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Unintended Politics


Well, I’ve had it, I can’t take it any longer…I have to share some thoughts.

I have been an independent ever since I could discern the segregation generated at any cost by “party”…even within the family creating open hostilities that lasted until the next elections. Unfortunately, not based on who would best represent the region, its economic stability and/or even what the person reflected, stood for and/or projected within their own communities.

I have now been afforded the privilege of voting in every major election since 1958 and while the candidate I chose did not always prevail I supported each winner and often offered my opinion, if not advice, to those who took an office in our behalf.

I was hired as the director of Arkansas Museum Services in 1979, a newly formed governmental agency as part of Governor Bill Clinton’s initiatives to bring the State of Arkansas into the 20th century. That was after the disastrous red line item veto of seven state supported museums by Texas Governor Bill Clements in July of 1979 that eliminated the total budgets of those museums by September 1st of that year.

After my “exile” to Arkansas I got to know, or at least become acquainted with, “Little Billy Clinton” (that’s what a lot of the senior personages called him) and established the Arkansas Oil Heritage Center, wrote legislation for the Arkansas Woodlands Heritage Museum and the Arkansas Mobile Conservation Lab and served as director of three museums including the Mid-America Center Exploratorium in Hot Springs. During my stay I also created a state-wide Grants-in-Aid program that initiated support for collections management, educational programming, design and development for upgrading museum facilities and general operating support for those entities just trying to survive.

It was a very successful endeavor and Cindy Sherrill, then director of the Division of Museum Services in Texas, used it as an example to help increase her budget. I had two significant contacts with Bill, one was official, when we opened a changing exhibit that I had developed in the State Capital building bringing in some of the most important historical items from museums around the State that presented the material culture and political archives from the past that would reflect the State’s various heritages.

The second encounter was very personal and just after his only political loss that was to Frank White who had just beaten him in the gubernatorial election. I was in the attic of a very historic home in Hot Springs that had been willed to the State and I was going through the personal papers of the builder, owner and donor of the structure. The new governor had turned down the offer of this exceptional interpretive site. The individual had been a surgeon and mustered out of the Confederacy in Memphis at the end of the war and walked barefoot to Hot Springs to begin his private practice. He built the house in the late 1860’s and left it to his daughter who lived in it until her 90’s when she passed.

The only opportunity to salvage some of the items was for me to go through everything and mark what we should bid on during the upcoming auction and in comes Bill. He pulled up an apple crate and we discussed why I thought he lost to Frank. He did this all over the State and even though I had little to offer (over confidence and taking the voters for granted) he obviously listened to all of those who had an opinion. He lamented the loss of the structure and its history to the State and wished me luck on saving all I could and that was the last time I saw him in person.

I only wrote him once while he was President, that was to object to the 39 hour work week allowing employers not to have to cover benefits for their employees. I tried to point out that would be the end of the loyalty for and between both. The opposite of what I had experienced growing up where the company took care of the worker and the worker gave back much more than was expected for the benefit of each one’s future. I didn’t get a response.

All of that is to say, politics has been a major part, if not a controlling element in my career. Whether it be personal, institutional, professional or at a much higher level, interaction with those who are appointed or elected to represent us individually often causes conflict with others and even internally with one’s self.

That is where I am in the current continuously contentious campaigns for public offices. We seek to find all the fault we can in the opponent and become jaded in our judgement by all of the attacks by each of the candidates running for each of the positions. Therefore, we become defensive of something we may not believe in and vote against someone rather than for someone. Maybe that is the way it has always been but I remember voting for JFK, “even though he was a Catholic” and Reagan, “even though he had switched parties” (my Dad was a yellow dog Democrat and to my knowledge never voted for, “one of those other guys”;).

It is unmanageable that we would cast a ballot for any of the nominees IF there were someone/anyone else in the races. All are despicable, unfit for public office, unqualified and unelectable if you listen to the rhetoric spewing from the respective party “lines”. We, or at least I, find myself weighing which one reveals their better humanity, character, morality and integrity that will/can best serve, in all respects, the region, the state and the nation. It is not now and maybe never has been clear cut and/or easy but it seems to have worked out pretty well in the long run over the last 240 years. May God continue to bless the United States of America!


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