Identity – Election Edition

Johnny Carson (as Ronald Reagan)

Okay so this one is purely for fun and not tied to a movie, but I couldn’t resist with the Election on Tuesday. Johnny Carson ran this take on Abbott and Costello’s famous ‘Who’s on First’ routine dressed as Ronald Reagan back in 1982. They use Chinese Premier Hu, Secretary of the Interior James Watt, and PLO head Yassir Arafat. Check it out here: https://youtu.be/1Evt6As72m4

Now I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to be through this season of ugly ads and the constant barrage of mudslinging. Daily tweets seem to take over the political discourse as we see certain doom on the horizon if one party wins over another. How about a little election quiz. Let’s see if you can guess who this one is about:

If elected, ____ will bring ‘Murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest being openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood and the nation black with crimes.’

Wow. That’s intense. Do you know who this ‘evil’ person was that would bring about our certain demise as a nation? Times up – it was Thomas Jefferson. These accusations were fairly widespread and even joined by Martha Washington who called Jefferson, “one of the most detestable of mankind.” Not exactly a rousing endorsement.

How about those with a history of womanizing? In this era of the #MeToo movement we have individuals resigning or fighting charges of sexual misconduct. While it is roundly charged against our current president, it has a rich history from Thomas Jefferson who fathered children with slaves he owned, to Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and even to less well-known presidents such as Grover Cleveland who supported a child he allegedly fathered with a woman to whom he wasn’t married. Warren G. Harding, who died in office during his first term, was alleged to have fathered a child during an affair while in office. But then, it was rumored that his death may have come at the hands of his wife who poisoned him as punishment for his indiscretions and infidelity.

When things get personal, how about the playground custom of name-calling? Lewis Cass was tagged in 1848 as “that pot-bellied mutton-headed cucumber,” while his opponent and eventual victor Zachary Taylor was a terrible dresser. Even Abraham Lincoln couldn’t escape this when he was called, “A horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly in aspect, a cross between a nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman.” He was also described as, “The leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs and arms and hatchet face ever strung on a single frame.”

In 1828 Andrew Jackson, who had been shot several times in bar fights and duels, was called a slave-trading, gambling, brawling murderer. Now while those charges against Andrew Jackson stand as true, actual reality hasn’t always applied. In 1800 Thomas Jefferson was claimed by the opposing party to be Dead. He died in 1826. James K. Polk was accused of being a slave trader by opponents quoting a fake book excerpt – talk about ‘fake news.’

So what have we learned? Well if we look at the current political climate, I would say probably not much. Outright lies and misdirection are spewed forth in an unimaginable rate, as though we are too lazy to run a quick reality check through Google. Therein lies part of the problem – Complacency. We as a society don’t seem to care enough to actually research the facts.

Here in our walls we have a responsibility to help raise a generation to be better than this. We have the opportunity to encourage an atmosphere of respect, civility, and empathy for all people. We can teach and show better examples of human decency than we see on the news. Let’s not settle for less than our best.

I encourage you to get out and vote. Not simply for a party line, and certainly not based on vicious attack ads, but do your due diligence and take the time to be informed on the issues. Parse through what is important to you and recognize that if we are to rise above the partisan mudslinging, we have to be willing to recognize the value inherent in each person.