July 11, 2006

Plain Brown Rapper: The Man in the Arena

 Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (for negotiating a peace treaty in the Russian-Japanese War), creator of America’s unsurpassed national parks, author of almost 40 books, political reformer extraordinaire and one of the four faces on Mount Rushmore, said a lot of smart things.One thing comes to mind:In 1910 (at the Sorbonne in Paris), he delivered a speech that’s come to be known as “The Man in the Arena.”In relevant part, it went like this:“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again … who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; and who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory (n)or defeat.”Which brings me to John Yarmuth, who has done that very thing.Caveat 1: I like John; he once was my LEO boss. Helluva guy. But I don’t agree with all of his positions on federal issues.Caveat 2: I like Anne Northup. I have endorsed her heartily each time her name’s been on the ballot. Helluva lady. But I don’t agree with all her positions on federal issues.This is not an endorsement of either; let’s see how the campaign plays out. This column is all about “The Man in the Arena.”I was once such a man and left the arena, broken, bloodied but unbowed. Then I took the easy job, comparatively, of the “critic.” Such a nice life — concocting ideas, agitating, provoking, confounding, propagandizing — with no more consequence than the scores of hate mail I gleefully look forward to in Erosia. (Never forget: This week’s LEO is next week’s bird-cage liner.)Yarmuth personifies the opposite, the critic who descends into the mean-spirited arena “where reputations are destroyed for sport.” He has shut the door to the room that is cozy, descended from the lofty, oracle-like perch of the critic, the naysayer, the “safe house.”He challenges an incumbent Congresswoman, a powerful Washington figure with clout and a growing war chest.John does so knowing that only 2 percent of U.S. Representatives fail to be re-elected.He cops to being a “liberal,” once a dreaded term, a millstone around any candidate’s neck. But well before the GOP demonized the word, no lesser Republican than President Dwight Eisenhower boasted he was a MILITANT LIBERAL.Anne waves the conservative flag proudly. Her accomplishments and missteps are a matter of public record and should be scrutinized, neither ignored nor taken light.Yarmuth’s opinions vs. Northup’s voting record.My only hope is that both will play nice and lay off the attack ads. There will be much to debate without descending beneath the arena, straight to the hoary fires of Hell, where winning means everything and integrity means less than nothing.Would it not be a breath of fresh air for this campaign to be waged on issues, performance and perspective, where candidates care more about the next generation than the next election?Would it not have a salient, cleansing effect for the citizens of Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District to vote on the basis of issues and even personalities, debates and contrast of views on the issues that will shape the America we know deep into the 21st century?Would it not be nice if John and Anne conduct themselves like the gentleman and lady they are at core?Is this too much to ask? Methinks not.This year, like the 1964 slugfest between LBJ and Goldwater: We have a choice, not an echo.Let the battle of ideas commence. Without low blows.But anyway, I’m Carl Brown, Louisville’s Plain Brown Rapper, and that’s just my own damn opinion. If you don’t like it, sue me. Just be sure to vote in November. Contact the writer at plainbrownrapper2001@yahoo.com