“I told the people of my district that I would serve them faithfully as I had done; but if not…you may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas…” Col. Davy Crockett, Tennessee Congressman (circa 1834, after being defeated for re-election, before the Battle of the Alamo)
Yep, Davy Crockett- my hero back when and my hero, now. When I was a kid, growing up yonder, in Kentucky, way over in the next hollar (mountain speak, meaning down the road a spell), across the Tennessee border where my mother was born, all kinds of folk- white, black and in-between– used to weave all sorts of tales about our common folk hero, Davy Crockett- better known as “King of the Wild Frontier.” Shucks, I still recall the Walt Disney mini-series with Fess Parker (as Davy Crockett) and ol’ Buddy Ebsen (as George Russel) teaming up to shovel some good ole fashion morality and frontier justice right into our living rooms through those tired ol’ black-and-white television sets. You know them, the ones so old that you had to use pliers to turn the channels and coat hangers to replace the “rabbit ears” antennae. But, until recently, I never thought much about Davy Crockett, as a Congressman, down in Lawrence County, Tennessee. It was just that catchy theme-song tune (the “Ballad of Davy Crockett”), his cool-looking coonskin cap and ever-present long-barrel, Kentucky rifle that caught most of my attention!
Frankly, I can’t even recall much of the “Davy Crockett Goes to Congress” series. I was only about 10 years old, back then. But, historical research reveals that he had quite a bit to say, on behalf of the people in his district. And, he didn’t bite his tongue much in opposing prevailing political shenanigans, inefficiency and greed. That was then. But, perhaps, we could use him, today, considering the pitiful state of politics in this country. Here’s what he had to say to his Congressional cohorts on the sad state of affairs, back then:
“The broken fenced state o’ the nation, the broken banks, broken hearts, and broken pledges o’ my brother Congressman here around me, has riz the boiler o’ my indignation clar up to the high pressure pinte, an’ therefore I have riz to let off the steam of my hull hog patriotism, without round-about- ation, and without the trimmins. The truth wants no trimmins for in her clar naked state o’ natur she’s as graceful as a suckin colt i’ the sunshine. Mr. Speaker! What in the name o’ kill-sheep-dog rascality is the country a- comin’ to? Whar’s all the honor? no whar! an thar it’ll stick! Whar’s the state revenue? Every whar but whar it ought to be!…
“Why, Mr. Speaker, don’t squint with horror, when I tell you that last Saturday mornin’ Uncle Sam hadn’t the first fip to give to the barbet! The banks suspend payment, and the starving people suspend themselves by ropes! Old Currency is flat on his back, the bankers have sunk all funds in the safe arth o’ speculation, and some o’ these chaps grinnin’ around me are as deep in the mud as a heifer in a horse-pond!
“Whar’s the political honesty o’ my feller congressmen? why, in bank bills and five acre speeches! Whar’s all thar patriotism? in slantendicular slurs, challenges, and hair trigger pistols! Whar’s all thar promises? every whar! Whar’s all thar perfomances on ’em? no whar, and the poor people bellering arter ’em everywhere like a drove o’ buffaloes arter their lazy keepers that, like the officers here, care for no one’s stomach, but their own etarnal intarnals!
“What in the nation have you done this year? why, waste paper enough to calculate all your political sins upon, and that would take a sheet for each one o’ you as long as the Mississippi. and as broad as all Kentucky. You’ve gone ahead in doin’ nothin’ backwards, till the hull nation’s done up. You’ve spouted out a Mount Etny o’ gas, chawed a hull Allegheny o’ tobacco, spit a Niagary o’ juice, told a hail storm o’ lies, drunk a Lake Superior o’ liquor, and all, as you say, for the good o’ the nation; but I say, I swar, for her etarnal bankruptification!
“Tharfore, I move that the ony way to save the country is for the hull nest o’ your political weasels to cut stick home instanterly, and leave me to work Uncle Sam’s farm, till I restore it to its natural state o’ cultivation, and shake off these state caterpillars o’ corruption. Let black Dan Webster sittin there at the tother end o’ the desk turn Methodist preacher; let Jack Calhoun settin’ right afore him with his hair brushed back in front like a huckleberry bush in a hurrycane, after Old Hickory’s topknot, turn horse- jockey. Let Harry Clay sittin’ thar in the corner with his arms folded about his middle like grape vines around a black oak, go back to our old Kentuck an’ improve o’ lawyers an’ other black sheep. Let old Daddy Quincy Adams sittin’ right behind him thar, go home to Massachusetts, an’ write political primers for the suckin’ politicians; let Jim Buchanan go home to Pennsylvania an’ smoke long nine, with the Dutchmen. Let Tom Benton, bent like a hickory saplin with ull rollin’, take a roll home an’ make candy “mint drops” for the babies:–for they’ve worked Uncle Sam’s farm with the all-scratchin’ harrow o’ rascality, ’till it’s as gray as a stone fence, as barren as barked clay, and as poor as as turkey fed on gravel stones!
“And, to conclude, Mr. Speaker, the nation can no more go ahead under such a state o’things, than a fried eel can swim upon the steam o’ a tea kettle; if it can, then take these yar legs for yar hall pillars.”
Except for the thick mountain accent or Kentucky/ Tennessee colloquialisms and a few selected, verbal slaps in the face, his observations just might be applicable, today- maybe the slaps in the face, too. I often wonder how our present-day form of government even manages to make any decisions on behalf of “We the people…”. Both major political parties seem to cancel out each other. Debating seems to be a lost art, but public hearings abound- depending on camera availability. Speeches and conversations stem from sound-bite communication strategies. Personal attacks and slurs dominate emotionally charged baiting of “the opposition”– all without objective evidence. Ignorant racial innuendo replaces reason. Hunches replace statistical analysis. Daily political polls determine ultimate courses of action. Merciless scandals- sexual and financial- show no pity on political popularity or longevity. Problems or issues are now painted as, either, “Republican” or “Democratic”– not national. So are their “answers.” And, once objective news reporting stinks of political contamination- across the entire journalistic spectrum!
But, perhaps, I’m simply looking through the wrong kind of lenses- the same lenses used by most hard-working, tax-weary but proud-to-pay Americans, civilian or military- active duty or veteran. The same lenses used by many, perhaps, politically naïve enough to still believe and trust in a system founded on the essence of representation. Maybe we should just be satisfied with the Center for Responsive Politics recent report that the total cost of the 2008 Presidential Campaign was approximately $2.5 Billion- to get a $400,000-a-year job! And, the president is limited to only two 4-year terms! Plus, that’s aside from the on-going efforts to elect or re-elect senators or representatives, from every nook and cranny, as well as every hollar, to unlimited 6- and 2-year terms, respectively.
Shucks, with that kind of access to public- and, often questionable or surreptitious- finance, it’s no wonder many become “professional politicians,” serving, 30 to 35 years and beyond. Surely, some reform must be in order!
WHAT DO YOU THINK? What kind of reforms might be in order, today? Or, what do think Davy Crockett would say, today?
(Previously posted @ rizingcubenterprises.com during May 2010)