A Hillary Landslide

I am the most optimistic I have been in years. I am sensing the possibility of a Hillary landslide.

It’s reminiscent of the showdown in 1964 between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Senator Barry Goldwater. That was the first national campaign that I participated in independently as a high school student. I suppose I acquired an interest in retail politics from my father, having participated in his campaigns and in many discussions at home and among friends at school about government and varying policies. There was no question for any of us at the time that elections matter – some matter greatly – governance is no joke.

Personally, I don’t care if Hillary robbed banks as a teenager and every other word she utters is a dodge. I do not care if she is as dry and lifeless a speaker as stale white bread. I do care greatly about experience under fire, knowledge of governance, and a goal of seeking the best workable solutions for pressing national problems.

Obama gently put whitey in his place with grace and restored careful honor to the White House. Hillary may be just the tonic needed by the shrinking American male who thinks that cheap put-down jokes, fabricating “facts” and shooting holes in a paper image of a human are essential survival skills in our world. Hillary, as Obama, does not see a world of enemies but a world of potential partners.

No matter what happens in Iowa and first-tier wacky primary votes, I think Hillary could sweep the primaries, and she could deliver a fatal blow to political extremism in this country. She could bring a reasonable majority to the US Senate and House.

You don’t have to like your medicine, you just have to take the right one to get better. Liking candidates, or their spouses and relatives, is pointless. You just have to choose the best available leader and join the civil debate.

What had looked like total madness weeks ago, now looks like a gift from God. Fight the fight to continue momentum, but please don’t waste a vote. Genuine charm and absolutist ideas may appear attractive as human attributes, but they may work less effectively in governing.

Nyet & Yahoo

One hardly needs to comment on the lunacy and error of Republicans in the U.S. Congress. It seems cruel and redundant to do so. They veer from logic and history with the abandon of drunken teenagers. Obama’s presidency is a perpetual wound in their muddled brains and tiny souls.

Tennessee’s Republican U.S. Senators declined to participate in the folly. For that I am most grateful. These two experienced exceptions prove the others wildly and dangerously wrong.

I cannot thank the other Congressional Republicans for confirming our studied and feared suspicions. None of us wants to witness, in the “loyal” opposition, such craven and treacherous behavior, laced as it is with dark cynicism, screeching spite, and flatfooted foolishness.

To be sure, they will top even this one. Pray, pray, pray – work, work, work – so that they don’t – so that we are delivered from this gangland blight on governance.

Jeb and Hillary have their faults. But none compare to the loathsome flaws to be found in Republican affiliates in the U.S. Congress. At least at top levels, Tennessee’s state-wide elected officials seem to have not sipped the acid-laced cocktails served at so-called “conservative” conclaves.

Fathers and Guns

Patricia Waters launched a blog this summer called Green Roots TN. It was originally aimed at a particular environmental concern: fracking on property managed by the University of Tennessee. Very soon she branched out to address a multitude of her interests in the full panoply of her persuasive powers. At the end of her first month as a blogger, she posted a copy of a letter she sent to her local newspaper editor regarding a Tea Party member’s “full editorial page rant against” a friend’s letter to the editor about gun violence. Her letter is well worth the read. Here is a link to her letter. Below the link, I have posted a response to her essay.


Continuity and conservation versus “hell no” and gunpowder – only one side seems interested in asking fundamental questions. Patricia’s letter on guns in our culture is a terrific read. The passions rooted in Tennessee, American history and popular culture, and ancient antecedents drive home the insidiousness and pathetic pettiness of Tea Party misdirection and flippancy.

But Patricia, in her erudite, lucid, principled, and personal argument, does not tell the full story as it relates to true conservatism – what relates to our heritage, our fathers, and our real lives. I know that her story has a deep connection to her father and his love of Western fiction – and his intense patriotism as a World War II B-29 flight engineer (20th Air Force, 313 Bomb Wing, 505 Bomb Group) who served in the Pacific Theater (North Field, Tinian, in the Northern Mariana Islands). Though he had two hunting rifles and a shotgun, he did not possess a functioning handgun until late in life when he was living on his own after his wife passed away.

My father-in-law was a bomber pilot in the Pacific in World War II and had a full rack of rifles and shotguns for his entire adult life. He was a Ross Perot Republican, yet he did not possess a handgun after the war. He would have been appalled at the liberality of gun laws in Tennessee and across the country today. He thought movies were a complete waste of time. For him a real man read and worked to support his family and settled his differences with his arms and hands (not a gun) only if all reasonable alternatives had failed.

My father was a hunter in his youth and a Tennessee lawmaker who thought government very useful in building highways and schools. He never renounced guns, but they were never a visible or important part of family life. He instilled in me a love of the old movies that we shared together and the values they imparted. He modeled respect for learning and guided my initiation into retail politics and civil activism.

The ways of the Tea Party are not just an affront to our fathers and their legacy, they are an affront to conservatism. They reject the civil behavior represented by our fathers and for which they honorably struggled. Tea Party ways are intended to be a rejection of our primary legacy in a cynical ploy to gain political power for a wealthy few.

Tea Party intransigence, though considered a convenient tactic by its exponents and controllers, is not merely ignorant and clownish: it is profoundly immoral. Calculated immorality at an empowered level is intended to shatter reason and order so as to subject others – not to law but to the will of the powerful. Certainly there are large numbers of Tea Party followers who are genuine – and genuinely manipulated by bankrollers who care not a fig for their general welfare. (These same bankrollers are sponsoring advertisements urging young people not to buy health insurance.) Some undoubtedly think they are being funny, just getting a rising out of mainstream people (and many in mainstream too quickly take the bait, pursuing gab instead of effective concerted action). At worst they are the most pernicious kind of evil: the evil that seems normal but perpetrates the kind of scorched-earth policies that Patricia cited as evident in latter-day classic movies. This is perhaps an evil with global dimensions and permanent consequences for life on earth.

There is much tongue-wagging and screaming about the threat of our national government. But like Oliver Goldsmith, if there will be tyrants, I prefer my tyrants to be far away, not in my local and state government. National government has to accommodate a multitude of powers and interests under great scrutiny with significant checks and balances. Local governments are not so naturally constrained.

Do-nothings or evildoers in politics get away with it because liberals and centrists and real conservatives can’t be bothered with stopping nonsense at the polls, at the courthouse, at the legislature, at the TV set, at the checkout counter. Our elusive hope is that some hero will step forward and fix it for us, like in the Westerns, or that in time the jokers will overplay their hands and bring on their own demise. So, it’s high noon and the town’s folk have scattered for cover. But the Gary Cooper and John Wayne types are no where in sight, except for Patricia, who is packing two holsters chock full of legacy and literacy and the skill and guts to use them against lunacy masquerading as law in the clear light of day.

Vote Joy!

Should I feign indifference? Am I above the fray? Am I disappointed in both parties? Have I decided how to vote? No, no, yes, and hell yes!

At no time was there doubt, particularly after the primary debates. But certainty goes farther back than that. Fairness, reason, responsibility, frugality, cooperation, and compromise are not principles and tactics that I can blithely dispense with out of team loyalty, because of the easy urges of juvenile delinquency, or because it suits my pocketbook.

Read it here.

Exalting Towers

Downtown Memphis 1973-74

Someone asked me a simple question about the future of photos taken in 1974 of downtown Memphis. From that moment my mind took off and the hounds were racing the hills again. If you know something of the period and the many people who were involved in a genuine community effort at that time and place, this story might touch you and arouse memories that are different but no less pleasurable.

This was a moment full of possibility, though it was not necessarily a prosperous time. Many of the participants were members of a temporarily lost generation looking for an alleyway to adulthood and meaning. Times at the edges of prosperity might in fact be the best: when people take up chance causes and do wondrous things together on a shoestring.

Thank you for asking questions. They are like jet fuel.

Read it here.

Get Her Done!

Did anyone seriously think for a minute that I would keep quiet about health reform?

There is a limit to what we all can take. I could continue to obsess about the nice words (or lack thereof). Or I can send my exertion out into the world to sink or swim on its own. For its neglect of studied grace, I hope this quick and humble submission makes up in passion and substance.

If you tire early in your reading or are too weary of this topic, I have a recommendation. The last seven paragraphs differ from the polemics of the first eight.

Read it here.