Belfast Telegraph

Nuala McKeever: Waistcoats and the Tea Party... do we never learn?

You would think that with age would come wisdom. It seems only fair that older age would bring something, to make up for the loss of youthful energy, optimism and a firm jawline.

“Surely,” you say to yourself, “by the time I’m 40 or 50 or 60 or 70, I’ll have a large comforting cushion of understanding and insight to rest back on”.

A worldly-wise beanbag, stuffed with all the valuable lessons I’ve learned over the years, all those “well, I’ll certainly never make that mistake again” declarations.

Sadly, two events this week have led me to conclude that the cushion we’re reclining on is not plumped up with wisdom, but with its opposite — stupidity.

To paraphrase Einstein, slightly, if we accept that the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, then truly we are living in the age of stupid.

Of the two moments that drove this home to me, one occurred while watching a programme about the Tea Party and the other while hoking in a box in the attic and finding a waistcoat I hadn’t seen in over 20 years.

You know that moment, when you come across an item of clothing that you’d completely forgotton about?

In a sudden back-to-the-future flash you are transported to a time in your past when you used to wear it. Suddenly for me, it was the late 1980’s again. I saw myself wearing this waistcoat as I headed into work in the BBC for my first job.

But the really weird sensation was not the find or the memory but rather the realisation that the waistcoat was not some old-fashioned ridiculous garment that made me howl with an “Oh my God — I can’t believe I ever wore this”.

The fact is, it is actually smack bang right up to date again. I tried it on with a long grandad shirt and a pair of leggings and lo and behold I was straddling three decades and absolutely “on trend” in each.

It was a dizzying moment.

The vertigo worsened when I watched a report on the Tea Party in America on the eve of the mid-term elections.

Never mind the ultra-rightwing extremists, what made me wobble were the thousands of americans who voted Democrat last time, now switching sides after two years of Obama.

The very people who voted for Obama because they had become disillusioned with Bush, now disillusioned with Barack.

The waistcoat was in, then out and now it’s in again.

One side in politics gets in, then out, then in again.

And so it goes. A tight, courtly dance, going nowhere. The very garment or policy we tired of 10 years ago, suddenly, we have forgotton how useless it was and now we love it all over again.

Seeing rows of Americans standing with their hands on their hearts pledging allegiance to restoring honour, made me want to pull my hair out.

All those people who lost their jobs because George Bush’s government failed to regulate financial institutions, blaming the Democrats for their woes.

If Bush had been so great he would have sorted it out. Obama won’t have enough magic dust to make it alright either.

So long as we chase change and expect our politicians or clothes to shoulder responsibility for making us happy, we will be stuck in this dance long after the music’s stopped playing.

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