I mean no slight to those who gave their lives in the cause of civil rights – Dr. King, Medgar Evers, far too many more for me to mention here – but here is a short list of people that I, personally, wish were still alive to see Barack Obama sworn in today as our 44th president:
- Hunter S. Thompson would have been 72. He abhorred President Nixon’s lawlessness, and he lost his journalistic neutrality while covering the Democratic primary, writing articles that perhaps helped to get George McGovern the Democratic nomination. Thompson viewed Mr. McGovern as a good, idealistic man. When George W. Bush won re-election in 2004, Thompson saw it as the return of Nixon and Nixon’s policies, and it finally broke his spirit; he committed suicide in February 2005. I’d like to think that Thompson would generally approve of Mr. Obama’s election – though he, like me, would criticize Mr. Obama from the left.
- Philip Kindred Dick would have been 80 today. PKD was frightened to his core when he was investigated by the FBI in 1955 because of a short story he wrote regarding nuclear power. Many of PKD’s novels from the 70s onward until his death in 1982 featured Richard Nixon as a villain. PKD feared abuse of government power and was sure we were all trapped in a recurring cycle of imprisonment he called the “Black Iron Prison”. If PKD could have survived the Bush attack on civil liberties and incredible expansion of executive powers (an even more extreme version of the Black Iron Prison’s social control), I think he would have been proud to see President Obama take the oath of office.
- Dr. Stephen Jay Gould would be 67. A fierce fighter for the idea of science and religion being non-overlapping areas of study, and a strong voice of reason and rationality in education and the making of policy, Dr. Gould is one of the few theists on my list of intellectual heroes. I believe that Mr. Bush’s antagonism towards science and uplifting of one specific set of religious myths would have saddened Dr. Gould; hearing President Obama include “non-believers” in his speech today, and hearing him explicitly state that policies must be based on data and science, would have put a smile on Dr. Gould’s face.
How about you?