President “Obama has best day as President,” James Carville wrote this past week, citing Obama’s polling numbers, confident appearance, the financial market performance and news that his budget was about to pass. In addition, the Dow Jones index broke 8,000, closing 20 percent higher than last month.
Based on this information, I should be feeling better about where the nation is moving and looking forward to good days to come.
However, there is that nagging feeling, the same feeling I have when I see bellbottom pants, platform and jelly shoes - that gives me pause. It’s the feeling that it is impossible – but I have been here before. Not in specific details – but in general structure, format and mood.
“Déjà vu: Where Facts Meet Fantasy,” (New Scientist, March 25, 2009) defines déjà vu as the “startling, inappropriate and often disturbing sense that history is repeating itself, and impossibly so. You can’t place where the earlier encounter happened, and it can feel like a premonition or a dream. Subjective, strange and fleeting.”
From where does this feeling come? “One particular theory of déjà vu is that it may be a memory process,” notes Psychologist Anne Cleary of Colorado State University in Fort Collins. “Features of the new situation may be familiar from some prior situation.”
What is hauntingly familiar about the current situation?
“Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land,” said Obama in his inaugural speech, “—a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.”
The historical framework was provided by President Carter in his infamous “malaise” speech of 1979, when he said, ”The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will.”
In that same speech, Carter asked Americans to “stop crying and start sweating.” Obama echoed with “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off,” in his inaugural speech.