Seasonal Thoughts and Old Movies (Will Rogers)

December 31, 2010

I’m spending time with family, and it’s hard to muster my attention and time to create a substantial post. It hasn’t been the cheeriest of holidays for patriotic conservatives. Our Muslim enemies have decided to make this the season of choice for terrorist attacks, but as usual no one will speak honestly about the simple way to solve this problem. Our lame-duck Congress gave us a couple of “gifts” like the official repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military, that also cast a pall over the¬† season. More disturbing than the repeal was, perhaps, the complete absence of public discourse even touching on the possibility that there might be negative consequences to having open homosexuality in our military. I was delighted that the NIGHTMARE Act failed to pass, but wasn’t happy to notice, when doing Christmas and post-Christmas shopping, that the major department stores are ALL posting prominent Spanish-language signs, as if by prior agreement. When will the American people wake up to this?

In any case we mustn’t allow our enemies to rob us of the spiritual joy and wonder of Christmas. It gets harder to find it in the outside world, so we have to look within and in our families and communities to find it.

I watched the 1933 Will Rogers film Doctor Bull on Turner Classics – a charming portrait of the old America. Rogers plays a doctor in a small New England town who “delivers most of its residents into the world and tries to delay their departure from it as long as possible.” Rather than being a saintly character, he is a bit curmudgeonly with those villagers who demand that he check every ache and pain; when he loses patience, he dismisses them with his standard recommendation that they take a good dose of castor oil! Still, he labors on to save lives through vaccinations and other unglamorous measures, for which he is inadequately recognized.

“Doc” Bull incurs the emnity of some of the village gossips, who disapprove of his harmless flirtation with the widow, Mrs. Cardmaker. When typhoid breaks out in the village, his foes attempt to have him removed from his position, although the real cause of the epidemic seems to be the failure of the owner of a local construction camp to keep the water supply clean. The good doctor, in the end, is able to ride out the crisis and arrive at a happier place in life.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) was one of our best known and best loved public figures. Born on a ranch in Oklahoma, he became a vaudeville performer, actor, public speaker, radio¬† personality, and writer, one who was said to always have his finger on the pulse of the American people. He died quite needlessly in Alaska in a small plane crash of the sort that used to happen all the time. He was most remembered for his folksy quips expressing a kind of country common sense–I’m sure he was an influence on Ronald Reagan. My generation, though, knew little about him. I always thought he was an actor in Westerns, but that was not his main activity. One of my in-laws lives near a school that is named after him. Needless to say, I doubt that the younger generation has been taught about him at all.

I have a book entitled The Best of Will Rogers by Bryan B. Sterling (New York: Crown Publishers, 1979) that is mostly a collection of his quotes. I’d prefer to read longer pieces by him, but meanwhile here are a few quotes from him that I’m sure you’ll find apt. Till next time, my best wishes for a Happy New Year!

I originated a remark many years ago that I think has been copied more than any little thing that I’ve ever said–and I used it in the Zigfield Follies of 1922. I said America has a unique record: we never lost a war and we never won a conference in our lives. I still believe we could, without any degree of egotism, single-handed lick any nation in the world, but we can’t even confer with Costa Rica and come home with our shirts on.

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If America ever passes out as a great nation, we ought to put on our tombstone: America died from a delusion she had Moral Leadership.

Say, if we had any morals, we would use ’em ourselves.

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No matter what we do, we are wrong. If we help a nation, we are wrong; if we don’t help ’em, we are wrong. There just ain’t any such animal as International Good Will. It just lasts till the money you lent ’em runs out.

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On the Riviera in France, they found a bunch of people wearing no clothes and not particularly caring who they were married to, and they called it a cult.

Over here we call it society. [He means the elite or upper class.]

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America is a great country, but you can’t live in it for nothing.

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Of all the things that this country is suffering from, the greatest is an overproduction of organizations. When Judgement Day comes, half of America will be on their way to some convention, and the other half will be signing application blanks.

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Americans have one particular trait that they need never have any fear of some other nation copying, and that is we are the only people that will go where we know we are absolutely not wanted.

Last year Americans spent $700,000 to be insulted in Europe, and they could have got it done for half the money over here.

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We are the champion yap nation in the world for swallowing propaganda. You can take a sob story and a stick of candy and lead America right off into the Dead Sea.

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We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the Poorhouse in an automobile.


A Merry Christmas

December 25, 2010

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to all! I’ll be back soon.