It’s been said that thoughts have shapes, and can sometimes be seen.
They’re supposed to resemble the shape of a photographed pendulum.
An Egyptian man named Ibn Yunus discovered the action of the pendulum a thousand years ago, and also it’s use in measuring the passage of time.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote the story of The Pit and the Pendulum, in which a man was tied down and a huge razor sharp pendulum set swinging over him. Our character in the story escapes. When I read this as a child, it bothered me. Something in the story never quite rang true dramatically.
I realized just today that the reason the story disturbed me is that he shouldn’t have escaped. No one escapes the pendulum of life.
Gerald Ford’s memorial service was held on television today, with lots of wealthy white politicos standing around looking nervous, with a token black preacher offering up the prayer, in a superbly modulated preachers voice.
The thing that stood out in all the eulogistic euphemisms was the constancy with which it was said, “He was an honest man”, always spoken in somewhat awestruck tones. They seemed nervous that perhaps the Last Honest Man among them had died.
One of the speakers was a lifelong bitter enemy of President Ford. He was the most effusive and flowery in his eulogy.
Gerald Ford was ninety three, and his life was done. The pendulum had swung.
Gerald Ford was the last Republican President to unequivocally support equal rights for gays. In March of 2002, at 89 years of age, he joined the advisory board of a gay-straight alliance advocating support for gay issues within the Republican Party.
It was a closeted gay man who saved Ford’s life in 1975, when “Billy” Sipple pushed away the gun that Sara Jane Moore had pointed squarely at his chest. It worked out much better for Ford than for Sipple, who was outed by Harvey Milk, who possibly saw a chance to garner publicity from the episode.
Perhaps President Ford realized that if a gay man was capable of saving his life, maybe he deserved the right to live fully and freely as well.
In America’s hysterical social and political life, the pendulum has swung to the opposite side of the spectrum. Great hue and cry is raised about “saving” marriage for the heterosexuals, while Foley delays the vote to text message his boyfriend, saying, “I miss you”. Full civil rights are reserved for the favored few.
But there’s one important thing about a pendulum: To the degree it swings in one direction, it rebounds equally in the other direction. The signs are that the swing to the right is losing its popular support, and that the mind of the public is returning to the center.
Hopefully one day we’ll have dealt with this issue, and can forego the endless swings of the pendulum.