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Barbara's Column
Thursday, January 7, 1999

Barbara Anderson's column appeared in the Salem Evening News on January 6, 1999, with a photo of Jesse Ventura at his inauguration as Minnesota's 38th governor.

Though her biweekly column is no longer carried in the (Quincy) Patriot Ledger, it appears regularly in the Salem Evening News and elsewhere.

Do Not Fear, for Zeus is Here
By Barbara Anderson

Just when the world really needs a fresh start, along comes a new year.

Just when technology seems to have replaced authentic living, along comes Y2K, to remind us not to put false gods before us.

Just as the image of politics and politicians sinks to the bottom of the swamp, Minnesota voters show that a truthful, genuine person can still win an election.

In ancient Greek theatre, a crane-like "deus ex machina" deposited a god on stage when mankind needed rescuing. As special effects go, this device was fairly primitive, but the drama was impressive, and still is.

Just when we begin to wonder if music and dance have anywhere to go from punk, funk, rap and stomp, along come Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman with new young voices for opera and romance, and Michael Flatley with a brand new vision to excite old and young alike.

Just when we are about to starve because studies have shown that everything is bad for us, along comes a study which informs us that chocolate increases longevity. Meanwhile, medical breakthrough extends the lives of many AIDS patients and improves the lives of elderly people with bad hearts and bad hips.

Just when we've reached the conclusion there is nothing new under the sun, someone invents a Furby, makes a movie about a Southie math genius or Shakespeare in love, thinks to put spinach on pizza. Old things like velvet gowns and Volkswagens are freshened and revived. Creepy things like cloned calves, televised euthanasia, and Bill Clinton's sex life give us a reason to talk about morality again -- before it's too late.

Always, historically, before it's too late, something or someone comes along.

Hitler his way to a new world order? Churchill appears on the scene to put him down. Japan refusing to surrender? Truman is not afraid to use a new weapon developed by Fermi and other scientists who came along just in time.

National malaise? Ronald Reagan rides into the White House to lift us up. Property taxes driving people from their homes? California's Howard Jarvis becomes the father of the Tax Revolt. Inflation in double-digits? Alan Greenspan arrives at the Federal Reserve. National debt approaching the point of no return? Ross Perot becomes a national figure just in time to make us comprehend it and encourage deficit reduction.

At the state level, the Pioneer Institute is formed by entrepreneur Lovett Peters to seek ideas for "better government," just as Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci get elected with a mandate to try them. Young Charlie Baker goes from Pioneer to state government just in time to get Medicaid costs under control, then takes his budget talents to Administration and Finance.

Just as the welfare system reaches critical mass in destruction of lives, Democrats and Republicans come together in support of reform. Just as public education's failure is about to be outed, someone invents the concept of charter schools, and other reformers propose tests and vouchers.

Just when it looks as if lying and cheating have become accepted ways to advance in society, a U.S. president shows us how much trouble they can still cause.

New Year's prediction: new Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura will be the best thing to happen to U.S. politics since the Pledge of Allegiance. As you read this, politicians all over the country are rethinking their public personas, considering the possibility that "telling it like it is" may be coming back into style, wondering if they can fake authenticity. John Kerry, noting Ventura's refusal to talk about his Vietnam experience, may stop showing his home war movies of himself in action. Al Gore may take lessons in talking respectfully instead of condescendingly to the people. Marty Meehan may shave his head.

Some aspiring young politicians will miss the point, and decide to take up professional wrestling, or ride with a Harley motorcycle club before they run for office, just like Jesse. But other young people, who thought that just being themselves would disqualify them from the phony, consultant-run world of electoral happening, might reconsider and try candor as a campaign theme -- just like Jesse.

Optimism shouldn't be an excuse for overconfidence: our American dream is still teetering on the edge of self-destruction, led to the brink by a decade of politics-as-usual, political correctness, general moral decline, and the public apathy these things reflect and inspire.

But just when the world needs it, along comes the baby New Year, the last child of the '90s. Let's welcome it with the optimism and determination that it needs to take us bravely forward to whatever Y2K will bring.

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