Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How Tru, How Tru

Too bad Harry isn’t around to speak to Donald. One was a …man, the other an…mp. A Tru-MAN, the other a Tru-(I)MP.

Yes, I do love words. To stretch, pulverize and then dissect them to see what may be hiding inside. So here is the Imp writ-large, a demon or goblin noted for wild and uncontrollable behavior. He doesn’t qualify to be an ump. That would entail mediation between factions but he is already a faction, the guy who has moved the goal posts.

Both the 33rd and 45th President assumed the office at momentous times. The former presided over the beginning of post-war America. By any measure it was a new epoch. Our 45th POTUS seems to be ending that seventy-year period of America as a beacon, a defender of Europe through alliances and a promoter of free-trade agreements.

To the admiration of their constituencies, both men were elected because they said it as it is. Harry spoke in short, clipped phrases. He was a citizen of the heartland, a plain-spoken man without rhetorical flourishes. The buck stopped with him. When his time was up in the oval office he simply got on a train at Union Station and rode, by himself, back home to Missouri. What you saw was what you got. Unlike the Imp.

Donald ventriloquized disgruntled Americans, particularly from the Rust Belt, orated in conversational style with locker-room vulgarities and schoolyard slander. He stoked fear and long-simmering hatreds while all the time gloating as celebrity. Truman lived with his famously insufferable mother-in-law in a small town. Trump lives on top of his tower in Bigtown. What we got was not what we reckoned for.

HST was a quick learner. He had to be after being sent into the next room by FDR which rendered him out of the loop regarding the Manhattan A-bomb Project and all matters pertaining to meetings with heads-of-state at Yalta and other summits. His load was the heaviest of any president. Twenty-five days after taking office Germany surrendered ending the war in Europe. Two months after that he met at Potsdam with Atlee and Stalin and weeks later made the decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the war in the Pacific.

I cannot imagine our Imp presiding over the carnage and restoration of order in the world, with millions of refugees and displaced persons seeking asylum, returning G.Is looking to the government for educational opportunities along with labor unrest, segregated armed forces and the transition to a peacetime economy.

When I was fifteen the 1948 election campaign was underway. I was a staunch supporter of Henry Wallace, the Progressive party candidate. Unlike other kids doing normal things like stealing candy from Woolworths or sniffing airplane glue I was scurrying from floor to floor in every apartment house for blocks at-a-time distributing political material attacking both Truman and Dewey. Forgive me, I was living in an idealized world built on peace and justice. We had Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger to sing ourselves to an imagined place. Truman, of course, prevailed beating Dewey and also trouncing all that Truth I had slipped under doors which went unheeded.

Looking back I have a greater admiration for Truman. He had to emerge from Roosevelt’s long shadow and he did, steering the nation through a troubling period. There are several areas where he fell short but compared to our new president he shines with a bright and true light.

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