A cloud drifted over my usually sunny disposition this week. Flu, with a touch of delirium.
In my delirium, I’ve become fixated on this object, which sits on my desk. So fixated that I pulled out my Brownie and snapped a photo.
It’s a campaign tchotchke from the 1973 Nixon-Agnew Presidential campaign. In Park Ex, at least in Greek households, we called these things bibelots. Every horizontal surface is littered with bibelots: gondoliers, toreadors, geishas, and always and everywhere, the Parthenon cast in metal, plastic, glass, chocolate. For me, these objects exert a powerful gravitational pull. Like giant suns, they bend the contours of history and memory.
The elephant in the room
We picked up this one at a flea market and it’s made by Francoma Pottery, which we kind of collect, or at least used to.
Richard Nixon is famous for many things, besides the obvious one. Among them is his Southern Strategy, which successfully converted Southern Democrats to the Republican Party. Hammering away at restoring “law and order,” in the wake of civil rights demonstrations in the South, did the trick for a certain kind of voter. That strategy has a very long tail.
Also, Spiro Agnew — the only Greek-American politician to soar as high in U.S. politics. Agnew was from Baltimore, which has a surprisingly large Greek community. (In The Wire, there’s a side story in one of the later seasons about organized criminals on the Baltimore docks; they all speak an unconvincing Greek.)
Agnew was gaffe-prone and corrupt. He was derided mercilessly as a fool, and had a weakness for alliteration, itself a kind of linguistic bibelot. He’s best remembered for accusing journalists of being “nattering nabobs of negativism.” That, too, has a long tail. Agnew was the second Vice President in U.S. history to resign in disgrace, so he couldn’t even be first at being bad.