David Bruce: Politics Anecdotes

In 1903, union organizer Mother Jones attempted to have President Theodore Roosevelt see a group of children who worked long hours for little pay in the mills of Philadelphia, but he refused to see her and the children, saying that the problem of child labor had to be addressed by the states, not by the federal government. Therefore, Mother Jones sneaked into Oyster Bay, where the President was vacationing. She knew that the President’s men would be looking out for her and a small army of mill children and that they would be expecting them to march into town, so she fooled everyone by sending most of the children and other marchers home and keeping only three small boys and two advisors with her. They then took the train into Oyster Bay, looking like a regular family, not like an army of mill children. Unfortunately, although Mother Jones got into Oyster Bay, President Roosevelt still refused to meet with her, and he still refused to do anything about solving the problem of child labor in the United States.

Emmeline Pankhurst was a crusader for women’s suffrage in England, but she learned a lot from a fellow activist: her daughter Christabel. For a long time, Emmeline tried to politely advocate women’s rights, but she was ignored. But in 1905, Christabel, accompanied by a friend, attended a speech by a politician. During the question-and-answer session, Christabel and her friend asked, “Will the government give votes to women?” The politician ignored the question, so Christabel and her friend asked it again and again. Eventually, Christabel and her friend were arrested, and suddenly newspapers began writing about women’s suffrage. Emmeline realized that in order to get the topic of women’s rights noticed by the newspapers, she had to quit being polite. Thereafter, Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia (another daughter) were arrested many, many times (as were Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. later). By the time Emmeline died, women had the vote in England.

Did you know that the comic book heroine Wonder Woman was created for the purpose of serving as feminist propaganda? It’s true. William Moulton Marston—the guy who invented the technological basis of the lie detector—created Wonder Woman in the 1940s. He explained, “Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world. There isn’t love enough in the male organism to rule this planet peacefully. … I have given Wonder Woman this dominant force but have kept her loving, tender, maternal, and feminine in every other way.” In other words, according to her creator, the purpose of Wonder Woman is to help brainwash young male comic-book readers into allowing women to rule them.

Politics sometimes intrudes on sports in odd ways. In 1937, several Negro Leagues stars, including Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, played on a team for Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, who wanted them to win the championship because he thought that it would boost his popularity. Before the game that determined the championship, team manager Lazaro Salazar informed his players that if they did not win the game, they could end up losing more than a game and a championship—they could very well lose their lives if the dictator decided to have them executed. They won, 6-5.

General Maxwell Taylor decided to discontinue varsity fencing at West Point, and he needed to come up with a reason for his decision when the fencers complained to him. His first excuse was, “Frankly, gentlemen, it’s the cost.” The fencers laughed, knowing that the cost was approximately $6,000—nothing to the military. His second excuse was, “Frankly, gentlemen, it’s the lack of facilities.” Again, everyone laughed, knowing that West Point had the best fencing facility in the United States. His third and final excuse was, “Gentlemen, fencing is a sport for intellectuals, and we don’t want intellectuals in the army.”

Ann Richards, former governor of Texas, did not put up with bull. While going through an airport metal detector as she was wearing underpants with metal snaps, she set off an alarm and the security guard wanted to take her to a private area where Ms. Richards’s private parts could be investigated thoroughly. However, Ms. Richards was late for her flight, so she told the security guard, “I will take off my pants here and now—right here.” The security guard decided to let her board her flight without any further annoyance.

Anne McCaffrey, author of the Pern novels about telepathic dragons, was working as a dessert chef when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage. The two chefs who ran the restaurant looked at each other, and then they turned off all the burners in the kitchen before telling the customers that out of respect for President Roosevelt, the restaurant was closing. No one argued with the chefs. Everyone was too busy crying.

According to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Barbara Tuchman’s book The Guns of August once prevented what might have been another world war. President John F. Kennedy read the book during the Cuban missile crisis, and after reading how World War I had started as a result of the advice of the hard-line, bone-headed military experts of the time, he resisted taking advice from the hard-line, bone-headed military experts of his own time.

An episode of Laugh-In once showed Richard Nixon saying in a puzzled voice, “Sock it to me?” This may have lightened up his image enough to get a few votes from young voters and so become President of the United States. At least, some people thought that that was plausible. In fact, singer Lena Horne once kicked Laugh-In co-host Dick Martin and said, “You son of a bitch, you elected that bastard!”

Texas governor Ann Richards knew how to give advice to teenagers. She once saw a teenager pouring charcoal lighter directly onto a fire, but she did not tell him directly how stupid such an action was; instead, she said, “Honey, if you keep doing that, the fire is going to climb right back up to that can in your hand and explode and give you horrible injuries, and it will just ruin my entire weekend.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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