The Pencil Today:


“Freedom is not enough.” — Lyndon Baines Johnson


  • “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.”
  • “Our first objective is to free 30 million Americans from the prison of poverty. Can you help us free these Americans? And if you can, let me hear your voices!”
  • “Do something we can be proud of! Help the weak and the meek and lift them up and help them train and give them an education….”
  • “We have a right to expect a job, to provide food for our families, a roof over their heads, clothes for their bodies, and with your help, and with god’s help, we will have it in America!”

These are the fiery words of the President of the United States. The year was 1964. Lyndon Baines Johnson criss-crossed the country, trying to whip up excitement among volunteers and community organizers and municipal officials, hoping they’d jump on his Great Society bandwagon.

LBJ, for all his sins — and there were very, very, very many, truly believed this holy land was big and rich and powerful and generous enough to eliminate poverty here.

He pounded the podium as he spoke. He pointed at the crowd. He punched his fists in the air. He leaned so far over you might have wondered if he’d tumble into the crowd.

Imagine an old-time, stump-speaking pol, roaring at the crowd from his bully pulpit, challenging them to help the weak and the meek!

You’ll have to imagine it — no self-respecting pol today would dare utter such silliness.

He or she would be branded naive. Or worse. Liberal. Socialist. Maybe even Muslim.

I’ve lived through the liberal zenith of the mid-60s, highlighted by LBJ’s Great Society, to the nadir of today’s me-first, don’t tax me bro, every man for himself, make sure you’ve got a gun under your pillow, if you’re poor that’s your tough luck, Ayn Rand, Saint Ronald Reagan, Lloyd Blankfein doing god’s work, ugly America.

The unnecessary re-confirmation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker drives the point home. The people of Wisconsin elected — twice — a Tory to lead them out of the economic wilderness. If there’s one true thing that can be said about people who are worried about their wallets and pocketbooks, it’s that they’ll panic. They’ll go for any tough-talking bastard who blames the weak and the meek for all the nation’s ills.

Somehow, though, for the briefest of moments the United States of America became, for lack a of a better word, holy. We actually talked about helping our brothers and sisters.

This “Christian” nation became for a fleeting instant, well, Christian.

Not anymore, baby.


One thought on “The Pencil Today:

  1. Candy says:


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