Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Heart of America

Riding with a presidential motorcade to Grand Coulee dam last week, we noticed a little girl standing beside the road with her mother. In each hand the youngster held a tiny flag and we wondered how long she had stood there, waiting for the President to come by. Of course little kids like that couldn’t be allowed within the roped off areas surrounding the President at each stop, nor to mingle with the photographers, Government brass, Secret Service operative and local welcoming committees.

The whole show is cut to fit an exact pattern of time and space. The President and all the supporting cast must move strictly according to plan. The press must be given priority, for the eyes and ears of America are waiting to see and hear about this visit to Grand Coulee. The President obediently follows the instructions of the photographers to “look this way, Mr. President” or “raise your head a little, Mr. President.” The procedure must have become exasperatingly monotonous through endless repetition on the 10 day trip.

The little girl at the crossroads wouldn’t know about that. She probably was waiting for the United States of America to come by, her little heart swelling with pride in her country.

Among all the newsmen and cops and soldiers, the congressmen and high Government officials were a dime a dozen. Sometimes you would see them standing alone, with nobody paying any attention to them. But the photographers were everywhere, taking enough pictures to paper the White House. Sometimes the flash bulbs created a continuous, prolonged light—there were so many being fired at once. The President had not much opportunity to talk to anybody, outside of the Governor, the former Governor and a few other officials who rode with him or sat beside him on the platforms.

The little girl with the flags saw them go by in the open car. Perhaps the President saw her and smiled as she waved her flags. We hope so.

Your country correspondent wishes that this little girl, and other kids, and a few working men and farmers could somehow get inside of the roped-off areas; that they could talk a while to the President of their interests and problems, and what they think about things.

Seems to us as if our institutions would be safer that way, and maybe the President would be too. -- B

How long did it take you, reading the editorial above, to realize how dated it is? Ted F. Berry (AKA Dad) wrote it as Editor for the May 20, 1950 issue of the Washington State Grange News. The President was Harry Truman. Some things have not changed in 58 years....some have. Little girls still wave flags. But Presidents need those Secret Service more than ever. Was my Dad right? If our Presidents were more accessible, would we now live in a friendlier world? Too simple a conclusion. Never mind. I just want to put this article out there because of its connection to history and to my Dad.

Truman said in a speech at Grand Coulee that "the Columbia River is the greatest source of power in the Nation. Today we are well on the way to harnessing that power. The Northwest is no longer a backward colony. Its population has increased more than 30%." Mr Truman went on to tell of 11 new major industries that had been established, bringing $135 million in payrolls and $50 million in new tax revenues to the Government. They are new enterprises, he said and did not "hurt the East." In fact, he continued, these industries have created bigger markets for producers in other states. The aluminum mills produce nearly half of the national output which in turn supplies materials for some 600 factories across the country.



My cheap violin leaned in its black case against the hutch in my living room, chastising my neglect, like neighborhood dogs coming out to bark a while at my passing. The mental rocks I threw at their voices defended my position--I play horribly, like the neophyte I am at age 65 with all of 6 violin lessons under my belt, and I abhor inflicting auditory pain on my condo co-dwellers. I am a singer and can recognize fine notes.

So I carried my violin outside and walked in late evening to the valley below my condo along the path to the creek to whom I am grateful for singing me cheery ditties on my mandatory health walks, forgetting for the moment that it might be possible to torture a creek as well.

Later I thought better of that and sat to play on the grassy knoll by the freeway away from the creek so the traffic noise would drown out the strident A's and G's, the not quite on the note notes, the grating squawks and crashes against the ear drum.

Later I played at my brother's country house because he has a big field with no other houses in sight and he promised he and my sister-in-law wouldn't listen.

Later I played with no caution at my friends' farm and stayed too long in their pasture of gold and pink and purple blossom-topped grasses, lost in each slide of note to note, senses awakening moment by moment under puffy clouds in a vast sky the deep blue color of a shirt I stole from my daughter 20 years ago.

Later I played boldly on my own hillside so that my violin, now coming to live, tail wagging, as a being in my world, would have a view.

I think it may have been on that hillside that I played one fine note.

Most of this is not true. Most of it is a combination of fact and fiction I stumbled upon whilst thinking of my violin and letting my creative juices simmer a while. To embellish what’s real with what could be—now that is super dreaming! I slide from taupe to gold and red on theoretical strings of imagination that may be connected to….who knows what?! Yehudi Menuhin or a violin on a dump heap.