My Grandfather George Garner was something of a legend at the beginning of the twentieth century in Lonoke County, Arkansas. Tall, slender, with red hair, he was fond of wearing starched white shirts buttoned up to the neck. Women found him attractive and men sought his council when it came to dogs and horses. An excellent shot, he always wore a sidearm. He was an accomplished hunter and people would come from as far away as Chicago and St. Louis to hunt with him. One of my favorite stories about my grandfather had to do with a band of Gypsies that traveled through that part of Arkansas every year.
Donald Trump.There is nothing in his background or mine that would cause me to like this guy. By his own words he is a sexist, misogynistic, race baiting bigot. His actions have led me to the opinion that he is a bully, a narcissist and one of the most insecure individuals in public life today. He is also either a liar or a psychopath, possibly both.
I have a simple test when it comes to judging another male of my species. I call it Rich’s Rule. Rich’s is a bar in my old neighborhood of Argentine in the West Bottoms of Kansas City. The rule is simple. If you would be accepted by the guys that drank at Rich’s, you pass.
The 1951 flood in Kansas City has been referred to by some as that city’s biblical disaster. Published accounts show that the rain fell for forty days. To the north and west of the city, it was closer to ninety days. Over much of the Kaw River basin, the rainfall from May 1 to July 31 exceeded the amount usually seen in an entire year. On Friday, July 13, all that water converged on the Armordale-Argentine section of Kansas City, Kansas.
My friend Red Smith and I had spent that day helping my dad load trucks. My father was a warehouse foreman who worked the loading docks at the Caterpillar Parts Depot in Armordale. We were helping him and other workers in an effort to save as much as possible from what we knew was coming. We were two fifteen year olds who enjoyed the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with the tough talking, cold eyed dock workers. Little did we know that within a matter of hours, all of our lives would be changed forever?
Let me state the premise of this entry up front knowing full well that many of you will tune out after reading this. It is my contention that well over ninety percent of white persons in this country meet the dictionary definition of racist: “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and those racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” I base this assertion on over seventy five years of empirical observation and data. I contend that it is part of our social and cultural DNA and that we need to establish a twelve step program for racists, a meeting where I could stand up and say “Hi. I’m David and I’m a racist” and my fellow racist attendees would respond “Welcome David.” Before we go further, a little background is in order.
If there isn’t a jazz tune by that name, there should be. I would buy it and play it from time to time. I would play it on summer nights and Sunday mornings for Bobby. Before I get too far into this, you need to understand that the Bobby I am writing about was one of the Bottom Boys of days gone by. Bygone days, the old folks used to say. Well, now that I’m one of the old folks, I guess I can say it too.
I read somewhere that in some cultures, Mexico comes to mind, a person dies three deaths: First when the heart stops beating, second when you’re buried and finally and most importantly I think, when you are no longer in the memory of those who still walk the earth. I have no intention of letting that happen when it comes to the Bottom Boys, especially Bobby. Here’s why.
Before I get too far into this, I want to mention the names of two persons who have greatly influenced my thinking on this and other subjects over the years, Emma Goldman and Eugene V. Debs. If you aren’t familiar with their lives, please take the time to check them out. For Goldman, I recommend Vivian Gornick’s biography and for Debs, The Bending Cross by Ray Ginger. You can thank me later.