Born George Morrison in 1958 in Indianapolis and raised in New Albany, Ind., Brian Arbenz (the name he legally took in 2014) writes of that crazy and prescient encounter in “Lost And Found in Louisville,” one of his three books.
Brian writes commentaries and news online and did so for newspapers, magazines and wire services from his college years in the late 1970s until 2011, when he finished a 21-year stint as editor of FORsooth, the monthly newspaper of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Louisville chapter.
Brian believes in conflict resolution, a matter he has researched, promoted and practiced as a volunteer mediator between offenders and victims of crimes.
In this era of stoked hostility, Brian’s bent toward reconciliation is one of his many unorthodox ways which shape his personal reflections, sharp commentaries and offbeat observations to topple many widely accepted myths about our world.
Read on, to see what Brian’s unbridled and colorful mind can show you!
I wrote the following letter Aug. 16, 2017 to my congressman, Rep. John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky’s 3rd District:
Dear Rep. Yarmuth,
After careful consideration of the effects it may have on the stability of the nation, I write today to ask you to initiate the use of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald Trump from power.
The amendment allows the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the president in cases where the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” and allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the president’s objection by two-thirds vote.
Though it may appear that partisan loyalty by the Vice-President and cabinet members would impede the process, under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, Congress has considerable input.
In lieu of waiting for a cabinet majority to make the recommendation, Congress may by law provide an independent body, described as a “disability review body” which, with the Vice-President’s concurring, could declare the president unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and send its own written declaration to the Senate president pro tempore and the House speaker.
Twenty-fifth Amendment author U.S. Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, concurring with former President Dwight Eisenhower, said the question of whether a president should be removed is “really a political question.” Bayh continued that the decision to invoke the 25th Amendment should rest on the “professional judgment of the political circumstances existing at the time.”
Today, President Trump’s performance in office has demonstrated ineptitude and instability which have endangered the security of the nation and the lives of millions of innocent Americans and residents of other nations. I strongly believe that circumstances show, based on Senator Bayh’s criteria, that President Trump is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. These circumstances include the president’s:
*Inability to abide by the 14th Amendment’s requirement of equal protection of the law, as shown by his use of derogatory sweeping generalizations of minorities.
*Failure to devote effort to his job in the crucial first months in office, constantly vacationing at his own resort while his agenda flounders in Congress.
*Hazardous and ill-considered nuclear saber rattling done on his personal whim, instead of relying on plural input by military strategists.
*Lack of basic linguistic skills, which undermines the communicating to the public needed to ensure consent of the governed, and use of gaslighting trickery and evasive adhominem responses to criticism.
*Refusal to sit for the crucial American tradition of independent media scrutiny, instead calling reporters enemies of the people, a verbal assault which undermines the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In the May issue of The Atlantic magazine, National Constitution Center president and George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen, while acknowledging that use of the 25th Amendment’s never before employed involuntary removal mechanism on a president not incapacitated by illness “could trigger a political crisis,” added: “…(T)he constitutional test of the president’s being ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties’ of the office was intended to be vague and open-ended.”
Rosen added: “Because the Twenty-fifth Amendment was intended to leave the determination of presidential disability to politicians, rather than to doctors, nothing in the text or history of the Amendment would preclude the vice president, Cabinet, and Congress from determining the president is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’ if they deemed it in their political interest to do so.”
The intractable and worsening dangers posed by President Trump’s clear inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office now outweigh any negative effects of the use of the 25th Amendment. Though sufficient votes in the House and Senate certainly would not exist now to remove the president, appointing a disability review body would communicate to the administration that President Trump’s fitness for the office is an issue that will very possibly result in his facing removal if he continues using his current tactics.
I urge you to propose a discussion on the prompt creation of a disability review body for the purpose of weighing the evidence on using the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald Trump from power.
“Hey, whose Grandpa didn’t tell some tales?” asked the headline on a New York Times obituary in February 2006 for television actor Al Lewis, best known for playing the vampire-ish Grandpa on “The Munsters,” the 1960s CBS comedy.
It was a lighthearted and deservedly cheery send off for a brilliant character actor, political activist and restauranteur whose contributions to our lives ranged from a million escapist TV laughs to bold radical street activism.
The headline was also a colossal understatement. Al Lewis told more than just “some” tales like the embellished fish stories everybody’s grandfather leaves us with. In fact, the same obit story listed him as age uncertain. That’s because the birth year once had been publicly misstated by Lewis, who was born in either 1910 or 1923 as Alexander Meister. Or Albert Meister. In New York City. Or 287 miles from there in Wolcott, a small town in far upstate Wayne County, N.Y.
That town near Lake Ontario entered the Al Lewis narrative late in his life when a reporter asked him why no birth certificate in NYC could be located to clear up the matter of the actual year in which he was born. Lewis then explained that his mother had briefly lived in Wolcott to work in a factory.
Sealing Al Lewis’ stature as the greatest man of mystery is that no birth record for any A. Meister can be found in Wayne County, said imdb.com, a public figure biography site.
Imdb said that days after Al Lewis’ death, one of his three sons announced that Lewis had in fact been born on April 30, 1923, not 1910 as the actor had claimed.
“Why the deception?” asked the web site Everything2.com. “It could’ve been part of his tryouts for ‘The Munsters.’ If he was born in ’23, he was actually a year younger than Yvonne DeCarlo, who was supposed to be his daughter. But by claiming to be 13 years older, perhaps he felt he’d seem more grandfatherly to the show’s producers.
“At any rate,” Eveyrthing2 continued, “it seems likely that Lewis told a bunch of stories about his youth, either to support his claims about his birthdate or just for the joy of telling stories.”
Al Lewis’ lifelong penchant for fudging brought anything but joy to historians and journalists, who often had to retract or revamp information they had confidently published about one of the television era’s most beloved and eclectic entertainers.
In fact, that New York Times obituary was the second one within days the nation’s newspaper of record published on Al Lewis, the latter correcting the first’s careless inclusion of already discredited information. The Times obituarist Dan Barry wrote that almost every claim Lewis made about his early life – his birth date and place of birth, his wartime adventures in the merchant marine, his education – was unverifiable and possibly false.
Among others were that Lewis had faced danger touring the maliciously anti-union Southeast to help John L. Lewis organize workers, rallied outside the White House in support of condemned immigrant anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, performed as a clown in a traveling circus, sold hot dogs at Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field, and in the mid-1960s hired Charles Manson to babysit his three children (he recalled Manson as trustworthy and caring).
Regarding Al Lewis’ educational resume, the imdb.com site added: “Although he claimed to have a Ph.D. in child psychology from Columbia University, the university has no record of it, under his stage name or his real name.”
Lewis’ reliability began being questioned in the early 2000s after his wife of two decades, Karen Lewis, found documents while preparing for her ostensibly 93-year-old husband’s hospitalization for an angioplasty which showed he was in fact just 80. That was the first she knew of any age discrepancy, but the Times quoted her as saying the finding didn’t affect her feelings about him.
A reporter soon examined the actor’s commonly reported story that he had served as a paralegal in the trial of the Scottsboro Boys, a landmark civil rights case involving nine black Alabama teenagers falsely accused in 1931 of raping two white women.
A 1923 birth would have made Lewis eight during the trial (or college age if he were born in 1910). At whatever stage of life, Lewis said he learned of the Scottsboro Boys’ plight after his mother attended a rally for their freedom.
His mother, if one trusts the following Al Lewis recollection on the web site Everything2.com, “worked in the garment trades. My mother was an indomitable spirit. My grandfather had no sons. He had six daughters. They lived in Poland or Russia, every five years it would change. My mother being the oldest daughter, they saved their money, and when she was about 16 they sent her to the United States, not knowing a word of English. She went to work in the garment center, worked her back and rear-end off and brought over to the United States her five sisters and two parents. I remember going on picket lines with my mother. My mother wouldn’t back down to anyone.”
Nothing suspicious about that classic early 1900s immigrant working class bio.
Also perfectly plausible is the 6-foot-1 Lewis’ description of his playing basketball in his youth in New York City and later serving as a non-hired scout for NBA teams – but was he the very best scout in the game?
When Lewis boasted to independent radio station WFMU’s blog that, “you can call Marty Blake, the chief scout for the NBA, he lives outside Atlanta, and ask him who is the most knowledgeable man of roundball you have ever met. Without hesitation, he will tell you, Al Lewis.”
So Kliph Nesteroff, the author of WFMU blog entry “The Myths and Politics of Grandpa Munster,” ran that claim past Blake, who concurred: “He (Lewis) knew everything there was to know about basketball from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.”
However, Nesteroff also wrote: “Lewis liked to say he worked on the defense committee of Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. If there were any semblance of truth to this, it would have occurred when he was no more than five years old…. Neither was he in Washington, as he claimed, the night the American communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, sentenced to death for treason, were executed.”
It IS known that Al Lewis, living out his left-wing values, donated his time and most of his earnings from the two-year run of The Munsters to charities, particularly a program helping teenage runaways, who were proliferating in Los Angeles during the late 1960s. But the admiration one feels upon hearing of this altruism quickly turns to skepticism, when Lewis identifies one of those kids he brought under his wing:
“That’s how I met Charlie Manson. He babysat my three kids…. He sat for four or five hours, he amused the kids, he brought the guitar and he played, no big deal, no sweat.”
Back in the real world of documented facts, Lewis ran for governor of New York as the Green Party candidate in 1998, opposing Republican incumbent George Pataki. Like a precursor of Bernie Sanders and with an accent to match, Lewis toured the Empire State fervently condemning health insurance companies, polluting industries, U.S. wars, and corporate tax breaks which made the poor overtaxed. At age 88 (or 75?), he won 52,533 votes, above the 50,000-vote threshold for receiving automatic ballot placement in the subsequent election. Lewis decided not to make another run, however, citing long odds of being elected as a Green.
He sought to be listed on the 1998 ballot as “Grandpa Al Lewis” to gain momentum from his TV recognition. A state judge turned down the request.
Before The Munsters premiered in 1964, Lewis played New York City police officer Leo Schnauser in the comedy “Car 54, Where Are You?” from 1961 to ’63. Real police in his hometown loved the character and Lewis did public appearances on their behalf. Relations 40 years later between police and radical candidate Al Lewis were cooler when the Green gubernatorial hopeful criticized police use of force practices as racist.
Everyone, however, was warm toward “Grandpa,” and Lewis’ most memorable TV character was how he was often addressed by political supporters, TV fans and customers at Grampa’s Bella Gente Italian, a Greenwich Village restaurant he founded and where his regular presence was a draw. Lewis would greet customers entering, chatting with them, posing for pictures and signing autographs.
One unlikely sounding distinction by Al Lewis that was in fact documented before millions is that he was once censored by Howard Stern. You read right, censored by Howard Stern, America’s chief poddy mouth of the air.
Lewis, who discussed political issues with iron fervor, but free of obscenities on his own Saturday radio show in the early 2000s on New York City’s WBAI, once joined Stern in an outdoor rally against the FCC’s frequent fining of Stern and others for regular use of words banned on airwaves. Not realizing that his microphone was tied into a live broadcast of Stern’s show as well as the rally’s public address system, Grandpa told the crowd: “We’re here because we all have a purpose… And that purpose is to say ‘Fuck the FCC! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em!’ ”
An uncharacteristically mortified Stern frantically slapped his hand on the mic to try to keep his fines from piling even higher.
“I really thought [he’d] lost his mind,” Stern said on the WFMU blog. “As far as I was concerned, my career was over because we’re on the radio live.”
For once, there was no doubting Al Lewis meant what he said.
Brian Arbenz loved Grandpa on The Munsters — and the radical left positions he took while running for office.
49 years later, Mr. Manring froze, fell to his knees on a rock and said he knew this was the spot….”I hope I’m at peace now.”
Mr. Manring was a family man, a veteran and a machinist in a factory back in the era when blue collar jobs brought the wages and benefits to support a family and veteran status was naturally associated with being an upstanding person.
I still refer to him as “Mr. Manring,” rather than Roy Manring, because he was one of the adult volunteers for our Boy Scout Troop 54 in New Albany in the early 1970s. The form of address I used then for our adult leaders still seems proper to me.
Yet I was a rebel — then, as now. And when I beheld the green uniforms, the trademark salute and the combat medal-like layout of our merit badges, I would be aware of a contradiction between my like of scouting and my passionate opposition to the war in Vietnam.
Among our troop’s adult leaders, two — including my easygoing uncle Joe — were Spiro Agnew-admiring conservatives and World War II veterans.
Mr. Manring, however, didn’t show his ideological cards. He always maintained an easy smile and although his dark eyes were piercing and handsome, they were wide and innocent. He seemed perpetually to be an uncomplicated, contented, locally immersed average person, untouched by the controversies of the wider world.
But before I make him sound like the kind of person who might not follow the national news, let me recall one day when I was 11 when my mother astonished me by telling me that my very own scout troop’s adult volunteer had in the early 1950s been a national news story.
Mr. Manring was interviewed on the Today Show. That’s the NBC Today Show, with the whole country watching.
And no, this wasn’t one of those chance interviews with tourists hanging out by Rockefeller Center. Mr. Manring was a guest in the studio, telling the nation of a medical miracle, as Mom passed the story on to me. She said that while he was in combat in the Korean War, he was hit with a barrage of gunfire and survived having nine bullets in his body at once.
I don’t recall her giving any more details, except that Mr. Manring seemed homespun during the interview, and I got the impression that he was almost casual talking to the nation about such a hellish experience.
I don’t know which Today Show icon conducted the interview, but I figure a polished and professional Hugh Downs or Dave Garroway sitting with a warm and folksy laborer made for as unlikely an encounter as when the unknown Korean villager and the teenager from Southern Indiana faced each other down for a horrifying moment in a war waged by superpowers so beyond the reach of either.
Flash forward to the era of the internet. I now find out that Mr. Manring’s voluminous wounds weren’t from one-to-one combat.
He had been taken prisoner by the North Koreans and was one of 42 U.S. captives shot on a hillside while their hands were tied behind their backs. It was a massacre.
Records were vague and for decades Mr. Manring had understood that he was the sole survivor. Hence, the solo Today Show appearance.
A historian researching the atrocity in the mid-1990s found that in fact five people had survived — three of whom were still living — and persuaded the Army to give the trio medals to note the suffering of all 42 of the POWs. The Pentagon also offered them a trip back to South Korea in 1999 to let them try to identify the exact spot of the massacre so a plaque could be placed there on the 50th anniversary the following year.
From the British newsreel on the Waegwan massacre
One of the three was not physically up to the trip — so my former scout leader and a fellow survivor, a private first class who had been Mr. Manring’s friend during the war, traveled to a hillside near Waegwan, South Korea. (The friend, who of course had been presumed dead by Mr. Manring for more than 40 years, lived in Cincinnati, just 110 miles away, all that time. When Mr. Manring learned that his buddy in fact had not been killed in the massacre, he jumped in his car and drove straight up I-71 to reunite with him).
In 1999, the return trip to Korea commenced, and a Boston Globe reporter accompanied Mr. Manring and his Cincinnati friend all the way to Waegwan. She reported that Mr. Manring had taken not the nine bullets I recall in my mother’s telling, but 14 — including five from what we call “friendly fire.”
The Globe, detailing the horrible events on the hillside in 1950, said that after the North Koreans left the 42 Americans for dead, the bullet-ridden Mr. Manring began to hobble away from the killing site, only to be shot at by a U.S. unit which was unable to identify his tattered uniform.
Ravaged seemingly beyond hope of survival by both sides in a war euphemistically called a “police action,” he spent 18 months in hospitals in Korea, Japan and the United States. Amazingly, as a boy scout, I never recall detecting a limp or a stammer or any other indication that this happy and laid back man could ever have been victimized by violence on such an historic scale.
For a long time, even some of those closest to Mr. Manring didn’t fully know either.
He told the Globe reporter: “My kids knew I was an ex-POW, but they didn’t know what I had been through…. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, except my wife.”
The reporter watched Mr. Manring and his buddy examine the terrain around Waegwan for hours, patiently trying to match what they were seeing with 49-year-old memories. Then, in one instant that brought back an anguish the opposite of the mood familiar to his New Albany piers, Mr. Manring froze, fell to his knees on a rock and said he knew this was the spot.
Shuddering, he described to the Globe how on that day in 1950 his grandfather appeared to him in image just after the North Koreans pulled out, put his arm on the shoulder of the bloodied 18-year old and warned him: “They’re coming back, get out of here.”
The reporter and others in the entourage then allowed Mr. Manring and his friend a few minutes each alone on the hillside.
Mr. Manring returned, the Globe reported, then whispered:
“I talked to the boys. I hope I’m at peace now. I begged their forgiveness. I have dreams about them all the time. I feel guilty that I survived.”
There was one more profound memory the visit brought out, one which the reporter said caused Mr. Manring to be overcome with emotion.
Speaking softly, he said to her: “I’m going to tell you something I’ve hardly told anyone…. I shot a little Korean girl — she was maybe 8 or 10 years old.”
Mr. Manring then recounted a kill-or-be-killed moment in the early days of the war. His platoon was approached by a group of refugees, but when he took out his binoculars, he saw a girl among them holding a grenade — with the pin removed — forcing him, with no time to think, to become a killer in order to be a lifesaver.
He shot the child, resulting in the grenade exploding at her feet, killing many of the refugees, rather than her intended targets. Even though some of the refugees were found to be wearing North Korean uniforms under their civilian clothes, Mr. Manring, almost a half century later, thought of the person who nearly lobbed a live grenade at him and his colleagues first as a little girl, not a guerilla.
“I put a bullet in between her eyes,” he told the Globe, sobbing. “She bothers me to this day.”
Also around the 50th anniversary of the war, Mr. Manring discussed the incident with a student historian from Indiana University Southeast, who quoted him recalling the little girl on a website: “She comes and sees me every now and then. She asks me, ‘Why, why did you do this to me?’ I told her, ‘I’m sorry honey, but I had to.’ ”
After describing to the student the wartime policy of a ruthless North Korean government of using civilians of all ages as homicidal infiltrators, Mr. Manring added that he would again respond the same way to seeing the child pull the pin.
Reading the full story of the anguish in our cheerful scout volunteer’s past opened my eyes to the dual role of soldiers as victims and offenders in war.
This has always complicated peace activism by rendering expressions of appropriate sympathy for them vulnerable to being twisted into pro-war spin.
Hesitating to kill in a combat situation because of awareness of the enemy’s humanity is precisely what combat training is designed to prevent, as though such a moment is a fatal weakness. It is in fact our greatest strength.
Regarding the two directions from which the gunfire came that ravaged the teenage Mr. Manring, I was socialized during my childhood to see being shot by the other side, or one’s own, as polar opposite phenomena.
One is heroic and noble, the other an absurd boondoggle.
Yet if we accept the overriding principle of our religiosity that we are put in this world to love one another, are not all war wounds from friendly fire?
“Accidental” describes not just the five American-made bullets that hit Mr. Manring, but the whole scenario of a young man from New Albany and counterparts from equally insular villages on the Korean peninsula being whisked from lives of community involvement and small scale economics not to meet and interact, but to kill or be killed.
Roy Manring donated many hours to help our scout troop’s leaders help me and my young colleagues learn to work together pitching tents, preparing food, hiking, telling folk tales – fitting his volunteering in around the customary 40 hours a week of conscientious factory work when American industrial jobs were in their prime. Precisely the day-to-day mundanity which boys of my youth turned to war comics to escape in pursuit of a glamorous warrior narrative we believed was at the heart of our gender’s identity.
We did not see that the time spent quietly adding to lives by one’s own initiative – rather than imperiling lives, one’s own included, by robotically adapting to an arbitrary and unnatural state of enmity – constituted Mr. Manring’s true moments of valor.
“…do not capitulate. It may be too late sooner than you think. Be adamant, my boy.”
I publish these excerpts from letters between my biological father and myself not because they reflect a person who contributed positively to my life, nor because they display any father-son dynamics as most anyone else would recognize those. I publish them because I believe they are interesting.
I have only a patchwork of the many missals written until my father’s death in 2007 at age 82. The correspondence began one evening in 1964 when our mother encouraged us to write to Dad in advance of a trip to Albuquerque my sister and I would make for a two-week visit. I was five and this was three years after my parents, who had lived in that city for four years, were divorced. The great majority of letters between my father and myself are lost forever, but this collection (encompassing letters, then e-mails starting at the usual 1990s point) is a treasure trove of observations on personal and worldwide matters (genres which intertwine in me) between two people 2,000 miles apart. Both are named George Morrison (my legal name until I changed it in 2014 was the same as my father’s, though we had different middle names).
These communications, which sometimes are supportive, sometimes straightforward and critical, are not classically those of a father and son, but two complex, gifted and oft struggling people. For 11 years in my adulthood, we were estranged, with no contact of any sort. The angry letters that launched that period are not in here. As said, this is not any complete look at a familial tie, but talk between two Georges who were very different people, yet alike in that they were unconventional and often went against their generational grain. The younger George Morrison became a radical leftist in the late 1970s, when the campus me-generation was raising beer glasses, not consciousness like a decade prior. Yet I was so ideologically precise and abstinent from pleasures that a ’60s campus existence might not have fit me much better.
Mom and Dad, though continually at odds over unresolved divorce fallout, had during their college years at the University of Louisville in the late 1940s been united as significant others, literature lovers, champions of intellectual freedom and, I figure, Henry Wallace voters.
“Your mother and I believed art was the salvation of man,” Dad wrote circa 1980 when I was about 22. That sets the time frame for the rest of these letters, which mean nothing more and nothing less than what they say:
Summer 1964, me to Dad:
“I’m not sure I want to fly out to Albuquerque to visit you if the North Vietnamese don’t stop shooting down American planes.”
(After I read this aloud to Mom, she explained the geography involving the war her five-year-old son was hearing about on the news, and I erased that sentence.)
Summer 1975, me to Dad:
“I’m writing this letter at 2:30 a.m….. Not only could writing letters to you be, like you said, a good way to restart the lines of communication and develop my writing ability, but a good insomnia cure!”
May 1976, Dad to me:
“I received your graduation announcement and being sorry that I cannot respond in some material way, I can only say ‘congratulations.’… You did not seem too overwhelmed with what was being done to you the last time I talked to you on the telephone. But being a bright lad, you… are most likely at least minimally prepared for university work. I hope the meaning of that word ‘university’ has made an impact on you. It comes from the Latin aggregate ‘universus,’ which means ‘universe’ and that means everything there is to know in reality. That would seem to imply that in a university, one is allowed to sick himself upon all there is to know that he doesn’t know, including how man thinks; but I wouldn’t rely on it if I were you. They will still try to shape you the way they want you to look. It seems to me that what a man must do if he intends to take studying seriously is to brace himself for that final confrontation when he tells the teachers to go fornicate with themselves, that he is by far the best judge of how and to what extent he will achieve autonomy.
“The best advice I can give you as your elder, not necessarily as your father is: do not capitulate. It may be too late sooner than you think. Be adamant, my boy. I feel compelled to say also that one is not irrevocably tied to his genes. It is true that you are to a great extent what your mother and I and our predecessors made of you. It is true that you are different from everyone else living today or who has ever lived in the potential you have for developing yourself, for understanding your uniqueness, for reverencing your human sensitivity, for knowing and coming to terms with a world that is not always, in fact not even often, very nice. Dare yourself to think anything you want to think.”
1979, Dad to me, after I visited him for the first time in 12 years. I was 21 and was happily pursuing socialist revolution for the world and enjoying a job in a pizza restaurant (not really paradoxical to my leftism, as I was successfully testing my ability to work for ethical, rather than monetary incentives):
“My first thought is, what are you reading to support all these views?… Many others are going think ill of you, denounce you, and they’re not going to be gentlemen about it…. You may be seen as nothing more than a truculent neurotic masking his own failures.
“You have some grievances with society, but you still are a person who values money for college, and reliable airline service… So save that pizza money and consider making another trip out here.”
1983, me to Dad:
” ‘If you want change you must change the inner soul,’ Soviet poet Andrei Voznesensky has said. This sums up exactly how I feel about the attempt to build socialism. It must stop being a matter of structures put in place by the ruling officials and must become based on personal values and an appreciation, by people on the grass roots, of cooperation. Voznesensky is not anti-socialist, but he does not favor the approach to governing used by the Kremlin. He has been in and out of favor with the state.”
1983, Dad to me:
“I don’t think much of this Russian you quote playing footsie with language. How can you support the Soviet Union when it represses writers and poets the way it does?”
Late 1999, Dad to me:
“Anticipation of the millennium began longer ago than most realize. I remember the beginning of 1950 and the second half of this century. ‘It won’t be all that long,’ someone said where we were all gathered. I couldn’t help wondering which of us would survive. Not many have; but it seems I might, barring some unexpected step-up in schedule.”
Circa 2000, Dad to me, on the 1940s feminist in Mom’s life:“…Your mother was assistant to the Dean of Women at the University of Louisville when I met her. Her boss was Hilda Threlkeld. Dean Threlkeld advised your mother not to get married, that perhaps she might not like being married, that there were many other satisfying pursuits in life for women other than marriage, even sex, she said, although one must remain discreet. Dean Threlkeld warned your mother specifically about me, saying that my war experiences may have left me with long term problems…. After our marriage, your mother and I drove to Maysville, Kentucky, to visit the Dean, who was raised in Maysville. She seemed very curious about the progress of our life together.”
Circa 2002, Dad to me,when my job with the U.S. Census was at about the 2-year point:
“It was nice to hear from you. You sound terrific, as if the rigid government bureau schedule is doing something positive. “ (In fact, Dad’s impression was right. The change from self-employment through much of the 1990s to a “real job” life helped me become more organized and contented.)
Circa 2002, Dad to me, on the Morrisons and media (Dad worked in TV news and wrote three self-published books):
“As for abandonment, I think you might consider the cumulative effect of abandonment, as it occurs from generation to generation. I was abandoned and sent to an orphanage when I was seven. I think you already know that.
“Does that help to explain my drive to entertain others in order to attain approval and establish identity? I think it does. Does abandonment in your father’s life in any way intensify facts you interpret as abandonment in your own life? Yes, I think it does…. My own impression is that you have chosen a professional life that is best for someone who sees himself as abandoned as a child. Writing is a marvelous way of daily dialogue with one’s secret self, even if the writing is for others on the business of others. And you have developed a very good, lively writing style. It should not be replaced, in my opinion at least, just for the sake of a mid-life change.”
circa 2003, Dad to me, on his son’s radical outlook:
“My real feeling… is this: you have never had much of a feeling for the advantages to be offered by compromise. No self-respecting activist can tolerate compromise. Isn’t that true? I see compromise as change or amendment of existing facts of one’s life. In a positive sense, one uses compromise to bring about beneficial change. There is no need to discuss the negative of the same equation, since I don’t see benefit in negatives.”
2003, me to Dad, after I made my first visit to Logan, West Virginia, where Dad was born and lived until age 3, when his father (also named George Morrison), a successful home builder but heavy drinker, died at about age 50.
(My visit was partly to talk to Logan Banner newspaper editor Keith Davis about the unsolved and widely written about murder in 1932 of Mamie Thurman. She was my father’s half-sister, (who was 25 years older than Dad) the topic of debates and student term papers, and supposedly a ghost who still roamed the woods near where she was killed. The headline atop page one of the Banner the next day was: “Mamie’s Nephew.” Well, sort of; I hadn’t even known of this woman’s existence until a year and a half before this visit. While in Logan, I wrote a piece about the community for FORsooth, the monthly radical peace and justice paper of the Louisville chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, of which I was the editor.)
“What I have to say about Logan could not be produced in the very tight time frame of the last few days, during which I had to get FORsooth out (with a column by me in it you’ll find interesting) and work at the bureau (of the census).
“Now, finally, I am free to write.
“Logan was spellbinding. In this parallel universe to my environs, it has been existing all these years. People were hospitable and hardworking, too busy to lament their town’s loss of population because of the decline of coal’s labor intensiveness. The town defied a number of stereotypes. It had nice restaurants, a fairly good newspaper, clean streets and pretty architecture. The accents surprised me, too — gentle southern, not twangy like Eastern Kentucky.
“Keith Davis, whose Central Ohio accent has been modified some by that southern, told me something during our “dialogue” (We interviewed one another simultaneously) that allowed me to more clearly understand the key difference between Mom’s family and, as you put it, the other half of my double helix.
He said my being in Logan was a matter of utmost public interest. Perhaps this was because it signified the entry of the Mamie legend into a third generation of Morrisons — perhaps even assuring its permanence.
“Here [in the Louisville area, specifically New Albany, Ind.] where I dwell because of Mom’s family, I am by no means a public figure, despite writing news and columns for weekly sections of the Courier-Journal. Mom’s family isn’t going to inspire any books. Students aren’t going to write term papers on the fate of any of its members. Youth won’t hang out in the woods in pursuit of any of its ghosts. Television stations and newspapers wouldn’t consider mom’s family worthy of any special series (although the New Albany paper wrote a very nice piece on Grandpa upon his death).
“Mom’s family excels at the conventional and the essential.
“Your family, on the other hand, can’t help but be the center of attention. Whether on Holden Mountain in June 1932 or the story of how your step father died [in a police shooting, circa 1930] and the ensuing existence in an orphanage and, certainly, by the legend of Mamie.
“Being a Morrison gives one a huge repertoire of implausible anecdotes with which to instantly impress people. Unfortunately, being a Morrison also gives one the need to impress people to compensate for a lack of self-esteem and security.
“I have lived many decades of my life putting my primary energy into trying to do precisely that. I was a pistol with jokes and voice impressions in every newsroom where I worked. I finally discerned, with the assistance of a good self help book and a couple of friends willing to be outspoken, that I was behaving outlandishly because I needed people’s laughter as approval.
“I even took to the stage in 1988, performing stand-up comedy in a bid to get that sense of validation on a grander scale.
“I was living the legacy of the Morrisons, using the only tools it gave me to offset the emptiness it left me with.
“I have another legacy, of course — that left by the Rodmans. They were not perfect. I know Grandma Olive Rodman was extremely difficult during her youth and middle age, before I came along. Still, Mom’s family gave basic, essential, non-glamorous if not always complete nurturing. After Mom, Grandpa is my primary hero for the job he did standing in as my substitute father, something beyond that which was required of him.
The family did nothing worthy of mystery novels or network television (Keith Davis said Unsolved Mysteries of NBC has called him about the Mamie case). They won’t be the source of amazing stories that will make me the life of the party. And I must resist the temptation to indulge in telling those attention riveting stories from your side of the family in excess, always telling myself that the family I want people to know about — the one I am a product of — is the one that was involved in the truly amazing spectacle of raising a boy and his sister and preparing them as best as could be done for the world.
“I mean a world where we are valued simply because we are people, not because of our ability to entertain people in perpetuity.
Something else I received from Mom’s family is an ability to be positive about life, despite everything.
“My life growing up was generally a very good experience and I am pleased overall with where I am today as well. I was able to learn fine reporting skills from Courier-Journal editing, something not available to all but a tiny few people in hinterlands communities our size. I am able to use those skills in a leftist, peace and justice newspaper that fits my sensibilities. Only a tiny few journalists in cities of any size can count that as a blessing.
I have said some things here that needed expressing. I hope they will add value to our correspondence. The Logan trip indeed was a worthy venture.
Is this what revolution looks like – Grand Slams and coffee on Formica?
Growing up right on the Mason-Dixon Line of mixed Hoosier-Kentuckian-West Virginian stock, I could never get a handle on exactly whether I was a southerner. Louisville and Southern Indiana had strong unions and lots of Catholics (clearly Midwestern traits) but also generous use of the pronoun “you all” by pick-up truck driving GED holders whose workweeks ended with trips to their favorite fishin’ spots.
I did not venture into an unambiguously southern area until 1983 when, at age 25, I decided to spend a few leftover Christmas vacation days from my newspaper reporting job in Southern Indiana and travel to Atlanta.
Would it be the cosmopolitan, diverse “too busy to hate” city of its major-league image, or a provincial small town with tall buildings, as some critics regard it?
The trip shed little light on that question; the below-zero temperature was the second coldest ever recorded in Atlanta and even though there was no snow and the sky was cloudless blue, the place absolutely shut down. Nope, I’m not a southerner, I decided as I motored almost alone along the normally packed freeways, enjoying the easiest big-city driving I had ever experienced.
A Yankee gets great restaurant service, too, when he is the only one there, unless the weather “crisis” has prevented the wait staff from coming to work.
It warmed up to the normal Southern December high 40s just as I decided to amend my itinerary and head west on Interstate 20 to Birmingham.
Ah, the real south, in its meteorological element – and away from Atlanta’s glitz and economic verve. Birmingham, I figured, would be different.
The city too hateful in the early ‘60s to get busy and accept integration. The church bombings. Fire hoses on people peaceably assembling. Bull Connor. That was the Birmingham I knew from flashpoint news coverage and assigned civics class readings.
Once in the real place, I drove through an area called Red Mountain I had heard was lovely (yes, the homes and trees indeed were, but the police car that tailed me the whole time took the joy out of the tour), then stopped at a Denny’s. There, architectural mediocrity aside, the feeling was more uplifting.
Blacks and whites dined, with the dress of both varying from suits to work ware. An utterly ordinary scene, but that is what made me gaze in awe for a moment around the room.
For this display of everyday, nondescript familiarity to come about, it took children dying in bombings, peaceful demonstrators being gassed and beaten, followed by a long obstinate Congress finally passing the most sweeping domestic legislation in the nation’s history.
Twenty years later, the fruits of this heroic struggle were that people of all colors can eat lunch oblivious to the racial justice angle of their joint presence as they chat about the weather, church and the upcoming football bowl games.
Is this what revolution looks like – Grand Slams and coffee on Formica?
As I learned much more over the next couple of decades about the issue of racial justice, I came to understand that the crucial matter anymore is whether the servers and dishwashers at restaurants such as Denny’s can make adequate and stable wages and afford health insurance — not who can be served.
Being able to ride on any part of the bus is a great and overdue boost to human dignity, but it becomes largely a symbolic victory if there is no adequate job to which to ride.
We have so far to go to achieve true equality, but recalling a winter afternoon in Birmingham assures me that if that city can go from homicidal carnage to casual mixed-race dining in 20 years, we can end hunger, war, and patriarchy.
And someday a visitor to Rwanda, Stonewall, Guatemala or Immokalee will contrast the history of suffering there with the present equality and nonviolence and marvel at what is gloriously mundane. Continue reading “The First Time I Went South — I Mean Really South”→
For opponents of U.S. foreign policy misdeeds, limiting our horizons to “JFK” is to wallow in sentimental US-centric lore, not genuine radicalism.
by Brian Arbenz
Oliver Stone made the wrong movie.
Instead of blending some facts and much supposition into a story of how a peace-loving visionary President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in what might have been a conspiracy, Stone’s 1991 “JFK” could have been a movie about the assassinations involving Kennedy’s White House which were conspiracies – beyond a doubt. Were it titled “JFK,” however, this movie would be named for the antagonist. Yes, Stone could have used his 3 hours and 26 minutes of holding a nation spellbound to unmask conspiracies by John F. Kennedy’s administration to assassinate or overthrow multiple heads of state.
Of course, telling people what is already agreed to be fact would be artistically and commercially riskier because that story likely would fail to dazzle them like the “what if” spectacularism of the movie Stone made. People my age and older feel separation anxiety from the sudden and unforeseeable loss of our charismatic president; Stone’s “JFK” treads heavily on that shared experience. Yet regarding John F. Kennedy’s role in carrying out conspiracies against Ngo Dinh Diem, Patrice Lumumba and Fidel Castro, a three-hour tutorial explaining those would become mired in the arcane in the minds of the moviegoing public.
It isn’t government censorship any more that keeps Americans from intimately knowing the facts about our nation’s real conspiracies. It is the ho-hum factor.
So, we are inured to the truth that JFK’s administration tried to kill Fidel Castro, overthrew South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in a CIA-launched coup that resulted in Diem’s death, and fully cooperated with attempts by the Eisenhower White House to kill Congolese elected president Patrice Lumumba, and helped establish the corrupt dictatorship that replaced the social reformer Lumumba, who was murdered three days before JFK took the oath of office.
Of course, my suggested alternate movie should not really be called “JFK,” because it certainly wasn’t just John F. Kennedy who plotted illegal and intrusive interventions. His presidency was merely a brief shining moment in more than a century of covert actions carried out by corrupt U.S. foreign policy makers for vested interests.
Whereas the real-life JFK was not the conspirator, he also was not the valiant insurgent against the cold war as he is championed by the didactic movie’s central character, maverick prosecutor Jim Garrison. Played by Kevin Costner, Garrison argues the case before a jury of millions that the military industrial complex removed the president in a coup on Nov. 22, 1963 to propel the nation into the Vietnam War, with a misfit ex-marine being only a patsy.
Let me first, nonetheless, acknowledge that not all appreciation of John F. Kennedy is merely sentimental. He absolutely did stand apart from the cold warrior orthodoxy in the world’s most nervous moment. In October 1962 JFK was there for us (the 4-year-old me included) preventing – barely – a nuclear war, and he signed the treaty banning above ground nuclear tests the following year.
Much is overlooked, however, by Oliver Stone and other advocates of the theory that JFK was going to pull us out of Vietnam, but the CIA and the military and its contractors wouldn’t stand for that. In fact, as noted above, the Kennedy Administration ordered the CIA’s overthrow of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, a secret act which made the U.S. a regime builder, therefore more heavily involved in the then nine-year-long war between North and South Vietnam.
History.com said of the Kennedy-backed overthrow of Diem:
“…the United States was more heavily involved in the South Vietnamese quagmire than ever. Its participation in the overthrow of the Diem regime signaled a growing impatience with South Vietnamese management of the war. From this point on, the United States moved step by step to become more directly and heavily involved in the fight against the communist rebels.”
And regarding Congo, Kennedy, as president-elect, was in on a CIA assassination plot (devised under Eisenhower’s presidency) against the democratically elected president Patrice Lumumba, whose pro-labor stances threatened the western mining interests wanting Congo’s rich mineral resources at lower costs. Just after Kennedy took office, (his inauguration was three days after Lumumba was murdered by Congolese opponents strongly supported by, and likely directed by the Belgian and U.S. governments), his administration finished off Lumumba’s democratic anti-colonialist revolution by propping up corrupt dictator Joseph Mobutu, a lackey for corporate interests.
Moreover, the Kennedy Administration, possibly without the president’s okay, tried to assassinate Fidel Castro to end his Cuban revolution for the same reasons – its widely popular economic and social models threatened corporate profits. Attorney General Robert Kennedy knew about the plot against Castro and very likely would have told his brother of it. Moreover, JFK backed U.S. sabotage against Cuba’s economy, falsified a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union to raise spending on the nuclear arms race and deceived the world in a speech in Seattle in November 1961, saying the U.S. is at a disadvantage against the Soviets because assassination, disinformation and counterfeit mobs were tactics we simply could not use. We certainly had used them under his presidency and/or Eisenhower’s to destroy democracy and human rights in Guatemala and Iran, as well as Congo, all to boost the profits of well-connected fruit, oil and mining corporations.
In Oliver Stone’s movie, there actually is a reference to our 1954 overthrow of Guatemala’s government, but President Kennedy himself is heroized throughout the film. The cinematic JFK is shown as firmly intending to pull our limited military contingent out of Vietnam by the end of 1965, and some agreeing with Stone’s narrative even maintain he intended to end the nuclear arms race. Then came six seconds of (however many) gunshots in Dallas, and Kennedy’s successor – described by the sermonizing Jim Garrison as “Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings” – scuttled all our hopes with a secret order sending 600,000 young Americans into the war.
The notion of John F. Kennedy the peacenik counterpoised to a war machine preparing to cut him down in Texas on the thousandth day of his presidency can be dispelled with some sobering words from the president himself, delivered right there and then. Hours before he was assassinated, JFK spoke in Ft. Worth not of disarmament and peace, but of his massive military buildup. Granted, he was wanting to assuage the rabid disdain for him in a state controlled by rich war hawks, but the numbers in this Nov. 22, 1963 speech, the last he would deliver, stand as empirical evidence that JFK had been no threat to the military industrial complex, that force which the conspiracy theorists insist had decided the president was such a roadblock to their agenda he should be removed in a coup.
”In the past 3 years,” Kennedy said in Fort Worth, “we have increased the defense budget of the United States by over 20 percent; increased the program of acquisition for Polaris submarines from 24 to 41; increased our Minuteman missile purchase program by more than 75 percent; doubled the number of strategic bombers and missiles on alert; doubled the number of nuclear weapons available in the strategic alert forces; increased the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe by over 60 percent; added five combat ready divisions to the Army of the United States, and five tactical fighter wings to the Air Force of the United States; increased our strategic airlift capability by 75 percent; and increased our special counterinsurgency forces which are engaged now in South Vietnam by 600 percent.”
These numbers are not found in the “JKF” screenplay; neither is any mention of JFK removing Diem or undermining Lumumba. The movie, however, includes a brief portrayal of new President LBJ on Nov. 26, 1963 eagerly signing NSAM 273, a National Security Action Memorandum on Vietnam, which had substantial differences from NSAM 263,a Vietnam plan signed by JFK Oct. 2, 1963. The timing of Johnson’s signature four days after Kennedy fell dead by the grassy knoll is used as evidence of the movie’s central thesis – that President Kennedy was killed in a coup to keep the U.S. military from pulling out of Vietnam.
There is no question that a headstrong President Lyndon Johnson pushed us deeper into Vietnam faster than Kennedy would have. Being an oil state icon, Johnson was almost certainly moved to prop up the Saigon government quickly by talk that huge oil reserves were under the South China Sea.
While parts of the LBJ-signed NSAM 273 do talk more directly of U.S. intervention – saying our objective is to “win” the struggle rather than to help the South Vietnamese win it, there is more in the memo which should douse the fervor of those linking the assassination so directly to the buildup in Vietnam. Section 2 of NSAM 273 states:
“The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U. S. military personnel remain as stated in the White House statement of October 2, 1963.”
That was Kennedy’s plan in NSAM 263 to withdraw 1,000 U.S. troops by the end of 1963, then withdraw all our troops by the end of 1965.
Critics of the LBJ conspiracy theory also note that in that Kennedy-signed 263 memo, the plan to withdraw them in those two phases seems to be contingent on the South Vietnamese military and government becoming stronger and more able to hold their own on the battlefield without us.
Specifically, those critics note that section 3 of NSAM 263 says of the rationale for a U.S. withdraw:
“Major U.S. assistance in support of this military effort is needed only until the insurgency has been suppressed or until the national security forces of the Government of South Viet Nam are capable of suppressing it.
“Secretary McNamara and General Taylor reported their judgment that the major part of the U.S. military task can be completed by the end of 1965, although there may be a continuing requirement for a limited number of U.S. training personnel. They reported that by the end of this year, the U.S. program for training Vietnamese should have progressed to the point where 1,000 U.S. military personnel assigned to South Vietnam can be withdrawn.”
This timetable seems unrealistically optimistic, given the corruption within the Saigon government and arrogant attitudes in its military ranks. Critics of the assassination conspiracy theory site NSAM 263 not as JFK’s plan for peace, but as the first example of “light at the end of the tunnel” syndrome – that pathology of always seeing us being nearly able to pull out of Vietnam — that worsened under LBJ, keeping us mired in a war that increasingly was seen as purposeless.
There is no doubt that Lyndon Johnson’s hubris and penchant for back room deals sent us down a faster track into the war than Jack Kennedy would have, but the differing attitudes of each man were not the only factor in weighing how JFK, had he lived, would have dealt with Vietnam compared to Johnson’s handling of the issue. Circumstances on the ground in Vietnam being certain to turn worse than projected in memo 263, combined with a re-election battle against an anti-communist GOP candidate likely would have pressed JFK into a deeper war. Polls in 1963 showed Kennedy was vulnerable against either Barry Goldwater or Nelson Rockefeller.
Conspiracy theorists, whose work has become an industry and whose gatherings sometimes resemble religious revivals, have weakened actual activism against the United States’ illegal and imperialist foreign policy aggressions by making the proof hinge on the JFK assassination conspiracy theory. The U.S. CIA and secretive corporate interests cozy with it do assassinate leaders, destroy democracy, start wars, use torture and kill innocents — all to protect the profits of corporations such as United Fruit and ITT and to keep Persian Gulf dictatorships buying up U.S. currency to finance our deficits.
This is not a matter of debate. Yet, Oliver Stone, authors such as Harrison Livingstone and Robert Groden and innumerable bloggers and video documentarians devote the commanding heights of popular media to championing a faulty theory that safely absorbs the passions of activists into a flood plain of drama, selective facts and outright fallacies.
The pro-conspiracy people have cherry picked evidence from much more than the two National Security memos.
In an oft-cited 1963 interview with Walter Cronkite, JFK declares of Vietnam: “In the final analysis it is the people and the Government [of South Vietnam] itself who have to win or lose this struggle. All we can do is help, and we are making it very clear.” But his next words, left out of most conspiracy theorist accounts, are: “But I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw. That would be a great mistake. I know people don’t like Americans to be engaged in this kind of an effort. Forty-seven Americans have been killed in combat with the enemy, but this is a very important struggle even though it is far away.”
Of course, some defenders of the Oliver Stone view note that memo 263 says the plan to withdraw from Vietnam should be kept secret for the time being, which could explain the above statement.
Still, an Oval Office interview with JFK on Sept. 9, 1963 by NBC duo Chet Huntley and David Brinkley displayed more unwavering JFK interventionism concerning Vietnam:
Mr. HUNTLEY: “Are we likely to reduce our aid to South Vietnam now?”
The PRESIDENT: “I don’t think we think that would be helpful at this time. If you reduce your aid, it is possible you could have some effect upon the government structure there. On the other hand, you might have a situation which could bring about a collapse. Strongly in our mind is what happened in the case of China at the end of World War II, where China was lost, a weak government became increasingly unable to control events. We don’t want that.”
Mr. BRINKLEY: “Mr. President, have you had any reason to doubt this so-called ‘domino theory,’ that if South Viet-Nam falls, the rest of Southeast Asia will go behind it?”
The PRESIDENT: “No, I believe it. I believe it. I think that the struggle is close enough. China is so large, looms so high just beyond the frontiers, that if South Viet-Nam went, it would not only give them an improved geographic position for a guerrilla assault on Malaya but would also give the impression that the wave of the future in Southeast Asia was China and the Communists….
“What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say, because they don’t like events in Southeast Asia or they don’t like the Government in Saigon, that we should withdraw. That only makes it easy for the Communists. I think we should stay.
“We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.”
Brian Arbenz has been opposing CIA crimes for more than 30 years as a writer, researcher and street protester, including below on April 25, 1987, a national day of protest.
“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” — George W. Bush, Aug. 5, 2004. The president, flanked by Vice-President Chaney and other staff members, was reading from a prepared text, so rather than this being a classic W flub, perhaps he was preparing us for more Homeland Security.
“We could make no more tragic mistake than merely to concentrate on military strength. For if we did only this, the future would hold nothing for the world but an Age of Terror.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, State of the Union Address, Jan. 9, 1958. Yes, Ike saw it coming. Tragically, W, Obama and the present regime have not figured out that militarizing the Mideast leads to Al-Quaida leads to 911 leads to invasion of Iraq leads to ISIS leads to drone bombing civilians leads to more ISIS recruits.
“We have a tendency to condemn people who are different from us, to define their sins as paramount and our own sinfulness as being insignificant.” – Jimmy Carter. Not sure when he said this, but it defines the narcissistic, starved for circumspection arguing style in today’s echo chambers.
“We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America — none, whatsoever.” – Ronald Reagan, 1984. Well, look who was one of those politically correct, liberal defenders of the multiculture!
“I think that people want peace so much that one of these days, government had better get out of their way and let them have it.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower. Many sources verify this, but none includes a date or context. The statement displays Eisenhower’s long view that the military-industrial complexes of all the nuclear nations were perpetuating the arms race, rather than it being based on nations’ genuine security needs. It has inspired many grassroots efforts at striving for real peace by direct citizen diplomacy.
“A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.” –Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987, televised address. So, the Democrat majority in the House and Senate impeached him, right? No. House Speaker Jim Wright (far less of a criminal than Dennis Hastert, the speaker whose House impeached Clinton), said impeaching Reagan would be “divisive,” and Democrat leaders were described as bending over backward to find excuses not to pursue impeachment.
“Life is unfair.” – John F. Kennedy, May 21, 1962, press conference, responding to complaints from some military reservists who felt they had done their duty but now were being deployed overseas. The whole quote explained that while some soldiers never leave the country, others randomly end up in danger; some survive, others die. Within this context, it appears “life is unfair,” is not brusque, but still a card the president is selectively pulling to deflect criticism. Overall, however, in a universe where random chance is the ultimate power, JFK’s three-word summation applies.
“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” – George W. Bush, May 24, 2005 in Greece, N.Y., explaining his strategy to sell his ultimately failed proposal for Social Security reform.
Brian Arbenz has lived under 12 presidents. Eight truths in 12 presidencies. That’s not such a good total!