Nov. 2, 2006


by C. K. Williams

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Poem: "Anger" by C.K. Williams, from Love About Love. © Ausable Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


I killed the bee for no reason except that it was there and you were
          watching, disapproving,
which made what I would do much worse but I was angry with
          you anyway and so I put my foot on it,
leaned on it, tested how much I'd need to make that resilient,
          resisting cartridge give way
and crack! abruptly, shockingly it did give way and you turned
          sharply and sharply now
I felt myself balanced in your eyes—why should I feel myself so
          balanced always in your eyes;
isn't just this half the reason for my rage, these tendencies of
          yours, susceptibilities of mine?—
and "Why?" your eyes said, "Why?" and even as mine sent back my
          answer, "None of your affair,"
I knew that I was being once again, twice now, weighed, and this
          time anyway found wanting.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It was on this day in 1948 that Harry S. Truman (books by this author) accomplished one of the greatest upsets in an American election by beating the governor of New York, Thomas E. Dewey, for the presidency. Truman had been serving as vice president when Franklin Roosevelt died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945. Truman took office that day, and over the next three years he helped arrange Germany's unconditional surrender, defeated Japan by ordering the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and began implementing the Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of Europe.

Despite all that, Truman was not all that popular. Republicans had retaken control of the Congress in the midterm elections in 1946, and there was a sense in the country that the New Deal was dead. The Democrats even considered nominating someone else for president. Some liberal Democrats threw their support to Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate. Conservative Democrats in the South also formed their own party, the Dixiecrats, in opposition to the Democrats' stance on civil rights.

Two months before the election, the pollster Elmo Roper announced that he was going to stop surveying voters, because Dewey was so far ahead. He said, "[I've decided to] devote my time and efforts to other things." The most recent poll had shown Dewey leading Truman by 44 to 31 percent.

But Truman set out on one of the most ambitious campaigns in American history. He had a private railroad car outfitted for a cross-country journey that became known as the "whistle-stop tour." He would pull into a train station in a small town and give a speech directly from the train, which was equipped with a sound system. That fall of 1948, he covered 21,928 miles, and he managed to deliver more than 300 speeches around the country.

Thomas E. Dewey had decided that the best course of action was to say little and just maintain his lead in the polls. But Truman went on the attack. About 5,000 to 10,000 people showed up at every stop. Journalists believed these people were just curious, but Truman believed they were really listening to him. All the major newspapers in the country still predicted his defeat, but Truman privately estimated that he would win about 340 electoral votes, and Dewey would get about 108.

On Election Day, he went to bed early, after a ham sandwich and a glass of milk. He woke up around midnight and turned on the radio. They were reporting that he was ahead in the popular vote by more than 1 million, but the announcer said that he was still undoubtedly beaten. It turned out that Truman had won 303 electoral votes to Dewey's 189. Of the popular vote, he won 24 million to Dewey's 22 million. Not one news organization in the country had predicted the election correctly.

It was two days after the election that Truman was making an appearance in St. Louis and somebody handed him a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune that had run the day before with the headline, "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." Truman held the paper up over his head for the photographers in attendance, and that picture became the most famous picture of Truman ever taken.

It's the birthday of critic and novelist Thomas Mallon, (books by this author) born in Glen Cove, New York (1951). He said, "[I had] the kind of happy childhood that is so damaging to a writer ... where our fathers were all World War II veterans and our mothers were always at home."

His novels include Henry and Clara (1994) and Dewey Defeats Truman (1997). His novel Bandbox, about a 1920s men's magazine, came out in 2004.

It's the birthday of Marie Antoinette, born in Vienna (1755). She was married to the son of King Louis XV when she was 14 years old. She was beautiful, blond, and a good dancer. She played the harp and the clavichord and could speak French, German, Italian, and Latin. After the French Revolution, she was guillotined on October 15, 1793.

It's the birthday of Daniel Boone, born near Reading, Pennsylvania (1734). He was one of the first to explore the Cumberland Gap in the late 1760s, and in 1775, he and the Transylvania Company established the first road through the Cumberland Gap.

He said, "I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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