Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This is the first in a series called SEMINAL INFLUENCES:

My husband says I "interview" everyone with whom I come in contact. Whenever I talk to people, I do always want to know "why", "how", "when" they became the way they are: what are the "seminal influences" in their lives? Just last night I asked a couple HOW they had emerged from Fayette County without the prejudices that I notice in a great number of our contemporaries. When one of them turned the question back on me, I was taken aback, but I answered that my life was ONE big political argument with parents holding different political views and with siblings with widely disparate views. I have seven siblings and four of us are liberals and the other four--well, we always say that Bode was to the right of Attila the Hun--and the other two have varying degrees of right-wing beliefs and one was gone before the defining issues of our lives--Vietnam and civil rights--separated the rest, but I believe he would have been more liberal than conservative.

I can recall my parents being engrossed by the Army-McCarthy hearings. Those hearings, on our 12-inch black and white television, were the genesis of many arguments. Once I said that McCarthy was "awful" and my mother said to my father, "See, even a kid can tell it!" To this day, the speech by Joseph Welch, ending with the quote, "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" is still indelibly etched on my brain. [I will admit that I have resorted to that quote a number of times in arguments] There is a great documentary "Point Of Order!" about the Army-McCarthy hearings which I recommend. I also remember the young Senator Stuart Symington, challenging McCarthy.

Mother adored FDR; my father called him "Ole Peg Leg"; he loved General MacArthur, Mother detested him. Mother loved JFK; my father actually liked Nixon. In 1952, I remember my Grandmother Shirkey telling my mother that she would "watch the children" so that Mother could vote for "OUR Mr. Bricker". Mother told her that she would be going to vote for "Mr. DiSalle". Granny said, "But he's one of those Italians (she pronounced it "Eye-talian")!" Mr. Bricker won that race, but in 1958, Stephen Young, who became my all-time political hero, defeated Mr. Bricker! I said that Granny would roll over in her grave to know that OUR Mr. Bricker was finally defeated. [Actually, John W. Bricker, was a very interesting political figure who was Governor, Senator and Vice-Presidential candidate--from Mt. Sterling!]

My father would always say that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor before the event. One day at school, a teacher also said that "some people" believed that. I immediately challenged the teacher, in just the same way my mother did at home: "You have no proof of that--that's a lie!" I was taken to Mr. Biddle's office and they called my mother at home and she told Mr. Biddle that he needed to correct the teacher because it was a lie! When I went home, I proudly quoted Churchill, and said that was our "Finest Hour"! At that time, I didn't know the term "Pyrrhic Victory", but as I had that teacher's lasting animus, I later realized that my short-lived victory was indeed Pyrrhic!!

Edited exchange between legal counsel for the army Mr. Welch and Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wisconsin) during the height of the Second Red Scare. This is credited by many as the moment where McCarthy began to lose his power and influence, as the hearings were broadcast on TV and people got to see how McCarthy behaved.

1 comment:

Mona Lisa said...

"Pyrrhic victory"--I had to look it up! Thanks for the continuing education!