Sunday, July 29, 2012

Singin' them ol' VP Blues

Taking into consideration the GOP's stellar vice-presidential nominations in recent years, 2012's pick promises to be quite impressive indeed.

I kept a straight face when I wrote that last sentence. Aren't you impressed? I just knew you would be.

Here's where it's bound to get REALLY interesting. At this writing, Mitt Romney is overseas, knockin' 'em dead on his 2012 Foot in Mouth Tour. After he's finished wowing them in Europe and Israel, he'll be facing some hard decisions once he's safe home o
n this side of the pond. The most crucial of these will be his choice of a running mate. Back in the day, the vice-presidential nominees were pretty much decided by the conventions. "Leave it to the collective wisdom of the pols" was the rule of the day. Not anymore. Lucky Mitt! He will get to choose the "man" (With only two exceptions, all of the women within the GOP are bat-shit crazy) who will be "a heartbeat away from the presidency". Given his recent choices, this one ought to be a pip.

I sure don't
envy the Mittster. He's found himself smack dab in the middle of one of those "danged if he does and danged if he don't" scenarios. Just consider the pickle that he's in. The "base" of the Republican party doesn't trust him. They never have. They never will. Forget the fact that he's a Mormon! He was the "moderate" (read: LEFT WING EXTREMIST) governor of the hated "Taxachusetts" - pro-choice, pro-gay - and the man who brought affordable health care to that state. He is anathema to the neanderthals who long-ago hijacked that party. What to do?

Here is his d
ilemma. In order to bring out the base, it is absolutely essential that Romney do what John McCain did four years ago: place on the ticket an extremist twit with the IQ of a half-eaten box of Milk Duds. That'll bring out the base alright. You bet'cha! The only problem is that such a choice will scare enough moderates into handing the election over to President Obama. However, if he chooses a reasonable and enlightened running mate (not that they even exist in that disgusting party anymore) the base will stay home. As I said - danged if he does and danged if he don't. Life is beautiful. Unlike 2008, you can bet next year's crop on the fact that they're thinking long and hard about this one. What to do indeed.

What he'll probably do is choose a
robotic nonentity; someone with a serious case of narcolepsy would be the ideal. In effect he needs to find a man who will be sure to keep his mouth shut. Just smile a lot, read the speeches that are carefully written for him - and for the love of mike, KEEP HIM AWAY FROM THE MEDIA! The very last thing they need is one of those Katie Couric/what-do-you-read moments. Just keep everything carefully scheduled and scripted. So who will be the lucky one to stand by the side of standard bearer Mitt?

I've got bells that Jingle Jangle Jindal....

My money is on Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal. He's just so right for the position. There's just not a lot going on there to be sure; a little Indian Ken doll. He's got all the personality of a mannequin in a Bombay men's haberdashery. He's from the south, and he's as non-controversial as a southern politician can possibly be. Also (and this is not to be underestimated) there is his undeniable "non-whiteness", which would be the perfect counterpoint to the president's undeniable "non-whiteness" - something they've got to be taking into consideration as I write these words. I'm placing all of my bets on Bobby boy. My goodness, he's perfect!

Think about this. Who was the last really impressive GOP VP nominee? Since I know next-to-nothing about William Miller (Goldwater's guy in 1964) and with the exception of Jack Kemp
(who ran with Dole in 1996) I'll have to say that Henry Cabot Lodge, Richard Nixon's running mate in 1960, was the last one with any real gravitas. The rest of them have been duds: Spiro Agnew, Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin - a virtual Hall of Fame of mediocrity. I have a funny feeling that the pickings won't be that impressive in 2012. That may merely be a guess on my part, but it's a pretty educated one. These knuckleheads rarely surprise.

"The vice-presidency ain't worth a bucked of warm piss."

John Nance Garner

t was then. This is now. I once read an entire biography of Harry S Truman where the name of his VEEP, Alben Barkley, wasn't even mentioned in the index. The first modern vice president was Eisenhower's guy, Tricky Dick Nixon. Although he didn't really care much for him, Nixon briefly became the acting president when Ike suffered a heart attack - and then a stroke - in the mid nineteen-fifties. To Nixon's credit he behaved admirably during this period, never overreaching his power and keeping the country assured the president was still in charge. It is not a well-known fact, but during his years as the Number Two man in Washington, Nixon reached out to - and regularly communicated with - Martin Luther King. He seemed like a fairly decent sort back then. It makes you wonder what happened to the man.

But the man
who changed that office forever was none other than Sickie Dick Cheney, the man who put the "vice" in the vice-presidency. It's by now a given that it was he who was really running the White House during the years 2001-2009. Dubya was just a pathetic figurehead; a dim-witted pawn in the neocons' twisted game of Risk. It was only at the very end of his two terms, when he refused Cheney's request (order?) to grant a pardon to Scooter Libby for the Valerie Plame affair, did George W. Bush finally stand his ground as chief executive. The kindest thing that can be said of Dubya is that he probably never fully understood what was going on around him. Imbecile.

So who's it gonna be in 201
2? Another top contender for the slot is the St. Paul mannequin Tim Pawlenty. Although that wouldn't surprise me I think Jindal will be their choice. Whomever they pick, one thing is without question: 2012 is going to be a very weird and wild campaign season. Fasten your seat belts.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Reader/blogger, Mack Lyons, has just suggested to me the ideal (for our purposes) running mate for Mitt Romney: ALLEN WEST! Can you imagine???

Here is a link to Mack's site:


The choice is Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. I never dreamed they would go with the author of that hideous "Ryan Budget Plan". Already conservative tongues are wagging that this is a huge mistake on Romney's part. Maybe. Maybe not.


Spanking the Donkey
by Matt Taibbi


All the Presid
ent's Men

This was the only time that I know of when the movie was actually better than the book. Jason Robards is perfect as Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee. This is the best film ever made about journalism. I never tire of it. In fact, Sunday is always movie day for me. I just might watch it again this afternoon. This film is a must-see for any self-respecting political junkie.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Message to My Fellow White People

This posting is FOR WHITES ONLY. Nothing personal but there's a conversation to be had here and it doesn't concern you. If you're African American or Hispanic or Asian or Arab - SCRAM! Gail Collins wrote a particularly witty piece in today's New York Times about a town in North Dakota where the unemployment rate is at one percent. Go read that. You'll all be welcome back with open arms when I write my next piece. Now SCAT, ya hear?


Okay, fellow Caucasians, now that we're alone, we need to have a good old-fashioned heart-to-heart. Four years ago America elected its first non-white president and - to be perfectly blunt with you - a lot of you folks have reacted to this new American reality a bit....Oh, how can I put this as delicately as possible....Well, let me put it to you this way: you're not taking it well, that's for damned sure! In fact since Inauguration day 2009, you've been in full-tilt, FREAK OUT mode. I mean, hell, judging by the overreaction of some people, you would think that the president and first lady were Charles Manson and Squeaky Fromme! A lot of white people are acting like this is the end of the world - and they're absolutely correct. We're coming to the end of the old world. Like it or not (and I kinda like it) we're about to enter a new world. Be brave. Grow up.

Now, let's all just take a deep b

My fellow crackers, someday in the not-too-distant future, we won't be in the majority anymore. In fact that day will come within the lifespan of most of you who are now readin
g this. I know this must be a bitter pill for some of you to swallow - but that's the way it is and there's nothing we can do to alter the unalterable . There has been such an insane, mass hissy-fit over the fact that, for the first time in history, a black family is living in the family quarters (as opposed to the servants quarters) of the White House. Honestly, we really need to get a grip here, folks.


Within a couple of
months of President Obama's moving into the Executive Mansion, a movement was formed by some of you knuckleheads for no other reason than to counter this major, sociological shift in the American political landscape. I'm referring to the so called "Tea Party" mob. You know who you are! Your reaction to this moderate administration (referring to it as "socialist" for instance) has teetered between the absurd and the comical. Well, I've got good news and bad news for you....

THE GOOD NEWS: Your reaction to this administration's very existence has been so insanely stupid, I fear it will be another generation or so before reasonable people dare to elect another person of color to the presidency.

THE BAD NEWS: By the end of this century - maybe even half-way into this century - a lily-white chief executiv
e will be as rare as an 8-Track tape player in a Chevy Volt.

White America, we need to come to terms with the future. We've got to stop living in this silly state of denial. What are we so afraid of? Why are we so paranoid? We have nothing to fear. Absolutely nothing! It's not like we spent the last four-hundred years being anything but benevolent and humanitarian keepers to our black brothers and sisters....

Let me rephrase that....

We should not expect them to be as cruel and as stupid as most of us were for all of the centuries we ran things. And besides, at least we never tried to deny them full participation in our democracy! And it's not as if we refused them the opportunity for a good and decent education....

Oh dear....

"Someday there will be an all-black judge and an all-black jury and then....'Shit! They're all black! HOW THE HELL AM I GONNA GET A FAIR SHAKE WITH AN ALL-BLACK JURY???' You're not. Ha! Ha! There's gonna be alotta dues, Jim!"

 -Lenny Bruce

Oh, the sun shines bright on mah ol' Kentucky home
'Tis summer and the honkies are gay....

I was just kidding. Lenny was just kidding, too. The thing is, some of us have a little more
faith in the essential humanity of our darker skinned siblings than some of you do. Not to worry; you'll find out what I'm talking about soon enough. In a couple of decades the Great White Father of old will be showing us the menu and busing our tables. That indeed is something to look forward to. Mah! Mah! The ol' plantation sho' has changed!

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water
The fire next time

-James Baldwin

It's sad
that people who are not white need to wait until they are no longer "minorities" in order to receive equal protection under the law (At present they don't have that protection - and you're kidding yourselves if you think that they do. Just look at the prison population). But as long as they have waited, I don't think they'll have to wait much longer. As uncle Bobby said, "The old world is rapidly fading. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand". Or as Sam Cooke sang nearly fifty years ago, "a change is gonna come". Sam didn't live to see that change. Bob Dylan probably will live to see it. In fact, we're damned-near there. We have no other choice but to accept it. The history of the next century will primarily be the story of how well (or badly) white America dealt with that inevitable change. Deal with it well, my friends. History will smile upon you.

Aw, c'mon, cheer up! It won't be so bad, I promise!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Anything ever written by James Baldwin


A Change is Gonna Come
by Sam Cooke

Here's a link to listen to it on YouTube:

Sam Cooke was just one of the more celebrated victims of gun violence in America. A little over a year after he recorded this beautiful little tune, he was shot to death.

Here is a link to the Gail Collins piece mentioned above:

Honestly, that gal is a freakin' scream!

For more recent postings on this America-bashing, French-loving, latte swirling, commie-kissing site, please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Shameful, hideous, LEFT WING propaganda. THERE OUGHTA BE A FREAKIN' LAW, I TELLS YA!!!

Keep voting for the GOP. There will be.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Another Massacre? Ho Hum

"Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?"

-Jimi Hendrix
Honestly, were you surprised by what happened this morning in Aurora, Colorado? I wasn't. What shocked me more than anything was my reaction to the carnage:

"Oh, so it happened again, huh?"

Colorado dreaming on such a nasty day. So help me, I didn't even blink when I heard the news. Ho hum. 
Charles Manson; Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, David Berkowitz, Klebold and Harris....Add James Holmes' portrait to the Hall of Infamy's gallery.

As is my habit, I was up in the very early morning watching MSNBC when the bulletins starting drifting in through the darkened air. Same shit, different day: some homicidal jackass lets loose on a gathering of innocents - most of them kids - all revved up to watch the premiere of the latest Batman flick at a midnight show. Then, before they knew what the hell hit them....

Their families were probably sound asleep when each got the word that their child was dead. Can you even imagine that? As of this writing there are twelve lifeless bodies over which we may ponder and pontificate.

The mass killings took place less than twenty miles from the Columbine High School in Littleton. There is usually no shortage of screaming ironies when a tragedy this immense and hideous makes itself known. Such was the case early this morning in Aurora, Colorado. Too weird for words.

This is the way it's going to be from now on, kiddies. When a country has the stupidest gun laws in the western world (laws that are getting even stupider by the year) its citizens should come to expect this sort of thing. Our lawmakers have no intention of correcting this unacceptable situation. Most of them are too terrified of the power of the National Rifle Association to do the right thing. Fifty-seven years ago John F. Kennedy (one of history's more celebrated victims of gun violence) wrote a book that profiled examples of great political courage throughout American history. He wouldn't have much material to work with were he around today to write a sequel. Cowardice abounds. Get used to living in a country in ruins. This is the way it's going to be from now on.

For the next week or so, as in times past, we'll be having all the old, tired clich├ęs of the NRA shoved down our throats: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." Of course they don't - and I'm seriously considering shooting the next person who tells me that. "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have them." Yeah right. Were you aware of the fact that gun violence in Britain has all-but vanished since that country banned all hand guns a few years ago? The same is true for Australia! In countries where firearms are difficult or impossible to obtain, the murder rate is extremely low or (in some cases) non-existent. I'm not makin' this stuff up, folks! Do the research!

The first serious debate with respect to gun control (in my memory anyway) came in the late spring of 1968 following the assassinations - within two months of each other - of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. I can still vividly recall Time Magazine's Pop Art/Peter Maxx-style cover of a smoking gun aimed right at the face of the reader. Then, as now, the nation had been forced into a serious discussion about our insane appetite for firearms in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy. Then, as now, an outraged citizenry demanded legislative action. And, as nothing changed in 1968, nothing will change in 2012. Nothing.

Every once in a while, the debate is resurrected - as it was in 1980 after the murder of John Lennon - or in 1981 when an attempt was made on the life of President Reagan - or in 1999 following the Columbine tragedy. But after a week or two of mindless rhetoric, it was always back to business as usual. The sad and undeniable fact is that another massacre on the scale of what happened early this morning in Colorado will happen again - and again and again and again and again and again and again.
Deal with it.

And wh
ile it may be true (as the NRA never tires of pointing out) that a person who wants to kill you will make the attempt regardless of the weapon available, you stand much more of a sporting chance out-running someone with a switch blade than a bullet fired through the chamber of a 9 mm semi-automatic.

Maybe I'm a tad sensitive on this issue because twenty years ago I had a loved one killed by some twisted little geek who had been stalking her.

Susan Clements, my beloved, lost cousin, was an accomplished, violinist, pianist and an award winning writer (it runs in the family...OK, maybe not, just bear with me). She was twenty-three years old and had everything to live for. The man who murdered her in cold blood - a German exchange student - could not easily gain access to a gun in Indiana (Susan's native state) so he flew to Arizona - a place where the gun laws are a lot less sane than those in the Hoosier state - and was able to obtain two of them.

He then drove back to Bloomington and killed her and her friend, Steven Molen, at her dorm on the campus of the University of Indiana on April 23, 1992. She was such a beautiful, sweet and gentle girl. Two decades later the reality of what happened to her doesn't get much easier to deal with. I once met an elderly man in Toronto whose own daughter had died in the same, horrible manner over thirty years before. He said to me, "You adjust, but you never really get over it." I've come to learn how right he was.

And the body count will only continue to rise. Are there lessons to be learned from what happened this morning? Oh, yeah! A whole shitload of lessons! Are the American people finally going to take those lessons to heart? Don't hold your breath.

The NRA types love to jabber away - like diseased little myna birds - about "freedom". We need to come to grips with some unpleasant realities. A society that lives in dreaded, mortal terror wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place may indeed be many things - no argument there. "Free" they are not. Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


A couple of the paragraphs of this piece were taken (with slight editing) from an article I wrote five years ago immediately after the Virginia Tech massacre. Everything I wrote on that day was so apropos for today, I couldn't resist! Journalistic laziness on my part? Quite possibly a valid case could be made. So sue me!

The more things change the more they stay the same.
Life is funny that way, you know?


Bowling For Columbine
a film by Michael Moore

This is essential viewing (in my humble opinion) if you want to take a good (and satirical) look into America's sick fascination with guns - not to mention our warped gun culture. Here's a link to order it off of

You can pick it up used for under five bucks. If you haven't seen it yet you really ought to. If you saw it when it was released a decade ago, it's time to see it again. I can't emphasize enough what an important film this is. It's worth the price of the ticket just to see Charlton Heston (playing Charlton Heston) in his last screen appearance.

Happy viewing, Campers!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The "Job Creators"

I hate to keep sounding like a broken record but....

There is one way - and ONLY one way - out of the mess the plutocracy has made of our economic infrastructure during the past thirty years, and it will involve taxes - decades and decades of SERIOUS taxation.

Which class of people has the responsibility for bearing the burden? The poor? The working class? The middle class? The upper middle class even? How 'bout the rich? Now there's a novel idea, huh?

Did I say "rich"? Perish the thought and forgive the faux pas, good and gentle reader! What I meant to say was "job creators". The handmaidens of the ruling class, elected to represent us in Washington, refuse to refer to them as "the rich" anymore. They are now "job creators". Ain't that a fucking hoot? And yet in spite of the Bush tax cuts being in place for over a decade now, they haven't been creating many jobs. In fact, for a while there, jobs were being lost at the rate of nearly half a million a month. The only "trickle down" came in the form of the American people getting pissed on.

Not only do the Republican
s refuse to raise their taxes a cent more, they want an extension of Dubya's tax policies - into infinity! This would only send the American middle class (or what's left of it) spiraling further into the economic abyss. Wait, it get's better! According to a McClatchy News report that was printed in this morning's Times Herald-Record of Middletown, NY, fifty-two percent of registered voters agree with that the Bush tax cuts should stay just the way they are. This is the kind of stupidity I encounter every single day of my life. And you wonder why I love this job so much?

The only way out of the ditch that the "job creators" have dug us into will be by raising their taxes. And I'm not talking about a modest increase - I'm talking about soaking the bastards. That'll create some jobs pretty damned quick. For a period of at least ten years, we need to bring the tax rates of the richest half-a-percent back to where they were when Eisenhower was president, when a lot of them were in a ninety percent bracket. Just to refresh your American history, the economy did pretty well back then. Am I waging class warfare here? You'd better believe it, Buster. And I ain't takin' no prisoners, baby!

Oh, and speaking of taxes, this has not been a good week for Mitt Romney. He won't release twelve years of his tax statements as his father George did when he sought the Republican nomination in 1968. The reason for this is the fact that during the glorious Bush years (and beyond) it's a fairly safe bet that Romney payed very little to the Internal Revenue Service. In fact I'm sure there must be a year or two in there where he payed nothing at all. Call it a silly (and educated) hunch on my part. As of today, he's only released his 2010 returns. He's promised that before the election he'll also release his 2011 returns after his accountants make them available - but that's it. He doesn't dare go any further back than that. Would you if you were Mitt Romney? I didn't think so.

And now it looks as though Herr Mittster might have committed a felony. Isn't life beautiful? It would seem that between the years 1999 and 2002, Mitt reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that he was no longer with Bain Capital - the company that sent so many American jobs to China. But a cursory review of the company's paperwork for those years by some enterprising reporters reveals that Mitt was in fact still running the place during that time. This should get interesting.

FUN FACT: The Texas state Republican party has announced that part of their platform this year will be the demand that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 be repealed. As of this writing there has been not one word of reprimand toward them from the RNC.

This is a party that is beyond political rehabilitation. This is a party that needs to be politically extinguish. I almost used the word "exterminated" but thought better of it. That wouldn't have been very nice. And besides, Josef Goebbels isn't really my style.

Keep your eye on the Republican convention next month. The Tea Party halfwits who now control "the party of Abraham Lincoln" are starting to realize what a mistake it would be to give this guy the nomination. You see, as extreme as Romney is, he's not quite extreme enough for their tastes. The GOP convention of 2012 may very well bring back nasty memories of the Democratic catastrophe of 1968. And do you wanna hear the punchline? The delegates have been encouraged by the NRA to come to the convention armed! This should be just oodles of fun to watch - from a safe distance that is.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


One-hundred years ago today, the planet earth was in dire need of some serious shaking up, so Woody Guthrie came into the world. Forty-five years after his death he's still shaking things up.

As I was walking that lonesome highway
I saw a sign there, said "No Trespassing"
But on the other side it didn't say nothin'
That side was made for you and me

-Woody Guthrie, 1940

Happy birthday, Woody.


Although never a sports fan, I always took note of the career of Joe Paterno. His first cousin, Joe Gargiulo, was my uncle. He married my father's eldest sibling, Audrey Degan, in April of 1942. The physical resemblance between the two men was always striking. They might have been fraternal twins. Because of this indirect familial connection, I always felt a great amount of pride and admiration for the guy. That his once-sterling reputation could have fallen this low is almost inconceivable to me. It's like a horrible nightmare from which one awakens, grateful at the realization that it was just a dream. Only this is no dream. In fact it's too hideous and real to even contemplate.

I was hoping that, somehow, he would be exonerated. That's never gonna happen - not in this lifetime or any other for that matter. The release Thursday of Louis Freeh's seven-month-long investigation into this sordid affair put an end to any such hope. The kindest thing that can be said of Joe Paterno at this stage is that he was, at best, criminally negligent. A number of people - with a knowledge of the law far more expansive than mine - have said that had he not died on January 22, he would today be under indictment for felonious conspiracy. In an opinion piece in yesterday's New York Daily News, columnist Dick Weiss advocated that the statue of "JoePa" at the campus of Penn State University be torn down. I'm inclined to agree.

A sixty year, unblemished career and reputation have been reduced to ashes at the alter on public opinion. What a waste, and how unspeakably sad. The revelations get more sickening by the hour. What the hell was he thinking?

Uncle Joe passed away on October 6, 1990. Like Woody Guthrie, he would have turned 100 this year. I'm certainly glad he didn't live to see this.


The Boys on the Bus: Riding with the Campaign Press Corps
by Timothy Crouse

I was lucky enough to find a pristine hardcover copy of this book at a used bookstore this afternoon. In 1972 Crouse was part of the two-man team (along with Hunter Thompson) that covered the Nixon/McGovern contest for Rolling Stone. If you can find this one by all means pick it up. It's a very good read; the perfect companion volume to Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.

Monday, July 09, 2012

My Argument with Facebook


I have just been informed by the nice folks over at Facebook that I have been banned from using their facilities for the next three days. The reason? According to them I have been engaging in "hateful" speech. Was it the context of what I wrote or the photograph above that upset them so? It seems inconceivable to me that merely posting a photo of der fuhrer would constitute hate speech. Like it or not, he is a historical figure. You be the judge. Here is what I wrote in its entirety:

"It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them."

-Adolf Hitler

I just got a really neat idea! Let's all vote for the GOP in November and see what happens!

Is it fair to compare the Republican party of today to the Nazi party of yore? That all depends on the historical context. If you're referring to the Nazis of 1938 - the year
of the Night of Broken Glass (Khristallnacht) or the opening of the first concentration camps - then, yes, the comparison is grossly unfair and I'll be the first to stand up and say so.....

But if you're referring to the Nazi party of a decade earlier - 1928 for instance - not only is the comparison fair, IT'S UNAVOIDABLE.

When the Nazis were founded in 1922 by Hitler, Hess, Goebbels, Goering - and the the rest of those assholes - they weren't at the starting gate in full-tilt, let's-conquer-Europe-and-kill-all-the-Jews mode. Although the Nazi ideology was bad enough at their founding, it would get a lot worse. It was a gradual evolution between 1922 and 1938.

In case you haven't noticed, the "grand old party" has been "evolving" into something perfectly hideous and dreadful these last thirty years. Show me a person who doesn't agree with that statement and I'll show you someone who hasn't been paying attention. It gives me the dry heaves to even contemplate where they'll be a decade from now.

Have a lovely day, kiddies!

Tom Degan

Now that wasn't so bad, was it?


I wrote this little ditty two-and-a-half years ago. It ain't bad.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Honoring Ernie Smith

It's almost a cliche to honor the patriot on Independence Day. Patriotism is so ingrained into the American psyche and with good reason. It's not a difficult thing to feel patriotic - call it nationalistic if you must - about a country of such natural abundance and opportunity (for some at least). "Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears". We're still the envy of the planet earth. But on the fourth of July it's hard not to ponder the type of people whose love of country in hindsight seems almost supernatural. It's the kind of patriotism that is personified in the form of Ernie Smith and the Montford Point Marines.

He has been an eyewitness to history on more than a few occasions. He once told m
e that one of his earliest memories took place on a drizzly May morning in 1927. Sitting atop top of his father's strong shoulders at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, four-year-old Ernie watched as Charles A. Lindbergh roared down the runway in the Spirit of St. Louis. Disappearing into the horizon, the Lone Eagle would touch down at Le Bourget Airport in Paris thirty-three-and-a-half hours later. This wouldn't be Ernie Smith's last brush with history.

Shortly after World War Two broke out, Ernie read that President Franklin Roosevelt (prodded by Eleanor, God bless her) had issued an executive order banning exclusion from all branches of the service on the basis of race. The military would still be segregated, but at least there were "Negro" divisions where Americans whose ancestors were brought here
in chains could distinguish themselves.

They wer
e sent to the Montford Point training camp in North Carolina. The adjoining Camp Lejeune was for whites only. The arrangement was separate and quite unequal. The white recruits slept in heated, brick barracks. Their black counterparts weren't so lucky - shacks that were exposed to the elements, infested with bugs and the occasional snake. When they ventured into the neighboring town of Jacksonville on a much needed furlough, their R and R was neither restful nor relaxing. Mayberry it was not. They were forbidden the use most of the business establishments, and the nice folks of Jacksonville let it be known - in no uncertain terms - that these dark-skinned soldiers - some of whom would sacrifice their lives in the war - were not welcome in their fair community.

This is the type of "supernatural patriotism" I was referring to earlier. Ernie Smith and the Montford Point Marines were willing to serve a
nd die for their country despite the fact that America in 1942 was non-too appreciative of their sacrifice. You've got to tip your hat to these guys. They were - they are - a tough and heroic bunch of sons-of-bitches.

I just got a really neat Idea! On the week of December the seventh - PEARL HARBOR DAY - let's hold a HUGE reunion and celebration for the Montford Point Marines. I've got the ideal location, too - Jacksonville, North Carolina! Wouldn't that be a hoot??? I'm wicked, I know.

After the war and thanks to the GI Bill, Ernie was attending college on Prince Edwar
d Island in Canada when he met Wanda McPhee. They married in 1952 and would eventually settle down in a house in Goshen, NY - just down the road and around the corner from where I now sit. There they would raise a family of nine girls and two boys.

My connection to this extraordinary family began, quite literally, on the day that I was born. My late, treasured friend Toni Smith DeGoede and I were born just a few hours apart in August of 1958 at the old Goshen Hospital. She was Ernie and Wanda's daughter. Toni would grow up to become an environmental activist to be reckoned with, co-founding Orange
Environment in the 1980's. She died in 2003 at the depressingly young age of forty-five. Ernie's beloved Wanda passed away the following year.

Ernie and Wanda Smith were the first interracial couple I ever saw - although that fact didn't make much of an impression on me at the time. My first mental images of the family Smith are of them at church, around 1963. At the age of five their marriage did not seem such a revolutionary thing to me. After all, he was a guy; she was a gal. As young and as innocent as I was, I was at least old enough to understand that guys and gals had a habit of getting married to one another. It was only after a few years of hindsight that the very fact of their marriage had a real impact on my consciousness. After all, the early sixties were a much different time. If any of them were ever on the receiving end of any hostility from the less-enlightened natives of Goshen (There were a few - trust me) they kept it to themselves. They were (and are) a very dignified family.

Here's something to think about. When Ernie and Wanda were married on January 16, 1952, the very fact that they were husband and wife would h
ave subjected them to criminal prosecution in at least seventeen states. Isn't life strange?

The Smith family is packed to the rafters with too many doctors and lawyers to count. Daughter Alana is on the board of directors of the newly-opened Orange Regional Medical Center, and son Pete Smith is the owner/operator of Elyse's Luncheonette on West Main Street in downtown Goshen. That's what is known as a shameless plug.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Of the over twenty-thousand men who proudly - gallantly - served in the Montford Point Marines, less than five-hundred of them survive on Independence Day 2012. They were honored on June 27, a week ago today, at a ceremony in Washington DC. Seventy years after Ernie Smith and his compatriots answered their country's call, they were rewarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Long overdue.

Happy Ind
ependence Day, Ernie Smith. You rock, Buster! You always have. You always will.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The photo at the top of this piece was taken on June 27, 2012 in Washington DC. To Ernie Smith's right is his daughter, Marine Colonel Stephanie Smith. Here is a link to watch Stephanie telling the story of her father and the Montford Point Marines:


You gotta love them Smiths. You just gotta!
`Special thanks to Ginny Privitar of the Chronicle in Monroe, NY for laying the groundwork on the life of Ernie Smith.

EPILOGUE, 2 December 2013, 5:58 AM:

I just received word less than an hour ago ago that Mr. Smith passed into eternity yesterday. He was one of the sweetest men I ever knew and a real gentleman. This sad planet is a little sadder this morning.