Dodge gave us the Dart and my dad coasted the truck as much as possible in order to avoid the lines at the pump. Throw Jimmy Carter into the mix and it’s not a far stretch to imagine America as a dystopian wasteland. It was worse than that actually – there were bell-bottoms.
In 1972, I was 8 years old. I wasted time watching Hee-Haw reruns and despairing over Redskin losses (what goes around…). There was a small saving grace: it usually came in the form of the Sunday funnies. Most notably the colored funnies, and especially catching up with the round-headed kid – good ‘ol Charlie Brown. Having sprung for the Weekly Reader book club offers of a wide variety of Peanuts paperback classics, I knew the whole gang and all their proclivities.
Charlie Brown was consistently inconsistent. He trusted the wrong people over and over again. He didn’t struggle with depression – he invented it. “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world – you’re the Charlie Browniest.” But overarching all the failures was perseverance. Every spring brought a fresh pitcher’s mound and every held football could be kicked. It would have been a tragic error on the part of Charles Schulz ever to let Charlie Brown win the game or split the uprights. To do so would have shown millions of Americans that they can do it, when the real lesson is in the doing. It’s in the slogging it out and being a Charlie Brown.
As Americans, we are now fed a steady diet of self-esteem. We are told that we can do it and expect it to be true. How happy that would be, to be able to do anything one sets one’s mind to.
As I write this, I have a book from the library that displays the work of Michelangelo and da Vinci. I can draw reasonably well, due to the amount of time I’ve spent with a pencil performing calculations – yet to imagine that I can capture the form of the body or the fall of a drape in the same manner is laughable. I keep trying.
We can’t always do what we wish to do. But we can always try to do what we wish to do. And I learned that from Charlie Brown.