Tag Archive | Politics

“President Kennedy has been shot…”


Fifty years ago today, I came home from ninth grade, and my mother intoned her usual, “What did you learn In school today?” For once my answer came easily.  I had to come up with  an answer to that question every day. Sometimes I couldn’t think of anything special I’d learned, so I’d make something up. It didn’t seem to matter to them.

“I saw President Kennedy today. His motorcade went right by our school on Broadway, and they had us all stand on the curb and wave. He looked orange.”

“Was Jackie with him,” she asked, mildly interested for once.

“Yes. She didn’t look orange. She looked normal.”

I never found out why the President of the United States looked orange that day, or if he always looked orange. Maybe it was make-up, maybe it was a bad artificial tan—they tended to turn you orange back then—but I remember that very clearly, my main impression of the two-second look I got of John Kennedy on his way to the Alamo to make a speech.

When my father came home later, he asked me the same question, “What did you learn in school today?”

“She saw Kennedy today,” my mother interrupted before I could get it out.

My father made a sound somewhere between a growl and a spit. He hated John Kennedy for his liberalism, his privileged background, and apparently most of all for his accent. Daddy thought  Kennedy had to be talking like that on purpose, putting on airs or something, because nobody talked like that naturally.

During the campaign three years before, my father pointed out to me a poem that appeared in the local newspaper:

Since Kennedy says “hawf,” then Johnson must agree,

That a Texas calf is now a “cawf,” as any fool can see.

So when  you go to the butcher’s, do not snicker and “lawf,”

Just go up and say, to be quite genteel,

“Please give me hawf a cawf.”

We all got a good “lawf” about that. My father’s politics, which were slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, meant he hated Kennedy as he had hated Franklin Roosevelt before him. Only 2/3 into his first term, Kennedy had had less time to incur his wrath, but he couldn’t stand him, end of conversation. I was still quite young, fourteen in 1963, and generally parroted my parents’ political opinions. It would be several years before I began to think for myself. From that time on, our conversations were limited to old times, and, like a Jane Austen novel, the weather and the condition of the roads.

The next day started off like any other, but after lunch our principal came on over the public address system. He announced that apparently someone had shot the president in Dallas. Using the cutting edge of 1963 technology, he held his transistor radio up to the microphone on his desk to let us hear the radio broadcasts and updates. It was no time at all before we knew for sure he was dead.

Even today I can’t describe what I felt. I wasn’t devastated like the kids who had actually liked him. I didn’t cry. But I definitely felt weird. It was the first time in my life when someone I had seen one day was dead the next. Things like that didn’t happen in my little world. Maybe during war or if you saw someone off on the Titanic, but people in my world didn’t just up and die. Not yet, anyway.

That night, as we watched the aftermath playing out on all three channels, my father expressed his sympathy. “Well, I hated the sonofabitch, but I didn’t necessarily  want him to die.” All things considered, it was a real gush of emotion.

Like everyone else my age, I can’t believe it’s been fifty years since the assassination. That is the watershed event for my generation. Everyone remembers where they were when they found out about it, as my parents’ generation remembered hearing about Pearl Harbor, and my children will remember finding out about 911.The girl who was barely a teenager in 1963 has five grandchildren now. I wonder what their watershed event will be, whether there will be a place deep inside them that is permanently chilled by it, and whether they will write about it fifty years later.

The Loboto-mobile Rides Again – Dumbing Down Our Future


In 1936, Dr. Walter Freeman performed the first lobotomy in the United States. Over 3,000 procedures later, he performed his last lobotomy in 1967. For several years, he traveled from place to place in a van, which he called the “loboto-mobile,” bringing suborbital lobotomies to most of the U.S. He performed the procedure on such notables as actor Warner Baxter, Tennessee Williams’ sister, Rose, and John Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary. His stated goal was to relieve thousands from what he called “the burden of consciousness.”

The good doctor reached thousands; the lowering of the bar we have experienced in Texas over the past few years has effected millions. When school budgets are cut to the bone and beyond, when resident law enforcement officers are needed to provide a modicum of safety for students and teachers, and when the requirements to graduate from high school are gutted by the legislature, the future of all of us and our kids is moving from doubtful to hopeless.

Accountability testing requirements are reduced from fifteen to five: algebra, biology, U.S. history and tenth grade reading and writing. TENTH GRADE READING AND WRITING!! That means you only have to have the literacy level of a 15-year-old to get a high school diploma. They are increasing a de facto subclass, making even more employers demand a college degree for white collar jobs, because a high school diploma is meaningless. When an employer or employment agency has you take several tests–mostly in reading and writing–before letting you interview, will they really be impressed by your tenth grade level performance?

The effect of lowering the bar–yet again–for education in Texas is to lobotomize an entire generation. Students tend to live up or down to expectations of them. They will be vastly relieved to learn they can stop listening after tenth grade. If dumbing down our future isn’t enough of an incentive, how about the economic repercussions? Companies will stop moving to Texas, because their employees won’t want to move here because of the poor education offered. And forget hiring the locals. They won’t be able to fill out the application forms.

How can people vote into office candidates who are willing to relieve our children of the “burden of consciousness”? There is a reason every dictator’s first targets are the intelligentsia–the well-educated and potential leaders who don’t fall for their drivel. By allowing our legislature to dumb down the populace legally, we are saving them trouble of rounding us up and executing us. The people who want the right to bear automatic weapons are the same ones who want the right to dumb down our future. Think about it.

Saving Us From Ourselves, One Old Bag at a Time

BagAs I woke up to the news this morning, I learned the Legislature of the State of Texas has decided to turn its attention from minor issues like education, the budget, and our water (and lack thereof) to tackle the seminal issue of Austin’s ban on single-use plastic bags.

Representative Drew Springer, R-Muenster, penned House Bill 2416 and refers to it as the “Shopping Bag Freedom Act.” If passed, it will outlaw bag bans like the one in Austin that went into effect March 1. Well, I say thank God someone is looking out for our personal freedom to pollute.

Other representatives pointed out retailers could have chosen to ban plastic bags voluntarily, eliminating the need to impose the ban on everyone. Good luck with that. I didn’t see any retailers rushing to do so before the city council’s ban.

I must state here that Bryan and I started using reusable bags several years ago, so the ban didn’t mean any great change in our lifestyle. We made the switch the first time we read that the bags, drifting across the landscape as litter like mass-produced tumbleweeds, end up in rivers, which carry them to the ocean. Once there, instead of obligingly sinking to the bottom and waiting to be encased in limestone, they float around doing excellent imitations of jellyfish. Many sea creatures, including endangered sea turtles, eat them, expecting a delicious meal of jellyfish sushi, and instead getting an intestinal blockage that leads to a slow and excrutiating death.

But then, who cares if another species in the food chain goes extinct? At least people won’t have to  remember to bring bags to the store or return plastic bags for recycling. That might take a full minute away from their fascinating lives watching “Operation Repo” and “Survivor.”

As I try to calm down, I’ll point out that the bag ban is not the first legislation we’ve had to accept to save us from ourselves. After all, builders were anxious to buy more expensive lead-free paint for their projects for the benefit of all those babies who ate it. The Food and Drug Administration, typical government pork, ignores the fact that manufacturers love listing their ingredients voluntarily, even if they are carcinogens. Besides, as an Amurrican, you have the God-given right not to buy and consume any product that’s harmful–IF you can find out about the dangers.

Seatbelt laws are unnecessary, because we need the right not only not to use them, but not to have them cluttering up our vehicles. So what if motor vehicle deaths immediately declined when the law was enacted? I’ll bet all those auto makers would have put seatbelts and airbags in their cars voluntarily anyway. Just another example of the government sticking its nose in where it doesn’t belong.

This country has a history of laws trying to save us from ourselves that is at least as long as our history of freedom of choice. When everyone in this country does what is most beneficial for himself and others around him, we can deep-six the laws that try to make us act like smart, responsible human beings.

That seems like an impossible task, especially on days when the Texas Legislature tries to derail a rare step in the right direction.



Politically Incorrect

I’m fed up with politics. Everywhere I turn are people telling lies and half-truths. I have to check with PolitiFact.com before I can believe anything any politician says. One candidate says he didn’t mean anything he’s said for the past five years. One says if he can raise as much money as his opponent he can win. So, we buy public office now? I’m no innocent. I know you need money—lots of money—to win a campaign, but I’d like to see a few ideas thrown into the pot, too.

My father had no respect for politicians. He defined elections as the process by which we “take some rascals out and put some rascals in.” I always suspected he cleaned up that aphorism a bit for my benefit. He always told my brother he could be anything he set his mind to, except a politician. (We girls were to get married, learn to cook really well, and raise kids. It never entered his head that one of his daughters might go into politics.) My mother never said much about it, but I think she would have disapproved of my becoming a politician for the same reason she disapproved of a career in nursing: I would see naked people. She was inordinately concerned about that.

You know things are bad when you look back with nostalgia at the election of 1960. I was just a kid then, but I could understand the Kennedy-Nixon campaign. It made a lot of sense that some miner in Appalachia asked John Kennedy if, as president, he would obey instructions from the Pope even if he thought they were bad for the country. We were much less politically correct in those days. Today, only a barbarian would question a candidate’s religion, race, or birth certificate. Right? (The Birthers don’ t scare me much. They will, eventually, find out Hawaii is a state, too.)

Politics is inherently full of pitfalls. Nixon lost a lot of ground after his debates with Kennedy, because he looked like a crook on television, which, as it turned out, was type casting. George (Daddy) Bush lost points for what the media called “the wimp factor.” He came across on television as a milquetoast. Frankly, as a former head of the CIA, he certainly had backbone and was dangerous. If you go all the way back to the campaigns of Eisenhower and Stevenson, Adelai Stevenson lost the 1952 election because he came across as too smart, an “egghead.” Only in America are you denigrated for being too intelligent. (At least we seem to have put that issue behind us.) And considering Richard Nixon made the “egghead” comment, we should have been forewarned.

So, when I can’t stand another minute of today’s rhetoric, I’ll remember the good old days and a presidential campaign that was cogent, dignified, incisive, and even inspired memorable poetry:

Since Kennedy says “cawf,” then Johnson must agree,

That a Texas calf is now a “cawf,” as any fool can see.

So when you go to the market, do not snicker and “lawf.”

Just go in and say, to be quite genteel, “Please give me hawf a cawf.”

Welcome to the Soapbox

Janet KilgoreI have lived a long time and hopefully learned a little something from my mistakes. I like to think I learned from the times I got it right, too. One thing I know for sure, the time between achieving wisdom and your death is fleeting. This is why so often a person’s last words are, “Well, crap!”

For several years, a friend and I shared a humor column in a county newspaper. We had a near-perfect venue for observations (rants) on any topic that struck our fancies, and our fancies were constantly under attack. I didn’t appreciate the soapbox until the editor kicked it out from under me. Seems my liberal opinions finally crossed the line and I was history. Admittedly, it didn’t take much; that line lay about two inches from my foot the whole time I wrote for them.

I took a long and torturous route to enlightenment. The first time I could vote for president was 1972, Richard Nixon’s second run for the roses. Within two years, I learned my maiden vote had been squandered on the worst kind of crook, one not smart enough to keep the fact under wraps. I remained traumatized, dubious of my ability to make an intelligent choice, and didn’t vote again for several years.

I awakened from my political sleep about twenty years ago. While I snoozed, many of my fellow citizens had moved politically slightly to the right of Attila the Hun. There was a noisy bunch in my neighborhood hell-bent on banning books at the local high school. They wanted veto power not only for their own children but for everyone else’s. Seems they thought themselves better judges than the teachers of what was age-appropriate literature for the students, even though they had not actually read any of the books in question. Figuring the next stop was a bonfire of books out on the practice football field, I stood up and fought.

I’m still fighting. The issues change along with the fractious factions, but I seem to spend ever-increasing hours fighting the barbarians at my gate. So, with my very first blog I offer you my musings and welcome you to The Soapbox.