Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mr. Truman's "YouTube" Moment ;-)

These days when someone does something somewhat over the top, the regrettable moment can be captured forever on you tube – and, in no time at all it can race around the globe as an exponential embarrassment.

Decades ago news didn’t travel nearly as fast – but every once in a while there was a story – one of those amusing things that seemed to beg for you tube long before Al Gore invented the Internet.

One such moment was brought to mind when I heard the sad news of the passing of a wonderful lady – once the first daughter of the land – Margaret Truman, who died yesterday at the age of 83. She was daddy’s little girl, said daddy being President Harry S. Truman.

In December of 1950, Margaret gave a concert at Constitution Hall in Washington, and the next morning Mr. Truman read a (shall we say, a less than flattering?) review in his newspaper.

This really pushed Harry’s buttons – I mean the Soviets messing around in Berlin was one thing – but this was his daughter! So, he did what every dad has wanted to do one at time or another – to a teacher, or coach, or any other clearly intelligence-deficient critic of our kids – he wrote a scathing letter.

This was the 1950 equivalent of calling an answer machine and venting on tape.

Referring to the reporter, Paul Hume, as an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay” – he waxed eloquently indignant. Truman told Hume that he clearly was “a frustrated old man who wished he could have been successful.”

He went on: “Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for your black eyes” – among other things.

Of course his letter made the front page of the paper the next day – and there was a media storm, such as they could have in 1950. Can you imagine if that had happened in our day and age? It would be the big story – people would be saying: “Election? What election?”

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reading About Dr. King

(BELTWAY BLOG radio transcript for January 21, 2008 -- heard across North America on XM Satellite Radio Channel 170 - FAMILY TALK - at 5:01 p.m. eastern - as well as in the Washington, D.C. area on WAVA 105.1 fm - - @ 5:13 p.m. eastern)

I have a serious confession to make – one that those closest to me know about – but I feel the need to share it with you. Here it is.

My name is David R. Stokes and I am a BIBLIOPHILE.

Yep – I LOVE books – in fact, I usually read 3 or 4 at a time – that’s the beauty of being a BIBLIOPHILE with A.D.D.

So, when it comes to special days – those moments when we are to pause and ponder the significance of a person or major event – I am drawn to the bookstore, public library – and my personal library of about 6,000 books. Oh, my wife just LOVES my books scattered everywhere – it’s like her favorite thing.

So, on this Martin Luther King Day – I think of some good writing about this fascinating man who died so young.

Taylor Branch has been researching and writing about Martin Luther King, Jr. for decades – and we are enriched by his work, as we were by the life of Dr. King.

If you want to mark Martin Luther King’s birthday, might I suggest that you pick up a book about him? Branch’s first book, “PARTING THE WATERS” might be the best place to start – it talks about King’s early life and family – and takes us through the great Montgomery Bus Boycott where King burst onto the national scene as a leader and orator. Oh – and the book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 – so it’s pretty good.

The 2nd book by Taylor Branch covers the years 1963-1965 – it’s called “PILLAR OF FIRE” – also a must read. As is the 3rd entitled: “AT CANAAN’S EDGE” taking us to the tragic end of the Dreamer’s life in Memphis on that fateful April day in 1968.

If you are interested in preacher/church/pulpit aspect of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. then I suggest you find a copy of a book written more than 10years ago, by Richard Lischer – it’s called: “THE PREACHER KING: Martin Luther King and the Word that Moved America.” Lot’s of great stuff there, too.

From Washington - I’m David Stokes with today’s BELTWAY BLOG. - DRS

Race, Roe, & Reverends

(This is my weekly column for January 19, 2008) -- read all my columns archived at -- DRS)

Race, Roe, & Reverends
By David R. Stokes

Forty-five years ago this summer Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the address he is best known for – long remembered as the “I Have a Dream” speech. He said things like “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”

Slightly less than five years later the Dreamer was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Thirty-five years ago this month the Supreme Court handed down the infamous “Roe v. Wade” decision hastening our societal slide toward a culture far too comfortable and familiar with violence and death.

Both the legacy of Dr. King and the fallout from that 1973 legal bombshell sail very close to each other again over the next few days. This is viewed as an awkward convergence by some.

But it shouldn’t be.

Back in the sixties, while black preachers were mobilizing masses in the pursuit of civil rights, conservative, Evangelicals stayed largely on the sidelines. They weren’t the least bit interested in changing anything. In fact, it was not uncommon to hear white Fundamentalist-Evangelical preachers of the day, with voices animated by indignation, decrying the very idea that preachers should be activists in the streets, mocking them to get back into their pulpits where they belonged.

Many, if not most, some notably, would later change their minds – and eat a lot of words (not to mention erasing a lot of reel to reel tape).

Recently, much has been made of the fact that Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion was, shall we say, a bit behind the curve on race – finally receiving the “revelation” that black men were welcome to participate with other “worthy males” in Temple ordinances in 1978. But, the fact is that social and theological Christian conservatives were every bit as passively-active on the wrong side of that great and compelling moral and social issue in the fifties and sixties. In fact, the largest white Baptist congregation in Detroit did not elect to admit its first black member until nearly a decade after the Mormons received their word from on high.

What was the catalyst bringing change to how conservative, white, clergymen viewed and lived out their roles? What issue convinced these dogmatic men of the cloth to be willing to scramble out of the pulpit-pocket and into a measure of political involvement after decades of silent separation?

Well, the winds of change began to blow in the aftermath of the landmark decision on January 22, 1973.

So, here we are again, in another January – decades after a killing and a ruling - still marching about Roe v. Wade and honoring Dr. King - but seldom in the same room. The two constituencies, both fierce about the importance of faith, seldom find, much less look for, ways to reach out to the other choir.

As churches get ready for this Sunday some will highlight “SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE SUNDAY.” Others will talk a lot about Dr. King and his dream. Usually it will be one or the other.

Some of us WILL try to do both – because there ought to be an affinity between the two.

When Martin Luther King talked about a dream he had for his four little children and how he longed for them to grow up in a nation “where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” – beyond the “amens” and applause of the crowd around the Lincoln Memorial far too many Americans ignored what he had to say. Or worse – they mobilized to polarize and oppose.

Those opponents were wrong. No matter how much they went to church, read their Bibles, or professed the religion of Jesus. It was wrong for good, God-fearing, Americans NOT to see how important it was, from a faith-based point of view, that a nation truly walk the walk it had long talked about.

And, it is wrong for some people of faith today not to see the “pro-life” cause as very much a civil and human rights issue.

We should have a dream that welcomes all to the table.

We should have a dream that welcomes all to life itself.

The calendar gives us a “near miss” each year as these issues come close to collision. But, social justice, equality, and basic fairness, - and embracing life itself as profoundly precious should not be “either/or” issues. They are very much “both/and.”

And, until we find a way to bring THEM together it is not likely that anyone can really bring US together.

Maybe the “reverends” should. - DRS