Archive for September, 2009

Much has been made of the decline of civil discourse in our society, and with due cause.  A recent Wall Street Journal article is titled Friends Don’t Let Friends Bring Up Health Care.  A small sample:

After she posted a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall about the health-care reform, stating that people should help those less fortunate than themselves, she says she received a personal message in reply: “Screw you, Catherine.” The sender was her nephew.

So, it’s a difficult time for our great Republic.  In that same vein, Barbara Walters unloaded on Paula Deen on a television show, The View,  blaming her for contributing to childhood obesity.  Barbara Walters, the ideal spokesperson for the Nanny State.  As could be expected, representatives of both sides of opinion weighed in, largely in favor of Deen.

The David Kessler types had comments along the lines of “Good for Barbara. I think it’s high time more journalists start asking hard questions.”  Personally, I would prefer the hard questions to be asked about national politics, not cookbook promotions on fluffy television programs.  By and large, most responses were favorable toward Deen, and this blog entry is one of them.  As a member of He’s-always-in-the-kitchen-at-parties Party, I have to side with Paula Deen for a variety of reasons.

I first discovered Paula Deen on the way back to Atlanta from Cumberland Island.  At my wife’s insistence, we dropped into Savannah for lunch at Deen’s restaurant.  We were advised that there was a 40 minute wait, and I harrumphed that no restaurant in Savannah was worth that kind of wait.  After some brief counsel by my wife, I headed across the street to a bookstore and settled in.  20 minutes later, our table was ready and we were seated.

My first clue that this might be a good restaurant was when they brought fresh hoe cakes.  As we waited our turn in line for the buffet, the offerings appeared ordinary enough; this could have been any meat & three anywhere in The South.  If you had a church cookbook from any congregation in the region, you could have made this spread of food yourself.  All the classics were there, but it turned out that what was different was the execution.  As I wrapped my lips around the beef tips & rice, I came to the quick realization that this was possibly the best Southern cuisine that I had ever had, including my mama’s.

On the way out the door, we bought the requisite cookbooks, and as we drove along the boring I-16 toward Macon, my wife read aloud the Paula Deen trials and tribulations, and I became a fan.  It is hard to explain to outsiders, but the Deen saga is Scarlett On the Road to Jonesboro.  To an outsider, it is all so hokey, but there is a powerful undercurrent at work.  Hers is a story of triumph over adversity, and a story of creativity and talent.  She is no shrinking violet, and she is a lady of the South.

Yeah, I know what Paula Deen’s recipes are like, but nobody forces me to eat them.  And I don’t, but this is part of a larger issue.  To be sure, our household has several well-worn cookbooks including, (gasp!) a copy of Claiborne’s The New York Times Cook Book.  It sits on a shelf with dozens of other cookbooks, right next to Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking (which includes a section about preparing squirrel for cooking).  On the same shelf is The Lovett School Mothers Club cookbook (which has a fabulous cherry pie recipe) and Better Homes & Garden’s New Cook Book.  Also present is my wife’s Swedish family cookbook, which includes a recipe for lutefisk (which requires an environmental impact statement prior to preparation).  Nearby are a cookbook from a Chinese Baptist Church in Houston, Texas and the Cobb Junior League’s Georgia On My MindMichael Pollan is there, too.  They are paper back, hard back, ring binders; some with stained dog-eared pages and others that look like display copies in a bookstore.  They represent promise, creativity and the shared experience.  In short, food is love, food is personal and food is special.

In point of fact, most recipes in most cookbooks never get made more than once, if that.  Likewise, more than a few recipes get a casual look, but get rejected because they require odd ingredients such as eye of newt, butterfly eyebrows or lizard.  In short, much of the food shows and many of the cookbooks are merely there for fun.

My wife has long suspected that I am seeing other women, women like Betty Crocker and Marie Callander, but she also knows not to be concerned about Paula Deen.  As much as I love her, I know that most of her recipes and television shows are largely for entertainment.  A common phrase in the South is: “It’s not the food, it’s the fellowship.”

One has to wonder about the skills of the talent bookers for The View.  Surely, they knew what Paul Deen’s recipes are like.  Surely they knew that there would be calorie-rich offerings made for the show.  One is left with the dark suspicion that this was all deliberate.  And to have some snotty New Yorker call out Paula Deen for being personally responsible for every fat child in America is just too much.

If you live your life in fifteen second sound bites, it’s easy to come down on someone, but, in the larger sense, Barbara Walters represents a mentality that says most people aren’t smart enough to make decisions for themselves.  Of course, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for that, but there also is the sense that people are entitled to make bad judgments, ones which reflect their freedom to do so.  Yes, they’re making a terrible mistake, but they have the autonomy of choice.

The alternative is that someone else makes their judgments for them, and whether or not these judgments are wise, they are still the result of someone else’s actions.  In other words, you don’t have the right to make a personal decision, because the one that you make will be the “wrong” one.  If you live your life in the bold headlines of someone who is always the center of the news, it is easy to make a strong statement and then walk away, but ordinary life doesn’t work that way.  Which may be part of the problem.

The easy thing to do is to scold, to sue the manufacturer out of existence, to ban, to tax, or to regulate with the stated purpose of “helping people to make the right decisions”.  Personal responsibility is not easy, it requires thoughtful choice and awareness.   The right thing is to stand by your children and show them the way, to stand up and take responsibility.

Concerned about childhood obesity?  Teach your kids how to read a food label and determine how many carbohydrates, fats and sodium they should be consuming every day.  Even the fast food restaurants post that information, and it’s online, too.  The mere act of taking time for your children is a far better thing to do than let them watch television, for that will surely give them the wrong ideas.  So far, no comment from Barbara Walters about television’s contribution to child obesity.

And this is all part of a larger issue, that of personal autonomy; are you responsible for yourself or is someone else?  The current direction of the health care debate takes away personal responsibility, your freedom to choose.  And when we lose our freedom to choose, we lose a lot more.


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Porch View

Porch View

I’m feeling just a bit lazy today, so this will be mercifully brief.

Where’s the Fire, Bud?

Three months ago, the Democrats were adamant that health care “reform” had to be an accomplished fact by the middle of August, then by the end of August.  Now we are easing into October, and they’re still arguing.  It is not that people have become tired of this, what is happening now is that people are engaged in calm, rational analysis.

The Democrats were in a huge hurry to accomplish this, and many of us were, and are, suspicious that they were trying to pull a fast one.  Now, with the pace slowed down just a bit, and with our elected representatives given a chance to gauge public opinion, things are undergoing a more deliberate examination, which is worthy when one is talking about a 16% portion of our economy.  At the same time, rifts are developing within the Democratic party.

With things slowed down, people are being given the opportunity to examine what is being proposed and what the consequences will be for such a massive change.  You’ve probably read some of them, if you’re interested, but the Vice-President gave currency to another issue.  That is, the Democrats have a much more tenuous hold on power than we are being led to believe, thus the rush.  Consider:  “Biden on 2010: If GOP Succeeds, It’s ‘The End of the Road for What Barack and I Are Trying to Do.

Maybe there’s something to it.

A Tradition of Dissent

Our great Republic was founded on dissent.  If we were all that happy with the status quo, we’d still be British subjects and drive on the wrong side of the road.  So, it is more than a little odd that the Democrats choose to demonize their fellow citizens, calling them Nazis, insurance company touts and homophobes.  It makes you wonder what they call their supporters, since we’re all citizens.

That said, I present you with this little jewel, which is from the vast O’Connor archives of political thought.  It is printed on the back of a penny postcards, from a time when post cards cost one cent to mail.

Anti-Truman Post Card from 1950

Anti-Truman Post Card from 1950

For those who are lost, the “Hiss” crowd are associates of Alger Hiss.  The extensive examination of Soviet intelligence traffic, code named Venona, would link Hiss to being the Soviet Agent “ALES”.

HST is, of course, Harry S. Truman, President of the U. S. from 1945 – 1953, who likely did not know that Alger Hiss was a probable Soviet agent.

The “Red Dean” is the late Dean Acheson, Secretary of State during the Truman administration.

Dissent has a long and well established role in the United States.

Human Ingenuity

Humanity always seems to come up with novel ideas, ones that make you stand back in awe.  So, consider that during World War II, the Brits came up with the novel idea of taking a board game and giving war prisoners a means to successfully escape.

New Taste Sensation

Speaking of the Brits and their former colonies, consider this new taste sensation, found on the shelves of the local grocery store:


Of course, this is a classic example of the British and the Americans being divided by a common language, but it is also an opportunity for my own amusement.  My lovely bride usually hustles me along when we get near the grocery shelf where this little gem is displayed.  If for some reason we are stationary at this locale, I pull an envelope off the shelf and display it to other shoppers.  One has to careful to choose their marks, but the best target for this is a 30-ish year old male shopping with his beloved wife.  They often have a certain miserable mien, and after a perplexed moment, they usually burst out into laughter.  My wife then usually shoots me a glance, and the envelope is returned to its proper place.  As a wise baseball player once put it: “You can only be young once, but you can be immature practically forever.”

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You’re pushin’ too hard, uh-pushin’ on me
You’re pushin’ too hard, uh-what you want me to be
You’re pushin’ too hard about the things you say
You’re pushin’ too hard every night and day
You’re pushin’ too hard
Pushin’ too hard on me (too hard)

A California garage band, The Seeds, pretty much summed up a lot of people’s feelings about the current political scene.  What started as “health care reform” has mutated into “health insurance reform”, and if resistance by the general populace continues, surely some new phrase will pour out of the focus group research.

At some point, the Democratic party will get over itself.  What was a 52% to 46% presidential election victory and a repudiation of Republican free-spending has somehow become a mandate in their mind.  It’s not that the electorate was all for something as much as it was that the electorate was against something.  And, since 52% voted for Obama, this also means that 48% of the voters did not.  Some mandate.

here it is folks, I don’t normally post political messages, but I do believe that Christianity /caring for all humankind/involves the following belief: No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because… they get sick – what is at stake is human dignity and basic human rights.

This was a posting on Facebook by a friend, and she’s right about the human dignity part, but I’m not so sure about the human rights part.  Regardless, something does need to be done, it’s just a matter of how we do it.  And, who will define what constitutes “dignity”, you or the government?

The Discourse

This whole “debate” is not a great moment for The Republic.  The President calls Republicans “liars” and a Republican yells out that Obama “lies”; for the lurid details, please see here.  The truth hurts.

Likewise, the various town hall meetings have taken on the air of a barroom brawl; please see: Pinky finger bitten off in healthcare reform fracas.  Having moderated barroom brawls myself, I can state that the typical bar fight is a good deal more orderly than what has happened around the country.  What will be next?  Support mental health or I’ll kill you?  In part, the whole state of the discourse signals a larger rumbling slide in the civility of our nation.

We have gone from Alexander Hamilton (who believed in a strong central government) to George Hamilton (who believed in a strong deep sun tan).  From Advise & Consent (a political novel in which the United States deals with a controversial nomination of Robert Leffingwell, a former Communist Party member, to be United States Secretary of State) to Devise & Assent (when “green jobs czar” Van Jones disappears on a Labor Day weekend with barely a peep from the media).  Of course, there are so many “czars” in the current administration that you could lose one or two and not even know they’re gone.

Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head

Leave it to academia to tell us with numbers that we should be supporting health care “reform”; please see Health Care Debate Based on Total Lack of Logic.  A major source of the current administration’s talent has come from the navel gazing world of the ivied halls of the academe.  These are people who couldn’t tell you the difference between Form 940 and Form 941, who have never had to meet a payroll, never had to lay someone off with a DOL800 marked “Lack of Work”.  In short, they live in some parallel reality, far from the real world that most of us mortals deal with every day.

Given that perspective, it should not be a surprise when odd things happen, including the failure by the Administration to recognize that people are scared to death that their health care system, which largely works for most people, is going to be radically changed.  Of course the public’s reaction is dominated by a lack of “logic”; the whole notion of exchanging something that works for an unknown is not logical.

The health care “reform” is part of a larger process of converting a society that values individual excellence to one that makes all equal.  And, the proposed changes are granting unprecedented power to someone who does not know you.  And that much of it appears to disregard the realities of human nature. If this sounds eerily familiar, consider the national health care reform being considered by Congress.

I’ll give you a hard number; under the current plans being proposed in Congress, 100% of those with HSA’s won’t be able to keep them.  I will lose the direct control over my medical care that I now enjoy.  To the academic, the notions of freedom and dignity are abstract concepts, but in the outside real world, freedom and dignity are as real as can be. No wonder we’re being irrational.

A Simple Speech

But the obscure world of the universities has led to other odd outcomes.  The President got a lot of flack for his speech to school children; what caused it was an inappropriate study guide released days prior to the speech.

There is precedent for Presidential visits to schools, dating back to George Bush the First in 1991.  George Bush the Second was sitting in a second grade classroom when he got the news of airplane attacks in New York and Washington.  But this study guide rightly or wrongly cued many people that someone was trying to indoctrinate their children.

The speech itself was innocuous since the President stuck to reading from the teleprompter.  Would that everybody in government would do so.  But in the larger sense, the current administration had to get their talent from somewhere.  The current administration is populated with theorists and fantasists, and what ever real world experience they have is based upon getting new grants and tenure.


Being a child of the 1960’s, I tried a 1960’s approach to protesting the radical changes being proposed in Washington.  I tried to burn my AARP card.  Good luck with that; the card is made of hard plastic that apparently requires a blowtorch to be ignited.  Too bad that they didn’t have that material back then.  The radical movement might have been deprived of one element of their guerrilla theater and Lewis Hershey might have been a happier man.

Of course, the closest that I got to radicalism was when I thought of burning my library card to protest late-return fines.  Going back to Hershey, there was the 1967 “The Hershey Directive,” where anyone demonstrating against a military recruiter could be subject to immediate Selective Service reclassification of their draft status, meaning those students who demonstrated would be at risk of being immediately drafted. Makes you wonder what they would do today.

Change for America

The changes being proposed are so radical that it has alerted the middle population that what has long been taken for granted, that their government would largely leave them alone, could easily be lost.  The public has been able to successfully ignore the incompetence of government.  In most cases, government was an abstraction that periodically would intrude into our personal lives.

One of the dangers of the 1995 Federal Government Shutdown was that as the days without a Federal government rolled on, it became increasingly apparent that life was going on pretty much as it had before.  That is, people were slowly discovering that the disappearance of the Federal government was not really affecting them.  The papers still got delivered, the roads still worked.  To be sure, entropy would eventually start the process of decay, but for a fleeting moment, people were allowed to think that a large Federal government might not be necessary.  Of course, that stuff had to stop.

Yes, this is the government that got us to the moon, but what is conveniently forgotten was that this was done with the considerable presence of private contractors.  The Federal government is the organization to handle a war, from local insurgency to nuclear, but for the day-to-day stuff, government often can’t usually be relied upon to get it right.  Why should it be different for health care?

When Will Government Get Too Big?

The focus groups tell the administration that people hate their insurance companies.  From this, we are given “health insurance reform”.  But eventually, the government will also have to say “No”, just like the insurance companies.  The government can never be big enough to meet all of the “needs” of its citizens; there will always be incessant and growing demand for services but a fixed supply of money, no matter how much taxes are raised and the currency inflated.  Why radically change something that appears to need simple adjustment?

An Interesting Thought

Much has been made of the speed at which this “reform” is being conducted.  Maybe the Democrats are doing so because they have come to realize that their political position has become tenuous.  Instead of their perceived position of strength in numbers, maybe they have discovered that those numbers are a developing weakness that will lead to the ultimate death of the “Democrat” Party, that maybe the various wings of the Democratic Party cannot be resolved with each other.  If they do not act now, they may not be able to do so in the future.

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The Gin Martini

After a hard day of listening to Congressional posturing, there is nothing quite like a dose of flavored ethyl alcohol to polish off the rough edges.  And for specific targeting, the gin martini does the trick.  Though not for everybody, the martini delivers.  Done properly, the gin martini is a work of art. The icy coolness glistens in the glass. The garnish offers slight color to the clear mix.

I grew up in Texas, not exactly the martini capitol of the world, unless you’re in Dallas.  Much of my early life was spent reading and playing with trains; pretty much as it is today, except that I now write more than I read.  My late father was a research chemist, and I got to rub elbows with well educated research types that were fun and articulate.  Consider one, whose name is now lost to the ethers, that loved Kai Winding jazz and the gin martini.  Being the chemist type, he had worked out an elaborate ritual that assured him of a consistent martini.

Likewise, one major source of reading amusement for me was a collection of cartoons from The New Yorker.  These were some great cartoons, arranged by decade, starting in the 1920’s and ending in the 1940’s.  In talking with other kindred spirits, the jokes from this wonderful book have been the source of one-liners for a variety of people.  In any case, the martini is featured on virtually every page, in one form or another.  Well, except for the joke where the guy wants to drink champagne from a lady’s shoe, but she interrupts him with: “Wait, my arch supports.”

It was the movie M*A*S*H that got me off the dime.  Not the TV show, the much edgier real deal film directed by Robert Altman.  As the movie unfolds, Frank Burns comes back to the tent only to find excessive drinking is taking place.

Frank Burns: What’s that?
Duke Forrest: That’s a martin-eye, Frank.
Hawkeye Pierce: Finest kind. We’re training Ho Jon to be a bartender. Would you care to imbibe, sir?

Of course, Frank doesn’t, and the Robert Duvall version of Frank Burns is considerably more fragile than the Larry Linville TV version.  Frank eventually cracks up and is probably back practicing in Indiana by the time the movie winds up.  In any case, this was the turning point for me with gin martinis.  I’ve been a fan ever since.

There are a lot of “martinis” out there.  Presumably this is because the name martini confers sophistication onto those who consume them, but the only real martini to me is made with gin.  There are vodka martinis out there, and they get a pass from me, but chocolate martinis?  You’ve got to be kidding me; that’s an insult against nature.

The properly made martini is created in a glass pitcher by putting in massive amounts of ice, a very small amount of dry vermouth and the gin of your choice.  James Bond preferred his martinis “shaken not stirred”, but that’s an interesting variant.  By shaking the ingredients with ice instead of stirring them, you are introducing air into the mixture, which increases the speed with which your body absorbs the alcohol of the drink.  The same thing happens if you take a whiskey and add soda water.

Having watched a research chemist prepare a martini, with Cantaloupe Island playing in the background, the general idea is to stir the mix long enough to both chill the gin and to also dilute the gin with just a bit of melted ice, which takes the alcohol bite away.  You then pour the mixture into an equally chilled glass and add a garnish.  The classic garnish is an olive; a Texas variant is an olive stuffed with jalapeño.   Likewise, add a small pearl onion and you have a Gibson, but for me, the ideal variant is the twist of lemon peel.  Done properly, the small curlicue of peel is cut from the lemon, gently broken over the glass, then rubbed on the inside lip of the glass to release some of the lemon oil and then add the gin mix.

There are more than a few bar tenders who do not understand how to make a martini properly, but a good bartender does.  After a while, you can spot them even before you order your drink.  And the bad ones, well, they will get their just rewards in the Lord’s own time.

As to brands of gin used to make the decent martini, their numbers are legion.  Being the conservative that I am, I found one brand early on and largely stuck with it for many decades, until they changed advertising campaigns.  I acknowledge, up front, that I am part of a dying demographic.  I’m 60 at this writing, and, sooner or later, I’ll be shuffling off this mortal orb.  At the same time, I am an established market, still willing to pay a premium price for goods that are worth it to me.  So, when my gin of choice started a new advertising campaign, one with a more, ahem, urban bent, I got a little twitchy.  Part of a letter that I wrote to the manufacturer:

I suppose that when I logged on to your site and had to REALLY PULL DOWN to get down to my birth year of 1949, I should not be surprised that Tanqueray is trying to find a new demographic. Nor should it have been a surprise that the new Tanqueray adverts are appearing on shows like Pimp My Ride, a show which I actually enjoy even though I am a member of a dying demographic. After over thirty years of buying and enthusiastically consuming your product, I thought that I had found a comfortable spot. But the new advert campaign was sufficiently irritating to me that I have set about to find another gin. The really irritating part is that there isn’t another brand of gin that’s worth drinking.

So, I have a modest proposal. Instead of the current “Tony Sinclair”, I suggest that you employ the performer who calls himself Tony Sinclair. Although I am happily oriented toward women, I am sure that many of us out here would appreciate the irony of your hiring an Oklahoma drag queen.

Not surprisingly, the response that I got to this was canned, corporate and childish:

“Our Tony Sinclair ads are meant to appeal to people with a more dry humor and are meant to reinforce our social responsibility commitment. However, we would like to thank you for sharing your concerns of with us. Comments like yours are always appreciated”.

More dry humor, indeed; and thank you for sharing that with us. In response, I asked that, in the future, she write her emails to me more slowly so that I could grasp the information more easily. Needless to say, there was no further response. And, needless to say, I’m just not as interesting as I used to be.

So, I moved on to other gins, and there are a lot of them out there.  A few gins were pre-qualified right out of the competition from the get-go.  Sorry, but Old Mr. Boston, at $7.00 a bottle could not possibly be good.  Likewise, another brand of gin, which shall remain nameless, didn’t make my tasting competition, largely because of its urban connection, being mixed with, of all things, grapefruit juice.  Needless to say, that’s not me, either.  I even tried a hand-made gin from California, which tasted like Raid®.  Not that I didn’t like the taste of Raid®, it’s just the California part of the issue; gin is English.

I finally settled on another brand that meets the sweet spot of acceptable taste and acceptable price.  And, life is good.  For decades, I have made it my goal to produce the perfectly dry martini, not only for myself, but for others.  And, done right, the dry gin martini does still convey a certain sense of pleasure and sophistication.  From Nick & Nora Charles, to Trapper John, to Neal the St. Bernard, the martini still enjoys a loyal following in our great Republic.

I will settle in this evening with a nice martini and enjoy one of my favorite LP’s, the Collected Speeches of Henry Waxman.  Well, maybe not.

The Gin Martini

The Gin Martini

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Off to the Races

Aaron Turpeau, a local political light, managed to inject race into what would appear to be an obvious situation; there is a white woman running for the Mayor’s office of the City of Atlanta. Anyone who has any contact with the media would be unable to escape that fact. Mr. Turpeau did so with the able assistance of two Clark Atlanta University academics. One would think that such smart people would remember that using email is like using a bull horn, but then again, that’s why I’m writing this. And, one would think that such smart people would also realize that a lot of other smart people in Atlanta would quietly figure out the same thing that they did. No matter, the deed has been done. Nor was what they did all that unusual.

For many years, Pearl Cleage’s father, then known as the Reverand Al Cleage, Jr., would publish The Black Sheet at every election; there’s even a Facebook entry about it. In that time, The Black Sheet was largely accepted for what it was, a list of recommended candidates that were favorable to the black community. Of course, if there had been a White Sheet, things would have been different, but that’s not the way it played out. More than a few in the community would simply pass this off as Al Cleage being Al Cleage. No uproar was necessary.

What has changed is that our collective memory of what made Atlanta successful and the memories of the civil rights movement of that era are being lost as the leaders of that time slowly die off. The names are fading; some are still alive, others are gone: C. T. Vivian, A. Phillip Randolf, T.R.M. Howard, James Orange and countless others. Nor was the civil rights movement strictly an African-American event, there were people like Viola Liuzzo. Civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi without regard to race, creed or color.

Atlanta has always been ground zero for race relations in the South. We have always drawn the best and the brightest, regardless of race, and Atlanta was the home of the big push for racial equality in the 1960’s. It happened here, and everybody who has been here for a while knows it. The fact that it was a successful movement tells you a lot, but along the way, people have forgotten a few things.

It only could have been Atlanta. No northern city could truly understand the issues at hand, and although there were other cities with civil rights activists, Atlanta was the center. Likewise, Atlanta had a dialog between the white community and the black community; not that they always agreed, but there were open and active channels of communication. And Atlanta had, and has to this day, an active and vibrant African-American culture.

Even in the 1940’s, Sweet Auburn was a major business hub. Atlanta had black colleges, black radio stations, black insurance companies and a major city newspaper, the Atlanta Daily World. James Brown and Otis Reading were performing at the Royal Peacock. Atlanta had it all, and it was at the transportation center of the South. There were few places in the South that could not be easily reached from Atlanta, and this would make Atlanta key to many activities, including a civil rights movement. And Atlanta had the churches, which would be the lifeline and conduit to the rest of the South. A few memories:

  • For all his bombast, the late Hosea Williams made a lot of things happen. Mr. Williams would arrive in a rural town in the South and would promptly set, with his inimitable style, to get all the locals worked up into a sweat, regardless of race, color or creed. When the moment was right, he would quietly leave town as Andy Young was arriving. Absent the presence of Mr. Williams, the African-American locals would look to Mr. Young. At the same time, the local white establishment would breathe a silent sigh of relief as they gazed upon the visage of the calm and collected Mr. Young, right down to his sport coat with leather patches at the elbows. I’m guessing that they would be saying: “He seems like such a nice man. We should meet with him.”
  • In 1968, Maynard Jackson ran for the United States Senate against sitting Senator Herman Talmadge, son of the political force, Eugene Talmadge. Jackson had little chance to win, and it was the determination and good humor of his campaign that carried them forward in the reactionary Georgia of that day. Asked about why they were doing this impossible task, a campaign worker opined: “Well, we have to keep our sense of humor. For example, there were two Senators that voted against the Fair Meat Inspection Act of 1968, and both were from Georgia. We figure that Richard Russell had his own reasons for voting against the Act, but we’ve all heard of Talmadge hams.” Jackson would lose that battle, but within six years would become the pivotal first black mayor of Atlanta.
  • Also forgotten was a unique white presence within the black neighborhoods of Atlanta, the Jewish grocer. Guys like Willy Danneman, who ran a grocery on Edgewood at Boulevard, were a day-to-day contact with the white world for many black Atlantans. The Jewish grocers understood the discrimination, albeit on a different level, that the black community endured. The grocers are now retired and gone, but the pivotal transition mayor that would lead to the pivotal Mayor Jackson was the Jewish Sam Massell; someone that many in Atlanta could relate to.

We’ve forgotten a lot of other things along the way, too.  Things have changed. Just as there is no longer a big bad Soviet Union, the racial playing field has changed, too. The point being that a lot of people worked for racial equality, not just the black ones.  But that is not how the narrative goes any more. What is left is we, the living, who benefit from the sacrifices of our elders. Dr. King freed a lot of people from the burdens of an unjust society, not just the African-American ones. What we seem to have forgotten is what made Atlanta a leader in those troublesome and turbulent times, the dialogue between the communities.

So, with the memories of the boldness of Atlanta in that time, with the broad sweep and change that the civil rights movement effected and the passions of that era, a simple little email suggesting that black Atlanta voters get behind one particular candidate to assure a win seems nothing so much as just odd.

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