Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant starred in the 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story. The movie was a happy feeling comedy based on divorce and remarriage; all’s well that ends well. The movie was set in Philadelphia and neither legal system failures nor anarchy were anywhere to be found. In the 1940 America of the movies and for those Americans usually depicted in the popular culture and news media of that era there was a symbiotic relationship between the powerful and the populace. But in today’s Philadelphia story of August 15, 2019 there is evidence of the current armed struggle for power among various factions and a lack of respect for the right to have opposing views.
Philadelphia police officers who were attempting to serve an arrest warrant were fired upon by a man wielding an assault rifle. Six officers were shot and after a stand-off of several hours the shooter surrendered. This might sound like the all too familiar genre of a mass shooting. Unfortunately, this incident involved some citizens at the scene taunting the police and a public dispute between U.S. Attorney William McSwain and Philadelphia Prosecuting Attorney Larry Krasner. McSwain was appointed in 2018 by President Trump to represent the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and Krasner was elected in 2017 to represent the 26th District of Philadelphia.
Before Krasner was elected he was a criminal defense and civil rights attorney who, according to Wikipedia, “aggressively pursued police misconduct”. McSwain and Krasner have taken divergent approaches to criminal law enforcement. McSwain is conservative and Krasner is liberal. The two public servants see their duties differently. That is not unusual. Such differing philosophies are part of the complicated woof and weave of democracy. It is good to have more than one viewpoint represented in our government. What is not good is interference with the police by those the police are sworn to protect. Nor is it good when public officials do not, at least, accommodate various views of how our legal system should operate.
If our current Philadelphia Story is either a harbinger of worse law enforcement to come or stark evidence of a general desensitization in our culture to respect for our democratic system of government perhaps we should attempt to define the root causes and diagnose effective remedies. Neither of those tasks is simple. There are no silver bullets for complex and confusing conundrums. Of course, just saying it is too rich for the human mind to resolve may be the general societal attitude that brought us to where we are today. But if you, Gentle Reader, have some thoughts on these complicated but important matters you are most welcome to share them. Just check out the website (www.jamesmredwine.com) and, thank you. Perhaps in the next few weeks we might start something worthwhile.
Andrew Jackson was a notoriously bad speller. His response to the critics of his errors was not an effort to learn to be a better speller but to blame his critics. Jackson proclaimed, “It’s a damned weak mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”
Things have regressed from Jackson. According to communications expert, Carol Blymire, as reported via Twitter and broadcast by WIBC radio host Tony Katz on July 16, 2019 an attempt by an editor to correct a reporter’s spelling was just plain meanness according to the misspeller. Ms. Blymire related a reporter in her late 20’s had spelled the word hamster as ham(p)ster and her editor amended it. The reporter said she could spell it that way because that was the spelling she had learned. It did not need changing. When the editor insisted on the correct spelling the reporter broke into tears and texted her mother to seek punishment for the editor.
Now, as a writer of hundreds of articles and thousands of court rulings I can sympathize with the reporter. My wife, my sister, my court reporters and the reading public can attest to my unlikely winning of a spelling bee. However, I have managed to accept, sometimes begrudgingly, corrections of my versions of words. So far I have avoided tears and I have not asked my mother for spelling support since I escaped grade school.
However, this is not an article about spelling but about individual responsibility in our current culture of blaming everyone but the actors for the results of their bad behaviors. Take bankruptcy for example. There are sound reasons of public policy for allowing citizens to claw their way out of crippling debt so they can get on with their lives, pay taxes on new income and begin anew. Horrendous medical expenses incurred by patients with illnesses or birth conditions or from accidents can often never be paid even by hardworking families or even those with substantial means. In such cases society does itself a favor by allowing a fresh start. There are, of course, other situations where bankruptcy is not only justified but good public policy. But a simple avoidance of responsibility is not in anyone’s interest. The writing off of student loans after one voluntarily goes to college and accepts the benefits of an eduction is not fair to others and not in America’s best interest. After all, about two thirds of the costs of college degrees are not paid by the graduates anyway but are provided by public funds. Once again it is simply the avoidance of responsibility. As one who benefitted from student loans, which were repaid, and as one who received the G.I. Bill, after serving in the military, I am supportive of student aid but not student failure to earn or pay for the assistance.
When America hears about the latest mass killings and listens to politicians and news media blame everything and everybody for the heinous acts, it may be an indication of how far we have traveled from facing the extremely difficult, long-term incremental solutions to our complicated cultural problems. To cast aspersions and ad hominems against third persons when someone commits an evil act seems to have become our go to response. It is somewhat akin to eliminating winners and losers from everything from little league sports to academic achievement. Affirmative Action is a necessity when it is used to ensure that people with superior qualifications are not discriminated against simply because of their gender, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or ethnicity. However, it is wrong to elevate one simply on that basis. It is like getting a participation trophy. Competition should be on a fair basis, but discouraging competition is an insult to those who might do better if their shortcomings are corrected. And America might do better with unacceptable behavior if we place responsibility on the actors actually involved.
If Republicans and the conservatives publicly allege that the policies and statements of the Democrats and the liberals are to blame for the mass shootings, and vice versa for the Democrats and the liberals, it is as if everyone is falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater. Solutions to mass shootings will not come from such shifting of responsibility. The hard work of addressing these complicated issues cannot be done by simply complaining to our mommies.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is generally regarded as a portrayal of the evils of America’s wealth-driven culture. I suggest it really was about Fitzgerald’s tumultuous marriage to his wife Zelda who constantly drove him crazy. When the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway, says about the wealthy Tom and Daisy Buchanan, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me”, I submit Fitzgerald really has Zelda in mind for Daisy. And he is not referencing Daisy’s money but her infuriating ability to easily manipulate Jay Gatsby and, ergo, Zelda’s penchant to drive Fitzgerald over the edge.
It is the institution of marriage, especially Fitzgerald’s complete inability to keep up with Zelda, that was the impetus for one of America’s great novels. Most married couples can relate to such a theme. For example, let’s you and I consider the dynamics between Peg and me as we negotiate our move from Posey County, Indiana to Osage County, Oklahoma. If there is anything more challenging than paddling a canoe for a couple it is moving.
I do want to be fair in relating both Peg’s and my viewpoints on the matter, but let me point out it was not Adam who first suggested taking a bite of that apple; original sin in-deed! Anyway, let’s start at the beginning when Peg first saw our cabin on the prairie.
“Oh, Jim, it is perfect.” That should have been my clue but then I am a man and female-speak will forever remain a foreign language. I did not comprehend that by perfect Peg meant everything from the yard to the interior absolutely required change. Let me suggest the fact that women generally outlive men by several years disproves Dr. Joseph Brady’s Executive Monkey Theory.
You may recall that in 1958 Brady published the results of his psychology experiment in which two monkeys would both be shocked if one of them did not “correctly” press a lever. One monkey had control, the Executive (or wife), and one monkey (or husband) had no control. The non-executive felt no pressure and lived a normal life. But the Executive died young. So, there, Dr. Brady; why do not us non-executive men live longer? But back to our move to the prairie.
Please allow me to cite just one example of a marital disaster in moving. It involves our “new” antique dining table that Peg saw as perfect until we moved it into the cabin. Then she demanded I modify it so there was more leg room. Not being completely obtuse I referred the problem to an expert, our general contractor in charge of implementing all of Peg’s changes to our once perfect property. Gentle Reader, I assume you agree that tables play a huge role in our lives. There is Leonardo da Vinci’s table of the Last Supper. There is Sir Thomas Malory’s Round Table in Le Morte d’Arthur. There were the endless squabbles over the shape of the “peace” talk tables between South and North Korea and South and North Vietnam. And there is Peg’s once perfect antique dining table.
So, I told Mark, our highly skilled contractor, about my problem and he, also of the male persuasion and also not conversant in female-speak, volunteered to help. You know what they say about good deeds. Mark understood the problem to be not that the sides of the table were too low to allow leg room, but that the whole table was too tall. When Peg saw all four legs had been cut off by four inches, well, somethings cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
All’s well that ends well however as Mark was able to apply his magic and restore Peg’s table including ample leg room. Peg, of course, never blamed Mark anyway. I am the one who had to deal with my own Zelda crisis. Well, Gentle Reader, let’s just table that thought!
Special Consul Robert Mueller testified before Congress on July 24, 2019. During his six hours of testimony before the House Judiciary Committee the major emphasis shifted from concerns about the outcome of the 2016 presidential election to attempts by foreign countries to influence all of our elections.
Mueller testified that for many years and right up to our next election cycle in 2020 several foreign entities were involving themselves in our democracy. And while Mueller specified only Russia for 2016 he made it clear that we should be aware of other actors. Iran, Israel and even our first cousins the British, among numerous others, have sought to inveigle themselves into our governmental decisions.
We have often been subtlety and sometimes not so subtlety nudged toward or away from war or toward or away from alliances with other countries. The favored techniques in days before the internet were the planting of fake newspaper stories or biased books and movies. Today spy dossiers or misleading memes and tweets over the internet are the preferred methods.
But if the aim of a foreign country is to defame or embarrass a politician it seems silly to dispense dirty secrets or even create false ones when such disclosures and prejudiced articles appear in the newspapers and on television every day. For example, if a country wanted to defame Donald Trump it should just encourage Americans to read The New York Times or watch CNN. And if a foreign entity wished to bring down Hillary Clinton it should republish stories from The National Enquirer or push FOX News. There is no need for foreign attempts to bring down a candidate for public office when we do such a thorough job of that ourselves.
What is even more perplexing is why any foreign country cares about our elections when we care so little about the outcomes ourselves. About 40% of eligible voters do not vote in presidential elections and only about 40% trouble themselves to vote in mid-term national elections. And when it comes to state, county and city elections most of the voters are those hoping to get jobs from the winners.
The bottom line may be that foreign entities are often more concerned with the outcomes of our elections than we are. Maybe we should learn from them.
The Olduvai Gorge in Africa is accepted by many as the original birthplace of all human ancestors. The gorge is found on the Serengeti Plain in northern Tanzania. Archaeologists and paleontologists have spent many years researching our greater family tree since Dr. Louis Leakey and his wife, Mary, found the fossils the Leakeys opined were evidence of our oldest known ancestor.
Competing evidence for human origins was discovered in the Afar Depression in Ethiopia on the continent of Africa by Donald Johanson, Yves Coppens and Maurice Taieb who named the humanoid bones they found “Lucy” and dated her at about three million years old. Regardless of what evidence one follows, virtually every recognized authority on human history agrees every person who has ever lived can be traced back to this area of Africa. For us to return to our roots we would have to visit our grandmother Lucy or perhaps some other related fossil nearby. I will not attempt to determine how many “greats” that is.
I do know if Lucy was anything like my mother was she probably wondered why it took a couple of million years or so before any of her fourteen billion descendants paid her any attention; why can’t those kids, grandkids, etc., ever write home?
Anyway, I got to thinking about Lucy when the media began to report on President Trump’s tweets about The Squad: Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (Democrat, Massachusetts) born in Cincinnati, Ohio of African American heritage; Ilhan Omar (Democrat, Minnesota) born in Somali, Africa; Rashida Tlaib (Democrat, Michigan) born in Detroit, Michigan of Palestinian lineage; and, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat, New York) born in the Borough of Queens in New York City and of Puerto Rican parents.
President Trump tweeted out on July 14, 2019 that each Congresswoman should go back to their country of origin … “[A]nd help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
In an interview with CNN’s Kyung Lah on July 18, 2019 Kamala Harris (Senator from California) born in Oakland, California who is an announced candidate for President of the United States in 2020 and who has African American ancestors said of President Trump, “He needs to go back where he came from. And leave that office.” Donald Trump was born in the Borough of Queens, New York City, New York and is of German and Scottish heritage. Although I do understand how people from one of New York City’s five boroughs may consider someone born in one of the other boroughs to be foreign born or someone from California may consider a native New Yorker an alien and vice versa and that those folks in New York and California may see the rest of America as one giant undeveloped wilderness. Regardless, here we all are. Maybe a little wisdom from Rodney King, that eloquent and forgiving victim of mob and police violence, may be in order. As Mr. King asked in 1991, “Can’t we all just get along?”
Peg and I and several members of the Redwine family were fortunate to have been included in last week’s New Harmony, Indiana Fourth of July Celebration. It was a community effort with fine music, an excellent reading of the Declaration of Independence by our friend and neighbor Chuck Minnette and copious amounts of hot dogs and ice cream. I was honored to be included as a speaker.
Reporter and photographer Lois Mittino Gray of the Posey County News did an excellent job of capturing the essence of America’s Birthday celebration and I truly appreciated her kind remarks. I also understand how someone named Redwine who was born on the Osage Indian Nation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma and who wore an Osage inspired patriotic vest could be assumed to be a member of the great Osage Tribe. While such an honor would be a source of great pride for me, alas, while I have numerous Osage, and other Indian tribe friends, I am not a tribal member.
Growing up in Osage County I played sports with and against Osages. I attended church and public schools with Osages. I count Osages among my best friends and treasure our memories and current relationships. I have always felt accepted and respected as a friend, teammate, schoolmate and competitor by my Osage friends. But the great privilege of being an actual Osage must remain in the realm of desire, not reality.
Gentle Reader, should you wish to encounter a culture where the Osage Tribe and several other justly proud Indian peoples will welcome you as they always have me and my family, I recommend you plan an excursion to Pawhuska, Oklahoma. You will find buffalo (bison), miles of virgin prairie on the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the Osage Tribal Museum, the Osage County Historical Museum, Woolaroc Museum, cowboys of the non-drugstore type, rodeos and the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile among just some of the fun and enriching things to experience. You may even encounter Peg and me and other members of the Redwine family as Osage County and Pawhuska may not officially designate us as Osage, but we all have always proudly claimed the culture and heritage of that special place.