I grew up in New York City in the ’50s. So when a friend of mine posted this, and I watched it, I was naturally struck with feelings of nostalgia for times and events in my life that are now gone forever.
But along with the nostalgia and wistfulness was an overpowering awareness that I was watching the documentary of a reality that only existed for some Americans. The stark contrast, totally ignored in this yearning little video, is well represented in this image from Life Magazine:
Those happy folks in the back, smiling in their car… those are the people we see in the video. The ones in the front, waiting in a bread line, were not even visible anywhere.
It was great to be white in the ’50s.
You grow up in that environment, and you grow up a racist, and a sexist, even though there may not be a malicious bone in your body. Racism and sexism were in the blood and bones and DNA of society, and you were bombarded with blatant or subconscious reminders that women’s place was in the kitchen (barefoot, pregnant, and with no vote)¹, and black lives didn’t only not matter, they were totally invisible.
This one was relatively subtle. There was much, much worse out there.
With a history like that, anyone born in the ’50s or even the ’60s is going to have these attitudes driven deep into their psyches, and they are devilishly hard to expurgate completely. That’s why a person who wants to have a positive effect on the world around them needs to pay attention to the advice below (which applies to any “-ism,” not just racism) and practice it on a daily basis. Not unlike alcoholics in recovery who realize and understand that they are never really “cured,” these ways of thinking will surface at a moment’s notice given half a chance.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Things have improved, at least on the surface – but sexism in American society is still a very real phenomenon, particularly in the workplace. Advertising agencies, still embarrassingly aware that sex sells almost more than anything, still pump out sexist ads, although in the #MeToo era, some companies are issuing mea culpas (but only when they get caught out).
As for racism? Sometimes I wonder if we’ve made any progress at all since Selma. Some of the things I’m seeing now in terms of voter suppression in Georgia and other GOP states recalls a very dark stage of American history, as outlined brilliantly by Heather Cox Richardson.
Thumper had a hard time remembering his dad’s advice, but he got it in the end. And it’s advice that holds its value through the years.
While living hard against the north foothills of Salt Lake City, I would walk out my back door almost every day and hike into the mountains, often up City Creek Canyon. If you go past the water purification plant as far as the road will take you, you will encounter Rotary Park, dedicated to Marion Duff Hanks who was a prominent Rotarian and a General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Featured centrally in the dedication is the Rotarian 4-way Test of any principle:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
Bernard Meltzer is credited with something similar with regards to the spoken word:
“Before you speak ask yourself if what you are going to say is true, is kind, is necessary, is helpful. If the answer is no, maybe what you are about to say should be left unsaid.”
The Greeks have a proverb which I first learned from my wonderful modern Greek professor at the University of Utah, Bill Cocorinis:
“Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει και κόκαλα τσακίζει” (I glossa kokala then exi kai kokala tsakizi), which means “the tongue has no bones, but it breaks bones.)
Whoever coined the old saying about sticks and stones was trying to make a legitimate point, but it’s not universally applicable: words can hurt far worse than sticks and stones, and the damage they can cause can last long after broken bones have healed. The scars from verbal abuse and bullying can last a lifetime.
The name of this blog is taken from a concept promoted by R. Buckminster Fuller which came to be called, in its simplest form, The World Game. It deals with building a better world, or in his own words,
“Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”
-R. Buckminster Fuller
John Denver incorporated this concept in his eponymous song:
I want to play in the World Game I want to make it better it’s ever been before I want to play in the World Game I want to make sure everybody knows the score About using less, doing so much more
John Denver, from the album “It’s About Time” – Sony Music Entertainment
So to you, to me, to all of us – let’s do our best to keep our words soft and sweet, because in the words of Andy Rooney, we never know when we may have to eat them.
In 2016 when 45 won the election, one of my overseas friends posted on my wall that the most delicious thing he had ever tasted were the liberal tears. That saddened me deeply, but it essentially reflected the attitude of 45’s supporters over the last four years. Everything about the GOP has been focused on making liberals sad or angry, whether it was good governance or not.
Now the pendulum has swung the other way. The small, petty part of me that festers in darkness wants to post snarky comments on the Facebook walls of everyone who smugly told me that 45 was going to win by a landslide, but that would be emulating the morally bankrupt, tinsel-coated con-man who will soon fade into the mists of ignominy.
I don’t want conservative tears. For the duration of this administration, many Republicans have been shoving their middle fingers in the faces of Democrats, chanting “He won, get over it.” It’s time for them to take their own advice. For eight years, Mitch McConnell did everything he could to stymie and block any legislation proposed by President Obama; it’s time for that to end. America deserves better, and if Republicans want to spend the next four years making sure that no progressive legislation is even considered, let alone passed, they will be obstructing themselves into irrelevance.
I don’t want conservative tears, I want conservative coöperation for the benefit of all of us. I want people to be able to reach across the aisle and craft legislation important to Americans the way Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch did in 1997 to provide healthcare for half of America’s 10 million uninsured children. We need this, and we deserve it.
I don’t want conservative tears. The simple fact that Joseph Biden will be president doesn’t mean that conservative values are suddenly irrelevant; it doesn’t mean that liberals all of a sudden will come for your guns, make you all have abortions, close your churches, put everyone on welfare, open our borders to every conceivable immigrant or make your children change their gender. It does mean that – as ever it has been – America consists of people with similar hopes and dreams for themselves and their families but different viewpoints about how to get there. I want to see us make America a nation (and by extension, the world) a place that works for everyone, with no one left out.
If you truly believe that certain segments of our population don’t deserve to prosper, don’t deserve to be healthy, don’t deserve equal opportunities, don’t deserve to feel safe from abuse or oppression, don’t deserve a living wage, or don’t deserve to be happy… by all means, shed as many tears as you want. There is no room in the America I believe in for viewpoints that oppress, diminish, or sideline others just to keep others feeling good about themselves. But it is my hope that you will come to see that conservatism does not mean Trumpism or authoritarianism or fascism or brutal oppression of differing viewpoints or lifestyles, and conversely that being a liberal does not equate to Soviet-style socialism or a communist ideology.
What Americans of all stripes want is jobs to support their families; safety in their neighborhoods; and national security. That’s really about all that’s important. The freedoms that so many people are screaming will be taken away by this party or that are guaranteed in the Constitution – freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of religion (or from religion), and even the freedom to bear arms. That document is so frightfully difficult to amend, by design, that it’s unlikely those freedoms will ever be abridged regardless of who is in power. If they are, then the great experiment wrought by our founders will truly have failed.
Let us work together. This election was legitimate, despite the hateful lies spewing forth from the White House. There was no cheating. There were no dead people voting. Mail-in balloting is not rife for fraud. It just happened that more people voted for the Democratic ticket this time.
Now, to my Republican friends and family, I say this: If you want to see another Republican in the White House in 2025, put forth a candidate of good character, one who can represent all Americans even if they don’t happen to agree with everything (s)he believes in. Craft a platform that shows all Americans that you care about their welfare. Campaign on achievable goals that will raise the standard of living and the quality of life of all Americans… and you will stand an equal chance of winning. Not by voter suppression, not by gerrymandering, not by hateful lies and smear campaigns, but by virtue of honesty, dignity, and human decency. But please don’t ever again nominate an evil clown like the one we’ve all had to suffer with for the last four years.
I have recently seen claims that Democrats support “abortion on demand up to the point of birth – and beyond – in some states.” This is a complete falsehood; not just a dogwhistle but a foghorn. Democrats do not believe in infanticide. Doctors do not believe in infanticide. People like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are simply lying when they claim otherwise.
Joseph Biden believes that Roe v Wade is the law of the land and supports it, feeling – just as Hillary Clinton does – that “abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare,” but he has never said that he supports elective, late-term abortions unless a pregnancy has gone catastrophically wrong. This is another gross Republican misrepresentation.
It is important to understand that Donald Trump is not pro-life. He simply echoes the views of his evangelical supporters, the part of his base that he can most easily manipulate because of this single issue. And they themselves are not pro-life, they are only pro-birth, without any regard for surrounding circumstances.
If the GOP were pro-life, they would be providing increased government support to Planned Parenthood, which prevents far more abortions on an annual basis by providing family planning services than they ever facilitate.
“Roughly half of the more than six million pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. And many of them are to young mothers: according to the Guttmacher Institute, the rate of unintended pregnancies among sexually active teens is double that of all women. Despite opponent’s claims, the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s work is devoted to the organization’s more central goal—helping people avoid unwanted pregnancy altogether.”
(Michael Specter, the New Yorker)
If the GOP were pro-life, they would all be wearing masks and supporting a national, comprehensive plan to fight the pandemic instead of being “maskdebaters,” waving Confederate flags and screaming about “muh freedom!”
If the GOP were pro-life they would be marching in the streets protesting the horrible conditions immigrant families are subjected to, in cages, their children cruelly torn from them (and Stephen Miller has said out loud that cruelty was the point).
If the GOP were pro-life they would be immediately voting for Medicare for All instead of trying to take healthcare away from millions of Americans and dismantle the ACA – a plan they hate only because it was put in place by a “black, socialist president”, the thought of which still galls them – and maintain a status quo that favors profit and “maximizing shareholder value” over health and well-being.
If the GOP were pro-life they would be enacting reasonable gun-sensibility laws like banning the insane high-power, high-capacity rifles and other weapons that no one needs to hunt deer, supporting universal background checks for every gun sale public or private, and treating guns and gun owners with exactly the same kinds of regulations required to own and operate a car (which, it may be noted, almost everyone does regularly and abundantly, mostly without complaining about the “draconian government control” of education, licensing, inspection, insurance, registration and taxation that are part of that privilege.)
If the GOP were pro-life, they would immediately get us back into the Paris accords and work as a global leader with the rest of the world to control anthropogenic climate change. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that if climate change is left unchanged, higher temperatures could lead to 85 deaths per 100,000 people globally per year by 2100. Calculating from today, that comes to a half-billion lives lost. That’s not pro-life in anyone’s book.
No, the GOP and by extension Donald Trump – who has no other values than his bank account and his galactic ego – are not “pro-life.” They only use this term to court the evangelical right and make sure that their political opponents are demonized for being “baby killers.”
You may believe – as I do, parenthetically – that all life belongs to God and should be treated sacredly. I don’t fault you for this belief. But a huge percentage of our nation doesn’t share your values, and decisions of government should never be based on religion, as enshrined in the First Amendment.
A real pro-life stance is far more complicated than that.
This showed up on my Facebook feed this morning, and then I tracked it down to a Tumblr post by dalekteaservice. When I read it and got to the end, I was deeply moved. It is a beautiful piece of writing.
We knew about the planet called Earth for centuries before we made contact with its indigenous species, of course. We spent decades studying them from afar.
The first researchers had to fight for years to even get a grant, of course. They kept getting laughed out of the halls. A T-Class Death World that had not only produced sapient life, but a Stage Two civilization? It was a joke, obviously. It had to be a joke.
And then it wasn’t. And we all stopped laughing.Instead, we got very, very nervous.
We watched as the human civilizations not only survived, but grew, and thrived, and invented things that we had never even conceived of. Terrible things, weapons of war, implements of destruction as brutal and powerful as one would imagine a death world’s children to be. In the space of less than two thousand years, they had already produced implements of mass death that would have horrified the most callous dictators in the long, dark history of the galaxy.
Already, the children of Earth were the most terrifying creatures in the galaxy. They became the stuff of horror stories, nightly warnings told to children; huge, hulking, brutish things, that hacked and slashed and stabbed and shot and burned and survived, that built monstrous metal things that rumbled across the landscape and blasted buildings to ruin.
All that preserved us was their lack of space flight. In their obsession with murdering one another, the humans had locked themselves into a rigid framework of physics that thankfully omitted the equations necessary to achieve interstellar travel.
They became our bogeymen. Locked away in their prison planet, surrounded by a cordon of non-interference, prevented from ravaging the galaxy only by their own insatiable need to kill one another. Gruesome and terrible, yes – but at least we were safe.
Or so we thought.
The cities were called Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the moment of their destruction, the humans unlocked a destructive force greater than any of us could ever have believed possible. It was at that moment that those of us who studied their technology knew their escape to be inevitable, and that no force in the universe could have hoped to stand against them.
The first human spacecraft were… exactly what we should have expected them to be. There were no elegant solar wings, no sleek, silvered hulls plying the ocean of stars. They did not soar on the stellar currents. They did not even register their existence. Humanity flew in the only way it could: on all-consuming pillars of fire, pounding space itself into submission with explosion after explosion. Their ships were crude, ugly, bulky things, huge slabs of metal welded together, built to withstand the inconceivable forces necessary to propel themselves into space through violence alone.
It was almost comical. The huge, dumb brutes simply strapped an explosive to their backs and let it throw them off of the planet.
We would have laughed, if it hadn’t terrified us.
Humanity, at long last, was awake.
It was a slow process. It took them nearly a hundred years to reach their nearest planetary neighbor; a hundred more to conquer the rest of their solar system. The process of refining their explosive propulsion systems – now powered by the same force that had melted their cities into glass less than a thousand years before – was slow and haphazard. But it worked. Year by year, they inched outward, conquering and subduing world after world that we had deemed unfit for habitation. They burrowed into moons, built orbital colonies around gas giants, even crafted habitats that drifted in the hearts of blazing nebulas. They never stopped. Never slowed.
The no-contact cordon was generous, and was extended by the day. As human colonies pushed farther and farther outward, we retreated, gave them the space that they wanted in a desperate attempt at… stalling for time, perhaps. Or some sort of appeasement. Or sheer, abject terror. Debates were held daily, arguing about whether or not first contact should be initiated, and how, and by whom, and with what failsafes. No agreement was ever reached.
We were comically unprepared for the humans to initiate contact themselves.
It was almost an accident. The humans had achieved another breakthrough in propulsion physics, and took an unexpected leap of several hundred light years, coming into orbit around an inhabited world.
What ensued was the diplomatic equivalent of everyone staring awkwardly at one another for a few moments, and then turning around and walking slowly out of the room.
The human ship leapt away after some thirty minutes without initiating any sort of formal communications, but we knew that we had been discovered, and the message of our existence was being carried back to Terra.
The situation in the senate could only be described as “absolute, incoherent panic”. They had discovered us before our preparations were complete. What would they want? What demands would they make? What hope did we have against them if they chose to wage war against us and claim the galaxy for themselves? The most meager of human ships was beyond our capacity to engage militarily; even unarmed transport vessels were so thickly armored as to be functionally indestructible to our weapons.
We waited, every day, certain that we were on the brink of war. We hunkered in our homes, and stared.
Across the darkness of space, humanity stared back.
There were other instances of contact. Human ships – armed, now – entering colonized space for a few scant moments, and then leaving upon finding our meager defensive batteries pointed in their direction. They never initiated communications. We were too frightened to.
A few weeks later, the humans discovered Alphari-296.
It was a border world. A new colony, on an ocean planet that was proving to be less hospitable than initially thought. Its military garrison was pitifully small to begin with. We had been trying desperately to shore it up, afraid that the humans might sense weakness and attack, but things were made complicated by the disease – the medical staff of the colonies were unable to devise a cure, or even a treatment, and what pitifully small population remained on the planet were slowly vomiting themselves to death.
When the human fleet arrived in orbit, the rest of the galaxy wrote Alphari-296 off as lost.
I was there, on the surface, when the great gray ships came screaming down from the sky. Crude, inelegant things, all jagged metal and sharp edges, barely holding together. I sat there, on the balcony of the clinic full of patients that I did not have the resources or the expertise to help, and looked up with the blank, empty, numb stare of one who is certain that they are about to die.
I remember the symbols emblazoned on the sides of each ship, glaring in the sun as the ships landed inelegantly on the spaceport landing pads that had never been designed for anything so large. It was the same symbol that was painted on the helmets of every human that strode out of the ships, carrying huge black cases, their faces obscured by dark visors. It was the first flag that humans ever carried into our worlds.
It was a crude image of a human figure, rendered in simple, straight lines, with a dot for the head. It was painted in white, over a red cross.
The first human to approach me was a female, though I did not learn this until much later – it was impossible to ascertain gender through the bulky suit and the mask. But she strode up the stairs onto the balcony, carrying that black case that was nearly the size of my entire body, and paused as I stared blankly up at her. I was vaguely aware that I was witnessing history, and quite certain that I would not live to tell of it.
Then, to my amazement, she said, in halting, uncertain words, “You are the head doctor?”
The visor cleared. The human bared its teeth at me. I learned later that this was a “grin”, an expression of friendship and happiness among their species.
“We are The Doctors Without Borders,” she said, speaking slowly and carefully. “We are here to help.”
Watch this video (Begin at the 3:00) mark. Listen to Joe Biden’s words. If you don’t have time to watch, read the transcript below.
While not as heart-pumping as Bill Pullman’s “we will not go quietly into the night” speech from Independence Day, this one is the real thing, addressing real issues and real dangers that we as a nation face. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative – this is the kind of president we need right now. Issues and concerns can be debated, positions can be put forward, compromises can be made, once people of good will – not obstructive, power-hungry ideologues – are in charge of leading us.
“Thank you all for being here. Thank you. I appreciate you being here on this gorgeous day in a magnificent, magnificent setting, until you think about all the lives that were lost here. Y’all please, all have a seat.
On July 4th, 1863, American woke to the remains of perhaps the most consequential battle in American soil. It took place here on this ground in Gettysburg; three days of violence, three days of carnage, 50,000 casualties, wounded, captured, missing, or dead, over three days of fighting. When the sun rose on that Independence Day, Lee would retreat. The war would go on for nearly two more years, but the back of the Confederacy had been broken. The Union would be saved. Slavery would be abolished, government of by and for the people would not perish from the earth, and freedom would be born anew in our land.
There’s no more fitting place than here today in Gettysburg, to talk about the cost of division. About how much it has cost America in the past, about how much it is costing us now, and about why I believe in this moment, we must come together as a nation. For President Lincoln, the Civil War was about the greatest of causes. The end of slavery, widening equality, pursuit of justice, the creation of opportunity, and the sanctity of freedom.
His words would live ever after. We hear them in our heads. We know them in our hearts. We draw on them when we seek hope in hours of darkness; “Four score, and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Here on this sacred ground, Abraham Lincoln, re-imagined America itself. Here, a president of the United States spoke of the price of division, and the meaning of sacrifice.
He believed in the rescue, redemption, and rededication of the union. All this in a time, not just of ferocious division, but of widespread death, structural inequity, and fear of the future. And he taught us this, a house divided could not stand. That is a great and timeless truth. Today, once again, we are a house divided, but that my friends can no longer be. We’re facing too many crises. We have too much work to do. We have to bright a future to have it shipwrecked on the Shoals of anger and hate, and division.
As we stand here today, a century and a half later after Gettysburg, we should consider again, what can happen when equal justice is denied, when anger and violence and division are left unchecked. As I look across America today, I’m concerned. The country is in a dangerous place. Our trust in each other is ebbing. Hope seems elusive. Too many Americans see our public life, not as an arena for mediation of our differences, but rather they see it as an occasion for total, unrelenting, partisan warfare.
Instead of treating each other’s party as the opposition, we treat them as the enemy. This must end. We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country. A spirit of being able to work with one another. When I say that, and I’ve been saying it for two years now, I’m accused of being naive. I’m told, “Maybe that’s the way things used to work, Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore.” Well, I’m here to tell you they can, and they must if we’re going to get anything done.
I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president. I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me, as those who do. That’s the job of a president; the duty to care for everyone. Refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a decision. It’s a choice we make.
And if we can decide not to cooperate, we can decide to cooperate as well. That’s the choice I’ll make as president. But there’s something bigger going on in this nation than just our broken politics. Something darker, something more dangerous. I’m not talking about ordinary differences of opinion, competing viewpoints give life and vibrancy to our democracy. No, I’m talking about something different, something deeper. Too many Americans seek not to overcome our divisions, but to deepen them, we must seek not to build walls, but bridges. We must seek not to have our fist clenched, but our arms open. We have to seek not to tear each other apart, we seek to come together. You don’t have to agree with me on everything, or even on most things, to see that we’re experiencing today is neither good nor normal.
I made the decision to run for president after Charlottesville. Close your eyes, and remember what you saw. Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK coming out of the fields with torches light, veins bulging, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile herd across Europe in the ’30s. It was hate on the march, in the open, in America. Hate never goes away, it only hides. And when it’s given oxygen, when it’s given an opportunity to spread, when it’s treated as normal and acceptable behavior, we’ve opened a door in this country that we must move quickly to close. As president, that’s just what I will do. I will send a clear unequivocal message to the entire nation, there is no place for hate in America.
It will be given no license. It will be given no oxygen. It’ll be given no safe harbor. In recent weeks and months, the country has been riled by instances of excessive police force, heart-wrenching cases of racial injustice and lives needlessly and senselessly lost, by peaceful protesters, given voice to the calls for justice, by examples of violence and looting and burning that can not be tolerated. I believe in law and order, I’ve never supported defunding the police.
But I also believe injustice is real. It’s a product of a history that goes back 400 years, the moment when black men, women, and children first were brought here in chains. I do not believe we have to choose between law and order, and racial justice in America. We can have both. This is the nation strong enough to both honestly face systemic racism and strong enough to provide safe streets for our families and small businesses. The two often bear the brunt of this looting and burning.
We have no need for armed militias roaming America’s streets, and we should have no tolerance for extremist white supremacy groups, menacing our communities. If you say, “We should trust America’s law enforcement authorities to do the job,” as I do, then let them do their job without extremist groups acting as vigilantes. If you say, “We have no need to face racial injustice in the country,” you haven’t opened your eyes to the truth in America.
There’ve been powerful voices for justice in recent weeks and months, George Floyd’s, six year old daughter, who I met with, who looked at me and said in her small child’s voice, “Daddy changed the world.” Also, Jacob Blake’s mother was another. When she said, “Violence didn’t reflect her son and this nation needed healing.” And Doc Rivers, the basketball coach, choking back tears when he said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’ve been hung. It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
I think about that. I think about what it takes for a black person to love America. That is a deep love for this country. That has for far too long, never been recognized. What we need in America’s leadership that seeks to deescalate tensions, to open lines of communications, to bring us together, to heal, to hope. As president, that’s precisely what I will do. We paid a high price for allowing the deep divisions in this country to impact on how we deal with the Coronavirus. 210,000 Americans dead, and the number’s climbing. It’s estimated that nearly another 210,000 Americans could lose their lives by the end of the year; enough, no more. Let’s just set partisanship aside, let’s end the politics and follow the science.
Wearing a mask… wearing a mask is not a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Social distancing isn’t a political statement. It’s a scientific recommendation. Testing, tracing, the development and all approval and distribution of a vaccine, isn’t a political statement. It is a science-based decision. We can’t undo what has been done. We can’t go back. We can do so much better. We can do better starting today. We can have a national strategy that puts politics aside and saves lives.
We can have a national strategy that will make it possible for our schools and business to open safely. We can have a national strategy that reflects the true values of this nation. This pandemic is not a red state or blue state issue. This virus doesn’t care whether you live, or where you live, what political party you belong to, it affects us all. It will take anyone’s life. It’s a virus. It’s not a political weapon.
There’s another enduring division in America that we must end, the division in our economic life. That gives opportunity only to the privileged few. America has to be about mobility. It has to be the kind of country where an Abraham Lincoln, a child of the distant frontier, can rise to the highest office in the land. America has to be about possibilities.
The possibility of prosperity, not just for the privileged few, but for the many, for all of us. Working people on their kids deserve an opportunity. Lincoln knew this. He said that the country had to give people, and I quote, “An open field and a fair chance. An open field and a fair chance.” That’s what we’re going to do in America. We’re going to build together. We fought a civil war that would secure a union that would seek to fulfill the promise of equality for all.
And by fits and starts, our better angels had prevailed again, just enough, just enough against our worst impulses to make a new and better nation. And those better angels can prevail again, now. They must prevail again, now. 100 years after Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, the vice president, Lyndon B Johnson also came here, and here’s what he said.
He said, “Our nation founded soul and honor in these fields of Gettysburg, we must not lose that soul in dishonor, now, on the fields of hate.” Today, we’re engaged, once again, in the battle for the soul of the nation, the forces of darkness, the forces of division, the forces of yesterday are pulling us apart, holding us down and holding us back. We must free ourselves of all of them. As president, I will embrace hope, not fear. Peace, not violence. Generosity, not greed. And light, not darkness. I’ll be a president who appeals to the best in us, not the worst.
I’ll be a president who pushes toward the future, not one who clings to the past. I’m ready to fight for you and for our nation every day, without exception, without reservation, with a full and devoted heart. We cannot, and will not, allow extremest and white supremacist to overturn the America of Lincoln and Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglas, to overturn the America that has welcomed immigrants from distant shores, to overturn the America that has been a Haven and a home for everyone, no matter their background.
From Seneca falls to Selma, to Stonewall we’re at our best when the promise of America is available to all, we cannot, and we will not allow violence in the street to threaten the people of this nation. We cannot and will not walk away from our obligation to at long last, face the wrecking on race and racial justice in this country. We cannot and will not continue to be struck in the partisan politics that lets us, this virus, thrive, while the public health of this nation suffers.
We cannot and will not accept an economic equation that only favors those who have already got it made; everybody deserves a shot at prosperity. Folks, duty and history call presidents to provide for the common good, and I will. It won’t be easy. Won’t be easy. Our divisions today are long standing, economic and racial inequities have shaped us for generations, but I give you my word. I give you my word. If I’m elected president, I will Marshall the ingenuity and Goodwill of this nation to turn division into unity and bring us together because I think people are looking for that. We can disagree about how as we move forward, we must take the first steps. It starts with how we treat one another. How we talk to one another. How we respect one another.
In the second inaugural Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we’re in to build up the nation’s wounds, bind up the nation’s wounds.” Now, we have our work to reunite America. To bind up our nation’s wounds. To move past shadow and suspicion. And so we, you and I together, we press on, even now. After hearing the second inaugural address, Frederick Douglas told President Lincoln, “Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort.” We have to be dedicated to our own sacred effort. The promise of Gettysburg and the new birth of freedom was in hand.
I think it’s at risk. Every generation that’s followed Gettysburg has been faced with a moment when it must answer this question, will they allow the sacrifices made here to be in vain, or be fulfilled? This is our moment to answer this essential American question, for ourselves and for our time. And my answer is this, it cannot be that after all this country has been through, after all that America’s accomplished, after all the years, we have stood as a beacon of light to the world.
It cannot be that here and now in 2020, we will allow the government of the people, by the people, and for the people to perish this earth. No, it cannot. And it must not. We have it in our hands, the ultimate power. The power to vote. Its the note instrument ever devised to register our will in a peaceable and productive fashion. And so we must. We must vote. We will vote. No matter how many obstacles are thrown in our way, because once America votes, America will be heard.
Lincoln said, “The nation is worth fighting for.” So it was. And so it is, together as one nation under God, indivisible. Let us join forces to fight the common foe of injustice and inequality, hate and fear. Let’s conduct ourselves as Americans who love each other, who love our country, who will not destroy, but will build. We owe it to the dead who were buried here at Gettysburg. We owe that to the living, and to future generations yet to be born.
You and I are part of a covenant, a common story of divisions overcome and hope renewed. If we do our part, if we stand together, if we keep faith with the past and with each other, then the divisions of our time will give way to the dreams of a brighter, better future. This is our work. This is our pledge. This is our mission. We can end this era of division. We can end the hate and the fear. We can be what we are at our best, the United States of America. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you. We can do this.”
I want our nation to return to sanity. The mad divisiveness that infects our politics now is not anything that our founders envisioned. We need to get back to government by reason and compromise instead of bombastic ideological warfare and obstruction. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.
This coming November, please vote to sweep the authoritarians from power, and return our nation to the democratic republic that we were given at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. ¹
The Old Wolf has spoken, but Joe Biden has spoken better.
¹ A good exploration of Franklin’s quote, “A republic if you can keep it” can be found here.
First off, a disclaimer: I’m not a sociologist. I don’t claim to be well-versed in the psychology of racism, bigotry, or prejudice. These are my own thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience and observation from someone born into white privilege and adopted into a generally disparaged faith.
This is a long post. Sorry not sorry.
They taught us about slavery in elementary school. We learned about the ship that arrived in 1620 carrying “twenty and odd negroes.” We learned about how people were stacked in ships like sardines. We learned about the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. But we learned nothing about what it was like to be a slave, or the 400-year aftermath.¹
A white citizen in America today cannot really know what it’s like to be a slave, or to live as part of a still-oppressed, marginalized, and often brutalized population.² But I can read, and I can learn, and I can empathize. And over time, in the following works, I have gained a glimmer of understanding about what Africans and African-American peoples have had to deal with over the centuries, up to and including today. There are many, many other accounts out there, but these are the ones that have impacted me the most over the years.
If you have a microgram of compassion in your soul, these books cannot help but touch you, and help you to understand what is happening today in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and why.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, Native Son, Black Boy, and 12 Million Black Voices by Richard Wright:
Baldwin and Wright had different ideas about the black experience and how to chronicle it. Both are seminal writers. Particularly Wright’s Black Boy left me absolutely gobsmacked at what growing up in the South was like for a young man who came to earth with a mind that questioned why life around him was the way it was, and could see the injustice, and express it profoundly and honestly.
A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands— a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality. That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation— he was standing against the sky, smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him— I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…
From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city— that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.
Wright, Richard, Black Boy, Cleveland, World Publishing Company, 1937
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
This work was a product of the 60s, but is important for a number of reasons. It’s often disparaged as a naïve social experiment that was doomed to failure precisely because the author was white, but I find it a work that brings me back again and again.
No, it makes no sense, but insofar as the Negro is concerned, nothing makes much sense. This was brought home to me in another realm many times when I sought jobs. The foreman of one plant in Mobile, a large brute, allowed me to tell him what I could do. Then he looked me in the face and spoke to me in these words: “No, you couldn’t get anything like that here.” His voice was not unkind. It was the dead voice one often hears. Determined to see if I could break in somehow, I said: “But if I could do you a better job, and you paid me less than a white man …” “I’ll tell you … we don’t want you people. Don’t you understand that?” “I know,” I said with real sadness. “You can’t blame a man for trying at least.” “No use trying down here,” he said. “We’re gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs at this plant. We’re taking it slow, but we’re doing it. Pretty soon we’ll have it so the only jobs you can get here are the ones no white man would have.” “How can we live?” I asked hopelessly, careful not to give the impression I was arguing. “That’s the whole point,” he said, looking me square in the eyes, but with some faint sympathy, as though he regretted the need to say what followed: “We’re going to do our damnedest to drive every one of you out of the state.”
Griffin, J.Hl, Black Like Me,, 1960
Griffin himself even said,
As I had suspected they would be, my discoveries were naïve ones, like those of a child.
The entire book has the overriding attitude of “You mean this really happens? This is what life is really like for black people in the South? Yes, the discoveries were simple, and everything was filtered through the mindset of a white man of privilege, but it’s still very much worth reading.
Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools by Jonathan Kozol:
Above and beyond describing the hideous disparity that existed in the Boston public school system in the ’60s, it shone a light on the vicious racism that took root there. The persona of the “Art Teacher” is especially breathtaking in its ignorance and ingrained evil – she was a master at destroying the souls of children whom she clearly thought belonged to a sub-genre of humanity. Read it and weep.
“All white people, I think, are implicated in these things so long as we participate in America in a normal way and attempt to go on leading normal lives while any one race is being cheated and tormented. But I now believe that we will probably go on leading our normal lives, and will go on participating in our nation in a normal way, unless there comes a time where Negroes can compel us by methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure.”
Kozol, Jonathan, Death at an Early Age
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester:
While this book is aimed at youth readership, its collection of tales from people who actually lived through slavery cannot fail to move adults if they have a shred of humanity.
“One day while my mammy was washing her back my sister noticed ugly disfiguring scars on it. Inquiring about them, we found, much to our amazement, that they were Mammy’s relics of the now gone, if not forgotten, slave days. This was her first reference to her “misery days” that she had made in my presence. Of course we all thought she was telling us a big story and we made fun of her. With eyes flashing, she stopped bathing, dried her back and reached for the smelly ol’ black whip that hung behind the kitchen door. Bidding us to strip down to our waists, my little mammy with the boney bent-over back, struck each of us as hard as ever she could with that black-snake whip. Each stroke of the whip drew blood from our backs. “Now,” she said to us, “you have a taste of slavery days.”
Frank Cooper, Library of Congress
Don’t You Turn Back by Langston Hughes
As described by Nancy Snyder at Bookriot.com, “Langston Hughes was the chronicler of African American life in Harlem, New York City, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Hughes set out to portray the stories of African-American life that represented their actual culture—including the piercing heartbreak and the joy of everyday life in Harlem.” His poetry is beautiful, yearning, and haunting. It should be on the to-read list of anyone who is interested in the human condition.
Dream-singers, Story-tellers, Dancers, Loud laughers in the hands of Fate— My People. Dish-washers, Elevator-boys, Ladies’ maids, Crap-shooters, Cooks, Waiters, Jazzers, Nurses of babies, Loaders of ships, Porters, Hairdressers, Comedians in vaudeville And band-men in circuses— Dream-singers all, Story-tellers all. Dancers— God! What dancers! Singers— God! What singers! Singers and dancers, Dancers and laughers. Laughers? Yes, laughers….laughers…..laughers— Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.
Hughes, Langston, Don’t You Turn Back
Be warned, these books are “products of their times,” and the language used in most of them would be highly offensive by today’s standards. But this is the way it was, and you can’t whitewash it or sanitize it.
We didn’t know nothing like young folks do now. We hardly knowed our names. We was cussed for so many bitches and sons of bitches and bloody bitches and blood of bitches. We never heard our names scarcely at all.
Sallie Crane, Library of Congress.
A recent post (June 2, 2020) on Facebook by Caroline Crockett Brock illustrates poignantly that these attitudes, these experiences are not a thing of the past. They are not just the stuff of history, of Emmett Till and Rodney King and George Floyd and so many nameless others. It relates the experiences of Ernest Skelton, the owner of Grand Strand Appliance Repair Services.
When Ernest, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in.
As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate.
Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?
When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.
What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble? The answers were illuminating.
Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year.
He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another.
Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances.
They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs.
These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way.
Every time he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.
Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore.
He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark.
He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark.”
Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him.
He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard.
Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC.
Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.
After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years.
He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me.
I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.
Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is.
His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.
When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.
I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up.
I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today.
Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple. #listenandlift
The Watts riots. The Rodney King riots. The George Floyd riots. These are “the methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure” that Jonathan Kozol mentioned. Taken by themselves, the destruction and looting are senseless and wrong. Taken in the context of 400 years of systemic oppression, they are entirely understandable. These things happen because the white establishment refuses to listen, to understand, and to act.
The BLM movement is being used by opponents of progress and maintainers of the status quo to show their ignorance. There is no implied “only” in front of “black lives matter.”
An exquisite example of this happened in 2016, when a supposed group of law students wrote a letter to Patricia Leary, a professor at Whittier Law School, taking her to task for wearing a BLM teeshirt “on a day in Criminal Procedure when we were explicitly discussing violence against the black community by police.” ³ Images of the letters and concomitant transcripts can be found at Imgur; the professor’s response to these entitled and presumptuous brats is a takedown worthy of 1998, when the Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of Hell in a Cell, and he plummeted 16 feet through an announcer’s table.⁴
Of course all lives matter. Despite the fact that there are pervasive problems of racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and unwarranted brutality among police departments today, blue lives matter too. But as mentioned before, BLM is not about “only” black lives. It’s a movement because black lives are the ones that have been being – and continue to be – devalued and oppressed and taken.
Two recent artistic representations of current events:
We are at a difficult and critical juncture of our nation’s history right now. Things could go a number of ways. It’s not inconceivable that given the attitudes of our current leadership, we could see a Tienanmen Square type of event in our country. Or much in the way of Occupy Wall Street, the BLM movement could peter out into irrelevance and we could see a return to the status quo. These are extremes. It is my hope that the momentum gained in recent times will continue, and that rational heads will prevail, because we owe it to our founders to preserve the republic that they gave us.
Edit: This belongs here.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Just in passing: Most of the kids in my class were white and Jewish. I was one of only three goyim. There were two black kids. Most of us have stayed in touch for 65 years. We never heard from the black kids again, even though we tried hard to find them for our 50th reunion.
Edit: recently found one – he was delighted to be contacted!
² Some white people in this country know what it’s like, even if for a brief time. I refer you to the depredations suffered by members of the newly-formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they were cursed, hunted, slaughtered, mobbed, abused, robbed, subject to a statewide legal extermination order, and driven west across the country from 1830 to 1847. It was a small taste of what slaves and their descendants have suffered for over 400 years. But the point is that unless you’ve experienced this kind of systemic hatred and persecution first hand, you can’t really understand what it’s like.
Edit: It occurred to me some time after writing this post that understanding persecution does not always automatically translate into compassion and sensitivity. The history of the Latter-day Saints with regard to people of color is unenviable.
³ Although the text has been widely shared with critical details redacted, Inside Higher Ed posted the relevant details to show that this was an actual event that really and truly happened.
⁴ With thanks to redditor u/shittymorph for the useful reference.
I loved comics as a kid. No shame, I learned a lot. Loved things like Strange Tales, Creepy, Weird Science, along with the standard DC and Marvel fare.¹ And over the years, some things just stuck in my mind. Tales like “Tim Boo Baa,” “The Mask of Morgumm,” or “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I’ve been able to recover quite a few of these and revisit them in all their glory.
But there was one memory I was never able to recapture, although it popped into my mind frequently… until this week.
It was about this poor inventor, Alphonse Orr, who was taken advantage of by a hideous, bullying con-man of a boss. Finally his name popped up in a comic database, and I was able to score a copy of the issue that the story appeared in.
I was ten when this comic went on sale in 1961, and somehow that last panel, the image of this little man wondering if he could afford pie impacted me profoundly,² as did the idea of the injustice perpetrated upon him by his evil boss – and stuck in my mind for over half a century. Kids have an over-developed sense of injustice at that age, and I was no exception.³
So you’ll pardon me if I found the ending to the story immensely satisfying, and re-reading it after all these years I find that my feelings haven’t changed one whit.
You can read the entire story from “Forbidden Worlds, Issue #98 here as a pdf download.⁴
It’s nice to be able to put memories to rest.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ I could have put my kids through college if I had kept all the first editions I bought, but that’s another story.
² Never mind all the abject poverty and true starvation and famine in the world; at that age I was not aware of what was happening in third-world countries or even of food insecurity in America, but at that time the thought that Alphonse was so poor that he couldn’t afford pie deeply saddened me.
³ Those impressions have never left me. I have found that when it comes to the injustice and cruelty and stupidity of corporations, there’s always a relevant Dilbert.
⁴ Edit: If you do read this story, keep in mind that it’s the ’60s and that it’s fantasy; the Challenger Deep is 6.85 miles below the surface, whereas Edgar W. Simmons claims to have taken his new submersible 120 miles down. Just as a matter of curiosity, the pressure at that hypothetical depth would be 19,259.37 atmospheres, or 250,371 pounds per square inch, or roughly 42 Humvees stacked on your thumbnail. Science? We don’t need no steenkin’ science!
The miracle of the Internet allows one these days to do a deep dive into the oddities of humanity, and many of Robert Ripley’s stories can be either verified, clarified, or debunked. I was an inveterate consumer of Ripley’s collections as a youth, and this particular item always intrigued me. As it turns out, this story happens to be entirely accurate, as documented at Human Marvels.
Included at the link is a video that shows the late Mr. Langevin demonstrating his odd talent.
A lot of the human skull is empty space, and as you can see from the above illustration, there’s a very small partition between the sinuses and the orbits of the eye. All it would take is a small malformation or injury to either the skull or the nasolacrymal duct to connect the eye with the sinuses, and Bob’s your uncle.
THE BOY WHO DIED OF OLD AGE BEFORE HE WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD
Cross-posted from Livejournal
THIS strange anomaly of an aged youth attracted considerable attention during the last century. He was Charles Charlesworth, born of normal parents in Staffordshire, England, March 14, 1829. He reached maturity and grew whiskers at the age of four and died suddenly in a faint (syncope) when but seven years old.
Charlesworth was of small stature and proportions, and with imperfectly developed clavicles, lower jaw, and membrane bones of the skull. His face was wizened, hair and whiskers white, skin shriveled, hands knotted with conspicuous veins and tendons, voice piping, and gait and standing posture those of an old man.
Ref.: “Progeria” and “Premature Senility” in any Medical Text Book.
Progeria is now a well-known and well-understood phenomenon, although there is no known cure. It was not described until 1886 by Jonathan Hutchinson and independently in 1897 by Hastings Gilford, after which it was named Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome (HGPS). In 2003, it was discovered that progeria caused by a point mutation in position 1824 of the LMNA gene, replacing cytosine with thymine, creating a form of the Lamin A protein which cannot be processed properly and accumulates in the cell nucleus. Lamin A is a major structural protein of the human cell nucleus. When Lamin A is altered, it affects the shape and the function of the nuclear envelope. These changes cause other cells to die prematurely. (see Progeria at Wikipedia.)
One other famous case of accelerated aging was also documented by Ripley in a later series. His description, accompanied by one of his own illustrations, was lifted almost verbatim from the Huntingdon, PA “Daily News” of 25 September 1830:
Clarence was also written up in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of September 27, 1830 (this photo also appeared in Charles Addams’ Dear Dead Days (Putnam, 1959, p. 18)
Time Magazine of Monday, Oct. 06, 1930 described the event in these words:
At Toledo, Clarence Kehr Jr., 6, standing 4 ft. I in., weighing 87 lb., was barred from both public and Catholic schools because he has a bass voice, smokes, has to shave, is as strong as a grown man. He can lift persons bulking 250 lb., 200-lb. dumbbells, can push without strain a lawn roller, or an automobile filled with passengers. Prime stunt: lifting Jack Dempsey when Dempsey scaled 202 lb. Born normal, Clarence Jr. continued so until 9 mos. old. Between 9 mos. and 3½ years he grew ten years physically in all things except height. When 4½ he was physically 14½, at 6 he is 16. He has no use for girls his own age, prefers them 16 or older.
Doctors attribute his precocity to some defect in his pineal gland. This ductless gland, apparently the rudiment of a third eye,* lies in among the interior folds of the brain. Its functions are not well understood. One thing it certainly does is to inhibit sexual development of children. Because all the ductless glands of the body delicately control and balance one another’s forces, when one acts abnormally as in Clarence Kehr’s case, or in Harold Arnold’s case (see col. 2), it incites a physiological riot. Clarence Kehr’s parents plan to appeal to Ohio’s State Board of Education. Meanwhile he is being tutored privately.
*In some lizards and other reptiles and in the larva of the lamprey, the pineal gland is on a stalk (like a crayfish’s eyes) and is near the top of the head. Here it has a distinguishable retina and lens. French Philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) believed: “There is a small gland [the pineal] in the brain in which the soul exercises its functions more particularly than in the other parts.” Contemporaries agreed.
It appears that Kehr was not a victim of progeria – Psych Web Resources describes Kehr’s case in this manner:
Accelerated aging can also be produced by hormonal imbalance, as shown by the case of Clarence Kehr. This illustration is from a 1931 article in American Psychologist titled, “A clinical study of ‘Toledo’s Strong Boy'” (McClure & Goldberg, 1931). It reports “the strange case of Clarence Kehr, Jr., who skipped from the cradle to adolescence in physical development.” Clarence, shown at age 6, is in the middle of the photograph, with his brother and sister on either side.
Clarence’s development was radically accelerated. He was able to lift his mother off the floor at the age of 5. He had prominent muscles, a mustache, and a baritone voice at age 6.
Clarence was proud of his weight-lifting abilities. He boasted of being the strongest boy in the world. He did not associate with other children, preferring “to do the same things that older people do.” His mustache began to appear when he was 11 months old. By the age of 4, his sexual development was the same as a 14-year-old boy, and he was interested in girls.
X-ray studies revealed that Clarence, at age 6, had bone structure typical of a sixteen to eighteen year old. At the time the article was written, Clarence’s parents were trying to work out a program of private instruction for him. Mentally, he was a normal 6 year old with average or below-average academic abilities. For example, he could not copy a diamond pattern, or verbally describe a picture, both standard items for 7-year-olds on the 1930 Stanford-Binet IQ test.