Gary Horton | America Needs a Wayback Machine

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Did you know there’s such a thing as a “Wayback Machine” that can take you back in time? Not quite take you back personally, but it can take your web browser back, kind of like tuning a dial on an old radio.

Like God or a diligent Santa Claus, the web never forgets. And you can go use this Wayback thing, dialing in historic dates for just about any website and the darn thing will search the cloud and moon and stars and return you back to the way things were – way back then.

You can reminisce. Read old news. See old pictures. View websites selling 2004 Mustangs or old Signal news splashes or even view websites from old political campaigns. Indeed, you can relive the good old days, going back to read and see and almost feel the way things used to be – at least since the advent of the web.

Oh, to go back in time! Many over the ages have pined for such powers for in vain. Today, apparently 39 percent in the U.S. want to “Make America Great Again” – as if they could replay the ‘50s and ‘60s and re-live “Happy Days” and “Father Knows Best” and the rest of middle-class white TV – but not on TV, rather here, in real life. Damn the rest of us real-worlders.

I understand the impulse. The internet, world-wide connected, multicultural, interdependent, hypercompetitive, scary multi-colored world has become a giant tidal wave blowing over the tops of tens of millions of Americans slower to adapt or passed by, by the rush of modern advances, wishing for the way things were.

We can dial a website back — but in truth there’s no actually going back in time. The forces of modernity are too strong, even for Americans to press back against the tide of change and hopefully, progress.

Trump may temporarily play the Pennsylvania and Ohio coal town crowd by pushing burning stuff for energy at the expense of renewables, but long-term America might as well choose horses over cars, typewriters over computers, or perhaps even amputations over antibiotics. We may choose to turn progress back on energy, back on the environment, back on worksite safety, back on healthcare – but the rest of the modern industrial world will keep on trucking forward, leaving us increasingly looking like a has-been as we already do in infrastructure, health care, and public well-being.

I know what I want to go back to: I want to go back to the time when the newspaper headlines could go days and even weeks without mentioning the U.S. president, not even once. A time when the news wasn’t always 24/7 about this outrage, that affair, this payoff, that family crooked deal, this breach of diplomatic protocol, that breakage of international agreements, this record string of back-to-back-to-back lying, to that unknown secret deal with past KGB leaders, to just a non-stop, mind-bending tweet-racket of never-ending provocation and degradation of our civility and societal norms.

I want to go back in time to when every front page and lead story wasn’t about an outraged orange man mocking, undercutting, and back-stabbing good while kissing up to evil.

It’s all gotten to be too much. And how our Republican brothers and sisters in national leadership have fully experienced Trump Spinal Jell-O Syndrome is beside me. Tricky Dick was a crook, but a crook compared to Trump? One was a common criminal with a break-in and a cover-up, the other a world-class sociopathic megalomaniac mobster boss in a china shop. When do his handlers, party leaders, or MAGA followers finally, finally say, “Well, OK – he didn’t quite shoot a kid on Times Square but this, this last thing is beyond the pale?”

What on Earth else should it take to say, “No more?”

Ah, I’d like to revisit the Obama days! When each night you could go to bed with that calm confidence that things would be just a little bit better than they were the day before with no particular shocks to be expected in the next day’s headlines, even if the big news was some crazed nut from New York beating a drum that Barack’s birth certificate was fake. Yes, back to the time when this cultured president who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, who graduated Harvard with honors, who did years of community service, and with fitness and vigor could beat kids half his age in hoops – was harassed by Trump as being a life-long scheming Kenyan Muslim bent on establishing Sharia Law and taking away your guns.

Trump aside, those were days of calm sanity.

Outrage then, was that Obama wore a tan suit. Outrage then, was Obama putting his feet on the desk. Outrage then was the made-up, Trumpist storyline about Obama the gun-taker, Obama the Muslim, Obama the communist. And nothing came of any of it. No marital affairs. No hookers. No payoffs. No pee tapes. No ditching our decades- or centuries-old allies. No embracing International Dr. Evils as examples of leadership. Back then, just daily steady progress, perhaps too boring for some. And perhaps some in middle America got frustrated when times changed and their communities didn’t.

Clinging to their guns and religion (instead of tough personal change) didn’t save their economic pain then and it won’t still, despite all the rallies and red hats.

I miss those steady days when, after inheriting the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, Obama worked it and worked it and we got better and the stock market soared and we created jobs by the hundreds of thousands for months and years on end and we built bridges to our allies and new allies and things were… calm.

No longer. Monday, we had an ALL CAPS ATTACK on Iran, threatening a true Armageddon. Tomorrow, who knows what the system-shock will be. One thing is for certain: Trump will be on the front page and the story won’t be about anything great, constructive, calm, or collected. Just more upheaval for what seems the sake of upheaval itself… except for the giant transfer of wealth upward that goes unseen just behind this calamitous sleight of hand we call Trump.

Yes, we need to find a way back from all this.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. His column, “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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