A 1920 Essay From Dr. Frank Crane About Democracy and Indifference
The United States is more polarized than it has ever been.
Very few Americans are feeling indifferent about our democracy these days. Americans have strong feelings one way or another about many issues. Yet many people feel powerless to affect the way our democracy operates. The question many are asking is, “is democracy dead?”
We have two political parties who generally do not represent the best interests of the people. Instead they stick along party lines on all issues. What makes this charade even more distressing is that our “representatives” are bought and paid for by corporations, PACs and lobbyists. Distracted by partisan politics, Americans become complacent and indifferent to the underlying problem – corruption. This is not a new phenomenon.
Dr. Frank Crane (1861 – 1928) was a Presbyterian minister, well known across the country as a columnist, author and lecturer about positive everyday living and home grown wisdom. He wrote this essay, Democracy and Indifference in 1920.
While the specifics of graft and corruption have changed since 1920, the fundamentals have not. We still have a government that answers first to corporations, trusts and grafters.
Dr. Crane’s short essay is worth repeating (punctuation and capitalization as originally printed):
Democracy and Indifference
The suicide of Democracy is indifference. The trouble with the USA is not too much politics, but not enough.
A Monarchy or a Government by Trusts by Bosses or by Grafters will work itself because there is a class whose self interest keeps them on the job It is their bread and butter. Also jam.Continue reading →
Is President-elect Donald Trump More Despised Than President Lyndon Johnson Was?
President Lyndon Johnson in Melbourne Australia October 21, 1966 after his limousine was attacked by paint. photo: Herald Sun
President-Elect Donald Trump has not been sworn in office yet and protests have sprung up in many places across the United States against his impending assumption of power. “Not My President,” is the slogan protesters have adopted.
I do not particularly care for Donald Trump. But he is now going to be our president.
As unpopular as Trump seems to be at this moment, he is probably no more despised than President Lyndon Johnson (1963-1969) was during the latter half of his presidency.
This photograph shows President Johnson in his Lincoln Continental limousine moments after the automobile was pelted with plastic bags filled with paint by two brothers, David and John Langley on October 21, 1966 in Melbourne, Australia.
The escalating Vietnam War and the draft was one of the main reasons President Johnson was deeply loathed by so many. While the majority of people initially supported the war at home and abroad, millions of people were firmly against it. According to a Gallup poll taken In August 1965, 24% of Americans thought the U.S. was making a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam. By October 1967 that number had risen to 47%.
With President Johnson stopping in Australia as a stopover on his trip to Manila, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt declared Australia was “all the way with LBJ” in Vietnam.
That was not the way many in Australia felt about LBJ and their involvement in Vietnam. The popular protest chant in Australia and the United States against Johnson was, ‘Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many kids have you killed today?’” Continue reading →
On The 90th Anniversary of Houdini’s Death, We’d Like Some Advice From Houdini and His Friend Theodore Roosevelt
Aboard The Imperator June 23, 1914 – From left to right: William Hamlin Childs, Harry Houdini, J.C. Platt, Theodore Roosevelt, unidentified, Philip Roosevelt, L. F. Abbott
If there is an afterlife maybe Houdini is hanging out with President Theodore Roosevelt like he was in 1914. If so, I’d like to know what they think about the current state of our country.
October 31, 1926 marks the 90th anniversary of the death of the world’s most famous magician, Harry Houdini. Before he died, Houdini told his wife Bess that if there really was life after death, he would contact her. After all, Houdini spent a lot of his time showing how all people who claimed to contact the dead were charlatans. If anyone could prove that there was life after death it would be Houdini.
He never made contact with Bess. There are still seances held each year that try and contact Houdini.
President Obama Promises to Bring Change To Television Before He Leaves Office
During President Obama’s recent visit to “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Friday, the president unveiled a final shocking and controversial plan to be implemented before he exits office in 2017.
President Obama declared he would drastically overhaul many segments of America’s television viewing habits beginning with entertainment and reality television programs, calling it “a painful but necessary decision.”
The president said that his plan, Change and Equalization for American Television (CHEAT), would allow television programs to be more inclusive and teach and inform rather than just have people be non-thinking couch potatoes. President Obama said, “Restructuring how people spend their free time has become a priority,” before he leaves the presidency.
“There is just too much useless information on television infiltrating young folk’s minds in the form of entertainment and reality programs,” the president told Fallon. “The Biggest Loser, Dancing With The Stars, The O’Reilly Factor, I mean the list of dangerous and uninformative programs is just too long,” President Obama said.
The president singled out a program that disturbed him greatly, not only because of its lack of diversity in the cast, but by the cruelty of the situation.
“There was one show on a few years ago, I think it was “Lost” President Obama recalled. “Well, when I tuned in a few times, I could not believe that the producers of this reality program had stranded seven people, who by the way were all white, on a desert island with no phone, no lights, no motorcar – not a single luxury. These fine brave Americans included a millionaire and his wife, a professor, and a movie star. It was clear to me they wanted to get off this island. Well it seems that one of the other islander’s, a Mr. Gilligan, must have been planted by the producers of the show to foil each rescue attempt, because he sabotaged every planned escape. It was heartbreaking”
Mr. Fallon started to explain to President Obama that the show he had watched was not Lost, when the president interrupted him by saying firmly, Continue reading →
The more things change the more they remain the same.
This great political cartoon ran in 1905 on the cover of the satirical Puck Magazine. The cartoon showing The National Bird of Prey “Corporate Vulture” feeding her young “dough” is as appropriate in 2016 as it was in 1905 . The hatchlings being fed in a nest lined with money are labeled “Our” Senators; “Our” Legislatures and “Our” Judges. Is the “Our” in quotes referring to the citizens who have been robbed of representative power or a sarcastic wink to the fact that “Our” government belongs to the corporations? With either interpretation it is a potent statement that still rings true today.
Would you vote for any of these men based upon their photographs (or voices)?
Let’s not generalize and say modern Americans are shallow, but research confirms that public image and to a lesser extent how someone talks, does influence the electorate.
One classic, yet apocryphal example, is the first televised presidential debate in 1960, in which supposed surveys showed people listening on the radio thought Richard Nixon was the clear winner of the debate, whereas people watching on television thought John F. Kennedy was the victor.
Today we are bombarded by media 24/7. It has becomes a challenge to capture anyone’s attention. The current presidential debates have devolved into images and soundbytes that convey little when it comes to substantive ideas and solutions for making our country functional. The public and media analyze Donald Trump’s hair; if Hillary Clinton has “had work done” or why Ted Cruz “talks weird.”
So now, imagine life 100 – 125 years ago. Most Americans never ventured more than a few miles from where they were born. There was no internet, television or radio. Images were viewed in newspapers and magazines. If you heard a politician speak, it was, in person addressing an attentive crowd.
The technological revolutions around the turn of the century were stunning to the masses. The development of motion pictures, x-rays, electric appliances (beginning with the toaster), airplanes and audio recordings astonished people.
Maybe you’ve seen grainy silent films of the men who served as presidents of the United States at the turn-of-the-century. They are silent, stoic and graven in image. What did they sound like? How did they talk?
Most people do not realize that these early president’s voices were recorded and preserved for posterity, usually by the Edison Company on wax cylinder disks. The following recordings are part of the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University. It is very interesting to hear what these men sounded like.
Based upon their photographs and voices, could any of these men be elected today?
First we have President Grover Cleveland (the 22nd and 24th president 1885-1889 & 1893-1897) the only man ever to be elected twice in non-consecutive terms.
Cleveland was mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York before becoming president. In 1884 a book was published called Off-hand Portraits of Prominent New Yorkers by Stephen Fiske. The coda to the profile on Cleveland accurately predicted “If he shall make the same sort of a Governor as he has a Mayor, the road to the White House is open to him, and this sketch may yet be entitled the portrait of President Cleveland.”
Grover Cleveland’s voice, recorded during a campaign speech in 1892 is a bit hard to hear with all the static, but is comprehensible.
The way most politicians in the 19th century wrote, is the way Cleveland speaks. Cleveland puts out his speech with melodrama and clear diction.
Next, the 25th President William McKinley (1897-1901) who never left his front porch at his home in Ohio to campaign. McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in 1901, which put Theodore Roosevelt into the executive office.
McKinley on this recording from 1896, talks about the Republican platform. Similar to Grover Cleveland, McKinley speaks the way you’d imagine a 19th century politician would talk. McKinley’s speech pattern epitomizes the 20th century movie portrayal of 19th century diction, emphasizing certain words, and like Cleveland, drawing out his syllables.
A Businessman And A Comedian’s Views On China And The Chinese
Donald Trump’s views on China versus W.C. Field comments on the Chinese may not seem clearly related. But I think they are.
Who’s statements are more accurate?
“Every single country that does business with us is ripping America off. The money China took out of the United States is the greatest theft in the history of our country”
“I’ve been telling everybody for a long time China’s taking our jobs. They’re taking our money. Be careful: They’ll bring us down. You have to know what you’re doing. We have nobody that has a clue.”
“When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.”
W.C. Fields (from W.C. Fields & Me by Carlotta Monti 1971 Prentice Hall)
(On the Chinese) “All they have to do is give each one a gun, plus a few rounds of ammunition and they could conquer the world. It may happen one day.”
“And if they can’t do it by brute force they can accomplish it by cleverness. All they have to do is shrink the neck size of customers’ shirts at every laundry, and everybody will choke to death.”
Fields made his statements to Monti in private in the 1930s or 40’s, she does not specify exact dates in her account. Apparently Fields was seriously apprehensive of the Chinese as he was among many other groups (clergy, lawyers, children, film writers, tax collectors, doctors, etc. etc.)
You may not think of Fields as Presidential material the same way some people do not think of Donald Trump as Presidential material.
The funny thing about this is that Fields wrote a book in 1940 called Fields For President, a thin tongue-in-cheek tome on his worthiness as a Presidential candidate. In the book he says, “If he knows nothing else, a President should at least understand the secret of success in the business world. For, after all, what is the Presidency but a a glorified business – or, at least, a fine racket?”
The difference between Fields and Trump? Fields was considered an astute businessman. Trump is not a comedian.