Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Big Wink

The arrival of the mail is important to me these days, since I’m paid by checks that arrive that way. Usually the mailman shows up late in the morning, but occasionally – often after a holiday – he’s a little later. That’s what I thought today, until about dark. But mail delivery is never that late.

Then I realized that the federal day of mourning probably also extended to the USPS, meaning that it would make no deliveries. I checked, and sure enough it was a postal day off, a curious way to honor the recently deceased Gerald Ford, but there you have it.

When Lyndon Johnson died in January 1973, we schoolkids of Texas got a day off for the funeral, one that didn’t have to be made up at the end of the year. I believe that was by act of the Texas legislature. I don’t remember doing anything Johnson-related that day. And I don’t know if the mail stopped.

I heard a bit of the eulogies for Ford on the radio, especially the one by the elder Bush. Remarkably, at one point that he actually mentioned Chevy Chase by name, to illustrate Mr. Ford’s sense of humor about that sort of thing, and perhaps in unspoken contrast to his predecessor, who wasn’t known for his sense of humor.

There was no speaking ill of the dead during these eulogies, but even before he died, not many people I knew spoke ill of Ford. Except, that is, for a Canadian I met at a gaijin party in Japan in the early ’90s. I expect it’s actually a fairly small number of people, but there is a brand of Canadian for whom every problem in the world is the fault of the US government.

He was one such. I remember little about him except he went on a rant about Gerald Ford and how he was really much more evil than people realized, especially Americans, forever the dupes. The evidence he cited was a diplomatic incident I later saw referred to as the Big Wink. Specifically, that term refers to US complicity in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in December 1975, not long after the Portuguese had bugged out. It was also right after a visit with Suharto by Ford and Henry Kissinger, who let it be known that the US wouldn’t make a fuss about Jakarta’s expansionism.

Despite that incident, the Canadian didn’t convince me on the point of Ford’s essential perfidy. I’m inclined to put the Big Wink on Kissinger; it sounds like a bit of his realpolitik to me. “Don’t worry about it, Mr. President. It will make the Indonesians very happy at no cost to the United States. No one in America knows East Timor from East Jesus, so no one will care.”

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At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Dees! Here in DC, we were actually talking idly last week of how folks in the midwest would handle this federal holiday, with no serivices, etc. Since the funeral is right here, it made sense for folks to have the day and maybe actually attend the services, but in Chicago? I understand your bewilderment.


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