Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Politics and the heavy speculators

We have arrived at that dangerous lull when the presidential campaign is between things. Primaries are over. Conventions are yet to come. Who will fill the dead air?

Now is the time when the psychohistorian gets heard across the land, speculating -- and then speculating some more.

About these ads

In case anybody has forgotten, it was a psychohistorian who pretty totally explained Jimmy Carter, the man and his policies, thus. The lad is still recovering from the fact Miss Lillian read to herself at the dinner table instead of chatting with her children.

If you hear yourself saying, "No wonder the poor little fellow took so long to come out of the Rose Garden," you're beginning to think like a psychohistorian.

Even though one theory explains everything, the psychohistorian always has at least two theories ready. If a "distancing" mother doesn't make just everything fall into place, the same psychohistorian will try his "born again" notion on you. Mr. Carter, he speculates, has a compelling urge to push us into a war because -- as this psychohistorian rather strangely tells it -- war is history's way of being born again.

In the interests of peace, should we, therefore, vote for Ronald Reagan? Well, we don't really know enough about his mother yet. But depend upon the psychohistorian. By convention time at the latest, we're going to find out.

The news is not likely to be good. It seldom is. Readers of psychohistory will recall that Henry Kissinger was an even more insecure child than Jimmy Carter -- "rejection and ambivalence" from his mother, "disinterest" from his father, to quote one psychohistorian. Then there were all those tough little Brooklyn kids who left Henry with a permanent "anxiety about being left out and disliked."

According to psychohistory, Richard Nixon's protesting adoration of his mother was only his first cover-up, leading him to a veritable career of "warding off a great deal of repressed hostility through typical defense mechanisms, chiefly overcontrol of himself and others."

John Kennedy had a father-problem, and you really wouldn't want to know what Lyndon Johnson had, if psychohistorians are to be believed.

About these ads

Who shall we elect in November then? By the time the psychohistorians get through, they make it seem that you become a candidate in the first place because Mommy didn't hug you and Daddy was never there.

Would the Iranian rescue operation have gone smoothly if only Miss Lillian had looked up from her book? Would the bombing of Cambodia have been avoided if only some kid on a Brooklyn sandlot had chosen Henry for his team?

Any overextended explanation finally explains nothing. Nobody would deny that private feelings and public lives have a connection. But the connection must be made delicately, and not as if one were trying to jam cause and effect together like two wrong pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Psychohistorians went so far in their speculations during the last election that the American Psychiatric Association advised its members not to make public analysis of presidents or others in high office.

Today's more sophisticated psychohistorians prefer to drop that blatant name, calling their work "biography in depth." Most historians are still just plain historians, but, as a couple of historians wrote in the New York Times last week , just plain history doesn't cut it with a generation teethed on Alvin "Future Shock" Toffler. So one invents something called psychohistory or "applied history" -- the very latest twist -- and becomes relevant. No sense letting the economists have all the fun, plus the free trips to Washington.

Psychohistorians have not restricted themselves to political leaders. Freud wrote psychohistory about Leonardo da Vinci. Martin Luther has not escaped. Should psychohistorians themselves be free from the scrutiny of psychohistory?

What we've heard is that the chairmen of history departments can behave very ambivalently toward psychohistorians. And deans, rather than converse with them , have been known to read Boswell's "The Life of Samuel Johnson" at the faculty club dinner table. Now doesn't that explain something?

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.