tax time

Naked
and afraid?
Who, you?
me?
Not a chance
dig your
pink painted toes
into the sand and
file the extension.

Then kiss me
like we have no
real chance
of going home.

It’s a two and
a half hour
flight to
Tegucigalpa, so
call up the relatives
and pretend
there’s a new investor
named Ferdinand
and he’s burning
cash like there
is no tomorrow.

Just kiss me
again and
say if there
is such a thing
as real love
you’ve found it here
on deadbeat beach.

In a week we will
be on the bus
to Choluteca
drinking warm beer
and laughing about
the last check we
left for the
landlord.

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Boots on the ground

A cranky old friend of mine told me the other day, that the older he became, the more certain phrases annoyed him. He told me that one expression that he was tired of, was the overused expression, “back in the day”.

“That expression really rankles me,” he said.

“That expression rankles you?” I said fumbling through my mental dictionary for a definition of ‘rankles’.

“Yeah,” he went on, “like back in WHAT day. Why can’t people just say something like, you know, in 1967 we didn’t have any frigging internet so we had to get all of our news from Walter Cronkite on the black and white Philco at 7PM sharp! There…saying something like that should make you sound old, and curmudgeonly enough, without saying, back in the day all we had was Walter f___ing Cronkite to tell us what was going on in the world!”

This somewhat bizarre exchange occurred in the break room at the office where I work, and I took a quick step backward as my crotchety coworker brushed past me to thrust his dry Florida Panther’s mug beneath the water cooler spigot. Never get between a hard-core hockey fan and a water cooler.

I walked away shaking my head, hoping that a cool mug of Zephyrhills would return my friend’s blood pressure to at least the high side of normal, and planning a blog-post about the small annoyances that we humans choose to clutter up our lives. Such annoyances cause us to waste precious time on this planet, which could be better spent on more productive pursuits. I was planning on kind of a Zen blog about how we are all killing ourselves by focusing on the minutiae – the trivial. Then I heard President Obama (a President that I have voted for twice by the way), say the following, right there on my old Philco (okay, my 42 inch flat screen), regarding proposed and almost certainly upcoming military action in Syria:

“We’re not considering any open commitment. We’re not considering a boots on the ground approach.”

And there it was: “boots on the ground”. I was suddenly rankled. Since rankled is not a word that one uses, or even sees every day, I shall post the definition here:

to continue to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment within the mind; fester; be painful.

That describes my feeling toward “boots on the ground”, a catch phrase which, of course, refers to launching a real, full-fledged, military operation on foreign soil by sending in soldiers (who usually wear boots), and usually indicates that we, as a Nation, are ready to make a long-term commitment to a country or region, based upon real, though often fabricated evidence. Evidence that is more times than not spoon fed through the media to the general public. In order to keep the boots off of the ground we often instead, launch an air strike.  An airborne attack has the advantage of inflicting massive damage  (shock and awe), while making certain that NO boots touch the ground – supposedly.

Boots on WHAT ground, I always want to say when I hear that tired expression circa. 2002. We have boots on the ground in the desert outside of Las Vegas launching drone attacks in Afghanistan, while we have had boots on the ground for the past decade in the desert in Iraq – fighting in a war that was started on some very shaky, if not downright underhanded pretenses.

So don’t get my meaning wrong  here. I am not saying that there is never a time for “boots on the ground”, and I certainly mean no disrespect to those wearing the boots (anyone who reads my work knows that I am committed to the cause of better treatment for our veterans), but I fear that this Syrian mess is not one of those times, or so it seems to me, and unless I have been inhaling too much Florida swamp gas, it will soon prove itself to be just that.

bootsThis is a debacle in sheep’s clothing and I hope that we discover that before the first boots hit the ground.

Mahalo,

–Ed

Thoughts on Government surveillance

“If this government ever became a tyranny … the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government … is within the reach of the government to know.” – Senator Frank Church

If you are not wondering what the hell is going on with our government these days, or what the hell the government is doing to us, or where the hell all of this is going to lead, then you haven’t been paying attention. But make no mistake about it, this Big Brother, Big Government, Snoop/Spying/Prying into our lives started a long time before a 29 year old Booz Allen Hamilton hacker copied off a stack of his employer’s classified documents and flew west, leaving both his clandestine job and glamorous girlfriend in the jet vapors.

Citizens are now blogging, commenting, tweeting, and using all forms of media to express their shock and disdain for the apparent intrusion of the United States government into their personal lives. The scandal rages. Techie type analysts scramble to educate the masses about the nuances of government eavesdropping, hoping that perhaps a better understanding of ‘metadata’ will help assuage the concerns of The Public. Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the aforementioned hacker, remains ensconced in a luxury Hong Kong hotel room, sitting high atop his stack of stolen documents as he lashes out at  the Obama Administration for its failings:

“Obama’s campaign promises and election gave me faith that he would lead us toward fixing the problems he outlined in his quest for votes. Many Americans felt similarly. Unfortunately, shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge…”

So how could such a condition come about? What of those great ‘checks and balances’ that we learned about in our tenth grade American Government classes? Aren’t those supposed to save us from tyranny? Or, perhaps it was the Bush Administration that set us upon this road to Orwellian doom.

Perhaps a good place to begin to understand our recent condition is by reading “The Puzzle Palace”, by James Bamford, an amazingly insightful and well researched book about the National Security Agency (NSA). This book takes the reader inside the NSA’s Ft. Meade, Maryland facility and documents in detail, the NSA’s intrusive, albeit effective, role in monitoring, if not influencing, international events, including the Iran-Contra affair, the downing of KAL flight 007 over the Kamchatka Peninsula by the Soviets, and the first Gulf War. It is important to note that this book was published in 1983.

Have our God-given rights been taken from us, in one fell swoop. Did the erosion start with a Republican President riding a nationwide ‘save-us-at-all-costs’ attitude that came about as a result of  the worst terrorist attack on our soil in history? Were those same policies given a wink and a nod by our current POTUS?

I think that the march of the government into our personal lives has not happened suddenly. It is just that are many more opportunities today for governmental abuse of power. In 1983, the internet was, for the average citizen, non-existent. Today we have cellular phones that revel our whereabouts, Facebook pages that record the minutia of our daily lives, and Linkedin pages that document business associates, and organizations. Mysterious magnetic strips on credit cards, and driver’s licenses, hold facts about us that sometimes even spouses do not know about. Our medical histories, where we spend our money, and where we travel to from the assumed anonymity of our computers, is all meticulously recorded and available for tracking should the ends justify the means.

This did not happen overnight. Many of us have remained silent for decades, not taking the opportunity to lash out when we could. Perhaps requiring urine testing as a condition of employment for even the most low-level, non-governmental position, was an intrusion we could have stopped had the outrage been great enough. But as a friend of mine smugly told me after submitting to such a test in order to get a relatively mundane clerical position, “I have nothing to hide. They can test me all they want.”

Meanwhile, in a report that I read today, Mr. Snowden still remains in hiding in his Hong Kong hotel, doing what he believes to be right and waiting for the fallout. Interesting, in a brief description of his days in hiding, it is reported that when he logs into his laptop, he does so under a hood, so as not to give the prying eyes of the NSA the opportunity to discern his password. And so the paranoia shall grow.

Mahalo

–Ed

Climate of fear in the Sunshine State…

For those who think that life in South Florida consists of lazy days at the beach, sipping poolside Mai Tais, or partying till dawn with South Beach hipsters and celebrities, while the rest of the country shivers in the cold and shovels snow, you will be pleased to find out that there is plenty of gloom and doom here, just like everywhere else.

Giant pythons, released by irresponsible reptile enthusiasts now slither through the Everglades; African killer bees, introduced by well-intended, but sadly mistaken, Brazilian scientists, are on the swarm; and now we face the invasion of the Giant Snails. Yes, I said Giant Snails. You can read about them here. To make matters even worse, the 2013 hurricane season is only days away, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting an active to extremely active season. The names of the upcoming storms have been posted, and one has to wonder which one (if any) will be retired in the wake of loss of life, and devastation, as have the names Katrina, and most recently, Sandy.

So with all this stuff out there to scare the beejesuz out of us, do we really need yet another government program to put us even more on edge than we already are? Apparently, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office believes that we do. The recently instituted, Community Partners Against Terrorism (CPAT) program, has been recently rolled out, complete with a sampling of the kind of behavior that we law abiding citizens should be on the lookout for. Among the behaviors we should be watching for, according to CPAT, are people taking pictures of bridges without a person in the picture.  One would think a savvy terrorist would simply deflect undo attention from his or her plot by simply placing a fellow terrorist in front of the camera.

In any case, I am starting to wonder if we really, really, need to be reminded to be on the lookout for just damned near anyone doing anything that we don’t do ourselves. A rowboat with a man lashing a package to the girders of a bridge certainly demands a call to the authorities, but to think that a hapless tourist, or student, or even some blogger like me, looking for a quick jpeg to upload for a paper, or blog, is at risk of being questioned by Sheriff’s deputies as to his or her motive is startling . And yes, I know that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear, and I don’t necessarily agree with that line of thought. There is plenty to fear when a fear induced police state impinges on the rights of an individual to conduct a peaceful activity in a public place.

New York City, perhaps numero uno in the list of likely terrorist targets, and undeniably the site of the most tragic terrorist attack on U.S. soil, is home to some of the most photographed bridges and buildings in the world, as is San Francisco, Boston and Chicago.

Perhaps in the wake of the tragedy in Boston earlier this year, we are all a bit more on edge, at least at public events and in public places. A week or so after the Boston Marathon bombing, I was at a large South Florida shopping mall. It was lunch time and the food court was filled with people. I couldn’t help but notice a young man rushing through the mall lugging a backpack. A half dozen people stopped what they were doing and  watched him pass with eyes riveted. One lady looked absolutely terrified. Suspicious? I thought not – but then again,  his activities were probably as suspicious as some guy taking a picture of a bridge. Here’s the non sequitur – young men with backpacks were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing, therefore young men with backpacks are terrorists – that’s paranoia setting in.

A short time later, I spotted the young man with the backpack riding a bicycle, turning onto the campus of Florida Atlantic University, a mile down the road. Obviously, he was a young college student late for a class and had to stop at the mall for something or other. Since bicycles do not offer a secure compartment into which one can lock ones valuables, the young student was therefore forced to lug his backpack through the mall.

So there you go, and that’s what I am thinking about today – at what point do the vigilant  become the paranoid? I am thinking of other things too, but I don’t want to come off too grumpy. I think the early arrival of the rainy season is affecting my mood, so enough for now; dark storm clouds are on the horizon, and I have got to go prepare for Hurricane Season.

Stay alert – stay safe – stay sane.

Mahalo,

Ed

Living in the age of deception

*hood-winked

To take in by deceptive means; deceive. See synonyms at deceive.

hood’wink’er n.

*  *  *

Many years ago, at New York’s famed Feast of San Gennaro, I was relieved of $20 by a fast talking street vendor in a shell game. I left the Feast a bit wiser, and years later when I confessed my ignorance of New York street games to a friend, he laughed and remarked that I had clearly been ‘hoodwinked’.

I liked that word. Much more playful sounding than its cousin ‘deceived’, and much less threatening than its drunken uncle counterpart, ‘ripped off’, hoodwinked seemed to fit nicely into the picture of what happened to me that day. Lately, I am starting to feel like we are living in an age of deception, where hoodwinkers of all types are ‘taking us all in’ just a little bit.

First came Lance Armstrong, the Tours de France super star. Since bicycle racing does not attract the huge following here in the U.S. as it does in Europe, it takes some doing for a cycler to gain national name recognition. Ask anyone here in the States to name a famous cycler, and nearly everyone will name Lance Armstrong. Ask them to name a second and your question will likely be met with a blank stare. Lance seemed to have it all. A stellar athlete, Lance was from the get-go, clearly on a path to celebrity, and if his athletic prowess were not enough to seal the deal, his inspirational triumph over cancer would be. Since most of us feel that we are probably just one diagnosis away from this dread disease, Lance’s high profile cancer beat-down left us all knowing that not only was there life after cancer, but athletic top-of-your-game, celebrity status life.

Of course doping charges followed Lance’s success and those who dared to cast a shadow of doubt upon his squeaky clean image were, by many accounts, castigated and intimidated into silence. So, for many years we turned a blind eye to the super-star cyclist, preferring to see him as he wanted us to see him. Not until his recent, and now famed coming out appearance on Oprah, were we forced to confront the fact, that Lance the man, was simply another athlete with sins long hidden from view. First he said he didn’t – now he says he did…I am majorly hoodwinked.

Next came Beyonce. Her now controversial appearance at last week’s Presidential inauguration is under fire, her performance marred by allegations of lip-syncing The Star Spangled Banner (in fairness to Beyonce, if there was ever a song to lip-sync it’s that one). For some reason this inaugural “mini-scandal” seems to linger, perhaps even eclipsing Michelle Obama’s eye-rolling at the luncheon incident.

To those who say Beyonce has hoodwinked us, I cry foul. Well, maybe a mini-teeny-weeny hoodwinking went on, but who could blame her. If she had been lip-syncing to say – Barbara Streisand, well then…MAJOR hoodwinking …but she didn’t do that.  Beyonce chose, apparently (or perhaps she was advised by her handlers), to sing what is arguably one of the most difficult (and often massacred) songs ever written, by lip syncing to her own voice. So what is really wrong with that? Let’s face it. That is a damn difficult venue that Inauguration. You’re on like never before with the world watching – the Prez himself is sitting right there, and baby it’s cold outside. Who would want to take a chance on failure…

…Apparently James Taylor, that’s who. Like J.T. or hate him, you have to give the guy credit, he’s got guts. Taylor went on bald, cold, and nervous, but he played the game straight up. After his performance he gave an interview in which he admitted that Inaugurals aren’t the best gigs in the world for singing guitar players:

“It’s always hard for a guitar player to play when it’s cold because your hands sort of stiffen up and you know nerves tend to do that to you anyway. So I was, you know, very relieved to have gotten to it without any major train wrecks.”

And so he did. J.T. made it through without any ‘trainwrecks’. But it leaves me wondering if an occasional trainwreck, or maybe just a slight derailing, would not have been better for the career of Lance Armstrong. Maybe the loss of a race or two would have simply humanized him…or maybe not, but it would have kept him off of Oprah’s show confessing to the masses that he was a liar and a cheat.

And as for Beyonce, while I don’t feel that she is in the same league of hoodwinkers as Lance, I am thinking that maybe an imperfection in her performance would not have sent her career down in flames either. After all – politicians certainly don’t concern themselves with embarrassment on the national stage, so why should we expect a performer to  be perfect?

That’s it for now…back to writing about ‘writing’  topics really soon…I mean it…

–Trop

*Definition courtesy of The Free Dictionary, by Farlex.

I sell the gun…and have some misgivings…

Note to my readers: This is part 4, the last part of a ‘serial-blog’.  A serial-blog is something I wanted to try, but might not attempt again. But you never know. Without reading the first three parts, it probably won’t make too much sense, so if you are new here (or just showing up late), please scroll down to Part 1 and read the blog posts in order. In a nutshell, this is a short story that is intended as a personal commentary on gun control. The experience is true, or as best I remember it. All names and some inconsequential details have been changed, so if a character sounds like you my friend, there is a good chance it is.

PART 4

…I continue…

Dean White had it made. Or so I thought back then. If there was ever a guy who was truly his own man it was Dean.

About fifty years old at the time, he looked older. He had a long salt and pepper beard almost to mid-chest, and long grey hair almost to mid-back. His hair was always pulled back in a pony tail, held in place with one of those turquoise Navaho hair clasps. He also wore a turquoise ring on his little finger and always wore a turquoise bedecked belt buckle on a hand tooled belt. Dean hadn’t an ounce of Native American blood in his veins but he apparently liked the jewelry.

Dean made his living with a small printing business that he ran out of the basement of his house. He printed labels for catalogs and fliers and usually worked all night. This left him free all day to hunt and fish. Dean was married to a girl named Suzie, who was at least twenty years his junior. Suzy had platinum blonde hair and had worked as a stripper at a club in Kansas City before she left that world behind to marry Dean (or so I heard).

In addition to his printing business, Dean also was an accomplished gunsmith. He was known to buy and sell guns too, so he wasn’t surprised when I showed up at his house one morning with the .22 High Standard, wrapped in cheese cloth, and stowed in a shoe box. Someone had told me that as long as a pistol was contained in a box, any box, that it wasn’t considered a concealed weapon and you could carry it on the car seat beside you (sounds like hooey to me now that I think about it).

Dean was coming off of an ‘all nighter’, having just finished a big print run for an Omaha department store, and he still had 250 bulletins for the First Presbyterian church to run off before services next day, so he was a little grumpy. Suzy was pleasant though and brought us both steaming mugs of hot coffee.

Dean unwrapped the pistol, and inspected it like he knew what he was doing. While he was looking at it I gave him the condensed version of how Lenny and I had tried the gun out on a firing range, conveniently leaving out the fact that the range was on Earl Hackelman’s farm, and not only had we trespassed, but we’d almost been run down (or gunned down) by Hackelman himself. I told Dean that the gun shot right and high.

Dean laughed at me. “This ain’t no target pistol, son,” he said. “Now if it’s targets you want to shoot…” He got up and went into another room. He came back with a long oak box with a fancy inscription carved into the lid above a carving of an eagle with outstretched wings. He sat the box in front of me.

I opened the box. Inside was a true .22 caliber target pistol. I handled it carefully. It was perfectly balanced and the difference between it and the gun I had purchased from Harry was as pronounced as the difference between my 1969 Plymouth and a racing Ferrari.

“How much?” I asked Dean, momentarily seeing myself entering professional shooting competitions.

“Three seventy five,” said Dean, “but I could allow you fifty for your gun, so make it three twenty five and it’s yours.”

“Kinda out of my price range,” I said, as I laid the target pistol back in its ornate cradle. “What can you give me outside of trade.”

“Thirty bucks,” he said without hesitation.

“Thirty bucks,” I said, “wow, I paid fifty.”

“You got screwed,” said Dean.

“How about forty then?”

Dean smiled and pulled a turquoise money clip from the front pocket of his jeans. He counted out thirty five dollars. “Take it or leave it,” he said.

I took it.

*

A few days after I sold the pistol to Dean, I ran into Lenny’s brother Rick at the County Line Tap. I hadn’t spoken to Lenny since the day he approached me with the offer to buy the gun. Lenny had left town for California without saying goodbye to anyone.

I walked over and asked Rick if there was any word from Lenny.

“Didn’t you hear,” he said.

“Hear what?”

“Lenny got robbed, that’s what.”

“Where…when?” I asked.

“Modesto, California,” he said. Then he told me that Lenny had stopped at a burger joint to get a bite to eat, and when he came out his car was gone.

“They stole everything he had,” said Rick.

“Everything?”

“Yeah, everything. All he had left were the clothes on his back. They found the car the next day stripped and burned.”

Careless Lenny…I thought of the gun that I almost sold to him.  Would I have put a weapon into the hands of a criminal, had I sold the gun to Lenny? Could the gun – my gun – have been used to rob, intimidate, or even kill?!?!. The answer was an unequivocal yes.

I was haunted by my ‘almost sale’ for some time afterward, and in my mind’s eye, I could  see the look on the face of  the happy car thief, after finding the loaded .22 pistol carelessly left in the glove compartment of Lenny’s unlocked vehicle. I could see the evil glee in the man’s eyes as he slid the piece into the waistband of his jeans. Later I could see the look of terror on the face of the liquor store clerk as the gun brandishing robber demanded the cash drawer. Maybe she would resist, or perhaps a feigned gesture would be misinterpreted as resistance. Maybe the thief would panic, pressing the trigger just a bit too hard…this target would be much closer than the one in Hackleman’s cow pasture. At two or three feet it wouldn’t matter if the gun shot right, or high. I would hear the sharp crack of the .22, and then I’d see blood on the face of the store clerk, and on the thief, and then on myself…after that I would awake covered in sweat.

THE END

My final post before Election Day 2012; Rita texts me from Thief River Falls

I am promising myself that this will be my final blog regarding the U.S. Presidential election of 2012. My words here will serve little purpose, beyond being an outlet for my own frustration and confusion.  As I listen to the pundits, and the poll takers, and the lovely television anchor ladies, and to all of the great talkers of our day, describe an election as “too close to predict”, I can only shake my head in disbelief. Can it be, I say to myself almost daily, that this many people are going to get it wrong – and if they do, I fear the surprise that may await them.

I have noted the date of August 14, 2012 as the day that my misunderstanding of Presidential politics became apparent, leaving me only with dogged misgivings and doubts about our future as a nation – these feelings too would wane, leaving me with a state of mind I can only call: Chronic Confusion (or, in current text messaging parlance, “wtf”). For it was on this day that I witnessed (via television), U.S. Republican candidate Mitt Romney, standing shoulder to shoulder with a lineup of worshipping Ohio coal miners. My first reaction was that it must be a comedy skit, staged by some clever Obama operative out to show the world just how out of touch the Republican candidate is with the working man.

After all, didn’t the mine owners of years past fight tooth and toenail against any federal regulations that would impose health and safety regulations (and thus cut profits) on their mines? Certainly these miners must know that CEOs like Mr. Romney, a man whose own taste for corporate profits leaves little to the imagination, could have any empathy or understanding of workers who toil beneath the surface of Ohio, drilling and blasting and shoveling and bringing to the surface great heaps of carbonized carbon. It is not work for the faint of heart.

How could it be then, I asked myself on August 14, 2012, that this group of miners could take the stage with such a man – they, dressed for work in a mine, and Mr. Romney in shirtsleeves with the same slick-CEO look in his eyes that I’ve seen in the eyes of other slick CEOs as they’ve taken to other stages to distribute awards and commendations to unwitting employees, while at the same time, office space was being readied in India and China for their replacements.

“The Federal Government has sold you a bill of goods with those expensive gas monitors,” I could almost hear Mr. Romeny say. “Your grandfathers’ used canaries. And they were hardworking men who didn’t need some slack-jawed Beltway bureaucrat coming out here to Ohio to tell you guys how to run a mine. The money saved on those expensive gadgets can go right into your pockets.”

Or something like that.

My friend Rita, who is at this moment living up in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, poised to make a run for the Canadian border with her husband and unborn child feels that a Romney/Ryan victory would be eclipsed only by a polar shift, or asteroid strike in terms of creating global disaster. I am not so sure about that. But I do hear the drumbeats of war. Not since the late GWB have I felt so uneasy about a presidency leading us into another conflict – this time, perhaps Iran?

Rita sent me a text the other night, from the Thief River Falls Wal Mart where she was busy stocking up on disposable diapers for the trip North:

“j L sas Rmny vic in the bag now”

Rita has trouble texting, but I know it meant that her husband J.L. thinks that Romney has it locked up.

“would n’t B 2 sure” I replied.

We shall all see on Tuesday.

Farewell to George McGovern

“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”

–George McGovern

Occasionally, out of the blue, something happens that causes the ground beneath your feet to shift just a little – not much, not like an earthquake or anything, but you feel it nonetheless. When that happens, it shocks you and in a moment of extreme and very profound clarity, you realize that time is speeding past you like a stoned 16 year old in his old man’s Corvette.

I had such a moment of extreme and very profound clarity couple of years ago, when I suddenly realized that I was older than the current President of the United States. I know, age is just a number, but even the young presidents that I remember, like JFK, were much older than I was, and it seemed like it stayed that way for a long time…then things suddenly shifted. Maybe it was because I was born during the Eisenhower administration, and Ike was an old guy back when I was very young. The ones that came after him, like JFK and LBJ and Nixon and Ford and Carter and Reagan were all – well – old. All of a sudden, when I realized that the Leader of the Free World was younger than I am I felt as if that aforementioned Corvette was speeding head-on toward me as I tottered across Santa Monica Boulevard on my cane.

I had another moment of extreme and profound clarity earlier this week, when I heard the news that George McGovern had passed away in South Dakota at age 90. McGovern was the very first public official that I ever voted for, having just turned 18 only a few  months before the 1972 election. Thanks to the 26th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in July of 1971, I was of legal voting age.

For those of you who do not remember, or for those of you who do not care to remember the election of 1972 – it was a Democratic massacre as Richard “I-am-not-a-Crook” Nixon ran away with 60.7% of the popular vote, receiving almost 18 million more votes than McGovern. Could that many people have been wrong? The answer is of course: “well yeah”. How history would have turned out had McGovern been elected we will never know, but we do know that things went to hell pretty fast after Nixon was re-elected.

Thinking back on my own vote for McGovern, I can’t think of being especially moved by any particular speech, or public appearance he made, or any book, or magazine article he wrote. In fact, I don’t think I knew that much about him, although I read newspapers regularly and watched the evening news daily. My respect for George McGovern would come later as I read interviews and heard about his work in fighting hunger around the world and of his founding an organization to help alcoholics.

Back in 1972, I knew only that he was against the war in Vietnam, and he was running against Nixon, a man for whom I  had nothing but disdain and contempt. That was enough for me – me and only 37.5% of my fellow American voters. In the end the Electoral College favored Nixon 520 to 17 and with McGovern winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

In today’s information age, I don’t believe a President will ever again be elected in such a landslide. Those days are over. 1972 was well before talk radio, 24 hour  news and the internet – all giant equalizers able to mobilize and marginalize voters in great enough numbers to ensure that we are all at each others’ throats in nearly equal numbers – great enough numbers to ensure that the election will come down to an all night slug-fest in which a half dozen votes cast in a remote precinct in Cairo, Illinois, or Evansville, Indiana will change the course of history.

Or so it seems.

The quote by George McGovern at the beginning of the blog is so simple, it’s elegant. It belongs on the wall of every elected official in Washington.