Paul Hamby asked a question last month.
I was only one of the many he asked, and, being the rude bastard I am sometimes, I took a month to reply. And being lazy, I figured I should get a blog post out of it.
So here's my answer to the question "who inspired you to get involved in politics?"
In the Summer of 74, I was between 3rd and 4th grade (I think). I’d swim all morning, then come in and watch Green Acres at 11:30. Then the Watergate hearings would air from noon till 3 or 4, and I'd watch every minute of those hearings that summer, even though I didn’t understand half of it.
So Sam Ervin (nickname “Eyebrows”) might be the person who got me into politics. (Look it up
Or was it Nixon?
Or Agnew? When did Agnew resign?
Because the day he resigned, I was home sick from school. I wasn’t actually sick. I faked sick to stay home. Being healthy, young, and male, a spurt of energy hit me about 10 a.m. So I decided to start a newspaper. I’d discovered the miracle of carbon paper recently, and I gather four or five oft-used sheets of the miraculous stuff, plus five or six sheets of that really expensive 25% cotton typing paper that only people over 45 remember.
I slid the 5-part carbon pack behind the platen of our Smith-Corona portable and started typing. The TV was on in the background. As I made shit up (and my blog readers can appreciate my skill in that endeavor), I heard breaking news interrupt “Days of our Lives” or some damn thing on TV.
“Vice President Sprio Agnew resigns,” or words to that effect.
So I wrote that story. As best I could, I typed out what Walter Cronkite or Morton Dean was saying. Then I created some fake ads, added a few more made-up stories, and rolled the carbon pack out of the Smith-Corona. For affect, I glued on some pictures cut from magazines, so each copy of the paper was unique. Then I rolled up each sheet, tied it with some red yarn, and stuck a copy on four neighbors’ doors.
A few hours later, Mrs. Hume from across the street knocked on the door. She wanted to congratulate me on the originality of my fiction, but she scolded me for making up something as ridiculous as the Veep resigning.
“He did,” my mom told Viola Hume. “He resigned this afternoon.”
I had a scoop!
That sort of hooked me on the whole blogging thing. If you make up stuff long enough, you’re bound to be right once or twice.
There’s also my mom and dad who never shielded us from politics and from real life. I still remember (going back to pre-school days) the evening news showing footage of a fire-fight in Viet Nam. And my dad sitting in his chair with a newspaper folded on his lap, sometimes crying. He was a WWII and Korea vet. Only in my imagination do I understand what he was crying about. But seeing your dad cry sticks with you. It makes you want to do something.
And my grandma, a life-long Republican in a Republican family who called for a van to take her to the polls in 1972 to vote for McGovern because she "wouldn’t trust Nixon to walk my dog.”
And my Uncle Pat who talked about politics and ‘civics' with me as if I were his
equal even when I was nine and he was a battalion chief on the St. Louis Fire Department. He took me to meet Ronald Reagan in 1984, just a couple days before I went into the Navy. I dedicated my first book to Pat, and I named my youngest son after him.
Mostly, though, I have to credit William F. Buckley Jr. He made politics intellectual, cool, snotty, and, somehow, sexy. The day Buckley died, I knew America was in for hard times. Not because he was dead, but because the next generation was so weak in comparison. I love PJ O’Rourke and the other Boomer conservatives. But neither the Boomers nor my Gen Xers has a Buckley, Reagan, Goldwater, or Taft among us. Or a Patrick Mahon or Jack Hennessy (my dad, not my son) for that matter. Millennials—maybe. (My son Jack’s a millennial, and he’s the Navy now.)
Because of that, I am so glad Paul Hamby included over 130 people on his email. That list of addressees—I’m humbled to be included. Maybe together with you, dear ready--together we can touch Buckley’s cuff.