I'm Right Again Dot ComA new commentary every Wednesday — September 14, 2016
ABUSIVE LANGUAGE IN THIS ELECTION CYCLE
Political Cartoonists are charged with ridiculing the pompous and plain silly among us. It's what they are born to do. Nothing pricks the balloon of inflated ego as does laughter. I don't know when the first cartoon will be found in some yet undiscovered cave, but I'm sure humor has been a great part of that which we homo SAPiens were gifted long before we discovered tools.
It also can be a terrible weapon. As a fat little kid, I was always last to be chosen by the captains elected to perform that service before each sandlot baseball game. As we all know, children can be cruel. Fortunately, most cartoonists lean toward the humorous end of the scale.
Someone said politicians are always fair game, and that goes double and sometimes triple for prominent body parts. If they don't realize it before they run for office, they soon learn that the very air that politicos choose to breathe is filled with a certain amount of objection and derision. It even happened to Abraham Lincoln, despite all that his life and death means to this Union of States.
At age 89, I believe I can recall the principals of every presidential election since 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the office. Though his foremost opponents in the Republican party disagreed with his policies and programs (My dear father once claimed early on that FDR was a communist, but wept the day he was buried in 1945), most Americans conceded that he heroically and successfully led America through the dark days of the Great Depression followed by the monumental struggle of World War II and that he literally worked himself to death by age 63. After becoming totally immersed in politics, he was crippled by polio at age 39 and survived...then become Governor of New York State, and finally President—one of the few monumentally great among a panoply of men who have held the office.
He was unable to walk unaided, but as far as I know, not once did the publishers of the nations' major papers and news magazines nor Movietone news ever release a photo or film showing him other than either standing at a podium or seated. Those who saw him in a wheelchair never mentioned it.
I write this because my unofficial measure of hate and discontent has never been as great as that being offered up by nominees for both major parties and their supporters. We have reached an apex, hopefully the summit of Invective-land and demonization. (Invective: Vehement denunciation, insult or abusive language.) It surely does not become us.
We need to be reminded at this juncture that running for President is much like choosing the career of defusing Improvised explosive devices. There have been 20 documented attempts on our Chief Executives' lives. Four assassins succeeded. Two presidents were injured, one of them being #40, Ronald Reagan. (His assailant and now declared cured mental patient, John Hinckley, Jr. was freed this past week, just in time to be mentioned in this essay.) My research indicates that nearly all assassins and would be assassins were declared to be seriously mentally ill, and easily affected by denunciating speech that reinforces their feelings of psychotic rage and fear.
I am compelled to mention one ex-President who was saved by a speech, but not by the words imprinted thereupon. Theodore Roosevelt rose from Vice President to President when McKinley was assassinated. After he served two terms, he decided to quit politics and go hunting. Disappointed by the performance of his hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, Roosevelt returned from Africa and tried for the Republican nomination, but failed. He then attempted to get elected again by forming a third party, officially called "The Progressive Party," which aptly earned the symbol and sobriquet of the Bull Moose.
Roosevelt had folded a 50-page speech he intended to make and placed it in his inside coat pocket. The .38 caliber bullet fired by John Shrank, a former New York saloonkeeper (who might have pickled his brain while stalking TR for weeks), was slowed down a bit by the manuscript, then was further deflected when the projectile struck a metal glass case Teddy carried in a vest pocket and ended up lodged in his ribs. The fact that he was found to be near-sighted early in life probably saved his life.
Once he decided he was not going to die, the Chief "Rough Rider," a name he got for leading a company of cavalry in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt rescued Shrank from a lynch mob and returned to the podium to finish his long but penetrating speech. Doctors later decided it was too dangerous to try and remove the bullet, so the Bull Moose Party candidate, who will be forever remembered for setting in motion our National Parks System, carried the slug to his grave on January 9th, 1919. His likeness is one of four busts enshrined on Mt. Rushmore.
And oh yes, despite the heroics, the notable third party candidate lost the election by a huge margin but by splitting the Republican Party Vote, he paved he way for Democrat Party nominee Woodrow Wilson to defeat Taft and become President.
-Phil Richardson, Observer of the human condition and storyteller. "He goes doddering on into his old age, making a public nuisance of himself." - Joseph L. Mencken
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