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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dirty politics, Dirty Minds

Dirty Minds, Dirty Politics

It never ceases to amaze me how some political zealots will grab at any opportunity to demean and degrade their opponents. The latest example is a result of the horrific tragedy of the Arizona shooting.

Everyone has heard about it by now. A crazed shooter went on a rampage leaving behind dead and wounded, and within minutes political left wingers were hurling accusations at Sarah Palin for her website.

If you haven’t seen the website, too late. It’s down, but being the intense competitor she is, the site had pinpointed Democrat positions around the country the Republicans wanted to take over.

So what was the problem? Seems like the site marked those positions with the crosshairs of a rifle scope.

And so what happened? Zealots seized the opportunity of trample over those wounded and dead to place the blame on Palin and her supporters for influencing the killer to act.

Several right wing media faced the camera and with an holier-than-thou countenance, expressed their concern and regrets that she should have approved such a site.
Politicians around the country have spoken up, saying we should all civilize our rhetoric.

Well, I’ve got news for them. Such inflammatory, irresponsible rhetoric has savaged politics since Fred Flintstone first ran for pooper-sweeper.

In fact, some of it was even more despicable than that taking place today. Last week in an interview with CNN, Nancy Pelosi blamed unemployment on the Bush
administration two years into the Obama administration, asserting the Democrats lost the House because of former President George W. Bush’s policies. How is that for irresponsible and inflammatory?

I wish someone would explain that logic to me.

In all honesty, that remark was pure Pablum compared to the flack Andrew Jackson
caught in his presidential run. During his military career, he was forced to order the execution of six deserters. In a subsequent political race, an opponent printed up handbills with six black coffins and the accusation that Jackson had deliberately murdered them. On top of that, he was accused of adultery, vilified for running off with another man’s wife, and that wife, Rachel, was accused of bigamy.

You’ve got to admit that sort of mud-slinging is a little stronger than suggesting Obama was not born an American citizen.

Now, Jackson was no saint. During his battle with John Quincy Adams, Jackson’s supporters spread the rumor that Adams, while he was ambassador to Russia, procured an American girl for the sexual services of the Russian Czar. Adams was labeled and pimp and his great success as an ambassador was a result of his service to the Czar.

And then there was Thomas Jefferson who was accused of being a misogynist and of having an affair with a black lady. Ironically, in the decades to follow, the latter accusation was proven to be true, although such interracial practices in that period were much more common than one would believe.

According to Joseph Cummings’ book, “Anything For a Vote,’ Thomas Jefferson hired a writer to attack opponent John Adams, Quincy’s father, as a “repulsive pendant” and “a hideous hermaphroditical character that has neither the force of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In a later campaign, Davy Crockett accused Martin Van Buren of wearing women’s corsets, and James Buchanan, whose congenital condition caused his head to tilt to the left was accused of unsuccessfully trying to hang himself.
And poor old Abe didn’t escape the onslaught. He was said to be ape-like because of his lean appearance and beard. And oh, yes, he was also accused of having stinky feet.

In the 1912 campaign, Teddy Roosevelt, wearing his western regalia, referred to William Howard Taft, the sitting President, as ‘a rat in a corner’. Another rodent accusation was when FDR called Alf London, his 1936 opponent “the White Mouse who wants to live in the White House.”

But the dirtiest campaign of all, says Cummings’, was Johnson versus Goldwater in 1964.

Johnson, says Cummings, put a subversive group together to demean Goldwater, first by putting out a book under his name entitled “You Can Die Laughing’ and then a coloring book for kids with Goldwater dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes.
In addition they spread editorial letters around the country under false names expressing their fear of Goldwater. The group even influenced a well-known financial writer into writing two columns explaining how the stock market would melt down with Goldwater’s election.

The slander campaign ruined Goldwater forever.

So, take the nonsense you read today with the proverbial grain of truth. Dirty politics and dirty minds have always been around, and it ain’t going nowhere anytime soon.

Friday, January 7, 2011

How to Wear a Suit Well

The holidays are over, and if you’re like me, once the last decorations are stored away, the house more or less back in order except for the hole in the wall Uncle Jack made when he stumbled over the dog to show he could balance a glass of beer on his forehead, you’re ready to plop down on the couch by the window for a nice long rest in the sun.

The grand kids got pretty much what they wanted, and right on schedule, busted up some of their gifts before the sun went down that first day. All seemed pleased with their gifts.

It was fun watching their faces. After all, Christmas is about giving and expressing your feeling for one another.

I know just enough about other religions to be dangerous, but I’m guessing those cultures who celebrate Diwali, Ramadan, Hanukkah, or other beliefs, all are wishing and hoping for goodwill and blessings to all just like us even if their celebrations come at a different time of the year.

I can’t remember where I read it, but a couple weeks before Christmas, the story was told of a children’s Christmas pageant where at the end, children lined up across the stage, each holding a cardboard square on which was printed a letter. The signs were supposed to read, CHRISTMAS LOVE, but the little girl holding the M had it upside down. It read CHRISTWAS LOVE. Folks snickered, then grew eerily silent as the real meaning struck them, CHRIST WAS LOVE. Accident on the girl’s part? Yeah. Could it be there was a hand involved, but not man’s?

Whether the Christian’s Christ or the other religions’ God. that’s what it’s all about——it’s all about love.

And it took a little girl to remind the crowd of the truth.

Now that the holidays are over doesn’t mean we have to toss the feeling aside. It really isn’t too difficult to keep the spirit.

I have a friend who enjoys purchasing a supply of gold dollars periodically and passing them out at random to passing individuals, usually youngsters.

Sometimes when folks are in a hurry to check out of a store, or when the customer ahead of then has twice as many items as he should, they take it out on the clerk. Have you ever noticed how some clerks never smile? Next time, put a smile on your face and talk to them—just a tiny compliment. You’d be surprised how it will boost their spirits—and yours.

I’ve tried to do that ever since a very successful businessman in Groves spoke to one of my D.E. classes over thirty years back. He told us he always searched for a way to compliment a customer. “Once,” he laughed, “A gentleman wanted to buy a suit. He looked like a gorilla.”

My prize wise-cracking student popped up. “How did you compliment someone like that?”

He smiled, and with the wisdom of the elderly, he said, “I told him he wore the suit well. And he did,” my friend added. “Very well.”

We don’t have to go out and give hundreds or thousands to charities (although if you can pull it off, more power to you), but a small, inexpensive compliment can provide the recipient a hundred bucks worth of ego for the remainder of the day.

I never knew who wrote them, but I remember a time years earlier at school when anonymous notes showed up in teachers’ boxes. They were short in length, but grand in praise, ‘Thank you for what you did yesterday,’ ‘You’re a fine teacher’, and others along that vein. Anonymous praise.

The notes lasted for a couple years, then stopped. I’ve gone back at times looking at who left that year, but I never came close to learning the identity of our Literary Samaritan.

A lady down the street from me walks the block every day or so. One morning as I was carrying garbage to the road, I noticed dogs had gotten into my neighbor’s garbage across the street, scattering it everywhere. He had already left for work.

I glanced down the road. Here came my neighbor down the street with a garbage bag. Now, I doubt if my acquaintance across the street knows our neighbor even performed such an act of kindness, but it is those small acts that help fulfill our lives.

The Dalai Lama, a Buddhist, said it best. “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple, and the philosophy is kindness.

And that just about says it all.

Merry Christmas the rest of the year.