Ford Gives Us Another Day Off

January 02, 2007 by susan

by susan
We are basking in the warm Minnesota sun -- the New Year's eve snow still clumped on tree limbs but dripping steadily from the eaves, and it won't be long until we're back to a soggy brown winterscape. We usually get back to "normal" on January 2, resuming our humdrum lives with inflated good intentions that will melt away as quickly as this snow.
But thanks to Gerald Ford, this year is different. He didn't accomplish much as our so-called "only" unelected president, other than offer a sort of antidote to the demented paranoia of Richard Nixon's final days -- a congenial bumbler, with malice toward none. Transcripts of Nixon's meetings with advisors are filled with expletives and slurs, both personal and racial, but it's hard to imagine Gerald Ford working up to anything much stronger than a "gosh darn."
He showed up, he didn't take on very much, he pardoned Nixon, he ran for re-election and he lost. He faded into one of the most obscure post-presidencies in memory. But thanks to him, the holiday has been extended by one more day.

Americans owe a big thanks to Betty Ford, however, not only for being open about her breast cancer when such a thing was unheard of, but for being equally open about her addiction to pain killers and alcohol, leading to her opening the fabled Betty Ford rehab center.
Come to think of it, we have her to thank for this extra holiday, as she certainly had more to do with the planning than the mister. And BTW, who does plan these things? It's hard enough to pull a family together for a memorial service, so who puts all these arrangements together? Why, it's a whole slew of people, from the president on down. Glad you asked.
So thanks, everyone. Thanks Gerry for being a decent sort of guy, (though I wish you'd done more than whisper your support of equal rights for gays and your opposition to the war in Iraq) and thanks Betty for your honesty in matters of health and human frailty, and thanks chief of protocal for this extra day without the mail, a prolonging of limbo before the new year begins in earnest.

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Comments

Deborah (not verified) | January 3, 2007 - 11:05pm

Though I have been appreciative--and fascinated--by the retrospective eulogies for Ford, it is his wife that I feel changed our national social conscience and history. Alcoholism, breast cancer, divorce. A modern dancer and a woman who loved living. I adored her. I think more in the sense that he brought her as a gift to the country and the White House, rather than the other way around.

dmk

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Anonymous (not verified) | January 4, 2007 - 1:42pm

As a native midwesterner who is also a 30+yr resident of the east coast, I'm often confused by where the concept of "Mid-Western Values" ("hard-work", "honesty", "integrity", "decency" etc.) comes from.
No room for lazy, dishonest, sleezy people out on those vast plains of the Heartland?
Are MWV's a self-applied second prize to assuage unfounded underdog feelings of not being as savvy or sophistocated or as "with it" as the compatriots on the coasts? Attributed to people who are boring, but hey, benign as hell? Is it a country mouse/city mouse thing?
How would Jerry F. have fared if he'd hailed from, say, Brooklyn, NY?
And how bout Wesley Autrey? Where'd he get that heroic decency anyhow? Maybe he's a native Mid-Westerner?
Really, I am sort of curious.

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soolen (not verified) | January 4, 2007 - 11:57pm

Tons of sleazy people out on the Plains. While farming is romanticized, read A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley, for another look. But I think it's true that kids growing up on a farm have to work their butts off, and no matter how fooked up it is, they learn to chip in at a very young age. And because there are so many farms out here, vs. the coasts, and because so many farm kids make a dash for the closest city once they're old enough to go, we equate their work ethic with Midwestern Values.
Now, I don't recall mentioning MWValues in the post on Gerald Ford. I didn't even mean it to be terribly complimentary about him. I said he didn't do much. Are you responding to the media's blathering about him and his MWValues? Fair enough. I don't know where that comes from either. Remember that creepy old book called Wisconsin Death Trip, with photos of mutilated corpses and so on from rural Wisconsin in the first half of the 20th century? And let's not forget Ed Gein.
I do think MWV's are a sop to our self-perceived second tier, or third, status. We might have boring topography and shitty weather, and it's a day's drive to get -- anywhere, but by gum, we have our values.
As for Wesley Autrey (that his name?) well, he's about as rare as they come. Can't imagine anyone doing that, and he deserves every bit of praise and fame he's getting.
I like where you're going though, pointing out that Ford is being praised for his "values", which are somehow attached to his being from the midwest (I watched nothing of his services, so I don't know what was said) and then Mr. Autrey throws himself in front of a speeding train to save another guy, and where'd he get those values? Not outta the midwest, I agree. So another stereotype bites the dust. Glad you wrote, got me to thinking. As always.

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