Archived Post October 2008

October 2008 

There are no Foregone Conclusions

Go Vote

Even if You are Voting for the Other Side


Independence Hall, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, the room where the Declaration of Independence was born

“Dewey Defeats Truman”

The Chicago Daily Tribune – November 4, 1948

            President Harry S. Truman has always been one of my favorite Democrats.   This summer, as we toured his home and library, I was reminded of why I am so fond of him – he was a smart, unassuming, determined, humble, hardworking and hard campaigning, gracious man who lived by his convictions and believed that the buck did stop with him.  (Yes, he does remind me of Senator McCain.)

            In 1948, Truman faced reelection.  His Republican foe was Thomas Dewey, which everyone believed would easily win.  The Dewey victory was considered a foregone conclusion.  The pollsters, including Gallup, Crossley, and Roper, were convinced of the coming victory – so much so that by September 9, 1948, three months before anyone could cast a vote, Elmo Roper announced that there would be no further Roper Polls, regarding the election, as he was certain of a landslide for Dewey. {David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992) 657}  The photograph, on the cover of Life magazine, for November 1, 1948, was a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Dewey, with a caption regarding the new first couple’s activities.  {Margaret Truman, Harry S. Truman (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1973) 40}.  Newsweek magazine polled 50 preeminent political journalists, in October of 1948, and all believed that the victory would go to Dewey.  {}

              Yet, despite the polls and journalist, as well as the politico’s predictions, Truman did not quit.  He believed he would win, and continued to campaign, in his version of the McCain Straight Talk Express, the Ferdinand Magellan, a train which had been built for his predecessor, Frankly D. Roosevelt.  Truman crisscrossed the nation, traveling 31,700 miles, giving 356 speeches between Labor Day and Election Day.  He ended his tour in Independence, Missouri, which would always be home.  On election night, Truman did not stay up, to wait for the results; instead, he ate a ham sandwich and went to bed.  The next morning, he awoke to his expected victory.  {Margaret Truman, Harry S. Truman (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1973) 40}

             President Truman had the last laugh.  He, boarded the Ferdinand Magellan, on November 4, 1948, after a brief, ill prepared and unplanned celebration, in Independence, and headed toward Washington D.C., with his first stop in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was given a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune.  Perhaps one of the more famous photographs of the twentieth century was then snapped, as a grinning Truman held the paper proclaiming his opponents victory.

            I will admit that I am counting the days, and looking forward to the end of this campaign.  We have ten days left until election day, and I, a certified news junky, can barely stand to turn on the television. 

               There has been much written about the obvious media bias, toward the Democrats and their candidates.  It has often felt overwhelming, watching the evening news or even the late night comedians – both information outlets, and I use the term with grace, have determined to support Obama, without the need to even pretend to be fair and equal in the coverage.

             Also, much has been said, including in these pages, about the unchecked sexism of this election; with the latest entry being the cost of Governor Plain’s wardrobe.  I feel quite certain that I did not miss the statements regarding how much any of the men, in this or past campaigns have spent on their clothing, as those statements were never made. 

              I have also been shocked to see Sarah Palin hanging in effigy.  Apparently, a Californian, has decided that hanging the Governor of Alaska is just good, clean Halloween fun, and perfectly acceptable.  He did say:  “If we had done it with Barack Obama, people would’ve probably thrown things through our windows.  The image of a hanged black man is a lot more intense than the image of a hanged white woman.” {,2933,444328,00.html} He did not remove the offensive display.

            Many in the media and the Obama campaign are now speaking as if this election were over – even planning their victory celebrations and writing the inaugural address, reminiscent of Dewey.  Please do not believe the hype.  The votes have not yet been cast or counted.  This election is not finished. 

            After what feels like the longest election cycle in history, with almost four years of campaign speeches and rallies, solicitation letters and emails, and debates and demonstrations, the end is in sight, but not before we vote.  Contrary to whatever pollsters may say or the press would have us believe, until the final vote is cast and counted, we do not have a winner or a loser. 

            I would urge all voters to seek answers to their questions.  This is a historical election, not only because of the candidates, but because of the issues which will face our next president.  Please, do not forget that we are electing the next president of the United States, not the next leader of the United Nations or the European Union. 

            We are a sovereign nation, and we must first concern ourselves with what America needs – not what others might think of us.  After all, we do have a long history of doing what is right, as a nation, and extending our help to those who need us – none who seem to ask whom the President might be, when reaching out to take our extended hand. 

            I have resisted photographs, on these pages, as I would hope to celebrate the written word, but I am closing with a cartoon, sent to me by my sister, Caroline.  It is supposed to be from an Australian paper.  (I do not have a more formal credit to list.)  Please take a few seconds to read through the list, of countries, liberated with American blood.  Senator John McCain is one of those men, who proudly wore a United States naval uniform, went into harms way, and fought for those who could not fight for themselves.  It is my belief that we once again need his strength and leadership.  

            Please vote.  The election is not over – Dewey did not defeat Truman, and McCain may yet surprise us all.   America deserves your vote – even if it is for the other side.  That is all for now . . .

 ~ M ~

October 2008


A Commentary on Violence

“Palin would be gang-raped by my big black bothers.”  Comment made by Sandra Bernhard regarding Governor Sarah Palin’s plan to visit New York.”,2933,431617,00.html

              On Saturday, October 4, at one o’clock in the morning, I stepped off of my treadmill, and walked over to my computer to cool off and check the headlines.  The house was quiet and mostly dark.  I went to CNN and there saw the red, breaking news banner announcing a verdict in the O. J. Simpson trial.  The judge had called everyone to court, and the verdict would be read that evening.  Thirteen years, to the day, after O. J. Simpson had been exonerated, for the murder of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. 

            I went back to my treadmill and walked another couple of miles, and then came back to read the verdict.  He was guilty on all counts.  O. J. Simpson was about to go to jail.   It was a strange moment.  I well remember the day the murders were breaking news.  Like so many in our culture, I somehow felt a connection to Mr. Simpson whom I had never met.  I had not followed his career in sports, but thought of him as that smiling man, jumping over things, in the airport, to get into his rental car.  I did not believe that nice man would kill anyone. 

            In Los Angles, where I lived, at the time, the days and weeks following the murder of Brown Simpson and Goldman, were played out in front of the television.  Everything from the crime scene investigators to the white Bronco to the opening and closing statements were televised. 

            Through it all, there was a part of me that continued to believe that O. J. Simpson was innocent.  I have often been accused of being a Pollyanna, and I suppose nothing proved that more than my feeling that a shadow of doubt existed.  How could anyone do such a thing to the mother of their children?

           As the trial played out, Kate and I left Los Angeles.  I had previously called my family together, announced that I was moving and asked them where they would be willing to go.  The resounding answer was that no one wanted to leave Los Angeles, but if they would move, it would be to New England.  I must say, it was the one place, in the country, which I had not considered. 

           Kate was being laid off, from the electric company, and I decided that this was my opportunity to leave the city of the angles, and thus we headed to New England, on September 22, 1995.  We drove cross country, with our life in tow and very much aware that the trial of the century was coming to a close. A week later, Kate would return to Los Angeles, to finish up her last month of work, while I house hunted in Massachusetts.  I remember driving her to the train station, on the day she was to fly back to Los Angeles, and us talking about what would happen if O. J. Simpson was convicted. 

           I feared for her safety.  Kate had been reading meters on April 29, 1992, when the Los Angles riots erupted – the same meters she was going back to read, for another month.  Our plan was simple.  If O. J. Simpson was convicted, she was to forget everything and leave. 

          When the O. J. Simpson verdicts were announced, around one o’clock, Eastern Standard Time, I remember watching the television, in great relief.  I literally said thank God.  Those were the days before we all had cell phones, but within seconds, the land lines were ringing.  I do not honestly know if by that time I had come to think Simpson guilty or if I was just relieved that the city was not going to burn. 

             As the news coverage continued, it did not take very long for a pattern to develop.  Around the country, people had gathered together to hear the verdicts, and repeatedly, the reaction to the verdicts was divided on racial lines.  White people were shocked, and black people were pleased – the common catch phrase was that this was justice – payback for Rodney King.  Even then I wondered, in the midst of my own mixed feelings if black people would have felt that way if the murder victims had not been white?

            The seeds for the Los Angles riots had been planted on March 3, 1991, when the Los Angles police pulled over a man named Rodney King, who had been driving over a hundred miles an hour, on the 210 freeway, trying to flea the California Highway Patrol.  King had a criminal record and in an act of poor judgment, thought he might out run the police, as he feared his parole for robbery and assault would be revoked, if he were stopped. 

            There were three men in the car, which King was driving.  All of the men were ordered out of the car, the other two complied, but King delayed his exit and then rushed toward the officers, resisting arrest.  The Los Angles Police Officers, involved in the traffic stop, proceeded to subdue King – first using their taser, shocking him with 50,000 volts of electricity, not once but twice, which had no impact, and then their batons.  Unbeknown to all involved, the evenings activities were being video taped, and would appear on local news, the following night.

            The four white, Los Angeles Police Officers, were charged for their use of excessive force.   After a change of venue motion was granted, they were brought to trial, in Simi Valley, a predominately white suburb, in Ventura County, which was known to be friendly to law enforcement.  The police officers were acquitted by a jury composed of ten white people, one Asian, and one Latino.   Eventually, federal charges would be filed, and two of the four officers would be convicted; but on April 29, 1992, Los Angles ignited as rage filled her streets and the cities angles were chased away. 

            I also remember helicopters hovering overhead, beaming their images to the televisions which were never turned off; and taking out a Thomas Guide map book, as I tried to figure out where Kate was in regard to the developing violence, which began with peaceful demonstrations, at the police department headquarters, Parker Center, and erupted into the worst urban riots the United States had ever witnessed. 

            Kate was working in Inglewood that day, a predominantly black neighborhood, in Los Angeles.  There were no cell phones, and she did not have a pager.  The radio in her car was broken; and as she finished her work day, she had no idea of the events starting to unfold around her.  She remembers driving back to the yard, where the meter readers and linemen kept their trucks, and being aware of the silence in the streets, as if a storm were brewing.  On that Wednesday afternoon, as Kate drove into the yard, she noticed all of the black people were standing outside, and when she tried to engage her colleagues which usually spoke with her and with whom she had enjoyed an amicable and social relationship, she said they barely made eye contact with her.  It was not until she went inside the office that she heard the verdict, and began to suspect that the coming storm was not blowing in from the ocean.  

            By 6:30 that evening, the Black crowds gathered at Florence and Normandy Avenue had begun a rampage against the city, starting fires, breaking store and car windows, looting what ever goods they could carry, and finally assaulting a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, who was beaten by the crowd, attacked with a cinder block, which smashed his skull, while someone else stepped on his neck.  Fidel Lopez, unlucky enough to find himself at the same intersection, was also beaten, robbed, while his head was smashed with a car radio and someone else tried to cut off his ear, while he was spray painted black.  Denny and Lopez were not the lone victims on Florence and Normandy that day.  They were both attacked by black crowds, and saved by black heroes who stood against their community, risking their own lives to save the strangers.  There were others less fortunate, 53 people lost their lives during the riots which lasted for a week.  

           As the days progressed, the violence grew, spreading from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Police and firefighters were attacked with bricks and rocks and bottles, as well as guns. The skies literally turned black, chocked with smoke from the thousands of fires which dotted the city and her suburbs, covering over 30 miles.  One does not easily forget the site of the National Guard, carrying sidearm’s and M-16’s, rolling down major boulevards, where days before you walked to a bus stop, or strolled into a shop for a cup of coffee or to rent a movie.  There was over a billion dollars worth of structural and personal damage, but it was the less tangible destruction which carried the highest price tag.     

            We were moving that weekend, again.  It was the end of the month, and we were leaving Maraquita Avenue, in Long Beach, to move to Whittier, another suburb of Los Angles.  My sister, Joy, was starting a church, and Kate and I were moving closer to work with Joy.  We had no choice but to work around the curfew, as we loaded our U-haul truck, during those horrific days and tried to absorb all that we saw. 

            Sadly, the coverage of the violence and the suffocating fires are not my worst memories of those days.  I think about my neighbors, friends, and co-workers, with who race had never been an issue.  I remember packing our truck and trying to say a simple hello to people whom we had considered friends, that suddenly could not bring themselves to look our way.  People who had no part in the riots or verdicts or the Rodney King affair, but had taken sides that were immovable, and could not allow for a hello or goodbye. 

            The Los Angeles riots would play a pivotal role in my decision to move away from California.  I feared the worst with O. J. Simpson, and was pleased he was acquitted of murder, and I have been even happier that his latest trial received so little coverage.

            Unfortunately, these days I am plagued by a fear of new riots.  I can not recall another time, in my life, when I have heard so many people speak of violence in regard to an election.  There was even an article in Newsweek discussing how black people were trying to figure out what their reaction will be if Senator Obama loses the presidential race.  People from all walks of life continuously make comments about this election leading to some violent reaction – why?  When did it become acceptable for a woman, like Ms. Bernhard, who claims to be a feminist, to call for a gang rape of another woman, in response to her stance on abortion?  There is something terrible wrong.

             When did we change?  When did it become a crime to hold opposing views?  I am shocked at how intolerant we have become.  What happened to presenting your argument passionately, debating the ideas, supporting them with facts, and then walking away agreeing that at least in America we are entitled to our own opinions? Debate in a free society is vitally important.  Our forefathers went to great lengths to ensure that we would have the freedom to express our thoughts without prejudice and fear of repercussion.

            One of the most amazing American gifts to the world is our ability to transfer power without violence.  Every four years, we all get our shot to choose a new President.  We get to campaign and contribute, we get to wear buttons and funny hats, we get to put up signs and hold demonstrations, we get to send money and torment are friends and foes with emails; and finally, we get to walk into our polling place, and cast a vote for the candidate of our choice! 

            At the end, of the process, we once again gather around our televisions, pace the floors, make a few phone calls, and tally the votes with the good folks in television land who color our nation blue and red.  We either win or lose, and then we celebrate or mourn; but we do not go out and burn down houses or shoot our neighbors or destroy businesses or wish death or rape upon anyone – that is not the American way, and that is all for now.,28804,1614117_1614084,00.html


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