Nikki Haley’s search for lost times

Nikki Haley’s search for lost times

I try not to use fancy words. OK, stop laughing; it’s true. I did it just now — my fingers itched to type “recondite words” — meaning “obscure.” But I held back. Flaunting your vocabulary is showy and pretentious, and what’s the point of writing something that nobody understands?

But sometimes a word is too perfect, sitting there, waving its little lettery arm in the air, serifs flapping, straining, going “Ooo, ooo, me me.” Eventually, you relent and use it.

Like “revanchism.”

The dictionary defines revanchism as “a policy of seeking to retaliate, especially to recover lost territory.” This can be figurative as well as literal. You want something back you once had, or think you had.

Revanchism is the primary moving force today in the Republican Party, and understanding it explains much. The entire Trump monstrosity grew out of a promise to claw back what was lost. “Make America Great Again” implies it sure ain’t great now, not with all these immigrants and minorities strutting around as if they belong.

To that end, the GOP is trying to grab the steering wheel and put the nation into a skidding U-turn. We hear that every time Ron DeSantis opens his mouth and wages his cruel two-front war on trans kids and Black history — we don’t want to see the people we once didn’t have to see.

That includes even supposed moderates like Nikki Haley, who sent a three-sentence tweet that roiled Twitter like a cinder block tossed into a koi pond:

“Do you remember when you were growing up? Do you remember how simple life was, how easy it felt? It was about faith, family and country. We can have that again, but to do that, we must vote Joe Biden out.”

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The former governor of South Carolina and former U.N. ambassador is 51 years old, born Jan. 20, 1972. Which means I remember every minute of history while Nikki Haley has been alive. She was born the year Nixon was reelected. The year 11 Israeli athletes were massacred at the Olympics in Munich. The year the Vietnam War raged. The year George Wallace was shot campaigning for president. The man Martin Luther King Jr. described as “the most dangerous racist in America” won the Democratic primary in Michigan.

“Easy” is not the word that leaps to mind.

The crisis years of the 1970s might seem hazy to someone who turned 9 on the day Ronald Reagan became president. But he was shot two months later. And Pope John Paul II was shot two months later. The 1980s, scoured by the AIDS epidemic, were many things. But “simple” they were not.

Of course, speaking of Reagan and AIDS, problems can be glibly ignored. Haley is not alone in her squinting nostalgia. She makes the common mistake of confusing your own youthful idyll with an idyllic epoch. My world was a fairly simple place in 1967, when I was 7 years old and occupied myself playing with army men and reading “Where the Wild Things Are.”

So why am I not sending tweets asking: “Remember 1967? When America was all about eating Fig Newtons and drawing monsters while Mrs. Geurst talked about Henry Hudson? We can get back to those simpler times …”

Maybe it’s because I understand there is a world beyond my own personal experience, then and now. That’s what so trips up red-staters. Rather than accept the terrifying notion of other lives, different from their own, they seek to force everyone to be a reflection of themselves. To tolerate diversity is to suggest there are other legitimate modes of life.

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Thus, instead of trying to understand and empathize, they use cosmetic differences to blind themselves to the humanity of others. Maybe that makes them feel better.

What’s the solution? All we can do is try. Push forward while they grasp at the empty air of the past. I remember my father saying, “You know, people were kinder when I was growing up.”

And I replied, “This era of kindness of which you speak, Dad, was it the Great Depression or World War II? Because I just don’t see it.”

Push forward. What’s wrong with that? Is there a word for a philosophy of looking ahead, trying to grasp situations coming at us? “Futurism,” perhaps. “Concern with events or trends of the future.” Not fancy, yet a good word, if seldom heard. Well, now you have.