Tuesday, February 14, 2012

American Past: Going, Going...

An encounter with an antiques appraiser brings an epiphany about what may be happening to us all now.

Downsizing life for very old age has brought not only inevitable scaling back of inner expectations but the physical world that can no longer be managed with effortless ease.

Parting piece by piece with what gave comfort over a lifetime is saddening, but there was anticipation of passing on and even profiting from their increased value with age, just as earlier generations had when I sought them out at auctions and from antique dealers—-handing forward the sensual satisfaction of being surrounded by a burnished past of hand-crafted desks, tables, cupboards, chests, linen presses of fine pine, cherry, tiger maple and oriental rugs, paintings and prints—-the reassurance of being part of something solid and lasting.

It came as a shock to find a sudden discontinuity in that process, although the precipitous drop in recent years in the market price of traditional American ideas, beliefs and values should have prepared me.

The patina of age has plummeted in worth even more than that of houses furnished with it. “Do you have any silver or gold?” my would-be auctioneer wanted to know.

Ironically, for all the Tea Party longing for the past, the attempt to wrench 21st century life back into that era has damaged the value of both.

Looking around now, how will future generations appraise a damaged Romney, a retooled Santorum, a refinished Gingrich?

Or will they all wind up on history’s pile of bargain ephemera?

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