Walt W deserves better than I gave him in my Reader column. He’s the MP that pulled black men off Italian prostitutes. The operative word here is missing. Its “white” prostitutes. Continue reading
About that guy who pulled black men off of Italian prostitutes……I’m composing a bit of a tribute to him for a more balanced picture. I’ll post it later today. But first, I want to practice my French on Duolingo.
I explained that long time West Duluth Representative Mike Jaros, would be the seed pearl of my next tutorial. But first let me check to see how many times over the last eleven years I’ve mentioned Mike on the blog……..Wow 95 times
The 2008 post was the beginning of my unqualified support for Mike. He joined me in attempting to restrain the rapacious Red Planners and, like me, he failed. I made a personal vow never to undermine him again through any veiled criticism.
In one or more of the 95 posts I have described our first meeting back in 1976 when he agreed to meet me for coffee and despite our looming face off how we got along famously. Ever since my gold star seal of approval always begins with adversaries who are willing to sit down and palaver with me. That is a standard one of the other side’s candidates this year has badly botched this election. Not Sally Trnka. She met with me and, although I am supporting Dona Krivogorsky, I consider Sally a good soul. (I’ve not gotten round to inviting Josh Gorham for coffee although some of my allies have and that’s a good sign. I once told Rosie Loeffler-Kemp we should get together but her eagerness to censure me put a pretty cold damper on my former invitation and we’ve never had a one-on-one. I just get veiled lectures/threats from her at closed meetings about not blogging.
You see, I was raised in an Era of a genial, if intense, cold war between the two major political parties which have now fallen so out of favor. If you search for references to my Grandfather and Harry Truman you will see that I’ve said of my Grandfather that he had a grudging respect for Democrats. That is so unlike the current mood in political circles. From the outset of my political career that has been my chief modus operandi. I will not unfairly malign the other side. I will malign their actions or hypocrisy if the public ought to be appraised of it but the faults I point out must not get in the way of my being able to work with adversaires. As I’ve always said of school board candidates: “I’ve never met one who didn’t have the best interests of children at heart.” That includes the Red Planners of whom my chief criticism has always been that they were insensitive to the public, stubborn, self righteous and foolish. They still cared about kids…….although some of them have stooped to pretty despicable depths to mischaracterize the motives of their critics, like me and especially Art Johnston.
So, where does that leave me with regards to Tutorial 6? Simply here at the “Golden Rule,” the real golden rule not this one: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I practice this with one proviso. “Beat me up once, shame on you. Beat me up a second time, watch out!”
I RECOMMEND STARTING THIS SERIES WITH PART 1
As you might expect from a politician who keeps pointing out that he has written millions of words over the past eleven years of blogging about the Duluth Schools I simply can not be content with a content free list of candidates to vote for. I believe in presenting the evidence, making a case, using logic, telling a story.
So this is what you would find in my current lit package:
Firstly: Continue reading
This is a close up of the front and back of my lit package for this campaign. I work very hard to make sure when I walk all the way to a front, back or side door that this package will be found quickly, in good order and tightly secured to the house.
I have packaged this envelope carefully so that both my last name and Dana Krivogorsky’s name appear on different sides of the package. As I continue going door to door the total package will change. When I go to Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s first distict I will slip in the flyer for her competitor Kurt Kuehn (pronounced Keen).
What follows is how I will either win or lose this election for the school board. It may end up being 7, 8, or 9 posts. I got three hours sleep and then woke up wondering how much more I would have to spend to guarantee the kind of campaign I’d like to end my career with (assuming that at age 66 this really will be my last campaign – a tall assumption that!)
So here a a couple of preliminaries because I’m just too fussy to KISS (keep it simple stupid.) Stuff about me:
A. My favorite comedian is Harry Anderson. You may remember him from the tv series “Night Court” where he played a judge. Before that he was a comic magician and I think he once made an appearance on SNL. (Ah, I see he did) As you will see from this video his schtick was to show his audience how his magic tricks worked. Then he would end up confounding them anyway. Heck, that’s what all my Internet stuff from 1999 on has been – an attempt to explain what I do…….and yet I still confound people.
B. My Mother who raised me to revere her politician father (for his war heroism) once told me on the outset of a campaign that she really didn’t want me to be a politician – such was her disdain for so much of politics.
C. I’m sure I could fill out the whole alphabet but lets go on to the next post:
PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I WOKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO WRITE A FUND RAISING LETTER AND IT BECAME THIS EXTENDED STREAM-OF-THOUGHT PIECE ON MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE. PLEASE ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT I HAVE NO DESIRE TO TIDY ITS 1903 WORDS UP WITH A COUPLE PROOF READINGS. IT IS AND WILL REMAIN IN ROUGH DRAFT CONDITION PROBABLY FOR AS LONG AS THIS BLOG CAN BE FOUND ON THE WEB. BTW – I RECOMMEND SKIPPING IT AND CUTTING TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH.
I have had a long relationship with the News Tribune which began when I first ran against Mike Jaros as a 25-year-old in 1976. Continue reading
Tonight’s episode, yet to air, will carry the story of Vietnam up to 1969.
Last night got us to President Elect Richard Nixon. As the PBS series makes clear Nixon told a few people privately that there was no quick exit from Vietnam despite his campaign assurances that he was going to get that done and with honor and get it done quickly.
I was in my High School junior year during his second campaign for President. I’d been in fifth grade when he ran for President in 1964. I had energetic debates with my neighbor Becky Penney about who would win that election. Becky and her family were for JFK. My family was for Nixon. As a fifth grader it was all about family loyalty with me even though I had begged my Grandfather to go to Washington D.C.in 1961 to shake hands with JFK who had sent him an invite to the Rose Garden.
My Grandfather offered me only one compliment of sorts. That was when he learned I was going to become part of our high School Debate team. Having debated himself he said it was an excellent activity for me to pursue. Ironically, my research in Debate led me to learn about Nixon’s Checker’s Speech and questions about his harassment of suspected communists. I didn’t trust him. When my high school speech teacher assigned his students to give a speech in another class I chose a History class and gave a hearty endorsement for Hubert Humphrey.
Nonetheless, I entered College as an independent. A few year’s later it was liberal self-righteousness that drove me to the Republican Party even as I opposed the Nixon Administration’s war policies. (I gladly voted for George McGovern) I’ve always believed in putting my feet in other people’s shoes. Sometimes that has meant wearing a tennis shoe and a wingtip simultaneously.
My first college protest blocking Mankato’s Main Street and Front Street and seeing how angry it made people who weren’t callow college students I concluded that inconveniencing people was not the way to win them over.
So, in 1972 when hundreds of college students from MSU and some local thrill seekers decided to block Highway 169 I had no intention of joining them. (This was where the reporter mentioned in the Tecla Karpen post filmed all the beer bottles and debris that the protesters left behind.) What I didn’t know was that my Dad, who had railed at LBJ years earlier when he was sending more troops to Vietnam, thought I would be on the highway at the protest.
A few years ago I was sent a portion of MSU President James Nickerson’s memoir about the war years at Mankato State. I regret to admit that I can’t find it at the moment but he mentioned my Dad, Daniel Welty, who was then the President of the Faculty Union.
He related meeting with Governor Wendell Anderson’s top assistant, the controversial Thomas Kelm, with my Father and other faculty present. Nickerson wrote that the hard charging Kelm said he was going to call out the national guard and force the students off the highway. At this Nickerson explained that Dan Welty strongly objected saying something like, You can’t do that. My son is on that bridge.
I don’t blame my Dad. He had been worried since I’d been in junior high that I might end up in Vietnam, a war he thought was damned foolishness. And at this moment six year’s later, he had to worry that I might get the Kent State treatment. That’s where four protesting Kent State students were shot to death by young national guard troops in Kent, Ohio.
The troops were never sent to Mankato.
I stuffed another thousand envelopes watching Sunday night’s return to Vietnam. It was about 1968 when I was in my last year of Debate at Mankato High and would switch over to being a Senior. I would drop debate because I wasn’t quite as dedicated as our teams survivors. Our coach was a misogynistic jerk who leered at girls in short skirts. Besides, I’d overcome my panic attacks and was drawn into the speech team’s story telling and our schools theatrics.
1967-68 was the year our family hosted an African student, Bedru, who unwittingly integrated the all white Mankato High. I was dating for the first time, tentatively and politely. I could drive the family car. College was a certainty two years off but even for a high school kid it was hard to keep one’s eyes off politics.
Last night’s PBS episode covered the basics that I was watching in my peripheral vision that seminal year. Martin Luther King was assassinated. (Ironically my Ethiopian roommate did not seem very moved by this. Perhaps he was used to being in a minority back home. BTW – I suspect that our family stopped hearing from Bedru a few years later after he was murdered as a political prisoner by his pro-American government.)
Bedru was however intensely interested in the Kennedy’s who stirred such hope across the third world. My intensely political father had us all up late to watch the California returns that would almost guarantee that his little brother, Bobby, would be the next president. Bedru, who was pulling for the younger Kennedy, stayed up even later than the rest of the family to watch the coverage from California after the results came in.
The next morning we discovered he had silently gone up to bed after watching Kennedy’s assassination.
Civil rights and Vietnam both came to a head in 1968 and I have many vivid memories from the events laid out in last night’s episode. For instance, my Dad’s shutting me up as I yammered questions just moments before Lyndon Johnson declared that he would not seek or accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for reelection. Its the only time I recall him ever shushing me.
I remember the riots that blazed across the nation after King’s assassination. The riot in Detroit has now been portrayed in a recent motion picture that I’d like to see. One took place in Baltimore. Three years later when I worked as a summer intern in Washington DC. I visited my friend Jim Zotalis in a suburb where he was an assistant in the Don Budge Tennis camp. I had just given him a tour of the nation’s capitol and he was reciprocating by hosting me. The drive into downtown Baltimore was a shock. I went through the King Riot zone and all the shops that had reopened in fire blackened brick buildings had heavy iron bars across the storefronts.
As for Vietnam, it was the fighting in the Tet Offensive that lasted a month in Hue that prepared college for me more than the other way around. A year-and-a-half later as a freshman I would see my first-and-only draft card burning and participated in a counter productive blocking of the downtown’s most important intersection. I’ve shunned self righteous crowds ever since.
I watched George Wallace, Richard Nixon and a bevy of Democrats vying for the job LBJ no longer had the fortitude to endure and that left me prepared for Donald Trump last year.
It was a helluva year.
No posts yesterday because I put in two 18-hour days in a row on my campaign. I shouldn’t have woken at 3AM tonight but when I did I thought about Tecla Karpen. She was the only person out of thousands of witnesses who commended me when she saw me at my finest. It was during the Vietnam War after a march on campus to protest it. It was the last march I would participate in until this year marching to honor Martin Luther King Day in Duluth. I wrote about it here along with that fine moment from my life. I did not however, mention Ms. Karpen who’s name was memorable enough for me to remember to this day. There is scant information about her on the web; she died last May; but there is this.
I thought I had mentioned her by name in the blog but was wrong. My Dad knew her but as the Faculty President at Mankato State, today’s Minnesota University, Mankato, he knew everyone. She was a speech teacher and I got an easy A or B in her class because I had long before gotten over panic attacks..
As I explained in the first post linked to I was outraged when a scruffy bunch of self righteous, preening protesters stood up before the quickly improvised speaking stand and screamed for a reporter to come to the microphone and justify his showing protesters at their worst on the news when they blockaded busy Highway 169. When he haltingly came to the microphone, a reluctant center of attention, they shouted him down with hoots and insults. Behind them stood a crowd of several thousand silent marchers who had just ended their two-mile march and had returned to the MSU commons to hear speakers. I was near the back by Armstrong Hall when I was overcome with contempt for them. I shouted over the gaggle and told the “suns of bitches” to shut up and let the man speak. Shocked at my flattery thru imitation they shut up. The reporter then explained, “I just reported what I saw.”
Only one person ever commented on this, Ms. Karpen. She told me I’d done a good thing and that she wished that she’d done it. Its about the best compliment I’ve ever gotten in my life. It was my man before the Tienanmen tank moment.
I mention this because of Burn’s continuing episodes on Vietnam which I have watched with great intensity while stuffing thousands of envelopes with campaign materials recommending my return and a change from the Red Plan status quo that still rules the school board. Sticking up for Art Johnston at the Editorial Board interview for his honor and integrity probably sunk my chances of getting the Trib’s endorsement so I have no choice but to pull 18-hour days.
My sticking up for the much slandered Art Johnston probably explains the Trib’s injured sniffing that Loren Martell and I were part of an “Ugly” past that the people of Duluth should get over. What a truly, shitty analysis by the leaders of a “newspaper” that still can’t bear to report that the Red Planners cannibalized millions of classroom dollars annually, for the next twenty years, to to pay for pretty new schools with overcrowded classrooms. They could have added that our status quo school boards were too chickenshit to raise our taxes high enough to pay for their vanity. They would leave it to our children to pay for it with less teacher contact time.
Yesterday, as I was going door to door in the heart of Denfeld, I ran across an older couple (that’s funny for me, a 66-year-old, to say) getting in their car. Before they could depart I gave them my song and dance and the husband impatiently asked me whether I was a Republican or a Democrat. I told him I was neither but he would have none of it. “You’re one or the other he insisted.”
I made a stab at summing up my long, tortured history with the two-party system. I explained that I had been a Republican but that I’d recently asked the DFL to endorse me but that I wasn’t good enough for them. (Never mind the School board is a non partisan office) As we fenced he asked me if I went to church. That apparently would be a deciding factor about my party choice. I said that I’d sung in the church choir for a quarter century. He said he’d been a Democarat most of his life but he was through with them. I got the idea he didn’t think the Party was Godly enough because he told me that he was a Republican now.
I tried to change the subject by telling him that I just wanted to treat the western schools fairly and he allowed that I had just said the magic words and I would get his vote. That was good enough for me.
Oh, and since I haven’t posted any daily campaign pics for a while I’ll offer up this from today… er yesterday …as I continued to tramp the Denfeld neighborhood. It is one of the loveliest lawn ornaments I’ve seen and it was in the yard of a very modest but tidy home:
I won’t be campaigning today. Having recently joined the church’s Building and Grounds committee I will be spending the day painting and picking up Glen Avon Presbyterian.
I watched all the Stanley Karnow episodes in the 1990’s about Vietnam but I think Kevin Burns will bring a little more nuance at a time when it can be digested by the folks who weren’t born and didn’t live through the war. I agree with Burns that our actions during this war divided America. However, I also believe that the entire Civil Rights Era was an equal partner in this division having predated it by 200 years.
My eight loyal readers know that I put a disproportionate blame on the GOP for all our woes. That war became a sort of substitute for Civil Rights because it simply became impossible to be an avowed racist after Martin Luther King. But being a patriot – that was different. Many folks could use “America First” or “Better Red than Dead” or the “Domino Theory” in place of race baiting to hang their political hats on. Ditto the Pro-life movement. For years northerners thumbed their noses at “racist” southerners, never mind their own urban red lining and segregation, and “saving babies” gave southern Baptist types the same sense of moral superiority to throw back at northern baby killing sophisticates.
Over time the GOP, which had beat the Democrats up over catering to special interests – blacks, latinos, women’s libbers and unions, became their own assortment of special interests, patriots, pro-lifers, pro-NRA, and “small government” (code for don’t make us integrate.)
In time the GOP got so virulent about removing RINO’s like me that they perfected “primarying” by which they defeated “liberal” Republican office holders and purged a formerly pro-civil rights party of moderates. Of course, the Democrats did something similar if less rigorously.
As much as I bemoan the “demagogue” Trump I can see his allure to folks who feel neglected and I can even see that the promise of turning politics on its head might just improve our politics. His base has not yet rebelled when he’s worked out deals with Democrats. In an odd way his manner and his supporter’s devotion are acting as a rebuke to Republican stuffed shirts……the same folks who went along with the purge of liberal Republicans like me because it kept working to keep the Congress in their hands.
All those moderate Republican Presidential candidates Trump whipped for the nomination……they were the same folks who stood by as the Republican Party got more white, more angry and more self righteous. They were also the great exponents of free trade which blue collar converts to Republicanism are so fed up with.
But back to Burns and Vietnam.
I hope his ten part series can put some of the ghosts of that era to rest. My story during that Era can be summed up this way:
My family raised me to revere my Grandfather who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was both for staying out of foreign wars, which he blamed on Democrats, and for supporting our troops no matter how stupid the war was once we were stuck in one.
As a college student in the 1970’s I couldn’t reconcile the contradictions that this dual policy required. I was embarrassed for not being a part of the war as I objected to it. But the WW II generation fixed it so that future wars, like Vietnam, would be fought by poor kids while college students were exempted. Even then I saw that as grossly unfair while I was going to college with a draft number of 41, low enough to insure I’d go into the service if I quit college.
And what a hideous war it was making America complicit in evil doings that turned the stomach and the mind. Thus it always is with war. As Robert E. Lee said: “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.”
If America can survive Donald Trump without succumbing to his call of “America First” maybe he will succeed in answering the hopes of his most ardent supporters to break out of the gridlock that has made our politics so lamentable in recent years. He may do it by killing the “Party of Lincoln.” That is, if the Republicans themselves haven’t already accomplished it.
It will be a long and fascinating day. I’ll keep lots of mental notes. I would also like to provide you with some time fillers during slow periods during the convention that are – blush – (dare I admit it?) a little self serving.
Yes, I live at that house and have for thirty-plus years of snow sculpting.
There are dozens of other examples here.
This is George Seanor Robb (Grandfather of Harry Robb Welty) shaking hands with JFK at a gathering to celebrate servicemen awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. There is a much more about my Grandfather here and on my blog.
I won’t post the startling photograph of the reenactment of Mankato’s infamous hanging that circulated after news of a Minneapolis Sculpture Garden tribute went awry and made the headlines. I wrote about this dreadful history in the Duluth Reader 15 years ago. My hero Lincoln reduced the number to be hanged from over 300 to the still alarming 38. There was another war going on at the time which took his attention away from a fuller clemency that I’d like to have think he would have preferred.
I wrote over 100 columns for the Reader and have them on my old Website.
You may wish to compare the speech Harry will give today with this one. Harry delivered it on Veterans Day in Topeka, Kansas a few days after Donald Trump was elected. If you start it at 11:30 minutes in it begins with a description of the unusual outfit that My Grandfather served with in World War I. My tribute starts after that.
Finally, I approve of Bernie Sanders campaigning for a pro-life Mayoral candidate of Omaha, Nebraska. If the Republicans have repudiated Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” the Democrats better follow Bernie’s example. By the way – I’m pro choice and have made that clear on a number of occasions, for instance here and here (when I first broke with the GOP)
With each passing year it becomes more evident that the Republican Party cares deeply about fetuses up until the moment of their birth. Then Its OK if the world they enter turns Dickensian. It will give them character and if we don’t like it we can just throw them in prison.
Coach Klar died last Saturday. I got word from the webpage set up for my fellow Mankato High classmates. I will write a little note to the family on the obituary website where I learned more about my old physical education teacher.
On the one post I mention Luverne Klar I got my facts wrong which is to be expected since I probably hadn’t seen him since I graduated in 1969. He didn’t attend the University of Minnesota which is one of the things I wrote on my post Wrassling:
I really didn’t need to hear my physical education teacher, Luverne Klar, telling me in high school that professional wrestling was phony. He had been one of the light-weight wrestlers on Vern’s University of Minnesota Wrestling team. Mr. Klar never tired of telling his classes how disgusted he was with the sham. He never forgave Vern for becoming a millionaire by claiming that professional wrestlers were serious athletes. Claudia had him for homeroom and didn’t much care for him but Mr. Klar once defended me from a bully and I had a sort of soft spot for the old curmudgeon.
Neither did I know that he was a World War 2 veteran although kids in the sixties would have taken that for granted of our elders.
Klar was a champion Iowa wrestler who took up the sport again after the war while attending UNI or the University of Northern Iowa (not the U of M) no doubt under the GI Bill. He was a tiny man and must have been champion in the 90 pound weight class in his glory years.
He once stood up for me when I was being harassed by a guy who had a chip on his shoulder about me. His name was Gary and he happened to die two years before Coach Klar. I wrote about him too on the blog. I don’t know that I needed Mr. Klar’s help but I appreciated it when he told the class that I could have pounded Gary if I had a mind to. It probably would have been one of those embarassing circle around for half an hour affairs. Gary and his buddy Glen hadn’t done much more than keep trying to trip me as we were playing basketball in gym class but Klar commented on it while everyone was back in the locker room afterwards.
Whether Mr. Klar’s help was necessary or not, it was the thought that counted.
I was quite taken with a couple of academics who were analyzing the reaction to the Trump Presidency. They in turn were taken with the many patriotic ads on the Superbowl which seemed to be challenging the “Nativism” so prominant in the new Donald Trump Presidency. They both were intrigued by a nascent partiotism they sensed that the Trump victory brought out in Americans who did not share his values. It was as though his critics vision of America had been rocked in a way that offended what they loved about America. It was something of a rebuke to the patriotism trumpeted by the new President’s loyalists but it was as genuniely pro-America as the Trumpster’s flag lapel pins.
I had already fished out my American flag when I heard this and it struck me as a very positive development.
I have always been drawn to silver linings and just maybe the election of an unpalatable Donald Trump has galvanized a lot of folks who will refuse to roll over and play dead. I hope so.
This discussion is not yet on the PBS Newshour webpage either.
My Buddy accuses me of being prissy when I complain about his emails. Well, I just want to assure my readers that my family doesn’t consider me so. In fact, I wrote a lengthy goodbye letter to my Uncle Frank in which I spent a lot of time talking about his older brother, my Father, who died 30 years ago at the tender age of 62 which I’ve already surpassed by four years.
I wrote and sent the letter when I was under the impression Uncle Frank was unwilling to have family pay a call on him before he went to the great beyond. So, I wanted to tell him about how his brother’s oldest son, me, saw Daniel Welty. I included a several paragraph description of Dad’s cussing:
After my college years, I learned about one of Dad’s tactics for a good defense – swearing. I’ve already mentioned his invocation of blue beard in the face of detour signs. Well, in about fifth grade I took up some pretty serious swearing thus honoring my Father by imitation. This continued until I skinned my knee in the alley behind Mulvane while walking home with Mom. I kicked up such a torrent of wretchedness that Mom was terribly embarrassed. All our neighbors rushed to their fences to see who had just died. That night Dad told me the secret to swearing. Only swear when you want people to know you mean it because if you do it too promiscuously no one will ever pay attention to you.
What I didn’t know was that Dad did not always adhere to his own good advice. When I was a Phi Delt pledge a rotund active, Denny, who promised to hook me up with girls who would do anything I wanted, asked me confidentially if my Dad “talked like that at home?” While I declined his offer of female companionship I did ask Denny what he meant by Dad’s talking at home.
Denny exclaimed, “Does he swear like that at home?”
“Yes,” I affirmed.
It turned out that there were a lot of football players and jocks in Dad’s Business Law classes and Dad felt that a healthy blast of profanity would keep them from challenging him. I never quite understood this but college profs are a different breed. One of Mankato State’s Psych professors went to our little Congregational church. Dad told me that Professor Kansler pulled down his pants in class to reveal polka dotted briefs. He followed this gymnastics by chanting the “ef” word repeatedly for a couple minutes “to teach the class about desensitization.” I kinda wish I’d been there to witness this spectacle but Dad offered me plenty of his own layman’s psychology – at no charge – to help me make my way in the world.
It turns out that my family is right. My example has not always been the best. My cousin told me how I got her in trouble on a visit to Colorado. Apparently she picked up some of my new and unfamiliar vocabulary and tried it out at home. She got what for and said my embarassed Dad had to take me to a room and do the same. Except that no one could hear me getting what for.
I had to admit to my cousin that I couldn’t recall this family trauma. Had I gotten a good what-foring I’m sure I would have remembered. I did tell her, however, that I remembered my Mother washing my mouth out with soap when I was a first grader. I’m sure I picked up my vocabulary just like the kid did in Jean Shepherd’s Christmas Story.
Like a lot of free advice my Dad’s advice on cussing was sound – even if he didn’t practice it as faithfully as he could have. Ditto for me. And by the way those recent studies that suggest intelligent people swear more…….I regard them with a healthy skepticism.
I put this movie in my memory bank over the last year when some economic analyst on NPR gave it a big thumbs up. Last night I saw that it was available on Netflix and Claudia and I watched it. It was Economics made fun and every bit as disgusting as a Zombie Apocalypse movie.
The Housing meltdown roughly coincided with the start up of the Red Plan and its purveyors shared many similarities to the get off scott-free, big money folks who pushed replacing almost all our facilities at a single stroke. They got rich and left the District to draw down its reserves, cut teachers, and compound it all by sucking millions of dollars annually out of our local tax levies in the General Fund to pay off Red Plan borrowing. Their supporters herd-like thinking reminded me of the people in the Big Short who stood back in disbelief as investment bankers cost six million Americans to lose their homes.
I’ve mentioned this before but that meltdown was part of the reason I had a heckuva time fighting the Red Plan. My family got caught up in the housing mania and a massive loan was taken out on my Mother’s house even though it was only a decade away from being paid off in full with very modest house payments. I’ve recently patched up my differences with the family members who lost that house and left me to spend months and months trying to get City Bank and Wells Fargo to let us short sell the house at a loss (for the banks) who eagerly permitted the misguided loan to go through. Our “short sale” took my brother and me months of calling the banks daily to find a human behind a phone. It was all I could do to find time for two simultaneous battles. When the sale neared completion and I finally pulled out of the Red Plan fight I took a vacation with Claudia. I faxed the last papers to the bank while traveling through, Lincoln, Nebraska, on our way to the Colorado Plateau. I was desperate to get out of town. I was so worn out that I got violently ill at the Grand Canyon. One morning Claudia heard an elk bugling outside our cabin and she thought it was me in my deaths throes. That’s what you get for burning your candle at two ends.
This post needs a good editing but that can wait. Claudia and I are going out to see Hidden Figures. That should be a good film too.
Editing is now complete…….
Hidden Figures is great.
For better than ten, perhaps fifteen years I was the pronouncer at our regional Scripps Howard Spelling Bee. I have mentioned spelling bees and my experiences with them in about a dozen previous posts over the last ten years.
The subject of the last half of John Ramos’s Reader Column this week concerns an unhappy experience his son suffered during the bee held at their school. His concerns ended up in my District email inbox last week and I sent Mr. Ramos a reply that attempted to put things in perspective and console him. From the conclusion of his column I gather I was not the only school board member to reply to his complaints.
As for the title of this post – I was attempting to find a synonym for the world “spelling.” I didn’t really find one. Neither would my headline space permit me to post the word I copied from the Internet, demonstrating its proper pronunciation. It couldn’t recognize the symbols for getting the pronunciation right. Golly, I can do something better than my blog software. I love those upside down e’s.
This is one of my Mother’s paintings. Its called “Lilly White Town.” She painted it to symbolize the new world we had moved to when we left Kansas and my Dad began teaching business law at Mankato State. It was a different world where some of my new school mates took to calling me “reb” because they thought my Kansas accent was a southern accent.
When I moved from Topeka, Kansas, to Mankato, Minnesota in 1963 to start junior high school I left a classroom in which there were as many black kids as white kids. My new school had never seen a single black child in a hundred years.
The fellow I call “my Buddy” likes to send me emails calling be a “bigot.” He also calls me a “race hustler.” This is a person I once teased when I discovered he wrote a civil rights rule for a municipality back in the day. I don’t think that when he calls me names he means that I am prejudiced against white people although its likely he thinks I’m guilty of “liberal guilt.” This is a term used by “conservatives” who also like to call liberals “bleeding hearts.” Liberals are supposed to be driven by guilt to rectify old wrongs by accepting the blame for them. This is what Jesus did when he “died for our sins.” How dare libs take on a Jesus complex.
Well, of course, this self righteous attitude would rankle. The equally dim “conservative” reaction goes something like this: “Don’t blame me and don’t expect me to apologize. I never owned slaves. The Civil War is over. Move on. And for your information – just because I’m white doesn’t mean I got any privileges handed to me.” I suspect, but can not prove, that all this goes through my Buddy’s head when he calls me names.
After the Herculean multi-year task of putting 40 years accumulated paperwork in some sort of order in my attic office I’m sitting with a floor completely free from boxes, folders and piles of documents. There are just a handful of items within reach of my clean desk. One of them is the book, Bleeding Kansas, I ordered recently after spotting it in the Kansas City Library.
Its one of the books I plan to consult as I write about my Grandfather, George Robb, next year. His father settled next to a black former slave eighteen years after the passage of the Kansas Nebraska Act.
Long time readers of this blog may remember my past references to my Grandfather’s ties with his neighbor the ex slave and my Grandfather’s service with black soldiers in World War 1 and maybe even the black maid my Mother hired to take care of him when he became infirm.
I think I’m the perfect person to talk about race. I think my Mother suffered from a little guilt where race was concerned. The painting at the beginning is evidence of this. The schools she attended were segregated until she got to junior high school. The Civil Right’s movement was going full bore when she was a young mother. Then she moved to Mankato at its height where there was precisely one black resident among 40,000 locals. He was Dr. Boerboom a veterinarian.
I, on the other-hand got the benefit of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, another frequent topic in this blog. These were my classmates in sixth grade before I left Topeka for lily white Mankato.
In many ways attending school with so many black kids inocculated me from thinking of them as a sterotype. They were individuals and I can understand how and why the 8% of blacks who voted for Donald Trump might have justified voting for man I consider an amoral, race-baiter.
Standing next to me at the top left is the only other Harry I knew growing up, Harry O’Neil. I vividly remember watching him round third base on our elementary playground after he lofted a kickball way into the outfield and looking over his shoulder to make sure he could run to home plate. A split second after he turned his head forward to run into home he smacked into an immovable six-inch-wide tether-ball poll that the Topeka Schools had inconveniently placed on the path from third base to home. He lost his incisors.
On the other end of the top row is Cynthia Robinson. What an annoying girl. She insisted she had another last name that belonged to her real father. There was a divorce or something going on. She was a tattle tale and a religious scold. She once tried to get my favorite teacher Mrs. Criss to kick me off a science club for some infraction. When she overheard me say something she disapproved of she grandly told me that if I ever took the Lord’s name in vain he’d strike me dead on the spot. I took great delight in looking up to the heavens and shouting to God to kill me. Poor Cynthia could only tell me reproachfully that God would oblige me but do it in his own good time when I least expected it. To my delight God has been in no hurry to expedite her prediction.
There’s Sherman a couple rows below me. I remember Mark Knickerbocker telling everyone with great enthusiasm, when Sherman showed up in sixth grade, what a cool kid he was because Mark had known him at a different school years before. My first interaction with Sherman was after school when he snatched my folder of artwork and proceeded to dump the pictures I’d made out to blow around on the playground.
I remember Vicky Bryant who is not in this picture because she was sent to Mrs. Muxlow’s sixth grade class where all the smart kids ended up. (Mr. Ross taught the losers although at the time I thought it was simply the luck of the draw that had separated me from so many of my friends) I invited Vicky to the cool Halloween Party my Dad organized for me in our basement. She was outgoing, smart, friendly and one heck of an athlete.
I passed some of these black kids houses on my way to school next to “Tennessee Town.” Some of them had 12 siblings and lived in tiny rattle trap houses propped up on cement blocks. Leslie Lewis was one of them. She was an Amazon who my Mother thought was becoming quite mature while I only saw her as a goofy giantess. I remember quiet studious black girls from middle class families who were too dignified for me to get to know. Thinking back on it I suspect there was a powerful incentive for them to protect their dignity by having as little to do with dangerous white people than they absolutely had to.
The five years I spent at Loman Hill Elementary School were like an inoculation against white cluelessness. It didn’t make me a champion for civil rights (which I think I am) but it gave me the sense that no one should be stereotyped based on the color of their skin. Heck, only a handful of my black classmates were really dark. A lot of them were much lighter skinned and represented a lot of white genetics. Gotta love the one drop rule.
Among my many finds in the Kansas State Historical Museum Archives was a paper my Grandfather wrote about James H Lane. I have yet to read it and fully expect to learn more about Kansas History as I write a book about my Grandfather. I think America is in the midst of a new Come to Jesus movement where race is concerned. I think that sharing what I know of my Grandfather’s experiences could give us a new perspective and help us move on. If nothing else writing it will help me sleep better at night.
My daughter Facebooked me to tell me that she (young as she is) knows what the Manchurian Candidate is. For those who haven’t heard of it it was a movie based on a book. The plot was about how communists North Koreans had brainwashed an American POW to assasinate an American politician. Its appearance in theaters ironically and infamously coincided with the assassination of JFK.
I haven’t seen the recent remake. Sinatra’s version was good enough for me.
Coincidentally, PBS aired a two-hour American Experience tonight on the fighting at Korea’s Chosin Reservoir and the perilous, frozen escape of American soldiers surrounded by tens of thousands of Chinese troops. Some of the first American POWs came from that fighting.
My Uncle, Frank, was in a MASH unit during the war. I know virtually nothing about his actions but I know he helped a Korean from his camp immigrate to the US after the war. I wrote about Frank once for the Reader in an anecdote about Grandfather. Its one of my favorite family stories.
Frank must be about 88 now. I had originally intended to travel on to Colorado after visiting Topeka, Kansas, next week and ask him about my Dad’s side of the family in much the same way that I’m researching my Mother’s side now. I decided against it because he lives at 8,000 feet and winter is coming. I’ll come back for the next school board meeting instead. Maybe I’ll try Colorado next spring.
After watching the program I ordered the third book in a trilogy. I collected the first two of the books better than a decade ago but never read them. Maybe its about time I do. Its about the “Forgotten War.”
After my post on the Manchurian Candidate I got an email from my Buddy and we proceeded to have a testy exchange. My characterization of FBI Director James Comey as worse than a “communist dupe” struck my Buddy as “unhinged.” Nevermind that Presidential candidate Trump – the butt of my exageration, has said far worse about a great many other people on television over and over for the last year. Nevermind that he leads his audiences in inflamatory chants of “lock her up. lock her up.” No, its me that’s unhinged.
I could have confessed to being a tad excessive to my Buddy but I didn’t feel like it. He had just sent me a story about how the lastest polls show Trump up over Clinton by a point and I’d just been stewing about Comey and the part he may have played in this last rough week for my preferred candidate Clinton. I thought he was trying to goad me so I let myself be goaded. It never pays off.
As a bit of a concession I sent him a commentary that was anything but unhinged in finding fault with Comey. My Buddy made no reference to it when he sent me another snappish email.
What is indisputable is that Vladimir Putin would love to see American politics lose its lustre for the rest of the world even if it means that an unpredictable narcisist takes the reigns of power perhaps as disasterously as when Trump plunged his Atlantic City Casinos into bankruptcy. Putin would have the office once presided over by Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, the Roosevelts and Ronald Reagan handed to a man who flushed Reagan’s “eleventh commandment” down the commode. In other words, Putin wants a lying, uninformed, lucky, idiot billionaire to be America’s next president. My Buddy reminds me incessantly that standard issue Presidents, like he’s sure Hillary will be, got us into the Vietnam War. How could Trump be any worse? he asks. I only write back to him out of sheer cussedness.
Hemingway said that courage is “grace under pressure.” Perhaps mine failed me. Ironically, Comey’s dubious last-minute, non revelation has been defended by none other than President Obama. I doubt that my Buddy will give him credit for being more rational than me even though Obama is busting a gut to get Hillary Clinton elected. My Buddy twitted me a few years back about how Obama was treated as the “Messiah” by his early adoring fans and how he let them down by not providing them utopia. I keep reminding by Buddy that from a minute Obama was elected Republicans made it clear their only real priority was to make sure he was a one-term president. They didn’t dare let America be run well for the next four years if they hoped to depose him. The result eight years later a is Donald Trump now the titular head of the Party of Lincoln. And who can forget his constant threats and taunts to his fellow Republicans. That’s what six years of Republican gridlock got America. If Trump is not a Manchurian candidate I don’t know what the hell he is.
By the way, an hour ago I had to run to Wallgreens and get a fresh 9 cell to stop a fire alarm from shreeking at me every twenty seconds. My Manchurian Candidate sign was still standing. I give it fifty/fifty odds of making it through the night.
In 2002 I visited my old Topeka home with my Mother just as Alzheimers was beginning to intrude into her life. I asked her to drive me around town to show me the seven houses her family moved to, one each year, for the first seven years her father was the Kansas State Auditor. I took their pictures, where they still stood, except for the house on Clay Street that may have fallen victim to the tornado in 1966. In two weeks I’ll be heading back to Topeka, this time as a guest of the local VFW to participate as they memorialize Mom’s father on November 11th. It will be the 99th anniversary of the battle that made him a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
For the past couple months I have been sorting and organizing documents related to his life. They fill five three-ring binders. I’ll probably come back with even more documentation because I plan to spend a couple days at the Kansas Historical Society where my Mother and her sister took his letters after his death. At the time she was quite irritated with one of the archivists who panned their gift of my Grandfather’s Medal of Honor telling them that the Historical Society had more of that kind of stuff than it knew what to do with. When I visited Topeka with her in 2002 the medal was hanging in an exhibit about my grandfather. Here’s Mom bending down to read the captions:
That helmet in the case used to hang on a wall between the garage and Grandpa’s kitchen. My cousins liked wearing it with the bullet hole next to the temple.
I also took pictures of some Topeka schools. The one on the top is Loman Hill Elementary where newly integrated students were sent to our classrooms when I was in Second grade. The photo in the middle was the segregated Buchanan School whose students were sent to Loman Hill. How appropriate that it was named for the least competent President in the Nation’s history. The bottom school was Monroe Elementary now the site for the Brown V. Board of Education National Historic site.