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Harry S. Truman, the Accidental President

In Education, Media, National News, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on January 29, 2013 at 10:03 am

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Probably the most famous photo of Truman. (Photo by W. Eugene Smith//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Probably the most famous photo of Truman. (Photo by W. Eugene Smith//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

I’ve always been interested in politics and, given how public I am in some ways it’s not unexpected to have people come up to me and ask why I don’t run for some public office. Given my work and family commitments, I don’t really see that as a viable option. If I did run, though, I know where my inspiration would come from.

While everyone else is quoting Lincoln and idolizing Thomas Jefferson, I would probably try my hardest to emulate Harry Truman. My generation probably doesn’t know much about our 33rd president. I know I didn’t until I watched a documentary about him recently. Then I did some research of my own.

Truman is featured in many pages of America’s history book but is most noted as the man who made the final decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan, forcing their surrender to end World War II. Upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, Truman was sworn in on April 12, 1945, but the presidency was a job he never had any ambition to hold.

Harry was a man of short stature (5-foot, 8-inches in height) but big accomplishments. He didn’t even enter politics until he was 33 years old and, by that time, he had, in his own words, “failed at everything he tried.” As a young boy, he dreamed of becoming a concert pianist, practicing for hours on end. His mother was a college graduate, a music teacher who, to some, probably seemed a bit over protective of her small, bespectacled son.

Socially awkward, young Harry rarely roughhoused or played sports like the other boys his age and he was thoroughly terrified of girls. That is, until he summoned up the courage to talk to Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace, a girl he’d virtually grown up with and finally married many years later after numerous rejections to his courting.

His father held many jobs, finally tending his mother-in-law’s farm before being severely injured and incapacitated. Harry was forced to leave his job as a bank clerk and forget his dream of college to work the farm and help pay off the family’s mounting debt. Later, he joined the army during World War I, where he became an officer. After the war, he and an army buddy opened a haberdashery which later went bankrupt. But, as usual, Truman didn’t give up.

Shortly afterwards, Truman ran for the office of district judge, essentially a county commissioner, in Jackson County, Missouri. Though he weathered his share of scandal in the corrupt, good-old-boy system of Kansas City, his straight-forward honesty and no-nonsense demeanor seemed to resonate and he eventually won a seat for the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate in 1934. His rise to the second-highest seat in the government came almost by accident and with great trepidation by many in the party.

When Roosevelt died, it was immediately apparent that Truman’s White House would be run quite differently. His “regular guy” persona was in stark contrast and a welcome change from FDR’s upper-class style. His impoverished upbringing probably had something to do with his detest of wasteful spending and Truman became known as the chief of all budget hawks. At one point, he even had the entire White House gutted and refurbished to protect it from further deterioration while also saving public money on excessive repair.

In the end, however, the simple clerk from Independence, Missouri proved to be much more than the accidental president. He had managed to create foreign policies that are still the basis of modern diplomacy, he was one of the first presidents to work towards equality in the workplace for African Americans and he helped restructure the country’s economy after World War II.

I could go on and on about this man, but you should look him up on your own. Harry S. Truman’s is a story of great struggle, fortitude and achievement from a man who many considered a lifetime failure with no focus or ambition. With today’s staggering level of corruption and waste in government, America certainly could use another, “Give ‘Em Hell Harry.”



Equal citizenry under the 14th Amendment

In Economy, Education, Opinion, Politics, psychology, Religion, sociology, Uncategorized on January 22, 2013 at 7:04 pm

14thAmDeer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

With a single sentence early in the text of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson established the concept of human equality in a fledgling country. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Jefferson famously penned, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Ironically, many of the men who signed the final version of the document were slave owners, with no acknowledgement of the hypocrisy they were about to go to war to protect. It took more than a century after John Hancock applied his prominent penmanship to the parchment to bring about a law that would provide the basis for the ultimate guarantee of a free and equal society.  But it didn’t exactly work out that way.

Passed on July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in theory, sets equal status for each citizen. The wording clearly recognizes “citizens” as having either been born within the country or naturalized and goes on to grant equal privileges to each with no specifically stated restrictions based on gender, ethnicity, economic status, sexual preference or anything else.

At the time it was written, America was still experiencing shell shock following the Civil War, and it would be some time before full enforcement of the 14th would be widespread. Early on, even the government seemed to be choosing to ignore its own laws wherever it pleased to do so. A large part of the virtual annihilation of the Native American populations within the United States took place after the 14th was passed.

This legislation should have immediately equalized anyone born in the country, regardless of gender or race. But this was rarely the case. Some whites, particularly in the south, rejected the concept of overall equality. Racism and general prejudice ran high throughout the region, becoming violent on far too many occasions.

For those situations not expressly dealt with under the 14th, supplemental legislation has had to be passed to address those issues. But some people are offended that any subsequent legislation is required to enforce those “unalienable rights” already granted by the Constitution.  In their eyes, doing so only serves to solidify the idea that anyone other than the able-bodied, white male was somehow inferior and now needed ‘special’ legal considerations.

Sublime in their fortitude and thirst for liberty, America’s Founding Fathers are quoted by academics, politicians, world figureheads and even religious leaders. But in many ways that honorarium is less deserved because of staggering moral shortsightedness by not extending basic civil rights to everyone. Such a simple act in the beginning may have upended the economy of the new country, but it might also have helped preempt two hundred years of prejudice, war and bloodshed.

In the end, all rights are ‘civil,’ established and enforced by duly elected representatives of the people. Even with the country so divided over these issues, the government still has a chance to enforce the original purpose of the 14th Amendment.

People are always going to be frightened of change. But the opportunity remains to squelch old prejudice and make sure that all men, all citizens, are equal under the law no matter the color of their skin, to which god they pray, or whom they choose to marry.

It may be that no more laws need to be created. Each citizen is already endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; not as much by their creator, as the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. If it really is the Supreme Law of the Land, it needs to be applied that way. If it doesn’t happen soon, Jefferson’s goal of an equal citizenry will never be much more than a pipe dream.

GCCHD Offering Walk-In Clinic Tuesday, January 22

In Children and Family, Health, Local News, Media, Science, Senior Lifestyle, Uncategorized on January 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm

(XENIA, OH)  The Greene County Combined Health District (GCCHD) will hold the following walk-in immunization clinic in Xenia:

  • Tuesday, January 22nd:    8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Greene County Combined Health District, 360 Wilson Dr., Xenia.

Regular childhood immunizations will also be given during this clinic.  The only flu vaccine available at this time is for children 6 months of age to 18 years, while supplies last.  No appointments are necessary for this clinic.  Those older than 18 years of age should consult their family physician or inquire at a local pharmacy.

The 2012/13 seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for persons 6 months of age and older. The cost for each flu shot is $15.00 for children.  Cash and checks will be accepted.  We do accept Medicaid, CareSource, Molina and AmeriGroup.  Cards must be shown.  Everyone else will need to pay by cash or check and send a receipt to their insurance company for reimbursement.

Greene County Health Commissioner, Mark A. McDonnell, reminds everyone to maintain good health by getting their flu shot, washing hands regularly, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick, eating a balanced diet, exercising and getting the right amount of sleep.

For more information, please call the Flu Hotline at (937) 374-5657.

Congress is robbing Peter to pay Paul … and Mary

In Business, National News, Opinion, Politics, Uncategorized on January 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Deer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

debt calamityAnytime you take resources originally allocated for one use and direct it towards another, you are “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Although there’s some dispute about the origins of the old saying there seems to be no doubt about its meaning, particularly with the United States Congress. Given the scope of the debt and the amount of money coming in, perhaps the saying should really be, “robbing Peter to pay Paul and Mary.“

Now that we’re past the overblown, media-hyped and mostly imaginary fiscal cliff, the next challenge is to get both sides of the congressional aisle to come together on how to pay America’s bills.

Just like the rest of us, the government takes in a certain amount of revenue every day and congress decides how it is going to be spent. In recent years, however, money coming in doesn’t come close to what has to be paid out – an issue all too familiar to their constituents.

To be fair, juggling America’s money is no easy task and trying to comprehend the full scale of fiscal goings on in Washington would be impossible in this short essay. So, let’s just focus on a single day in the life of the almighty federal dollar; say, February 15th.

On that day alone, according to a recent CNN report, the Treasure will take in only $9 billion. Sounds like a lot of money, right? Not when you consider the government is already committed to pay out $52 billion. Deciding how to allocate spending is the major challenge taking into account the kinds of bills that need to be paid.

On our random date, February 15th, again from the CNN report, America’s bills include $30 billion in interest on the national debt; $6.8 billion in IRS refunds; $3.5 billion in federal salaries and benefits; $2.7 billion in military active pay; $2.3 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments; $1.5 billion to defense vendors; $1.1 billion in safety net spending, including for food stamps and unemployment benefits; and $4.4 billion in other spending.

Just like balancing your home checkbook, there is only so much money to go around and you have to decide what to pay and when. The stakes are a bit higher at the federal level, of course. If you don’t pay your electric bill the power company disconnects you. It’s inconvenient, but unless you’re on some kind of life-sustaining device, you aren’t likely to die from it.

If congress fails to pay Medicare or Medicaid or the salaries of our military, it becomes far more than an inconvenience. People could lose their homes, hospitalization and child support.

That said, the danger is also a bit over dramatized for the evening news. What happens next is a game of musical bucks, shifting and reallocating funds from one program or department to another until the immediate needs are covered without causing too much uproar in the area from which the money originated. Sound familiar?

It should. This is how most middle-class families balance their budgets every month; choosing which bills get paid over the ones that are less urgent. It’s more about weighing consequences and trying to keep from adding more debt to the pile than actually paying off the amount owed.

The debt ceiling is one of the determining factors in reallocating resources. If the debt ceiling is higher, they get more time to cover certain bills, thus allowing them to pay other, more critical ones.

Every bill passed by congress has “pork” in it; pet project funding that really benefits no one but the congressman or senator who sponsored it. In most cases elimination of that kind of spending would ratchet up the country’s bank account and allow more debt to be paid down, instead of using it for a study like how long it takes a cockroach to eat a bar of chocolate.

Congress has several fiscal deadlines coming up and, as usual, Democrats and Republicans are already posturing to gain ground before debate even begins. But in the end, the American people will be the ones paying the price; higher taxes, higher energy costs and more wasted money on a congress that has simply failed to do its job.


Hooper’s Les Miserables film may set a theatrical precedent

In Business, Children and Family, Economy, Education, Entertainment, Media, National News, Opinion, psychology, sociology, Technology, Theatre on January 2, 2013 at 11:20 am

lesmisDeer In Headlines

By Gery L. Deer

Over the holidays, I was compelled to see the new movie, Les Miserables, based on the musical theatre version of the 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. In this big-budget film, director Tom Hooper’s version of Les Mis, as it is known colloquially, has set a precedent for helping to expose the masses to quality musical theatre without having to know that the word “gallery” is just rich people theatre speak for “nosebleed seats.”

In case you haven’t seen the show or read the novel, here’s the Reader’s Digest version. The story follows the plight of petty thief Jean Valjean the 1800’s when France was on the brink of revolution.

After breaking his parole, Valjean struggles to rebuild his life under assumed names as he is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert. He eventually winds up raising the daughter of a woman for whose death he felt ultimately responsible and finds himself tangled in the beginnings of the French Revolution.

Hugo’s novel was adapted into musical theatre in Paris in 1980 using music written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and original French lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel, as well as an English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer. Over the last 30-odd years, it’s been one of the most successful musicals of all time and the producers of this new film have made every effort to bring the sights and sounds of the stage show to the silver screen and to a wider audience.

Instead of having the actors lip-sync to a recorded track and overlay the vocals later, director Tom Hooper attempted something that hasn’t been done since the infancy of the industry. All of the singing parts were recorded as they were shot, right along with the video, just as if the audience was watching it happen live on stage.

The result was a wonderful mixture of visual and audio effects that brought the audience closer to the actors and the emotion of the story than could have ever been achieved before. But technical innovation was not the only potentially ground-breaking achievement demonstrated by this movie.

There is a direct correlation between the progress of a society and advancement in the arts. Unfortunately, in most countries including the United States, high quality theatre productions are often inaccessible but to the elite wealthiest few because of the staggeringly high ticket prices.

Occasionally, there will be lower-priced seating on lesser-known shows or locally produced events, but Broadway-quality performances are still usually out of reach of the average middle class, particularly once you factor in parking and other associated expenses.

Of course, organizers constantly tout that theatre should be available to everyone but the prices remain astronomical. However, Hooper’s Les Mis film may change that. For the price of one mezzanine seat at the theater, a family of four can go to a matinee movie or, later on, buy or rent the video of the production at a substantially lesser cost.

The challenge for filmmakers will be to create quality productions that mirror the stage show. In the case of Les Miserables, Hooper has captured the intent of the production and combined it with the grandeur available on the big screen and, in doing so, has the potential to reach millions more audience members than his stage-bound counterparts.

As so many people complain about the quality of today’s movies and television, Hooper’s version of Les Miserables provides a welcome respite from the violence and repetition in today’s mass entertainment industry.

As for my experience, it was fascinating. At the end of the movie when the final note was sung, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the audience broke into applause, just as if all of the actors were there to hear them. It was really something to see.

Nothing will ever replace the experience of seeing a live production on stage. But, at that moment I realized that films like this could change the face of theatre in the digital age and bring high quality shows more accessible to everyone.