Reunion Weekend Reflections

October 21, 2013

There’s nothing quite like a high school reunion for reconnecting with our younger selves and painting a broad perspective around the current times and the journey that took each of us from there to here.  Amid the conversation, laughter and hugs, these gatherings provide a trove of treasures for this market commentator.  Here’s some of the nuggets I heard.

The Tea Party is not so different from the Weathermen.  One represents an extremely conservative viewpoint, while the other spun off from the Far Left.  Each scorns authority and pursues a tear-down agenda against existing institutions without regard for pointless and avoidable damage along the way.  The acts of destruction indeed become central to the nihlist’s agenda and a necessary passageway to create a different social order completely detached from the current one.  Although the Tea Party hasn’t yet adopted assassination and other acts of violence embraced by the Weathermen, it’s eager willingness to steer the political process into a national debt default, if successful, would affect more people more profoundly than the Weathermen ever accomplished. 

Most of my classmates are either retired, semi-retired, or contemplating retirement.  Many hit this stage sooner than planned after the labor market shock five years ago.  Making ends meet can be very challenging, with historically low long-term interest rates, creeping health issues, and an insurance system full of cracks, crevices, and mystery.  Property taxes are a bigger burden on family finances than income tax rates.  America is dotted with suburbs tailored for families with school-age children but an exclusionary fit for older generations.  Like it or not, physical relocation can be an option one can’t refuse.

I heard several health care horror stories.  One involved a man who experienced a chronic and progressively more severe headache not long after his wife died.  The condition was misdiagnosed as stress-related and/or a sinus infection.  As the condition deteriorated, that seemed a less probable explanation, but no CAT scan was performed because the person didn’t have supplementary Medicare insurance.  Sure enough, the problem was a brain aneurysm that proved fatal.  While my classmates had different ideas about what to do about health care, frustration was shared at how divisive and elusive solutions had become. 

With varying degrees of proficiency, the class continues to adapt to an ever-changing digital world.  I heard more apprehension than unqualified endorsement of social networking because of the issues of privacy.  Could it be that the futuristic world depicted in Person of Interest already surrounds us?

The art of negotiation for the good of everybody doesn’t comes easily.  Leaders from my class and the one just ahead see merit in combining the approaching 50th year reunion into a shared celebration, but a splinter group from the other class favors a different approach.  Like Washington’s debt crisis, the hang-up involves factions within one class or party rather than irreconcilable differences between the two broad groups.  Negotiation without a willingness to compromise is not negotiation in good faith, and it doesn’t take a majority to undermine the process.  In a reference to the Paris Peace talks of 1968, it was said that the class representatives are trying to agree on the shape of the table.

In glorious autumn weather, we bid goodbye for another year after Sunday brunch.  It was grand to see old friends again, see how everybody’s still doing long after we scattered as 18-year-olds, and learn second-hand information regarding classmates that hadn’t been able to attend this time.   


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