The other day I stopped at an antique store and brought home a couple of old books, as I am wont to do (a fancy-pants phrase meaning “again”).
So I’ve been reading Will Rogers: Ambassador of Good Will, Prince of Wit and Wisdom by P.J. O’Brien, which I take is a “quickie biography” rolled out after Rogers’ death in a plane crash Aug. 15, 1935, since it bears a 1935 copyright date itself.
(Aside to writers who struggle to wring out their words a few at a time: Yep, here’s more proof that you can write, edit and publish a 288-page book in five months or less if you set your mind to it.)
Rogers, of course, was a popular entertainer and writer who was at the height of his popularity when he and pilot Wiley Post went down in Alaska during the early days of a planned worldwide excursion.
I chuckle as O’Brien quotes what Rogers said and wrote about the times he lived in, and it strikes me that one of the things we could use “in these challenging times” is someone with a real sense of humor. So much of what passes for humor these days is just mean-spirited sniping.
During a radio address to the people of England to help celebrate King George’s Jubilee, Rogers described an interesting afternoon in Hyde Park where both a fascist group called the Black Shirts and a communist group were speechifying.
“Here was the Black Shirts and about a hundred yards away was the Communists, and in between was half of London laughing at both of them; and when I thought that was going to be a war, it ended quietly.
“They sang ‘God Save the King’ and all went home satisfied. They all had their say, and, after all, nobody wants his cause near as bad as he just wants to talk about his cause.
“England, you solved that problem. You certainly let ’em talk. I wish we would do a little more of that over here. We would let ’em get it off their minds.”
I have to wonder what Will Rogers would have to say about the current trend of denying certain folks their soapbox in the park.
I do love what he wrote on Nov. 2, 1932, just before the election where Franklin Roosevelt defeated incumbent President Herbert Hoover in the depths of the Great Depression:
“Come pretty near having two holidays of equal importance in the same week, Halloween and election, and of the two election provides us the most fun. On Halloween they put pumpkins on their heads, and on election they don’t have to.
“Candidates have been telling you that if elected they would ‘pull you from this big hole of financial misery.’ Now is a good chance to get even with ’em, by electing ’em, just to prove what a liar they are.
“Personally I think this is the right year for a good man to be defeated in.”
Where have you gone, Will Rogers? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.