While in France I picked up a couple of schoolroom books on French history. One was a long list of French kings, from the Merovingians (circa 500 CE) to the present.

I was impressed, firstly, with the originality of the kings’ names back in the Dark Ages before Charlemagne. Dagobert! Clotaire! Sigebert! Gontran! Clodomir! Much more interesting than all those dull kings named Louis and Francois and Henri later on.

But even those later kings managed to pick up peppier names. Louis VI was The Fat; Louis VII, his son, was The Young; Louis VII’s son Philip somehow lucked into the agnomen “Augustus,” which is a lovely thing to be called. Later we have The Handsome, The Quarrelsome, the Well-Beloved.

Let’s try this custom on American presidents, shall we?

Taft the Fat: too easy. Teddy Roosevelt the Brave, or the Bold. Andrew Jackson the Stubborn.

Lincoln is difficult. I think of him as the Peacemaker or the Mediator – but he presided over four years of war. The Emancipator? Maybe.

Carter the Mild.  Kennedy the Young, maybe? Reagan the Old (though some would opt for Reagan the Great. Not me, though.)

Here’s the real poser: George W. Bush.

Not the Stupid. Better the agnomen of Ethelred II: the Unready.

In Old English, it meant something different: “one who would not take advice,” or “the ill-advised.”


Living under an enemy administration

On Election Night 1980, I was in the Graduate Center Bar at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, watching the election returns. The media declared Reagan the winner over Carter fairly early, as I recall. I was standing next to a short fat guy, who muttered: “Now it’s our turn.”



I got the creeps all over as he said it.



As it turned out, I had the creeps for another twelve years.



I have lived under a Republican Presidency for most of my life, as I calculate it: 1957-1960 (three years of Eisenhower, which I barely remember, as I was a toddler); 1969-1976 (seven years of Nixon/Ford, which was intermittently disastrous, but not entirely catastrophic); 1980-1992 (eight years of Ronald Reagan, tragedy/comedy, and four years of G. H. W. Bush, mostly comedy, with the terrifying exception of Operation Desert Storm); and eight years of George W. Bush (pure disaster).



So that’s thirty years of my life under a Republican administration. And I am still alive.



To be sure, Eisenhower was not out to kill or disenfranchise me. Nixon, much as he was a rascal, did not try to do so either. Gerald Ford, God bless him, was not the kind of person to do harm to a little periwinkle like me. G. H. W. Bush was a quasi-jerk, but not as extreme as his son. G. W. Bush was a total jerk, and eight years of him was agony.



Mitt Romney has declared himself against gay marriage, abortion, Affordable Care, etc. He says he wants to “take back America.” From whom? I don’t have it at the moment; I feel, in fact, that I am not so much in control of anything in America. So who’s he taking it back from?



Mitt Romney is the total anti-package. He is what I do not want.



I do not want to find myself on election night in November 2012, with a sweaty little fat man standing next to me, watching Romney being declared winner, and hearing him say: “Now it’s our turn.”



Once is enough.



Kids: you know what you have to do.



Vote, please. Vote your hearts. And make sure your friends and family vote. (And if you’re unlucky enough to have family in a Republican-controlled state, help them get their ID cards.)



Keep climbing.



We can do this.


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