about a daring rescue at sea is one of the rare events in popular
culture that give us a chance to cheer our country–together. And the
government? You have got to be kidding.
I hope some
day soon you will be able to read my book. I just finished the second complete
draft paring down 500 pages to 300, but there is more work to be done to make
it accessible and fun—and a little less whiny.
let me just say that I am still waiting for the deal to be fulfilled. I may be
waiting a very long time—if I am lucky.
I think the
only good thing to come out of the broken deal and the resultant anger was the
music of the 1960s. Then came Woodstock and Altamont, and Jimi and Janis died, James
Taylor got big, the Beatles broke up and by some miracle the Stones didn’t.