by Lenny Cacchio
A few blocks from where I sit is a thoroughfare named after a certain Todd George, a respected citizen of Lee’s Summit, Missouri from generations past. Not only was he a civic leader, he was also, as legend has it, one of the big shots in the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. (See page 170 of Truman, by biographer David McCullough).
Thankfully, this community has put away that sordid attitude, but local legend also has Todd George crossing paths with one Harry S Truman when the latter was running for office in Jackson County.
It seems that Judge Truman was one who refused to toe the Klan’s line, and the solution from the Klan’s view was to smear Truman and even threaten his family. Not being one to shrink from a fight, Harry Truman knew that a threat against his family had to be confronted directly. He showed up at one of the Klan’s powwows in Lee’s Summit and told them that “being farm kin”, they should recognize manure when they see it. (Mr. Truman’s words were more colorful than those I use here).
In light of what passes for newscasting these days, I am sad that more of us don’t have a farming background so that we too can recognize manure when we see it. The purveyors of information, whether they be public officials or professional newspeople, have managed to master the art of propaganda. Images, sound bites, clichés, slogans, spin, and semantic gymnastics pass for news, and the public loves to have it so.
Jesus warned us to “take heed that no one deceive you” (Matt 24:5), and surely the whole purpose of propaganda is to do just that. We must not be ignorant of the Great Deceiver’s devices (II Cor. 2:11). The swill being spread today as food for thought was just as deep in Jesus’ time, and Jesus saw it for what it was (John 2:23-24). He warned us not to judge by appearances, but to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).
The enemies of Jesus knew their craft well. If the evidence witnessed against them, they would try to destroy the evidence (John 12:10).
They would try to discredit the evidence with rumor and innuendo (Matt. 28:11-15).
They were masters of timing, carrying out their plots by night when the light of day could not shine on their sordid deeds (Matt 26:3-5).
They refused to answer relevant questions and demanded that their accusations be accepted at face value (John 18:30).
In these days of the lying spirit, where are those who will stand for truth and proclaim it from the housetops in spite of the venom that will be heaped on those with such courage? Too many today have become timid for fear that what they say will be used against them, but they seem to forget the devices of the Deceiver. For the Deceiver will twist anything a righteous man says and use it against him, even as they did with our Savior (Mark 14:58-59).
In Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S Truman (pp. 127-128), author Merle Miller asks Truman the following question: “Mr. President, under the circumstances mightn’t it have been wiser not to go out and tell off those Klanners?”
Truman replied, “It might have been, yes, but once a man starts thinking that way, about what it’s wise to say and what isn’t, why, he might just as well cash in his chips and curl up his toes and die.
“I tried never to act that way, and for the most part I think you can say I succeeded. Sometimes I was advised to hold my fire on this and that because they said telling the truth would offend people. But whenever I took such advice I never thought much of myself.
“If you keep your mouth shut about things you think are important, I don’t see how the democratic system can work at all.”
Our nation is in need of some plain speaking, and may we all know the manure when we see it.