Dennis does the impossible: he drives off in The-Car-That-Cannot-Possibly-Run,-But-It-Does, and leaves me here at the Flagpole’s suite of offices, something akin to a remake of Home Alone, to turn out my column. I’ll try not to destroy everything in my wake, okay?
I admit it. The column for the 1/30 issue was just tossed together in the nick of time. It was not one of my better ones. The one before that, datelined 1/23, was a lot more thought-through and a good effort. I’ll try not to let you down this time, either.
Let’s go back to my column of 1/23 where I mention The Peace Encampment. To my mind, at least, to criticize the government is a most patriotic thing to do! To sit back and blindly swallow whatever spews out of whomever-in-Washington’s propaganda machine (and it’s a fact: everyone has one, even the good guys: nowadays it’s a necessity of life politically) is not as patriotic as to exercise the right to question those in power, when those questions are asked nonviolently and with some degree of respect for the truly awesome system we have in this country. Find another country in this world that, all things considered, is as free as ours: you won’t. But DO look anyhow, and feel free when you do. I remember reading once what Mr. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, often called The Great Dissenter, who sat on the United States Supreme Court for 45 years or so earlier this century, had to say about a person’s feeling free to criticize our system: “The true measure of a true Democracy is not how it treats its friends, but how it treats its enemies; those who would seek to destroy it.” Some heavy words there. Well, I don’t see anyone seeking to destroy our system here, only trying to get a little peace, thus exercising gentle armtwisting to achieve social change: hardly a Bolshevistic game, I’d say.
Listen, the crux of this entire problem is that people are taking themselves too seriously. In our culture, Saddam Hussein would be delegated to being an actor in B-grade western movies, and one of them guys already got elected President in this country. It is little or no wonder to me that fewer people vote in each Presidential election; seems to me that more and more folks are feeling disenfranchised by bigger and bigger spending to get into office. Not every Tom, Dick and Harriet can afford to run at today’s prices, and this biases the sample something fierce among those who run… to those who can afford to: and who have the most to gain for themselves insodoing. There are two U.S. House members who really impress me, and i’ll mention a little about them both here.
The first is William Natcher, U.S. Congressman from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Mr. Natcher, a Democrat has been opposed in the last two elections by Martin Tori, a Republican from Radcliff, Ky. who drew 34% of the vote last time out. Tori is perfectly qualified; he’s just the only person, apparently, who wants to challenge Natcher, who has been in office about 30 years. Natcher has missed only one voice vote in his entire term of office, and that was on a bill that did not apply to his district (he could have voted anyway). He returns a sizeable surplus of funds to the General Treasury every year, stating that he doesn’t need all that much money to run his office. His employees have all been there quite awhile, and there are way fewer of them than in most such offices. They do not complain of overwork. There is no Fax(R) machine, but an office copier finally was installed recently. Bill Natcher returns to his district virtually every weekend, making himself available to his constituents at every turn possible. Once my friend Freeman Kitchens, postmaster of Drake KY. 42128, needed Mr. Natcher’s services; it is my understanding that the next Saturday morning at 10:00, Bill Natcher was standing in Mr. Kitchens’ grocery store, R.C. in hand, ready to help. I might add that Mr. Natcher does not campaign, calling it a waste of time when he instead could be out helping people. “If you do your job right,” he once sniffed, “you won’t have to campaign your seat off: you’ll get to keep it.” Double-pun notwithstanding, he also refuses all campaign contributions. He is past 80 years old and remains quite vigorous; I only wish him many more good years—and someone waiting in the wings to take his place.
I have a likely candidate for such.
Every state receives two Senators; each state is allotted at least one Representative on a population basis. Vermont has only one: Bernie Sanders, the first Democratic Socialist to sit in the U.S. House since I Forget Whom left office about 1948: and Italian-American from Harlem. Maybe someone out there knows and will tell me. Thanks. Bernie Sanders organized a grass-roots coalition of Progressives to first become Mayor of Burlington, Vermont’s largest city: about the size of Athens, and the home of University of Vermont. He defeated both a Republican and a Democrat to win the House seat by something like 7% of the vote. Interestingly enough, he has a lot to say about overtaxation: he feels we are underrepresented taxationally, that is priorities have to be shifted significantly to bring services to where they are needed; and that will, he feels, bring the people who have ceased to be interested in the political system back into enfranchisement. He sees The Homeless as a major priority and The Disenfranchised right along behind them. He is not opposed to the making of a fair profit, but he feels (and many folks agree) that too many profits are being made by too few people in America, and that a reasonable way has to be found to spread the wealth around without destroying or damaging our system. He has an uphill climb. Bernie spoke on Larry King’s Radio Show one night and mentioned “Do you know how much money they give EACH U.S. Representative just to run their office?”, produced an approximate figure, and then said “I intend to run my office on 1/10 of that; let the money go to something NECESSARY out there.” A noble attitude; I wish him lots of luck; Freshman Congressman Sanders has a lot of good ideas that we desperately need in these troubled times.
I heard a new band tonight called RePercussion. New and creative, two guys playing drums with a tape going in the background. Go see them if you have a chance. They are a welcome option to endless jangly guitars. One of the duo is from Atlanta, the other hails from these parts, so their existence may be geographically schizophrenic, even if their music isn’t.
The Atlanta Journal/Constitution had a great quote from 11-year-old Edwin Coleman, a 5th grader at Garden Hills Elementary School: “I think the war is wrong. I think God put oil in different parts of the world to teach us how to share.” Funny thin is that I’d never thought of it in that light before. I wonder if anyone out there had that revelation before now? Anyone out there into Bible prophecy and how that could fit into it all?
One additional thought: “When the workingman spends his evenings at home or at the library, and has good books and a gramophone and an automobile, society will be better off.”—William Allen White, editor Emporia (Kansas) Gazette, and I can’t underline that and be correct. So it stands. I sit, but not for long. Dennis is back and wants to get out of this pit. So do I. So it’s
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