OUR FOUNDING FATHERS AND MOTHERS WERE LIBERALS
Not only were the founders of our nation liberal for their times, they may even have been even further to the left. How can one not see that people, who start a revolution to promote human rights, are far to the left of center? Their heroes were all part of the liberal past- Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, etc.
While most of the colonists were conservative for their times, and wanted no part of the revolution, the 1/3 of the colonists wanted to establish a country free from the shackles of Great Britain. So, these founding liberals were in the raging minority and still managed to establish a country that is the envy of the world.
If you have ever traveled abroad, you understand that there are few countries in the world that are as free and democratic as the United States. We tolerate the most damnable criticism of our government and its branches, while producing, over and over again, smooth transitions to the next administration.
One should never forget that our greatest presidents were those who thought very far ahead and were not hidebound to a past. As I see those who believe that the 1950’s, or some other era, as the golden age, I am startled to learn that these people have no idea what was going on then. You might want to speak to a Korean veteran, or a person who did not get a job because of their ethnic, religious or racial background. You might want to talk to a family whose relatives were lynched or killed by hate groups.
As we look at the old TV shows, our newest citizens get the feeling that Leave it to Beaver, the Nelsons, Lucy and Ricky, Mary Tyler Moore (later), and the Andy Griffith show, were how the United States looked at that time. Take it from an oldster like me; it was not that way at all.
Something that we might want to remember. George Washington was possible our greatest President. He was great for something that he did not do. He was aware that our country could not exist without smooth transition of government. There were those who wanted to make him a kind of king. He refused. He had already seen what that kind of thing could do in France and somehow knew that it might happen in the newly created United States.
Sure there were many things to work out, but Washington kept on refusing to be an autocrat or monarch. He was even hesitant to take a second term. His greatest joy was to see John Adams (who was not a favorite of his) take over the Presidency upon his retirement.
Nowhere can we read of our founders being anything but the great liberals of their time. We forget (and I sometimes do) that the definitions of liberal and conservative go through many changes over the years. While Abraham Lincoln is seen and one of our great presidents, and fought a war to keep the union and abolish slavery, would he be a conservative today?
Would Theodore Roosevelt be known as a liberal for being anti- big business and pro conservation? How do we see Richard Nixon (despite Watergate)? He created the EPA and its regulations as well as his control of our economy in the early 1970’s. Should he be known as a socialist?
From my vantage point, all of these people saw a problem and worked towards a solution. They may have been mistaken about some things, but that is always hindsight. I have never guessed wrong about a Super Bowl victor since it began in 1967. The trick was to name the winner the day afterwards.
Carol and I have been away for about a month. Came back a few days ago to temperatures that were a little less than the 80’s that we had gotten used to. You know it’s a great thing to be old and have a few bucks to take a long vacation. We spent time in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
We saw folks we will probably not see again. They are mostly in their nineties and we refer to our visits as the death tour. Not a nice thing to say, but faithful to the truth. It’s a duty thing that these folks appreciate.
We spent some time with Carol’s sister and her husband and that requires a story all of its own. On our way back North, after hockey tournaments (we saw our 14 year old playing goalie) and a myriad of places that we stayed at, we finally got to Savannah.
Savannah is a wonderful town, great historical sights to see, lovely people and great restaurants. I could probably gain another person by walking down River Street and just stopping for a snack or too. We did the usual hop on hop off trolley bus tour and stopped at some of the places, so that we really went around the city three times.
We stayed at a wonderful old hotel called the Planter’s Inn. It was truly one of the nicest and most pleasant hotels we have ever stayed at. The people were so nice and accommodating. One of the bellboys told us not to miss the restaurant next door called the Pink House.
On our tour we learned that the Pink House was one of the few structures that had withstood the many fires that had ravaged the city since the late 1700’s. The outside of the building was pink. The color was painted over many times, but the brick underneath bled through and turned whatever color it was to pink.
We were told to sit downstairs in the restaurant because it had old rock and roll and a piano player who sang old ballads and blues. We were entranced and went over our first night. It was true; we were seated in a kind of cellar, with brick walls, a fireplace and rock and roll music softly playing in the background. We were in heaven.
The menu was copious and frankly pretty expensive. We chose a couple of fish dishes and Carol had her usual white wine and I had my new favorite, a Tanqueray 10 gin and tonic. It was just perfect. The food was outstanding. The young waitress, Megan, told us about her aspirations, her family background and her lack of knowledge or current trends.
At about 7:30 ( we had arrived at 6:45), we heard the beginnings of a piano and kind of old time voice singing Sinatra songs, as well as Patti Paige and an assortment of ballads. The voice seemed to be old and sometimes had trouble hitting the notes exactly. It was till a pleasant experience.
We asked Megan about the songstress and were told that her name was Miss Diana and that she was in her late 70’s. We were amazed at the quality of the singing for someone of that age. Hey,I am 74 and cant’ really sing that well.
I was sitting with my back to the piano and all Carol could see was a large brimmed hat from which the singing emanated. Towards the end of the meal, I was certain that I would go over to the piano-playing singer and congratulate her on her performance. I even thought, as I have done so many times, to the consternation of family and friends, ask if I could join in the singing.
At the end of the meal, Carol and I paid the bill and walked over to the piano. As we approached, we could see that the person was wearing a broad brimmed hat and a kind of diaphanous dress. Miss Diana was playing Robert Goulet’s signature song, “If ever I would leave you.” I started to join in by singing the first couple of lines, as Diana joined me. I did not look at her at first, until I had finished my singing.
As she raised her head to thank me for singing, I was shocked. Her(??) face had gobs of pancake makeup and her lips were rouged to about triple the size of what might expect of any human. They were shaped into a kissing expression. The only thing that I could think of then was a puppet face, something that you might see in a science fiction movie to scare children.
I was so taken aback that I quickly exited the restaurant from a side exit. Carol was waiting for me. She had not seen what I had seen. I hold that sight even now. I am now not sure if the person was male or female, old or young or anything. I was later told that Miss Diana had been there for about 15 years. Funny thing, no matter who I asked, they saw nothing unusual about her. I am wondering if this is just a Savannah thing.
This has nothing to do with King Solomon and the Temple in Jerusalem. Carol and I were wandering around the Port Charlotte area and heard about this thing called Solomon’s Temple. We had no idea what it was; only that it was a tourist kind of place. Since it was only about an hour away (according to our GPS, Bartolo), we decided to take a look.
After a number of myriad turns on county roads and some intermittent gravel roads we finally arrived at an iron gate with a metal figure of a man. What lay beyond the gate was almost beyond our belief. Rising about 30 or 40 ft. in the air in front of us was a castle made of old printers plates from a local newspaper ( we found out later). It was in the manner of a medieval castle with turrets (yes, I said turrets), a balcony where the owner spoke from time to time on many different subjects.
The entry hall was kind of a gift shop of items made by the owner, Howard Solomon. Items included only those things made of discarded materials from junkyards and metal scrap yards. Nothing was left to chance. All items, whether bicycle chains, electric motors, gears, oil drums, peanut butter cans, lamp shades, tuna fish cans, sewing machine motors, vacuum cleaner motors, coat hangers, clocks, and on and on and on.
We took a tour, which was another eye opener. The castle was really a mélange of artifacts created by Solomon over a 41 year period. One cannot imagine the time it took to make some of these items- groupers made out of tin cans, elephants over 7 feet high made out of oil drums, eagles soaring overhead made of gear cogs, animals all made of coat hangers.
There were also replicas of famous paintings by Modigliani, Picasso, Dali and others, beautifully framed and recreated in wood pieces. The artwork was simply astounding. Solomon is among the most creative people I have ever met. The docent who showed us around had memorized a script created by Solomon. It was rife with puns. I cannot tell you even a small portion of them.
When speaking to Solomon himself (he was in his workshop piled with junk that would be turned into artwork), he punctuated his language with puns. He asked me what you would call fifty puns in a row. I could not think of anything. He told me punishment.
He has also written a few children’s books which we read in the gift shop. They were very funny. His children and grandchildren, and even his great grandson lived and worked there. They even have a small restaurant and accommodations for a family if they want to stay a night.
As I look back at this day, I would not have missed it for anything. Unfortunately, I am so bad with picture taking, that I forgot to shoot anything. It was fascinating.
Somehow, we have now been taught that disagreement should normally be followed by hatred. This has become a signal sea change in our attitudes about other people. Criticism of persons or groups gives way to intense feelings, so that our teeth are bared and we reach for the angriest reactions that we can muster.
If you watch any of the reality shows that now populate our TV. airwaves, you see, what are purported to be, normal people getting intensely angry with a friend, spouse, parent, sibling and so on. These are sometimes followed by actual physical violence, such as on the Jerry Springer or Maury Povich shows (Maury’s dad is probably turning over in his grave at these sights).
If you listen or watch any of the interview shows, you also see the spread of venom and hatred from either the questioner or the questionee. I thought I was going to see a good interview the other night on the prospects on violence with guns. I could only look at the show for a few minutes before I realized that the screaming was going to last for the whole program.
How about the internet? No matter what side of a question you are on, there are blogs and sites that try to incite people to do horrible things in the name of criticism of one person or group. These are not just, let’s march on Washington suggestions, but things quite a bit more heinous.
Even on regular interview shows, the person who screams the loudest, doesn’t listen to anything anyone else has to say is said to be the winner. The idea of letting someone have their say and then disagreeing with them is over. It is yell loud and don’t let the other person yell louder. If you don’t think that is true, watch these programs sometimes.
On many of these shows, there are audiences who try and incite the combatants to further mayhem. When did, “Use your words,” go out of style? It must have happened when I was sleeping.
I am saddened when I see some of the people that I have great respect for writing these things on the Facebook pages. I know that you cannot turn back the hands of time, but can we not have a few moments of clarity when we look at each other and say, “I disagree with you and I respect your right to give your own opinion and this is what I think on that subject.” Must we always go to the bone and threaten reprisals when your opinion is different from mine.
There was a time, not too long ago, when we all got our news from the same source. It was the dour and sometimes clinical words of Walter Cronkite or the more spritely, but equally dour voices of Huntley and Brinkley. They were all on the gravitas express with their evening pronouncements about Joseph McCarthy, the Vietnam War, or the happenings in congress.
For even more gravitas, you could look in at Edward R. Murrow and get the news sliced and diced for you on the weekend. It was all pretty much the same and few people argued about these folks and never said that they were lying. Could you look at Cronkite’s face and point to him and say, “That is not true.”
With equal feeling, we all pretty much listened to the same music across the country. Yes, there were the highbrows who listened to the public stations, the country western folks and the gospel and Negro music. However, the top ten were always a mélange of rock and roll, ballads, country western and later on “black music.” We all listened to Patsy Cline, Little Richard, Patti Paige, the Shirelles and Vic Damone.
We may not have liked Elvis, Carl Perkins, Fats Domino, Theresa Brewer or Jimmy Clanton, but we listened because they were the top ten. There was a certain friendship and warmth knowing that we all knew the same thing. Elvis was number one again with Heartbreak Hotel. Buddy Holly hit the charts with Oh Boy, or the Flamingos with I Only Have Eyes for You.
When that camaraderie died off in the 1970’s or so, we began to divide ourselves into different archetypes. Country and Western wandered away into over 400 stations across the country, a megalith unto themselves. Black music became Soul and catered to a different audience of young people, both black and white, who further divided into hip hop, heavy metal and now Disney pap.
The high brows are still listening to PBS and we get our news from a variety of sources- twitter, blogs, pt., the internet, some magazines and fewer and fewer newspapers. I have not read a newspaper since 1991 when I retired as an I.U. Director. I used to read 17 newspapers every other day to keep up with what was going on in the 3,000 sq. miles of my school districts.
I did not have to judge the news then. I saw it in its raw form in all of the small rural papers. I now have no idea of what the truth might be. There are now political stations that feed us gunk from the left the right, the center and from an insane asylum. The news is digested and spit out at a moment’s notice. I have just learned that Chuck Hagel will have no problem with his nomination as Secretary of Defense. I heard this very morning from a few other sources that he would have serious problems.
News is now parceled out in bite sized portions because we are not smart enough, or don’t have the patience to hear the whole story. The internet is perfect for such things, as are pt. sound bites.
I get confused over who is leading whom in the polls and when somebody will nuke Iran or ban all firearms in the United States and unplug the second amendment, as well as the 14th amendment and other assorted amendments. As long as they allow me to have a gin and tonic sometime, I think I will disregard all of the news and continue life as if none of these news sources exist.
The other day I was caught up short by someone who has never read my blog. She said, “Why would anyone be interested in your life?” I really did not know what to say. I had never been asked such a question. I could only mutter, “Then why are there biographies and autobiographies?” It caused me to look a bit more carefully about what I thought was a simple truth. Certainly, people would be interested in what I might say about my life.
I guess I was being flip with myself when I was sure that I had led a pretty interesting and absorbing life. It then dawned on me that it must be pretty much true of everyone. We have all led interesting and differing lives. How do I prove such a general statement? I rely on you for the answer.
What you might look at, in your own life, as a pretty normal boring life, is just as exciting as anything that you might read. I am startled by the number of people who have commented on my blog about my dad dying when I was four. My daughter-in-law’s father’s mom died at his birth. That’s a heck of a bit more substantial than my story. The funny thing is that he does not think of it as unusual.
As you drive, walk, or get to work one morning, think about the various things that you have done at work that have affected people. I am not concerned about what kind of job you do, but the effect that it has on others. Whether you are a physical working person, an office person, and administrative person, a teacher, a lawyer or other profession, look at what you have done for (or to) others.
It is wonderful to see all of the great things done by retired people who volunteer their time for good causes. Because of my age, I have met many of them. They certainly are not living a boring life. They still have that spark that gets them to each activity on a daily basis.
You have sent people down a different path in life from the moment you ran into them in whatever your capacity. None of you has led a “boring life.”
We have been visiting my sister-in-law and her husband on the West Coast of Florida in Punta Gorda. It is a well-heeled community with beautiful houses, canals, and great places to have breakfast and dinner. We have not tried the lunch menu, because my sister-in-law is a great cook. Actually, she has cooked most of our meals while we are here, so take my restaurant review with a grain of salt.
What I have noticed about the place is that it is populated with older Americans, seniors, grey panthers, blue hairs, and the like. They have cornered the market on medical facilities, doctor’s offices, laboratories, appliance stores (medical appliances) and small parks and wildlife preserves.
I had never thought about how older people would love red shouldered hawks and bald eagles, but they do. It is wonderful to see these people, who probably did not every know the difference between a robin and a mourning dove, wax eloquent about waxwings and split tailed fly catcher. People can go on about such things for quite a while.
When entering a restaurant, be sure you do not surge ahead. You may wind up pushing elderly gentlemen with a walker up against a table of folks with oxygen tanks or canes and that would be a tragedy. I have learned to take my time, walk carefully and not drive too quickly along the wide highways.
Here, the community is set up for these people, Every Thursday evening, there is a get together at one of the parks and out come all of the ancient banjos, guitars, bass fiddles, zithers and women wearing clogging shoes. These old timers play lots of songs that were old in the 1950’s. It was pure nostalgia for me to hear St. Louis Tickle and Momma don’t want no Banjo playin’ here. There weren’t any people playing or listening that were under 65 years of age.
Driving is also a joy to behold. Turns are made quickly with little warning. Parking lots are dens of aggressive driving with no turning signals. People drive according to the speed limit in residential areas, but with gay abandon on the main roads.
These citizens come from all over the U.S. I met someone who had been married to a woman from Ebensburg, PA, a place of little repute near Johnstown. He was from Bloomington Indiana and was a snow bird (here only for the winter). I met a woman from the Poconos who was a docent at the bird sanctuary. All of these people could not stand the cold up North and came her permanently or for the winter.
Most of the elderly are close to being wealthy. Many of them were pretty high powered people in their former lives. They have a great sense of community, which they probably had little to do with at home. The more permanent and younger parts of the community are usually service workers, who make a decent living off the needs of the elderly.
You can see the different sections of town as you drive by. The young live in smaller and less well turned out homes. Have older cars, and do not dress in vacation clothes as to the elderly. It is not a stark contrast, but it surely is evident.
I admire the elderly for moving out of their comfortable environments from which they came and come down here to separate from the other lives. They tend to cling to each other a bit more than they did at home. Maybe that’s a good thing. They sure seem to enjoy it.