September 8, 2016. On this date Bernie Sanders turns 75.
So do I.
Okay, Bernie, where do we go from here?
I’m not sure about you, but I never thought I’d get past 10.
Back in 1950, when you and I were 9, we fourth graders played “duck and cover” at least once a month, diving under school desks as sirens wailed, covering our eyes from that ever anticipated, permanently-blinding flash of brilliant irradiated light accompanied by a searing wave of flesh-scorching heat heralding the dreaded detonation of an enemy nuclear bomb.
Only five years had passed since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were blasted to kingdom come in the only two atomic explosions ever unleashed against our species, fate having chosen the Japanese people for this dubious distinction.
Doctor J. Robert Oppenheimer of UC Berkeley headed our government’s top secret “Manhattan Project,” a massive effort dedicated to designing an ultimate war weapon. The idea was to split atoms and unleash unimaginable energy generating thermonuclear heat of 150 million degrees Fahrenheit, five times that of the sun’s fiery core. Witnessing the first successful test of his new “super bomb” on July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert, Dr. Oppenheimer watched in awestruck terror, then gasped these words from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Oppenheimer felt enormous personal responsibility for bringing such exotic theoretical physics to deadly practical fruition. As Chairman of the General Advisory Committee of a newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission, he lobbied after the war for international control of nuclear power to avert dangerous proliferation and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. For these “Un-American” sentiments, he was removed as Committee Chairman, suffered complete revocation of security clearances, and was stripped of any meaningful political influence for the rest of his public life.
These were the “Joe McCarthy years,” when the wild ravings of a drunken Wisconsin Senator took precedence over common sense and secured safety. There were “Commies” in the State Department, “Reds” way across town and “Pinkos” right up your block. Joe said he had solid names. He had only shameful notions. Edward R. Murrow nailed McCarthy coast to coast on CBS. Murrow’s closing words on the program come down to us through the years, perhaps particularly resonant today in the light of the seemingly inexplicable Trump phenomenon:
“The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it - and rather successfully. Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’”
On Dec. 2, 1954, the Senate voted to censure Senator McCarthy by a vote of 67–22, making him one of few senators ever to be disciplined in this fashion. McCarthy died of alcoholism on May 2, 1957, at the age of 48.
So here we are, Bernie, 75.
As your “birth brother,” you’ve made me proud.
You’ve awakened, enlightened and energized a whole new generation of dedicated young Americans, driven not by false memories of imagined yesterdays, but by the promising possibility of truer tomorrows.
Being a hero of our youth at 75 is no small achievement, Bernie.
I’m a hero to my cat, but only after a half can of “Puss ‘n Boots” and a healthy helping of Temptations “Savory Salmon” Classic Kitty Treats.
For purposes of full honest disclosure, Bernie, I should herein confess that I am actually a bit younger than you, having been delivered seven weeks prematurely by cesarean section. I spent my first two months outside the womb enclosed within the warm, comforting confines of a climate controlled hospital incubator, thus not having been born so much as hatched. Chirp. Chirp.
Thank you for resisting what must have been a powerful urge to launch a third party bid this election cycle despite enormous pressure to do so from highly inspired, hard fighting, true believing supporters. Yielding to this temptation might have split the Democratic Party in half and all but assured the election of Donald J. Trump.
You have saved us from collective catastrophe, international condemnation and universal scorn. And made more unlikely a sudden, blinding flash of brilliant white light.