A bit of same but different a century or so in the past

Posted by Tom Camfield

“A fool and his money are soon elected.”—Will Rogers

I’ve been blogging as if the Leader were a semi-weekly, as it was back around the 1920s or so. However, today we’re all short-timers here on the way to the Nov. 6 elections. And the Trump administration’s orchestrated distractions demand keeping pace with reality in a timely way. Republicans always have depended on the public’s short-term attention to what’s going on in the chambers of the rich and powerful.

The vote of the every-day regular American remains a main purpose of our U. S. Constitution. Those who these days don’t get around to it on election day are somewhat powerless when the system goes awry and shoves them to the curb on down the line. Witness the present day as a flaming example of that. If you don’t vote this November, don’t whine along about summer 2019 how you’re being screwed over by a self-serving dictatorial government; don’t demand that “someone” does something about it.

We need change on Nov. 6. We really can’t wait until 2020 to get a straight shot at Donald Trump on the ballot. His attack on the economy, the environment, the general welfare of the public (see below) needs to be reversed now via an improved Congress

Preamble of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of . . .”

I’ve really loved the lessons of history most of my life, the early years of which themselves now are history as I begin to ease my way offstage. Of the two individuals featured here, one was born in 1879 and one in 1880, but their lives and mine overlapped—in one case by 29 years. They were contemporaries of my Camfield grandparents (born 1872 and ’74).

I’m falling back on yesteryear here to expand on the basic condition of human nature—by what it is driven, to what it is susceptible . . . whether it is driven by the 10 commandments or the 7 deadly sins.

I never have cared much over all for H. L. Mencken. He was an intelligent being and wrote well, but he had the wrong kind of soul. He was an elitist and opposed populism and a representative democracy as a system giving inferiors domination over their superiors. He was a racist and an anti-semite. He opposed Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression of my childhood. 

I would have had a lot to ask Mencken if he were with us today. Such as, who among us is divinely anointed to determine who is “inferior” and who is “superior?” What are the guidelines? Are the greedy, rich and powerful superior to the altruistic and virtuous? Certainly not in my book.

His statement above obviously was a condemnation of the democratic system and the intelligence of the populace. But it seems that just about a century ago, he was pretty much spot on as a prognosticator as he predicted the ascension of Donald Trump via the incompetence of the public.

Like Donald, Mencken had an obvious lack of regard for the public at large. But one major difference was that Mencken did not lie continuously to the public in an effort to bend it to his will. Mencken satirized reality rather than trying to replace it with something he imagined it should be to best serve his individual being. And he was much more intelligent than Donald Trump is today.

Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1958) was a leading American journalist, essayist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English. He commented on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians and contemporary movements. (Read on for more on Mencken.) 

A contemporary of Mencken to whom I’d have been more drawn was William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers (1879-1935), stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, American cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist and social commentator from Oklahoma—a Cherokee citizen born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory.

His humor was not mean or individually demeaning; it generally rang a bell with most everyone when he described such things as human nature: “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” He really enjoyed the philosophical view of the human psyche: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Or “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  The guy had a quick wit and a real knack with the language.

One big difference of Will Rogers from from the others i’ve mentioned here: he laughed with rather than at the public at large. His was a welcome presence during the early years of the Great Depression.

Will was universally popular. I’ve seen him on film; I’ve read about him. I could quote him all day long: “I don’t make jokes; I just watch government and report the facts.” Or how about this one?: “A fool and his money are soon elected.” Some things never change. And too bad Will died prematurely so many years ago, in the crash a small plane piloted by aviator Wiley Post near Point Barrow, Alaska Territory, in 1935.

Mencken and Rogers were in their prime during my parents’ younger adult years. Will died when I was about to turn 6. Mencken lived on until 1958, when I was 29. I was never exposed much to the work of either of them until I was quite a bit older. If I wanted to emulate either of these two men it would be Will Rogers. However, my own efforts these days come out a bit more cynical than humorous, such as:

“It’s not only cream that rises to the top; sometimes it’s scum.”    

Speaking of which, no telling what Mencken would have to say about Donald Trump, who claims to be a populist but is an elitist at heart. I guess he’d’ve had to throw up his hands and settle on “moron.” 

The main reason I led off with Mencken today is that some liberals possibly didn’t realize that he was not criticizing the office of the president, but the electorate that puts such people into office. Such as the individual who took it upon himself to re-write my leadoff quote as it now circulates on social media. Apparently for applying it more directly to Donald Trump by changing “White House will be adorned by a downright moron” to “White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”  Without some knowledge of Mencken, the original quote easily is taken out of its context of denigrating the voice of the people—as our thoughts turn first to an image of Donald Trump.

It’s not that I object to calling Donald a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron. I buy that. But it’s that I don’t condone propagandistic sleight of hand by putting extra words into the mouth of some famous individual, even when it’s a relatively minor thing. I saw too much of that sort of shenanigan in more insidious and major ways, including doctored and misrepresentative photographs, from outright racists, conservatives and miscellaneous intellectual misfits day after day throughout the Obama years. Some still persist. The more misogynistic still choose Hillary as their target—although attempts to make her a scapegoat for the idiocy of Donald Trump are pretty ridiculous.

Fortunately, this doctored Mencken comment in no way can be called “fake news.” It’s merely some irresponsible sort on my side of the political aisle who figures himself clever. If we want to win the battle, those of us with a liberal bent will have to avoid dirty tricks, no matter how small, and avoid letting our opponents make mud-wrestling the choice of weapon.

OUR MAIL-IN BALLOTS will be along soon, and I’ve been reading both the voters’ pamphlet and various reputable news sources. If anyone’s interested, I’m voting YES on Initiative 1631 (anti-pollution), NO on Initiative 1634 (which would prevent specified taxes on such things as sugary soft drinks), YES on Initiative 1639 (certain firearm restrictions). As for Initiative 940 (added training and responsibilities for law-enforcement personnel), I’ll read more but it appears also to deserve a YES vote as it looks to be quite a responsible and progressive thing for our society. If the law certifies police officers to render first aid at an accident scene it should do away with any fears of liability—and consequently save lives.

As you already know, I’m 100% behind Senator Maria Cantrell over her career-climbing Republican challenger. Cantwell’s record of accomplishment on behalf of the public speaks for itself—and the last thing the country needs is another Republican in the U. S. Senate.

BREAKING NEWS—The books don’t balance.  The federal budget deficit swelled to $779 billion fiscal year 2018 (which ended Sept. 20), the Treasury Department said Monday—driven by a sharp decline in corporate tax revenue after the Trump tax cuts took effect. Upon taking office, Donald Trump said balancing the budget would be “an easy thing."

This $779 deficit, of course, is 77.9% of a trillion dollars (which is a 1 followed by 12 zeroes). Annual revenue now is a full percentage point lower than the average for the past 40 years. Trump in the past has assured the public that it is critical to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid “without cuts.” Mitch McComnell, leader of the Republican Senate that approved the Trump tax cuts, this week is talking about a taking "serous look" at those same programs—but you can bet that the GOP won’t be doing that until after Nov. 6.

And, oh! Who's going to be picking up this debt? Our biggest creditor is China—and we all know how Donald's been treating them.




No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment