Iowa


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.

Tra-la-la-la-la.

Lest we forget. There is always an argument for more. There are many “kinds” of people. One broad category of people deals with wealth. I’m not talking about intelligence or ability, just wealth. I know a number of individuals who are not particularly bright or witty or even kind but they do have wealth. There is an excellent chance that such folks are the beneficiaries of inherited wealth. I applaud inherited wealth. If granddaddy worked smart or was a total scoundrel yet had enough presence of mind (and good legal/financial counsel) to establish a trust (or investments) that today pays the country club fees, etc. for his genetic juice, well, who are we to judge otherwise.

To the degree any of us can, we try to give a leg-up to those in the bloodline who follow. How big a leg-up and for how long (successive generations) depends on a number of factors which are not the focus of today’s essay.

I’ve a family joke that goes, “I’d like to live as well as gramps.” I grew up in Iowa in the 1950s. Few from my town of Sioux City were vacationing in the Virgin Islands in January or going to the slopes for extended ski vacations. I heard of a kid or two who lived that way, who left in junior high for private schools in the East. But they were few, indeed. There were some truly beautiful, architecturally desirable homes in Sioux City, I know, I delivered The Des Moines Register newspaper to them for five years. But, simply put, ostentatious wealth and the display of it was unseemly and not something “we” sensible Iowans ever did.

Yet my grandfather made a bundle of money as a lawyer and was in the financial position of “buying” during the Great Depression. He lived grandly by such standards of the times. He had two “domestics” who handled the children (seven), the house and the cooking. He traveled extensively in the 30s to Florida to big game fish. Alaska, Mexico and Canada, too. To fish. My father drove new cars to college during the Depression. He married the most beautiful woman (empirically) in town and joined his father’s law firm (Jepson, Jepson, Jepson & Jepson). It had to have been a “good” time for him. But by the time 1970 rolled around, he was recently divorced and for all intents and purposes, broke. He spent the next 26 years of his life happily doing his thing and accumulating a little money on the side.

My father always did his thing. Except when he didn’t. He wanted to be a physician but my grandfather insisted he become a lawyer, like all his sons. I know that “chapped” my father. He grew-up (the family baby) with the proverbial “silver spoon.” But that never handicapped his spirit, actually having the benefits of wealth at a certain age can be a wonderfully liberating experience in what it provides. He had the independent soul of an anarchist with the mind and language skills of a lawyer. A dichotomy, yes, but it was a great combo for the 20th century.

Wealth. Is a tool. Is an instrument. (It should be a verb.) It provides access, opportunity. It can be liberating (except when it isn’t). Wealth is relative. It is temporary (because human life is temporary). I’ve said it before, the only thing better (for me) than being Christopher Robin Jepson would have been to be Christopher Robin Jepson Rothschild or Christopher Robin Jepson Medici. But then again, if I had been a Rothschild or Medici I would not have been a Jepson and I am “content,” at ease with who I am. I have to be. If we could choose our parents before we were born, well, just imagine that world.

I was blessed at birth! The stars, Jupiter & Mars aligned to give me Chris and Marybelle Jepson for my parents. Thank you.

How much is enough? How much does “one” require to be happy? This is a tricky question? One of the trickiest of all. Particularly in the “type” of world (society) we now inhabit. Human beings, I believe, are “inherently” status driven. Both men and women are, for the sake of this conversation, a bit like the male peacock. We preen and poise for the most fundamental of reasons, to have access to the opposite sex. “Some” psychologists suggest that is what everything (life) is all about. The art, the music, the literature, the building of financial empires, whatever it is, snowboarding like Shawn White, it is all about access to the opposite sex. Being noticed. Be desired.

To the degree wealth achieves or facilitates that function, is a matter of economics. The big-haired women of the stock car Daytona 500 world (as an entire economic subgroup) are, perhaps, “driven” (have been conditioned) to respond to (value) the trappings of flashy cars and speed (Vroom! Vroom!). Whatever. What you drive (to some) determines your “value” to the ladies.

America’s women are similarly “driven” to stand out. Every economic class has its signals, its trappings, it’s hierarchy of exclusivity based on/off wealth.

But at some point in life, wealth, in and of itself, is not about sexual desirability (although that big sexy bulge in your back pocket has been determined to always be in demand), wealth is about what it provides. To you. For others.

But again, how much is enough? The swindler Bernie Madoff wiped out a lot of people or reduced them down to their last million or two in the bank. I’ve seen them crying on television. I get it. They’ve lost a (varying) degree of security, of flexibility. They “vas” robbed. I’d execute the SOB. Seriously. Wouldn’t hesitate. It might have a salubrious affect on deterring similarly like-minded scoundrels.

I know a professional chap in Winter Park whose wealth is perhaps around $10 million. He owns real estate. He does well. He travels. He’s intellectually engaged. He laughs at himself. And, if I were judging this individual (and I am), I’d say he’d be what he is (today) regardless of his $10 million. Or $8 million. And that is key. To me.

Right this moment, as I write this, the leaves are playfully rustling with the squirrels in my sun-dappled backyard and I am listening to an exquisite piece of jazz titled, Ben Webster for Lovers, by the superb saxophonist Ben Webster. Buy it. Order it today. While you are at it, order Waltz for Debby by the Bill Evans Trio. These two albums are ecstasy for the ears, heart and spirit. They are sublime. And are available to anyone—TO ANYONE—regardless their level of wealth.

Artist Paul Signac said of Monet, “He paints as a bird sings.”

Wealth can facilitate many things. But regardless the size of your checking account, wealth is not a requirement in hearing (a) Monet sing to you.

Can I hear a “Tra-la-la-la-la,” the joy of art from each of you? And, trust me, you don’t even have to carry a tune!

Sweet. Life can be.

Hosannas for Iowa!

My Iowa Democrats did me right.  Has there been a prettier picture of America recently than the beaming Barack Obama standing on a Des Moines stage after winning the Iowa Caucuses?  Surrounded by an audience of ebullient white Iowegians celebrating his achievement.  Let there be no doubt America will elect a black man, President.  White Iowa validated where America is today. Less racist, more intelligent, more American in every best sense of what we, as a nation, aspire to.

I am personally thrilled that this hurdle in our history has been overcome. Sure, it is a long presidential campaign and Obama may stumble but on one January night in Iowa, race wasn’t the first consideration, the man was.  Hosannas for Iowa!  They did the nation an immense favor.

While attending a recent evening soirée I got into a heated exchange with a woman over my statement that I consider myself an ardent feminist and had been initially supportive of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President.  I said Bill Clinton’s recent statement asserting his opposition to the Iraq war pushed me over the edge.  It is an outright misrepresentation of the facts.  He actually said little on the subject and did on occasion offer luke-warm support of George’s War. Bad Bill.  I don’t want that “rewriting of history” culture in the White House anymore.  Republican or Democrat rewrites.

If you elect Hillary, you get Bill, too.  It’s both a positive and a negative.  Hillary’s election is a two-fer.  Elect Hillary, get Bill.  That is when the proverbial “stuff” hit the fan.  “How can you call yourself a feminist?  Bill isn’t running.  Hillary is!  She’s a woman.”

I would no more consider Hillary Clinton just because she is female than I would Barack Obama just because he is black.  Both are competent, accomplished and intelligent liberals.

Yet, as much as I want a woman to achieve the presidency, I want the best electable candidate (in my opinion) running as a Democrat for that office.  Hillary is bright and arguably, the smartest candidate running but she wasn’t that prescient in her vote giving Bush his war of choice.  That vote was a calculated determination to give Hillary cover if the war worked out.  Bad Hillary.

The Iraq War is off the radar at the moment.  Few Americans seem to care how we came to be in Iraq, the deaths, the debt.  I simply do not get it.  I want lengthy (week after week) congressional investigations and accountability.  I want bloodied and bowed heads hanging from the yardarms. I want careers ruined.  Future government service for those arrogant, hubristic, neo-con imperialists?   You bet-cha.  How about the tenured track at West Texas Regional Barber and Hairstyling  College?  Or, perhaps as an immigration guard patrolling the fence between Mexico and Texas.  You’re right.  That’s too good for such ilk.  Total banishment.  Say, they could actually enlist and serve in Iraq. What’s good for the goose is . . .

Hillary got it tragically wrong on Iraq.  Maybe in her heart of hearts she knew her vote was inappropriate but for reasons of positioning her presidential candidacy, she opted for expediency.  Alas.  Sigh.  Hillary wasn’t voting for some Alaska bridge to nowhere, she calculatedly voted for George’s War to Hell.  As a bridge to the White House.

I will, however, vote for Hillary over any of the Republican candidates.  I hope that is not my option.  I hope Barack Obama’s campaign grows and strengthens and the entire Democrat Party embraces his candidacy and that the many disaffected independents and more reflective Republicans give him a margin of victory so overwhelming that when we awaken on Wednesday, November 4, we read headlines proclaiming “Obama’s Mandate!”

It would be sweet.  A sweet gift to America. A gift of growth and transcendence.  It would be a partial burying of America’s sorrowful racist history.

Thank you, Iowa for furthering Barack’s chance to offer America an opportunity to symbolically address hundreds of years of institutionalized wrongs.  How wonderful he’s a bright, thoughtful and inspiring candidate. How wonderful so much can be achieved through peaceful elections.

Praise be to America.

Reach Jepson at:MEDIAmerica.US

01.13.08

A Statement Of American Values.

When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.  Clarence Darrow

I received an e-mail from Ann in Des Moines last week.  She wrote, “Looks like Hilary is pulling ahead which does not make me happy because the Repubs are waiting in the wings for that to happen. My friend Nancy had breakfast with her the other day and said she thought she'd swing her way. She had Bill with her and Nancy said he spoke for 45 min. and you could have heard a pin drop and this was in a diner. She said he could charm the birds from the trees. Too bad I think too much of what he says is a hedge on the truth and I didn't use to feel that way. The remark about Iraq was the last straw!”

I’ve known Ann for nearly 40 years and every four years she’s my barometer for how things are going in the Iowa caucuses. We’re both Democrats and both Iowans, although I’ve now lived in Florida longer than my 20 or so early years in Iowa.  Iowa is white and literate.  For Democrats I’d add educated, too.  There are big differences between Iowa Democrats and Republicans.  That once wasn’t such the case but it is now.

Looking at the history of the modern Republican Party, I would be ashamed that my party thrived on peeling off disaffected Democrats who couldn’t stomach integration.  From Nixon on, Republicans have cynically played the race card, of playing on white fears of blacks.  Today, it’s the same old formula, only it’s a different shade of human being and the rallying cry isn’t states rights, it’s illegal immigration.

The Republican presidential candidates (other than John McCain) are appalling.  On the issue of illegal immigration, they make my skin crawl. Why is it we so need a straw dog to scare the living hell out of Americans?  We have soooooo many legitimate issues to confront as a nation, yet our Republican leaders auger in, pander if you will, to our worst impulses.

Beating-up on the powerless may yet again prove a winning political formula for Republicans.  The shame is on them.  Unfortunately, the nation must live with “that” shame for four years, four years since “Mission Accomplished” was proclaimed.  The shame is on us, too, for electing such bottom-feeders.

Ah, the Democrats. But that they had the stomach for the rough & tough contact sport of American politics.  Actually, that is one of Hillary Clinton’s “primary” strengths.  She is not my first choice to be the Party nominee, not even my second but the Clintons have beaten the Republicans twice.  A vote for Hillary is a vote for Bill, have no doubt about it.  It’s a two-fer.  Bill won’t be President but he comes with a portfolio, so to speak. The argument that Hillary has been vetted and that the Clintons have pounded the Republicans twice does have a certain amount of resonance with me.

And I would like to have a woman as president.  Let’s get over that hurdle.  No ceilings, at all, for America’s women.  Ever.

As powerful a message (and an act) as electing a woman, electing Barack Obama President would be even more of a statement of how far America has come.  For white America to select a black man to lead would be a staggering reversal and repudiation of our racist history.  Obama is smart, eloquent and insightful and I believe his core values are both established and firm.  He has shown resilience, toughness and determination.

But, it is asserted he lacks experience.  This argument sounds good but I am suspicious of its applicability.  If you are smart, well-versed in history, capable of managing and you surround yourself with a team of first rate, tested advisors, who’s to say you cannot lead America?

Actually, I would like each of the candidates to honestly identify contemporary Americans they would like in their cabinets. Who would be your Chief of Staff, your Secretary of Defense, State or Education?  Who would lead your Environmental Protection Agency? Attorney General?  Who will lead FEMA?

Oh, I can hear the arguments for not doing that.  But I don’t really care.  Tell us who will have your ear last.  In Hillary’s case, we know that answer. When the doors close, who will be your inner cadre of advisors recommending policy and advising whether or not to launch pre-emptive wars of choice against nations not at war with America?  We have a right to know this.

As important as all the qualities we ascribe to our presidential candidates, knowing who the President respects and actually listens to is more important. Obama has the core values to wisely lead.  He would be an incredible emissary to the world.  An American statement of American values.

Will it happen?   I don’t know.  Did’ja hear about all the illegals streaming across our borders taking our well-paying jobs and raping, RAPING our women?  Did’ja!

Reach Jepson at:
MEDIAmerica.US

01.03.08