SANTA FE, N.M.
The cloudless sky is as blue here as you will ever see, and the thin air is as fresh and sweet this June morning as you can ever hope to breathe.
On the tree-shaded plaza that has survived hundreds of years without losing its historic, pastoral character, residents of this ancient place (well, in terms of North American history) mix with tourists in an easy, friendly tribute to commerce and art. The American Indian women along the side bordered by the Governor’s Palace as they have seemingly forever, peddling the products of their work spread out on blankets. Amazingly, there is no incongruity between them and the expensive shops of art and fashion that line the other three sides of the square.
Under a leafy canopy, a man turning balloons into animal wonders with a twist here and there sees a moppet in the arms of a father and runs over to present her with a miniature pink poodle he has just created. There are no charges here. On one corner across from what once was a Woolworth’s and is now just called a five and dime, a vendor of Southwest cuisine prepares his specialties as the noon hour approaches.
A young man with a Texas A&M sweatshirt and an impressive college ring asks one lounging comfortably on a bench for permission to take his picture and receives a nod and a smile from beneath the straw hat pulled down low over his eyes.
“You look so relaxed,” the young Texan explains, as he thanks the subject and hurries off.
Unfortunately, altitude and age have kept me from spending as much time in this “land of enchantment” as I would like. Over the years I have come here often to escape the increasingly noxious gases that sweep down across the federal landscape from Capitol Hill, where men from other places around the nation “labor” without meaningful result for the rest of us and mostly in their own self-interests. Once here, preservation of position is the object of their efforts, not the solving of problems.
So I sit back comfortably on the bench, a book by my side unopened, sucking in this elixir of renewal uninterested if only for a few moments in the fact that his party’s voters have chosen to expel Rep. Eric Cantor from his lofty position as House majority leader in favor of a politically untried evangelical college economics professor they hope will lead them somewhere different.
They aren’t quite sure where that is, but many seemingly hope it is even harder right and backward.
Cantor, it appears among other things, had spent too much time not dealing with the immediate problems of his constituency and their desires for a better America, expending an inordinate amount of energy on a broader base. Never mind that being in the position of leadership required at least a pass now and then at compromise, a smidgen of statesmanship even though it might be interpreted as capitulating to the hated foe in the White House.
Well, so much for Cantor’s probable elevation to the exalted status of speaker — a position that is third in line of succession for the presidency once the current occupant of that throne, John Boehner, decides he has had enough of doing nothing and heads back to Ohio if he even wants to break precedent and actually return home. As I sat blissfully on the bench I did allow myself to wonder if Boehner cried over Cantor’s loss.
Where all this is going in regard to the future of the Republican Party is anyone’s guess and the constant reinterpretation of the pundits — the “lords of looney tunes,” one of whom I am likely to be considered myself no matter how I try to avoid it.
But all this contemplation, including dwelling on the latest study of the ideological polarization that the Pew Research Center now says pervades even our personal lives and makes it problematic whether we can even deal with one another in a civilized friendly fashion has renewed my headache just as I was acclimating to the lack of oxygen.
This town is no stranger to knock-down politics, but there is relief now and then, and the welcome mat is always out here. Besides, the luscious smells suddenly emanating from the corner vendor are overwhelmingly enticing, and life for the moment is kinder and gentler.
Dan K. Thomasson, a Hoosier native and Franklin College trustee, is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.