Friday, March 24, 2017

Finding An Honest Man

Greek philosopher Diogenes is said to have strolled about in broad daylight carrying a lamp as he looked for an honest man. Legend has it he found only rascals and scoundrels in the human race.

I found an honest man this week without searching.

Following our last winter snowstorm about two weeks ago, roads were icy in places. One especially treacherous stretch was a curved section near our driveway on the entry road to our community. Our home is set back far enough from the road so we seldom hear any traffic noises when we are inside.

In mid-afternoon, I answered the door and met Jim Beebe. To my surprise he said, "My 16-year-old son came home and told me he slid off the road onto your property. He grazed your mailbox and ran across part of the lawn. I do home improvement and repair work for a living, and want you to know we will take care of all damages."

Mr. Beebe handed me a  business card and said I should call him to get the work done when the snow was gone and I had a change to assess the situation. He thought the mailbox was OK, but knew there would be some work needed on the lawn.

The first day of spring brought good weather, and beautiful wife Sandy and I checked things out. Big chunks of sod were gouged out of the lawn in three places. At first I thought the mailbox was a little wobbly, but probably would be all right. Sandy thought otherwise. As usual, she was right. The plastic parts that
Diogenes failed, but I found an honest man.
supported the box were broken in two places, not just cracked as I thought, and we decided the box was inadequate. I could see no good way to make repairs. I thought, however, that we might get an argument about the need for a new unit. Similar replacements cost about $65.

I phoned Mr. Beebe. He said he and his son would be over that afternoon to take care of things. Kenny Beebe rang our doorbell at about 3 p.m. He said we should buy a mailbox, we would be reimbursed, and he and his father then would be over to install it and repair the lawn.

About an hour later we spotted Mr. Beebe and son working on the lawn damage. I told Mr. Beebe we thought the work would be done after we got a mailbox. He said, "I told Kenny that's not good enough. When we've done with this, we're going shopping for a box. When we have one, we'll ask you to approve it before I install it."

Two hours later, the Beebes reappeared with a mailbox that proved to be an updated version of the one that was damaged. They said they visited three stores to find just the right one. We agreed they had succeeded. Mr. Beebe did a beautiful installation job, and the result was a unit superior to the one it replaced.

Had Kenny Beebe simply driven away and not told his father about the accident we would have had no way to know who caused the damage. I told Mr. Beebe that his son seemed like a fine young man. "Not quite," he replied. "He should have told you right away, not gone home to tell me. I've straightened him out about that."

I think there will be more than one honest man in the Beebe family if Jim has his way.

Monday, March 06, 2017

A Trump By Any Other Name . . .

Some of my internet correspondents have been busy coining nicknames for our president. Most of them are not flattering. "Dopey Donny" seems truly insulting for the leader of the free world. "Groper in Chief" is not nice at all. One widely read blogger went so far as to claim she will never mention Trump's name, and chose instead to indicate him as an * in her writings.

Although political opponents traditionally have tried to hang derogatory descriptors on presidents, most of the slurs did not become widely accepted enough to make it into formal histories. However some terms have had remarkable staying power.

Andrew Jackson will forever be known as "Old Hickory," a tribute to his toughness supposedly applied by soldiers he commanded before becoming president. Calvin Coolidge, who said little and also didn't achieve much, is known to most students of American history as "Silent Cal." And who doesn't still like to refer to "Ike"?

Is there a pattern to all this? Indeed, there is a minor trend along party lines. Although the first president to be known by his initials was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt's "TR" designation was the only such label that stuck among GOP presidents. The Democrats, for reasons unknown, assumed leadership in nicknaming by initials. Even many in our younger generations know that HST was Harry Truman, JFK was John Kennedy, and LBJ denoted Lyndon Johnson.

The Republican trend in nicknaming is quite different. The best known labels represent some great deed or characteristic attributed to the president. Abraham Lincoln became "The Great Emancipator" for his proclamation that freed many slaves during the Civil War.  Ronald Reagan is widely known as "The Great Communicator" for his abilities as an orator.

So how should tradition and performance guide us in attaching a suitable nickname to Mr. Trump? "The Donald," a label bestowed on him by his first wife Ivana in 1989, may speak to his ego but hardly relates to any great achievement. Reading the findings of fact checkers who have analyzed Trump's various statements and claims during his presidential campaign and early days in office is perhaps our best guide to an appropriate label.

One respected fact checker found that three-fourths of Trump's statements during the campaign were exaggerations or downright lies. He hasn't improved much, if at all, on that level of performance as president. Perhaps, "The Great Emancipator" and "The Great Communicator" should be followed on the list of lasting Republican presidential nicknames by "The Great Prevaricator."

The Great Prevaricator