I’m fascinated with all that’s going on in the news about politics. I’m on the verge of becoming a news junkie; there are so many twists and turns and political stories are churning out not daily, but hourly. My fascination with all of it is mixed with a deep sadness over all that is taking place in this great country of America I love so dearly, and the erosion of individual freedom.
It’s not a situation that came about overnight. I recall the years of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt era, in general, and politics particularly in Georgia during the thirties and forties. It was an era of the Eugene Talmadge regime—a politician who became governor and always campaigned making fiery speeches wearing red gallowses. My entire family, young and old, talked politics and attended campaign events. Back then a scheduled campaign speech usually meant a big barbeque and an all day affair. Politics were discussed in grammar school where sometimes fights broke out on the playground over candidates.
Every Sunday there would be family gatherings at my grandparents’ home. Everyone would congregate on the large wrap around porch, called the veranda, to discuss and argue politics. It was filled with chairs, rockers and swings, and some would sit on the edge of the veranda with their feet swinging off, joining in on the fun. Most of the men were chewing tobacco and the front lawn would be filled with bales of cotton, while the small children played hide and seek among the cotton bales. The large kitchen had long tables filled with food and everyone would eat, swing, rock, spit and argue.
Like the Greek Stoics, our front porch philosophies consisted of lively conversation that was both entertaining and informative. Everyone read the Atlanta Constitution, whose editor was Ralph McGill. My grandfather hated McGill with a purple passion and my mother hated Roosevelt, but everyone loved Eugene Talmadge. The motto of the newspaper was “covers Dixie like the Dew.” Back then, there was no television, but everyone listened to the radio and read the newspaper, and kept up with what was going on.
I recall being in school when parents had to buy all the textbooks. Then Eugene Talmadge initiated a program for Georgia whereby the state furnished textbooks. This was great news for farmers back then, who had very little cash. Cotton was king and the big cash crop. One had to wait until fall to sell.
Sometimes other subjects were discussed like the Bible, the weather, crops, schools, cotton, wheat, peanuts, horses, cows and chickens, but mostly in election years, the main topic was politics.
Back then, there was a lot of news about the Great Depression. We read about long soup lines up north, but we always had plenty to eat, since so much was grown on the farm. We had smoke houses full of meat, hundreds of jars of canned food, apple and peach orchards. Potatoes were banked in mounds of dirt for the winter, peanuts dried, and there were cows in the barn for milk. Each farm had beehives for honey and grew cane that transformed into sorghum.
Fields of wheat and corn were grown, and the ‘thrashers’ came every year to thrash the wheat. Money was scarce, but some aunts worked in the cotton mills and would have small weekly paychecks.
Nevertheless, everyone was keenly interested in what was happening across the country and in Washington. There was a pervasive attitude of patriotism and love of this country, and a profound interest in all that was happening. Everyone participated in discussions about current news.
It was a different time and a different place in so many ways. This election year, much is the same and much is different. That which is right and truth remains unchanged. However, attitudes, values, lifestyles, and the manner in which so many view freedom in this country has changed. The fight for political power is the same premise, although I hear very little mention of individual freedom in all the speeches and news items.
Technologically, we are so advanced in this country. We have come a long way from the T-model Ford to the Hummer. Yet sadly, individual freedom has been so infringed upon by the takeover of a centralized government, we have little left. We should be asking ourselves, how did it happen? Quite simply, we voted ourselves into it, with no way to vote ourselves out of it. The problem is we have not yet admitted to ourselves the degree of the loss.
Let Freedom Ring!