June 16, 2012

I wrote a brief comment (in response to a PBS NewHour segment with Michael Gerson, Mark Shields, and Judy Woodruff) about my recollection of Watergate which I thought I might explain in greater detail here.

I have a strong memory of not being sure I was understanding correctly what I was hearing in the news at the time.  I was a teenager.  I was trying to understand the grown-ups’ world.  I was navigating multiple smaller environments, the culture at home, the culture in another home, the culture in my town, the culture where I went to sleep-away camp, among others.  I was used to trying to keep an open mind about things not making any sense to me from one context to the next; in fact, I used to think about how important the time spent on transportation between my town and visiting friends from camp was, because it allowed me to change to that other worldview less abruptly.  All this meant I was used to feeling like I didn’t quite understand.

Quite simply, my first reaction to hearing about Watergate was to wonder whether those grown-ups were speaking metaphorically or in some kind of code — that would have made more sense to me than taking what was being said literally.  (While this could be seen as a form of denial, I think it was more like incredulity, because as someone trying to understand the grown-up world, I had, I think, less of an emotional stake in its being a particular way.)  I think I tried following the story both ways simultaneously for a while.  As people went to jail, it became pretty clear which version was appropriate, but I’m not sure I ever really got my mind around what those grown-ups did, what the underlying story was, why it had to be reported out through those (melo)dramatic means, why special prosecutors got fired for doing their jobs, etc.  Of course, my coming of age was coinciding with some sort of coming of age of the country.  All things considered, it was confusing for me.

I will say I didn’t spend too much time on trying to understand Watergate.  It was like how I tried to figure out what a “troop” was when Walter Cronkite announced the casualties from the Vietnam War, I think it was weekly, when I was even younger; was a troop an individual or a group?  I basically figured in time I would get it and in the meantime if I kept my mind open, I would be ready to use the new understanding to interpret the old information.  The grown-up world was a strange place.


2 Responses to “Watergate”

  1. Richard Says:

    I too thought a troop was a group. It is easier to explain and justify war when one substitutes ”troop” for ”person” or ”collatoral damage” for ”innocent people”

    • Diana Moses Says:

      I get uneasy over the use of the word “products” in financial contexts for kinds of investment or account or loan arrangements — something is going on there, too …

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