Saturday, June 30, 2018

"the buck stops here"

Harry S. Truman
In 1935, as a newly-minted U.S. senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman paid a somewhat awe-struck visit to the Senate well. So much history surrounded him. Perhaps he remembered a bit of his military tenure in World War I. It was probably not on his radar at that moment that he would become (1945-1953) president of the United States and place a plaque on the presidential desk that read, "The buck stops here." In the Senate, he was on hallowed ground. No kidding.

Truman had a sense of history and honor. Standing in the Senate well for the first time must have been a jaw-dropper. Yet as he stood marveling (if that's what he was doing), a colleague slipped up behind him and is said to have said, "Harry, for the first six months, you'll wonder how you ever got here. After that, you'll wonder how the rest of us got here."

Those were other times, but were they so different? I suspect, in one sense, that they were. Those were times when more seasoned voices actually encouraged recently-graduated young people by saying, "You can be anything you want. You could become president of the United States."

Nor was this simply the eyewash du jour. Becoming president of the power player of that time was not just some joke or bitter-sweet pill to swallow. Imagine ... president! There was honor in social service, whatever its drawbacks. The U.S. had won its spurs, both at home and abroad and to be the rider was ... a gob-smacking thought. As Shakespeare put it, "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

These days are different, I think. The internet offers a million reasons to get a good night's sleep and leave the uneasiness to those who still feel a sense of obligation and willingness to sustain a hundred cuts and bruises. These days, applause is top-most in small minds. Being "right" takes precedence over being "just" and being "right" is ascertained from strategically-placed applause-o-meters and carefully-tabulated bank accounts.

Or maybe I am blowing this out of proportion. If so, I'll just play the old-age card. What the fuck could he know?! And you'll notice that I take the easiest road and praise someone who is dead and thus not in a position to contradict my froth-wallowing.

1 comment:

  1. I heard that the night after deciding to nuke Japan, he slept like a baby. I'm not sure why or what that says about him.