Category Archives: political commentary

The Closet Politik.

PappyAndTheGirlsAtTheBeachCirca1929
L to R:  Dora Mae; Lydia Elisabeth (“Betty”); Henry Thomas Sweet; Front row, L to R: Martha Louise; Frances

My grandfather was a closet Republican.

Harry Truman was his hero.

Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, of parents who’d hailed from Cornwall, England, he’d brought his young wife, Mae, across the Commonwealth on or about 1915 to build cranes at Bucyrus-Erie. Yet, Erie, newly founded, was up and coming and this move – for a working class conservative – was, at its heart, progressive.

But, after having attended a tent meeting led by Christian evangelist Billy Sunday, this naturally gruff dogmatist had experienced a conviction of belief which would solidify his politics for life. He brought with him to Erie a Bible thumping, street preacher’s passion and, after meeting two elders of the Plymouth Brethren at the City Mission, would join their fellowship at the Gospel Assembly Hall on East Avenue.

But, Henry Thomas Sweet would not register to vote.

He and the rest of his fellow fundamentalists would populate a small, but ardent, segment of this growing town. Their teachings were the most extreme among conservatives; preaching that only those things due Caesar would be rendered, the rest would be left up to Almighty God – who would put into office whom He will.

Still, Henry Sweet taught his family all the values upheld by the Republican party. Hard work having yielded sufficient income, all resources would be put toward the sustenance of family and a tenth toward “the Lord’s work”, all capital kept close to the vest for just such purposes. The downtrodden were to be regarded as slacking, irresponsible, vagrant, and were admonished – from the street corner pulpit – to “Get up out of the gutter, repent, and get a j.o.b.”

What Henry and Mae did was work. Raising four daughters, they used their hands – baking bread, and delivering it door to door; hooking and braiding rugs, from old, discarded wool coats rescued from the Salvation Army; planting vegetable gardens, and fruit trees, gathering their harvest (had poultry been permitted inside the city limits, they’d likely have had hens and chickens); “slaving” over the stove, preparing meals for the entire, extended family for every holiday and birthday celebration. Mae also sewed, repairing and altering all manner of clothing, and creating from remnants everything from pajamas to suits and spring coats, draperies, and furniture slip covers. Henry, after a long day at the crane factory, maintained every inch of their humble property on East 29th Street, as well as their royal blue Chrysler.

In his final decade, disaffected and excommunicated from the Brethren for “railing”, sunken into his harvest gold La-Z-Boy recliner in the northeast corner of the livingroom reading his National “Geographs” and his Bible, listening to talk radio (and, calling in daily), he would brood.

Sympathy was not part of his lexicon. Compassion was merely a concept, to be contemplated while meditating upon the person of the Christ. Weakness was not to be indulged; one was given a life, and one must take up the reins of it and serve the Lord with all one’s might. Paying income tax was the bane of existence.

Three of the four daughters carried on the traditions of his closet politics. All honorable citizens they, nevertheless, also never registered to vote – raising their children to accept having come out from among them, being separate, avowing to touch not the unclean thing. There were us, the elect bride of Christ, and there were them, the reprobate, damned to hellfire lest they repent and believe the Gospel.

I don’t know what happened, but something did. Time, and its inevitable evolution. Being Republican of mentality used to mean such noble (if self centered) intent, even if it appealed to the most narrow minded among them. One wonders if the GOP was forever affected by those who would only vote for he or she whom their God had ordained. Being a Democrat came to defy such selfish, belief driven ideals. In between, I now find myself – a registered Independent, caught, without a closet in which to hide. We are all part of America, a nation of so many countries, fighting to stay socially intact, more exposed than ever before, members of a globe of earthly nations pushing and pulling and hanging on.

And, the world’s eyes are still on our family.

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©10/15/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The No Party System.

 

The world is flat.

Thomas L. Friedman wrote the book, over a decade ago.

The Internet explosion and outsourcing have brought us into instantaneous connection with everything that can carry a signal. Provided we sustain electronic linkage, we can now communicate with virtually everyone – about anything – and provide goods and services for anyone from anywhere.

I can remember when one had to drive to a local library, navigate the research department catalogue, and sit for hours copying columns of material just to prove an historical point. Now, one smart phone and about twelve minutes can accomplish the same task – and, save all relevant documents into a virtual folder.

In the United States alone, I’m sure there are scholars who can provide enough data to support Friedman’s thesis. But, let’s consider the political realm, in this context.

Based in the last couple political campaigns, the Internet has proved itself responsible for the rise of Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald J. Trump. Social media has become the first avenue for publicity. We don’t even need graphic designers, anymore (and, I was one); banners and yard signs can be self produced, using available software, and picked up at the nearest print outlet.

Instant access; equally swift information transmission. Do we even need to be present, to win?

Now, consider how we might review the political platform of a potential political candidate. Said hopeful creates a website, and lists his/her political views, point by point. Televised ads would be retained, albeit many of them viewed via smart phones. Door to door campaigns would still carry significant local weight, but these would no longer require anything but prior familiarity with a candidate’s position on all the issues.

So, how do we place value on political party? Primarily, citizens align on platform – a set of commitments to action which follow a certain ideology. Fiscal conservation. Equal rights, for women and minorities. Federal programs. Single payer health. Retirement options. Self-employed business ownership. Industry. Agriculture. The environment, and its protection. Fuel and power sourcing. Medical services. Insurance coverage, for home, auto, and equipment. Military defense. Employment opportunities.

But, why do any of these issues require party delineation? Can’t each be addressed, per its degree of relevance to the citizen? Is this populism? Well, why not?

The branches of government as vehicles would not have to be party dependent, either. Is there really a philosophy governing what has historically been defined as Democratic or Republican, anymore? I can’t even list how many op eds have been written about the evolution of party ideologies, and almost all address a direction which moves away from their original intent. It’s as if each is enduring the pull to divide, like a human cell.

Why not just consider all issues across a scale – left; center; right?

By working merely from such a scale, we would have a clearer perception of needs vs wants, and might more easily dispense with entrenched, outmoded thinking.

I am certain that sociologists would concur, on one point: the class system is the principal offender, here. Those who are defiantly party aligned are usually class conscious. And, this mentality is inherently divisive.

I fully expect to be bombarded by the resistant and the outraged. I’ll be called a simpleton. Have at me! Yet, I firmly believe that this is an idea whose time is coming. Please, be open. We cannot continue as we have been, with partisan gridlock tripping every step we attempt to take and, worse, resorting to suppression of the truth.

Institutionalized thinking is the bane of progress. Most importantly, morality has become subject to the interests of partisan politics – and, that is the foreboding harbinger.

“Government by, and for, the people.”

First.

It’s our national call, in our world.

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© 10/11/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

littlebarefeetblog.com