Walter Cronkite Meant Nothing To Me
It’s not often that somebody dying makes me feel young. But the death of Walter Cronkite has inspired me with an overwhelming feeling of youthfulness.
You see, I really know next to nothing about Walter Cronkite. He means nothing at all to me. Hearing that he’s dead was like a looking at a well-painted apartment wall. You get the feeling that a good job might have been done but that’s the limit of the emotional or intellectual reaction.
So why does this make me feel young? Well, let’s face it. Cronkite was important to the kind of people whose memories of our public life is full of Kennedy and King assassinations, the hippies fighting cops at Democratic convention in 1968, the ’60s culture wars, Watergate, Gerald Ford, Vietnam, the oil crises, Elvis’s death and Lennon’s murder, Three Mile Island, and Jimmy Carter’s 1979 summer meltdown.
I care about that stuff the way a guy storming the beach at Normandy cared about the Spanish American war. It’s more well-painted walls.
Now, I don’t speak ill of the dead. But I’ll make an exception: I’m pretty sure that if I did care about Cronkite, I wouldn’t like him very much. No good contrarian can like anyone known as “The Most Trusted Man In America.” Also, I have no admiration for the anchor-as-guide to the world version of television news, and I’m glad it’s a dying form. If, as someone on the television said today, we never see anyone like him again, I’d say that this state of affairs couldn’t have come too soon.
Reading a bit here and there about him has made me suspect I’d dislike him even more than that. From what I can tell in Peter Feld’s write up, he seems to have disdained the lives actually lived by most of his countrymen. I guess it’s not surprising to discover an aversion to the lives of ordinary people in someone who spent his life performing a job that put his face in the living rooms of millions of strangers.
I’m sure his family and friends will miss him, and if I knew any of them I’d be sorry for their loss. And maybe I’d tell them to say thanks to Walter for me. Like I said, it’s rare that the death of a public figure makes me suddenly feel young.
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