Whammy Burger Nation

The Platonic idealist is the man by nature so wedded to perfection that he sees in everything not the reality but the faultless ideal which the reality misses… George Santayana

Irony, of late, has garnered a bad name. Sincerity is the valued coin of the realm these days. And so it is with the burgeoning Secessionist Movement, where disillusioned Americans petition to withdraw from the Union. My inclination is to ridicule such sentiments particularly since the location of secessionist rhetoric is centered in the Heart of Dixie. I do attach racist and nativist underpinnings to the Secessionist “argument” but I think something else is going on as well.

An appropriate illustration of where a number of our fellow citizens find themselves (me, too, at times) is in our sympathy for the character Michael Douglas plays in the 1993 movie “Falling Down.” Douglas portrays a recently laid off defense contractor employee, William Foster. Foster is divorced, disillusioned, depressed and in despair. All he wants is to attend his daughter’s birthday party but has a restraining order against him by his divorced wife. Caught in LA freeway traffic, he abandons his car and begins the long walk across the city to see his daughter.

Foster has many run-ins on his journey crossing a modern American hell but the classic confrontation (for me) occurs in a fastfood restaurant featuring the Whammy Burger. Foster orders off a visual menu showing the quintessential perfect hamburger—The Whammy Burger—photographed to steaming culinary perfection. Alas, when it arrives, it is anything but. It’s pathetic. Soggy bread, wilted lettuce and a piece of meat the size of a burnt quarter. What happens next is what all of us have all dreamed of—Walter Mitty-like—doing. Worth a look-see.

I liken the Secessionist mindset to Foster’s viewing of the perfect Whammy Burger. In the back of the Secessionist mind is some ideal of an American golden-age, a blessed America, of that “shining city on the hill.” Yet the reality of our pluralistic democracy, with all our diverse constituencies vying for power and preference, well, it is a shockingly rude slap to the face to those who have an idealized (or infantile) conception of American history. As has been observed the making of slaughterhouse sausage and representative democracy have much in common.

Secessionists lament the loss of freedom. I am unsure of what loss they mourn. I recently attended a private Shoot’N’Annie along the St. John’s River with enough guns and ammo to have respectably defended Stalingrad in 1943. I do not see any loss of freedom when it comes to the Second Amendment. No one is requiring anyone to attend a specific church. You definitely can speak your mind in America.

No, Jepson, loss of freedom when it comes to taxes and onerous regulations (like being required to contribute to your healthcare). Ah, taxes and regulations. “Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly” to again have an American population of 3.9 million, as was the United States in 1787, with an entire continent at your feet, virtually vacant, to exploit. Just over the next hill, the long arm of “that” onerous government nonexistent.

America was never the “faultless ideal,” the most perfect of Whammy Burger Nations. And this, Dear Reader, is what is. A diet of illusion and ignorance are always menu options in a democracy. What’s the tagline? Tastes Great! . . . Less filling! Not very sustaining in the long run, however. For the individual or the nation.

New Tricks For Old Dawgs?

A lot has been said about the Presidential election that unless the Republicans expand their base of support, the GOP will inevitably slide into irrelevant obscurity, modern day Whigs, if you will. The GOP is essentially a white person’s political party. Break it down even further, it’s essentially an old man’s whites-only club. Deconstruct it even more, Romney carried the Old South (Dixie) and a few low population western states. It begs the question of how much of the anti-Obama white vote was based on the President being a black?

Racial prejudice is something I’ve never quite understood. Interesting that some of the whitest states, Iowa for example (90%+ white) voted for Obama. A majority of white Iowans voted for Obama whereas that was not the case in Southern States. A vast majority of white Mississippians, for example, voted for Romney. Why the difference? Why would Iowans, an overwhelmingly white state vote for Obama yet a majority of white voters in Mississippi would not?

I believe a percentage of the anti-Obama white vote was based on voter discomfort with having a black man lead the United States. A black president does not validate or confirm “that” voter’s worldview. I think if you pressed such a voter, they would predictably deny racial prejudice.

Of course, there are a myriad of reasons why anyone selects one candidate, one political party over another. I do believe, however, that a candidate’s race does, pardon the pun, “color” some voter’s perspective and how they ultimately vote.

What does any of this mean for the Republican Party winning national (or even statewide) contests? If a vast majority of your party is made-up of old white men (and women), future demographics are running against you. The reality is running, contrary to the lyrics that, “Time is on my side, yes it is.” Except it isn’t. Our growing multi-cultural, ethnically diverse population will not come “running back” to white America. It’s over, white boys.

As a white boy myself, I grew-up in lily-white Iowa. In my hometown of Sioux City in the 1950s & 60s, there were perhaps, at most, 50 black families. Even during the demonstrations and violence of the Civil Rights movement race was not a regular topic of discussion around my dinner table. Vietnam was a much more discussed issue because of its potential impact on the family (my brother and I were of draft age).

None of my friends, save my best friend Ron Jones, ever mentioned black people or the challenges they faced. Racial epithets were never thrown around because, I believe, it was not the language we heard in our homes. Not because “we” were better but because race wasn’t an issue, in the community’s face, so to speak. There were no civil right’s marches in Sioux City that I ever recall.

In 1974 while back in Sioux City, my father volunteered (out-of-the-blue) something to the effect, “You know, son, I had it wrong. Negroes have had a raw deal in America. They were enslaved and are horribly treated yet today. They are just seeking their due justice. They want to have what the rest of us have.” Amen, Dad.

That didn’t mean he’d have been overjoyed with a black family moving in next door. My father is dead. As will be the GOP if Republicans do not lose their prejudice of minorities—of every color and, as importantly, of every persuasion.

The Message Versus The Messenger

A gentleman provided a letter to Monday’s (10/01) Orlando Sentinel that read in part, “If it’s God’s word . . . there needs to be no discussion – end of story.” He closes with, “God’s word is final and supreme in the United States of America.”

This is “red meat” rhetoric of a Bible literalist. I sometimes fanaticize about publically debating such an individual (Possible topic: “Is a belief in a personal god necessary for living an ethical life?), but then realize what would be the point? I’d stand-up and give what I believe in and why (something along the lines of the Crash Davis, “I Believe In. . .” speech from the movie Bull Durham). The opposition would stand and say, in essence, “Cuz the Bible says it’s so.” I’d offer some facts (science/logic/history). He’d respond with dogma/scripture/faith. And, as is said, “never the twain shall meet.”

He’d leave the debate thinking me a “damned” apostate and I considering him little better than the village simpleton.

One of the real joys in living in 21st century America (the West) is we can experience our individual lives (generally speaking) without fear of censorship or repression by the state. Believe what you will but mind your own business – that’s the ticket to a free society. Unfortunately, my conviction of “Believe what you will and MYOB” bumps into the prescriptive dogma of the religiously certain. You see this when it comes to such issues as stem cell research, abortion rights, birth control, Gay rights, Gay marriage, women’s rights, censorship, climate change, population control, stewardship of the Earth, etc. And, unbelievably, facts are irrelevant.

Facts are irrelevant? If I were to characterize one of the most troubling changes in America during my lifetime it would be the diminution of fact as the basis of discussion and public discourse. I believe as Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed, “You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Here’s the crux of the challenge facing America. We’ve substantive problems needing to be addressed. We know what they are. Poverty. Opportunity. Racism. Education. Economic viability. Sustainability. Infrastructure. Environment. Imperialism. Healthcare. And on and on. The polarization we see in America has a number of explanations but one of the primary reasons is, again, as Senator Moynihan pointed out, “You’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Oh, I can hear the objections now, “Jepson, who died and made you Pope? Such that “YOU” get to determine what is fact?” I don’t. But I will rely on learned, scholarly minds, scientifically-based research and reason to make a decision or formulate public policy. And here’s the rub, whether you are conservative or liberal in perspective, who “gives” you the facts is often as important (sadly so) as the facts themselves.

In other words, the messenger is as important as the message. Imagine if Billy Graham’s last words to the faithful were, “God wants you to cherish Mother Earth as fervently as you love God Himself. The environmental desecration of the planet must stop today. It is sinful not to.”

Or, if Bill Clinton said, “We need to means-test Medicare.”

Opinions—even ones we don’t like—should stand on their own merits (Just the facts, Ma’am.). Sometimes, however, they are more palatable when they “stand” on the shoulders of those we already believe.

Is It The Stockholm Syndrome?

Gays, blacks and women. I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend why a gay man or a black woman or women, in general, would claim or want membership in the Republican Party? What is going on? What have Republicans the last 50 years represented that would have you as an African-American, gay or female identifying with them? I simply do not understand.

Depending on the specific state, anywhere from 85% to 96% of Republican Party affiliation is white. The Republican Party is the party of older, white, male America. Which is fine. All Americans have the right to associate with their like-minded brethren. I want it no other way. Such polarity, however, suggests underlining values that make the Republican Party exactly what it is, the party exclusively of old, white, straight America.

I am frankly stunned (SHOCKED!) that there is a group such as the Log Cabin Republicans purporting to represent the interests of gay and lesbian Republicans. Why belong to a political party so at odds with who you are as a human being? Not only at odds but aggressively militant (see GOP platform) in opposition to gay rights.

Oh, I imagine the indignant responses now, “Jepson, the gay and lesbian community is about more than just sexual identification.” Un-huh. As well we all should be. We all have issues (economy, environment, banking reform, etc.) that concern us but to belong to a political party that for the past several decades has vilified you and your “choices” begs the question, “Why?”

Whenever I witnessed African-Americans at the Republican convention (all six or seven blacks) I wondered are these individuals bereft of memory? Did they just fall off the bus (homage to Rosa Parks) that they do not recall President Nixon’s 1970 Sothern Strategy (see: Kevin Phillips) of picking-off disaffected Southern whites, disillusioned with the 1960s civil rights initiatives? It is a strategy still very much in play and one that has state Republicans nationwide attempting to suppress minority voter turnout. Shameful. As one critic observed about the oddity of black Republicans, “Isn’t that like black Klan members?” Harsh? Unfair? Tell me again the exact intent of Nixon’s Southern Strategy?

I wonder about the mindset of gay and African-Americans who identify with Republicans. I don’t get it. Anymore than I do with women, in general, who align their futures with the Republican Party. Again, for thousands of years men have run roughshod over women. It has only been in the last several generations that American women have achieved anything like equality with men. Someday historians will proclaim that one of the most significant developments of the entire 20th century was safe, effective and readily available birth control for women. It changed everything. Undeniably. Yet Republicans eagerly restrict your daughter’s fundamental right to control her own body and fertility.

I suggest the Stockholm Syndrome as an explanation as to why some women align themselves with Republican values. Drink the Kool-Aid long enough and you eventually do “embrace” the shackles that bind your thinking and limit your freedom. You end-up identifying with your oppressor. Yet, it can be different.

Join a better future and attend the Friday, September 7th (5:30 PM to 8:00 PM) grand opening of the Winter Park headquarters for the Re-election of Barack Obama. The Obama office is again in the Fountain Building, at the corner of Morse Boulevard and Denning. Jacqueline Jones and her quintet will be entertaining. Bring your enthusiasm and your checkbook.

Shot Your Candy-Carrying Son In The Chest

We shall now have tea and speak of absurdities. From the 1955 movie, “Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing.”

The only thing good about the above movie was the musical score by Sammy Fain and Paul Webster. That and the line, “We shall now have tea and speak of absurdities.” Shall we?

I am going to ask some of my white readers to put on their imagination hats. Oh, I see some white, conical chapeaus that are quite imaginative. And the Daniel Boone “coonskin” simply divine.

Okay, imagine you have a 17-year-old white son, a bit of a cut-up in school, the occasional truant. He’s with you, his divorced mother who’s visiting her boyfriend in a West Palm Beach gated community. On the way back from a convenience store with a bag of candy he’s killed by a Neighborhood Watch official.

Why is he killed? Because there has been a “lot” of white-related crime in the area. Why is he killed? Because the “official” who was instructed by police to stop trailing the white suspect got out of his car anyway and confronted your son. An altercation ensued and the “official” experienced such concern for his life that he shot your candy-carrying son in the chest with his handgun. Why is he killed? Because he is white and unarmed.

Why is he killed? Because he lives in America and that is the long history of the United States. We kill or imprison large numbers of white men— disproportionately so—and have for centuries because that is our “rich” tradition. Why is he killed? Because of fear, intolerance, arrogance and a rush to judgment. All justified, don’t-cha see. He is white, after all.

Imagine/understand that white people made-up only 13.6 percentage of the American population yet white men represented 40.2% of all prison inmates in 2008. By some accounts there were more white men in prison, jail or on parole in 2008 than were in slavery in 1850. Imagine that.

White men are scary. I mean, they are sooo white. And the way they dress and look. Their pants! They wear them up to their armpits. I swear all white men have two left feet. Rhythm? They couldn’t dance their way out of a conga line yet they sure can “stroll” through our neighborhoods. Where they surely don’t belong I might add. And that straight, stringy hair! White boys were made for mullets.

And the way those pale crackers look at “our” women. Just who do they think they are? Men?

Imagine if your auntie was followed around the department store because she was suspiciously white? Or, imagine driving by a white motorist pulled over by some county star and wondering the exact “nature” of her offense? Or, the awareness that your “whiteness” was just internally noted by the clerk checking your merchandise.

When it comes to quality of life, black men die years sooner than the rest of Americans and over 27% of blacks live in poverty.

It is hard to “accept” such numbers, such circumstances. But not if you’re black in America.

It has been observed that, Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.
Imagine that. Pigment/figment. How absurd.

Except if you’re living it.

The Odds Are Stacked.

There’s a maxim when studying history that goes: You have to judge a people by the context of their times. This means that to apply modern sensibilities when judging how folks long ago dealt with “an issue” is unfair. Accordingly, we (today) have the cumulative advantage of years in which human beings have “advanced” (scientifically, culturally, ethically).

This has always been an interesting question to me. How do we judge our ancestors? Our Founding Fathers, white boys all, found it just fine to count a slave as three-fifths a human being for reasons of representation. I find this perversely funny. Slaves could not vote, were deemed to have no rights, yet Southerners insisted “they” be counted nonetheless. “The Three-Fifths Compromise” codified into our Constitution the complete marginalization of African-Americans.

America’s democracy, imperfect as it is, was compromised from the beginning. Without this compromise, it is argued, America may not have become the “United” States. The take-away: it was necessary for the existence of the United States to unequivocally marginalize black Americans (slaves) in our original founding document, the U.S. Constitution. That for all intents and purposes, a black man counted as three-fifths a white man. Auspicious beginnings.

How should we judge our Founding Fathers today in this regard? By contemporary standards, this is clearly racism. But what was it in 1787?

In 1783, the first anti-slavery group was formed (by Quakers) in England. I mention this because it is important to understand that voices opposing slavery were actually raising objections (internationally and in America). It is one thing to operate in a vacuum (slavery is an historical fact, normal and sanctioned by society) and another to become aware that “some” found slavery an abomination and should be outlawed.

Interestingly, most abolitionists while opposing slavery did not consider Africans as “equal” to white men, let alone have them live next door. But the conversation for “justice” had begun. Its clarion message had not yet reached a crescendo; that would take another 180 years. America’s Civil War was more about the Union, less about slavery.

After the Civil War Jim Crow was put in place in the South (and to varying degrees throughout the North). It wasn’t until the post WWII period that civil rights for America’s black citizens actually began to seriously trouble (agitate) white America.

The Civil Rights fight that took place in the 1960s was just the beginning of the quest for black freedom and justice. Slavery/Jim Crow had been a continuous part of the American fabric since the establishment of the Spanish colony of St. Augustine in 1565. That is 400 years of unmitigated terror and oppression of African-Americans. It is less than 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1965. 400 years of slavery and oppression. 50 years at making amends/corrections.

The question on the table is what will Americans generations from now make of us? How will we be judged regarding race? What will be the context of our times?

The line most quoted in the just released hit movie, “The Hunger Games” is “May the odds be ever in your favor.” It’s ludicrous. Twenty-four children are selected to participate in a killing field where only one survives. Some odds, huh? Speaking of which.

When I heard that “line” I immediately thought of America’s young black men. The odds sadly never seem in their favor. Why is that?

What does Trayvon Martin’s death say about you? And America in 2012?

The 1950s All Over Again, Bubba.

You sometimes forget that Florida is a Southern state and all that that implies. Our bright blue skies mask a sorry past and a questionable future. Less than 50 years ago some central Florida communities buried their public swimming pools rather than integrate them. Democrats became Republican; switching wholesale overnight when Civil Rights came to mean human rights for black Floridians. When the politics of George Wallace became a Republican Party strategy.

Where are the Bill Grahams or Lawton Chiles of yore, governors of vision who moderated the extremism of the rural yahoos clamoring for a return to “tradition?”

If you were not already a resident of Florida would you, today, move to the Sunshine State knowing what you know about our state government?

I laugh out loud when I hear Republicans speak of making the state more competitive when recruiting new businesses to the state. Lighten the corporate tax burden? Hard to go from virtually nothing to nil. Growth management? Yes, that is soooo hindering Florida’s ability to attract new business. Gut it.

Want more laughs? Florida ranks dead last, 50th in nation, in education funding. That is soooo appealing to any forward thinking business leader contemplating opening a new business in Florida. We’re lower than Mississippi. Welcome to the bottom, Bubba!

Republicans during the past state legislative session actually made it more difficult to vote. More difficult to vote!?! The reason? To limit what Republicans imagine would be Democratic voters.

Republicans are fighting the voter approved Amendments Five and Six mandating election districts be nonpartisan. Nonpartisan districts!?! Horrors!

Republicans supported packing the State Supreme Court to make it more favorable to business interests. (See Dean Cannon)

Republicans limited the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability by slashing its budget and changing how its management is hired and fired. This agency is a watchdog agency on how taxpayer money is spent and the effectiveness of government programs. (See Dean Cannon)

Republicans would institute sharia law on Florida women if only they could. Unfortunately (for Republicans) abortion rights are federally protected. That doesn’t stop them, however, from placing impediments to a woman’s fundamental right to choice. They even want to dictate what private insurance policies cover regarding abortion. (See Dean Canon)

What is it with Republicans and women’s bodies? Is it that women are just too sexy for their own good and Republican men know best what is right for Florida’s women. It’s obvious you don’t have much of a brain—you are, after all, merely a woman—and Girl, if a pregnancy occurs, well, if you can’t control your urges, we’ll control the outcome.

Republicans don’t give two cents about life after birth but by gawd, from conception to birth they’d own your uterus. (See Dean Cannon)

It was jokingly suggested by Florida House member Scott Randolph that his wife “incorporate her uterus” to get Republican legislators to leave it alone. Our very own Speaker of the House Dean Cannon got his shorts all in a bundle over that. Does he lie awake at night, sweating, all atwitter over what all those nasty, nasty Florida girls might be doing? Ooooo-h! How about minding your own business, Dean?

Oh, Dean Cannon is. He’s moving the state . . . back to a more repressive, less democratic time. Oh, and is Florida open for business? Hell, Florida is for sale. C’mon down.

It’s the 50s all over again, Bubba.

A Black Man in the White House.

White America can no more imagine being kicked around because they’re pasty white than blacks could once imagine walking through the front door of the White House (unescorted by cops I might add). Slaves built the White House. Slaves built much of early America. The Civil War ended slavery, per se, but intolerance and persecution continued throughout all of America for another hundred plus years. But for the perseverance and guts of black leaders, we wouldn’t be where we are today–a black man in the White House.

No more a pasty white man was my father. He was of 100% Danish extraction (but who knows one’s “real” genetic woodpile) and he lived a racially sheltered life in Sioux City, Iowa. I grew-up in a town of 125,000 and we maybe, maybe had 50 black families. I remember delivering the Des Moines Register newspaper to a black family that moved into a home on my route. I don’t know why (or remember) but I became aware that “they” had crossed some geographical barrier within the city, a line. Nothing happened. This was 1963.

I never remember my father uttering a racist remark in his life. But if I were to venture a guess today, he was a racist. He would not have wanted either of his daughters to marry a black man. He probably would not have wanted a black family to move in down the block but he never would have been rude but I do know my father was capable of change. As was/is America.

In 1975 I was back in town looking for work and my father and I were standing in the kitchen talking about whatever fathers & sons talk about and out of the blue, he said (in essence), “You know, I was wrong. Negroes never had a fair shake in this country and they’re justified in what they’re doing to achieve justice.” I remember this conversation distinctly because dad said he was wrong about marijuana, too. That dad!

My father was too intelligent to ignore (forever) the facts. He was capable of change, that didn’t mean, however, that he started sending money to the NAACP, it meant, “You’re justified in your fight.” And he understood (as best as any pasty white 56-year-old Iowan could ever) that “bad things happen to good people.” And, at some point the scales must balance.

In 1978 I met Curtis. Curtis was (is) this flamboyant, out there, fast talking, incredible fun and funny, handsome, talented black man. At that time he was working for a quasi-government bureau that placed workers in non-profit agencies. He sold me on the program and placed a number of employees with the organization I was running at the time.

We became and continue to be best friends. Curtis moved into the for-profit sector and was an early hire (as a black man) for a number of corporations. He has the most incredible racial stories to tell that would curdle your blood and leave you screaming if they had happened to you as an employee, as a human being. Being the first black man in an office or company is an incredible burden. One, we pasty white people cannot really imagine.

Aside: similar stories can be offered for women, too. First female hires (in the 60s & 70s), for example, in prestigious law firms, when the number of female attorneys you could count on hand, was equally daunting. Couple black and female and you’ve another set of challenges to overcome.

Through Curtis I met Bob. Bob was the handsomest black man I’ve ever met. Bob was an All-American football player. Bob was big and powerful and bright. Bob owned any room when he was in it. He frightened pasty white boys no end. Bob made’um cower and whimper. It was actually fun to watch. The guy would leave and Bob would wink at me. Women loved Bob. He made’um melt.

Bob was formidable, aggressive and rose like a shooting star. He was repeatedly a sales star at major, major American corporations but because Bob was who he was (black, intelligent & assertive) he hit the ceiling for blacks. He couldn’t crack management.

I once said to Bob, “I don’t get it. Once you were called negroes and then it was blacks and now it’s African-Americans. What’s up with that? Can’t you make up your mind?”

Bob laughed his infectious laugh and said, “We jess like to mess wit-choo whitey’s.” We laughed.

But it’s been us whitey’s messing with black America that has the election of Barack Obama smelling so sweet. I was so very pleased that in the primaries, white Iowa came out for black Obama. It signaled to America (particularly black America) that a new day was possible—whites would vote a black man president and as “they” say, the rest is history.

My best man at my wedding nearly 40 years ago was a black man named Dwight Dow. We shared college history courses. No kinder, gentler, more humane a man have I ever met. He stepped off a building to his death because, I believe, the world became unbearable. Life is too sorrowful at times even to be hopeful.

My bestest man, Curtis, is still frequently the only black man in an all white business meeting. He is successful. He is respected. He is admired. He is black. He calls and tells me, “I was the only black in the regional golf tournament.”

He then says, “I won.” And we laugh. I love it.

Obama won. America won. It is a new day and it is good.

It Is Black And White.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. 
H. L. Mencken.

I consider Barack Obama’s observation about bitterness and small town life as immature thought. Here is the larger quote from his speech.

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."

He then said,  "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

I have lived in towns of 600 people and loved it. In the 1970s I worked for the University of Missouri as a county extension agent in Gainesville, Missouri.  There were two restaurants in town.  Skeeters and the Iron Skillet.  I am not making up the name Skeeters.  There were more deer than people in the county. I was 12 miles (as the crow flies) from the Arkansas border.  It was beautiful, gorgeous country and the people, the long time residents were innately suspicious of newcomers but once you were accepted, that was it.

Upon arrival I was expected to join the town Lion’s club.  It was part of my job.  I made $12,000 a year, a princely sum in those parts in those years and because I worked for the University and was the county agent, well, my boss, Karl Hunter, 30 miles away in Ava, Missouri said,  “It goes with the job.” Don’t-cha see. Unless, it’s a country club membership, I loathe those words.

I first heard, “Don’t-cha see,” in the Ozarks. Join the Lions club. Don’t-cha see.  I had a secretary, my first, and she told me, too, that I needed to join.  Her name was Virginia Porter. Virginia didn’t understand my reluctance either.  Don’t-cha know.

I’d go home and rant, rant, rant out loud, “I do not want to join this xxxxing club.”  I was just 27 at the time and joining an all male “service” club in Gainesville, Missouri was unimaginable.   I put it off.  At some point I believe my boss finally asked me what I don’t see?   My wife offered, “Be a man, tough it out.”

I became a man and joined The Lions Club.  It met every Wednesday at noon.  We had the same meal.  It was heavenly, deeply fried chicken, real mashed yummy potatoes, local corn or greenbeans, gravy, rolls and dessert. The salad was weak. Rolls were passed by throwing them. I started drinking coffee at this time in my life and they served a never-ending-cup all lunch long.  This meal was so tasty, so hot and good that I actually looked forward to it every week. The food was yearningly good.

Two gals fixed the food the morning of, served it and then stood watching from the kitchen or smoking out the back door.

Every key position in town was represented.  The county judge. The superintendent of schools.  All the business owners on the square.  The judge was a business owner, too.  He had the Sears Outlet store.  I ordered my 3/8 Craftsman drill over his counter.  The forest superintendent.  He was a funny man. Smart.  He had a Mike Nomad haircut, a sharp mind and a sharper wit.

I learned a lot about community in that group. All the “swells” in town were members and well, I was as well.

Oh, yea, no women were members. Not allowed, Don’t-cha know.  The owner and publisher of the only countywide (and beyond!)  newspaper was a woman with the name of Rose.  She couldn’t join. No rose among those thorns!   No blacks either.  But that was less an issue as not one black person actually lived in Ozark County, Missouri.  Not one.  Don’t-cha see.

And that’s the way life has been and continues to be.  In places.  In America.

But I know for a fact that my Lion brothers were good men.  They thought about civic improvement, had pride, acted on it and laughed along the way.  Throughout Pennsylvania, all over Iowa, Texas, Florida, are communities of folks who may or may not be bitter.  They may or may not go to church, own or care about guns, feel particularly put upon or, perhaps, do. They may even be racist.  Or not.

Barack, my candidate, please don’t succumb to stereotyping and simplistic statements. It is sooooo unnecessary. No one likes it.  cept right  now when I equate a box of rocks and Republican State Legislators.  Don’t-cha see.

But it is at this point in the conversation that we acknowledge the “truth” that all our presidential choices are imperfect and flawed.  That said, please stick with “THE” issue.

The issue is not small town vs large town. It is about the war in Iraq. It is a calamitous, monumental tragedy for America.  We need to be out now.

A vote for McCain is a vote to continue this war indefinitely.   A vote for Obama is a vote to leave Iraq now.  In 18-24 months.

It is black and white.  In every sense of the word.  Yes.

And if it is to be President McCain, I whole-heartedly endorse Mencken’s opening sentiments good and hard.  Don’t-cha know.

Reach Jepson at: Jepson@MEDIAmerica.us


By Any Other Name
And/Or: Played Like A Piccolo

I am hearing that the key voting bloc determining the next presidential election is white boys.  A few years ago it was soccer moms.  This year it’s white boys.  A TV pundit describing the various electorates in Pennsylvania suggested you have Philadelphia and Pittsburgh separated by rural Alabama—the implication being that poorly educated whites occupy the rural middle of the state.

If I were a Republican, I might be embarrassed by the term Reagan Democrats.  What exactly is a Reagan Democrat?  Well, let’s briefly recap the history.

During the 1960s, the Democrat Party was aligned with social justice issues.  The issue of the times was race and how would black and whites go forward together to create a better, more sustainable America.  To that end, a number of initiatives were passed in Congress and signed by President Johnson. The 1964 Voting Rights Act among several.   It was said at the time that for all intents and purposes, the Democrats had just handed the South to the Republican Party, ur, excuse me, handed the Southern white vote to the Republican Party because no self-respecting Southern white would ever vote with a nig, uh, excuse me, vote for a negro.

As a result, President Richard Nixon observing and calculating the success of Southern racist Governor George Wallace began the process of actively recruiting the Southern white vote to the Republican Party.  It took Ronald Reagan to cement the connection.  In a 1980 campaign stop, he showed up in Philadelphia, Mississippi and presented a low key “states rights” speech. Coincidence?  Hardly.  It was part of the larger plan to secure white voters and using words associated with/like “states rights” is code for them (blacks) and us (whites).  So the term “Reagan Democrats” entered the lexicon and voilà, years later via Karl Rove and other smarmy Republican operatives, the Southern white Reagan Democrat voter is still being played like a piccolo.

Let’s move to today’s election.  Again, I listen (and read) on how to explain  Barack Obama’s success, say, in Iowa (my birth state) and, oh, his predicted failure in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary.  This is the reasoning being asserted by some.  Iowa has few blacks.  Iowa Democrats have no first hand experience living in close proximity to blacks so they will naively vote for a black man because they’ve never been mugged, observed block after city block of the “dark” ghetto or suffered the humiliation of losing a job to a black man because of Affirmative Action.  And, rural white Democrat Pennsylvanians, on the other hand, have?

I recently lunched with a good friend who runs a prominent social service agency.  We are both Democrats.  She supports Clinton. I support Obama.  We got into a spirited conversation of/on whether or not white Democrats will support a black man to be President.  I said all the bigots within the Democrat Party have long ago left and are now euphemistically called Reagan Democrats, a Republican by any other name.  She suggested, no, that is not necessarily the case.  Hence, an argument for Clinton.

I was frankly astounded by that assertion. On occasion, I can be accused of being a rube, a naïve purist, too idealistic.   But I have to ask my fellow Democrats, if you won’t vote for a candidate because he is black, what in the hell are you doing still being a Democrat?  Get out of the Party.   Leave.  Period.   Don't let the door hit you in the . . .

Of course, not all Republicans are bigots. I get that. I willingly acknowledge that.  And there are blacks within the Republican Party.  But where do bigots go in the 21st century if they are going to align themselves politically (racially)?   The Republican Party.

Being a Democrat suggests many things to me.  But please do not call yourself, describe yourself or claim to be a Democrat if—in your heart of racist hearts—you will not consider Barack Obama for President because he is a black man.

Simply call yourself a Republican.  They want you.  It is apparent.

And can we forever bury the term Reagan Democrat?  There is no such person.  A Republican by any another name is still a Republican.

Reach Jepson at:Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US


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