01 June 2005

watergate and war

With the revelation of ex-FBI agent W. Mark Felt as the infamous and mysterious informant for the 1970s Watergate scandal, the majority of Americans probably are saying, "Huh?" After all, 47% of Americans were born after Watergate and quite a few more were likely too young to remember much of it at all.

As someone born in 1969, I fall into the latter category. Memory being what it is, I do have some vague early recollections of the word "Watergate" echoing repeatedly through newsreports, culminating in a fairly clear image of President Nixon on our small black and white television, resigning from office, his face flickering on the screen of the white plastic box with its channel knobs that clicked.

The snippets of memory I have of Nixon -- who left office when I was only five years old -- are woven together with the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of Saigon, helicopters, people scrambling, and soldiers returning, coming home to a mixture of relief and regret, joy and anger.

Together these form the earliest memories I have of major world news events. Though the memories are shadowy at best, I do wonder how they factor into the formation of my political sensibilities, which combine a certain level of cynicism and suspicion with a principled pragmatism. Funny thing, memory.