David Bouchier

Commentator

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost twenty years. After coming to the United States in 1986 he continued to teach and to publish a regular humor column in The New York Times regional edition.  He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996. His latest book of essays, Peripheral Vision, was published in 2011. His other books include A Few Well Chosen Words, The Song of Suburbia, The Cats and the Water Bottles, The Accidental Immigrant and Writer at Work. He lives in Stony Brook, New York with his wife who is a professor at Stony Brook University, and two un-musical cats.

Yesterday morning I almost forgot to spring the clocks forward. Not that it would have mattered. My life is not so busy that an hour added or taken away would make much difference and, in any case, time pays no attention to clocks. Time just keeps ticking on relentlessly at the same pace, no matter what we do.

A lot of people seem to be applying for or renewing their passports at the moment, and there’s often a line at our local post office. It must be the anticipation of the vacation season. It’s good to have a passport, because now you can scarcely go anywhere without one. Even Canada and Bahamas are included in the list of untrustworthy foreign places. Yet Canada and Bahamas aren’t “abroad”: Canada is just the fringe of North America that George Washington abandoned to the British because it was too cold to be worth arguing about, and the Bahamas are just disconnected chunks of Florida.

Communication between human beings is a delicate business. It depends on words – slippery things that can change meaning almost from day to day and person to person.

That’s why some of us old-fashioned communicators, who grew up with manual typewriters and postage stamps, are suspicious of the so-called communications revolution. There’s no doubt that more communications are taking place, billions of them. So many thoughts, feeling and opinions are being exchanged that we should be entering a golden age of mutual understanding. But it doesn’t seem to be working out like that.

Presidents’ Day gives us an excuse, if we needed one, to look back into history, to try to understand why we voluntarily choose to give so much power to ordinary human beings. The two great leaders we honor today really were rather special: George Washington, the first president of the United States, and Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president, who really made the mythical journey from log cabin to White House, rather than penthouse to White House, and was elected president at just about the worst moment in the history of the United States. These two men were far from perfect but with hindsight, we can certainly see them as men of heroic stature and historic importance. They cast a long shadow.

On December 31 last year, and this at least is absolutely true, the first Valentine’s cards, chocolates, and plush bears appeared in our local supermarket, 45 days before zero hour. The bears are still there, they scarcely seem to have moved, and there are plenty of cards and chocolates left if you are running late. But this greedy commercial overreach is yet another sign that Valentine’s Day is out of control. It’s been around at least since the 1800s and, like most festivals that have a long history, it has lost almost all of its original meaning.

Pages