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Inspiring reading

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Politics – February 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine


Moment of truth: It was the night of the New Hampshire primary and BBC news anchor Dan Damon was on the line to his stringer in Concord: “So Jamey, what were the substantive issues in play?” With all the smoothness of the politicians surrounding him, poor Jamey had to sidestep the question. Americans have learned that we aren’t entitled to debate substantive issues, we just get to place bets on the horse-race called a campaign.

In theory our drawn-out primaries should give us a chance for serious debate, but despite listening to two different networks I know of only two substantive proposals from the dozen or so candidates: One is to raise the minimum miles-per-gallon to forty; and the other to abolish the IRS and install a flat sales tax instead. Nor have I heard even these issues debated.

I would think the networks would have some sense of responsibility to present the platforms of our potential leaders to the public, but if Jamey, the stringer in the thick of things can’t find the issues, maybe there aren’t any. After all, the substantive issues are decided by the captains of industry, and the President has as much real weight as a Ping-Pong ball in all the global fracas. And I don’t expect any candidate to propose any radical change like letting the captains of industry, commerce, war, and education be directly elected by and responsible to the people, so that our resources can be held for the common good.

At this point, a flip of the dial puts an end to all the blathering about the horse-race, and I’m back to Beethoven reruns or whatever, for inspiring reading. I recommend the 1900 Sears mail-order catalog. It’s sort of like shopping on-line the old-fashioned way, and we can guess that a lot of rural Coloradoans got their stuff from Sears for many decades. Rather than stuff that makes you comfy in your total dependence, like more ways to download more tunes or warn you that your gas tank is empty and the next filling station is overpriced, the Sears catalog made you feel you could be more independent, casting your own bullets, repairing your own timepieces, fixing up the house and such; and it took a lot of trouble to win your confidence, with free trial periods and deals. Too bad we can’t try out our Presidents for ten days and ship them back on the first wagon if not fully satisfied.

There’s even some vague sense of intelligence in the hundred-year-old pricing: a western hat costs more than a homburg or a derby, well the western hat is bigger; a pedal organ is less than a piano, since the sound system of reeds doesn’t require a heavy-duty soundboard to handle the stress of the strings. And it’s refreshing to know that you could have gotten quality socks for 75 cents a dozen or so. There were even a few up-by-your-bootstraps get-rich schemes, though nothing quite as brazen as today’s marketing tricks (like peddling made-in-China rappin’-Santa dolls in the markets of Istanbul).

I doubt if we could peddle our present democracy — except to the gullible.

Slim Wolfe

Villa Grove