Coming of age right after the Vietnam War, I learned about the domino theory as a mass delusion of the foreign policy establishment. The theory held that the U.S. had to stop Vietnam from capitulating to the Reds – or the next to fall would be Laos and Cambodia and Japan and Samoa and Hawaii and click click click click click click click all the way through to North Dakota. Because, you know, the godless Soviets had set their sights on little towns like mine, which had fewer than 500 inhabitants but seven (!) churches.
Fast forward to 2008, and all of a sudden the domino theory just might be making a comeback.
Exhibit A: the psychology of school districts canceling classes due to winter acting like winter. It all starts with a forecast of snow flurries featuring the dreaded A-word, accumulation. Now, back in my North Dakotan childhood, when I had to walk two whole blocks through the snow wearing nothing but snowmobile boots, a snowsuit, mittens, three scarves, and a space-age pseudo-mylar-and-foam face mask, we scoffed at subzero temperatures and an inch or two of accumulation. If it wasn’t gusting at 30 mph, it did not count.
Here in Southeast Ohio, we’ve had school canceled with nary a flake, just because the mercury read -3 F. Or maybe a flake is spotted wafting its way down from Columbus. (So far this year, we’ve burned up seven snow days in this fashion, the last two knocking out the long Presidents’ Day weekend.)
By these standards, school would’ve been canceled from November through April in my hometown, and all of us adorable little North Dakotan children would’ve grown up illiterate.
But here in balmy Athens, Ohio, on an evening like yesterday’s with snow in the forecast, all of us parents are transfixed by the list of school closings on the web. We hit refresh compulsively, watching in testy fascination as first Meigs County falls to the two-hour delay, and then Vinton, and then Nelsonville-York, until some brave superintendent pushes his district into the cancel column. It’s a slow-mo version of the arrival board at the airport, except it’s evident that Kafka’s in the control tower and there ain’t nobody going nowhere. And then the less remote districts fall, too, in a frenzy of last-minute actions around 5 or 6 a.m. to maximize parental scrambling: Alexander and Marietta and Fairfield and Columbus and Athens and click click click click click click click all the way through to North Dakota.
(Actually not all the way; I’m thinking there must be a firebreak somewhere around Duluth. And there’s another one at the perimeter of our university’s campus, which apparently is run by a secret cabal of North Dakotans.)
Fortunately, the domino theory can serve happier ends, too. My dear husband gets credit for seeing how it applies just as well to the Obama campaign: Washington and Nebraska and Louisiana and Maine and Virgin Islands and Maryland and DC and Virginia and Wisconsin and Hawaii and Texas and click click click click click click click all the way through to … Ohio?
Obama now holds the lead in delegates and is making sizable inroads into Hillary Clinton’s core constituencies: women, Catholics, working-class voters. Doesn’t this call for a Howard Dean yell?
Oh, and I’m proud to say that North Dakota caucused for Obama, too.
Now I’d better go feed a snack to the four kids I’m tending (in my slacker fashion), because yes, today is another snow day.