DID HE REALLY SAY THAT?

October 27, 2016

Something rather... disquieting, I think, would be the most appropriate word in this particular instance... occurred to me last Wednesday night as I was in front of the TV watching the latest episode in this sitcom we are rather euphemistically calling the Presidential Campaign of 2016.


I have been alive now for just shy of 53 and a half years... a little more than half a century as the eagle flies. During my lifetime, America has seen one president assassinated, another president resign, a third survive an attempted assassination and a fourth impeached (and acquitted - though there are those who, for whatever reason, choose not to mention the acquittal part whenever they decide to pull out their soapboxes and take them for a spin around the block). 


We have seen candidates of both solid and questionable ethics run for the office of presidency, successfully and unsuccessfully. We have seen decisions made that we questioned at the time that were later proven to have been the right way to go, and we have seen actions taken that we felt certain at the time were absolutely correct and proper...  only to determine later that, hey, maybe that wasn’t such a bright idea after all. 


We have seen some presidents make promises that were later broken, and others who reached across the partisan aisle in hopes of finding common ground... only to be rebuffed, and then falsely accused by those who did the rebuffing of being unwilling to compromise.


The one thing we haven’t seen during the just over half a century that comprises the duration of my lifetime thus far (nor in any of the years that preceded my arrival upon the American landscape, based on all the research I’ve been able as of this writing to conduct on the subject) is a candidate for the highest office in the land challenging what is - if what my first grade teacher Mrs. Woodruff taught us at Bradley Central Elementary School all those years ago is true, and I for one would really like to believe it is - perhaps the single most important pillar of this nation’s democracy: the peaceful transfer of power.


Never in my recollection has a candidate for the Presidency thumbed his or her nose at the very idea that, regardless of our differences of opinion concerning the direction our country should take, we are a nation committed to the Constitutional processes - and that, regardless of which candidate might win any given election, this nation will continue to survive and endure and remain strong. 


Never, that is, until now.


As I sat there in the living room with my wife and son watching last week’s third and final presidential debate, and listening to the candidate in question steadfastly refuse to answer the question of whether or not he would accept the results of next month’s election, I felt a jumble of emotions welling up inside of me. Outrage, antipathy... perhaps even a sense of amused disbelief, as in “Oh, no, he didn’t.” 


And something else as well: fear. 


Fear that - for all that we have accomplished over the past 240 years, for all the mistakes made and lessons learned and heartfelt efforts to do better next time - the Grand Experiment in democracy launched by a roomful of men on a sweltering July day in Philadelphia almost two and a half centuries ago might, in my lifetime, come to a sad and ignoble end.


The thought was simply too much for this American to bear. It still is, a week after the fact.


Sadder still is the realization that there are so many people living in this great nation of ours who are applauding this candidate’s disgraceful contributions to the national conversation. The day after last week’s debate, I was watching the evening news and caught a clip of the candidate “clarifying” his offensive and subversive comment at a campaign rally: 

“I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election... if I win.”


And the crowd cheered, and laughed, and - I can’t help it, it’s the sci-fi nerd in me I guess - I was suddenly reminded of one of the more poignant and disturbing lines of dialogue from the Star Wars movies: “So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause.” 


Taken in tandem with earlier comments this same candidate has made with regard to his disdain for the First Amendment, and his threat to have his opponent jailed if he wins the election, and it is little wonder that I find myself worrying that this applause could, in real life as in that movie, be a death-knell for American democracy.


I pray that I am wrong. I pray that our national charter - the Constitution - will not be discarded like some used gum wrapper. That its promise to create a more perfect union, one where liberty and justice are not merely words but honest-to-goodness commitments, remains intact.


Something else that Mrs. Woodruff taught us about all those years ago was the idea that anybody could become president. As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t help but wonder now if that’s really such a good idea after all...


(Column copyright © 2016, by John A. Small)


 

DYLAN'S NOBEL AND "IS IT ART?"

October 14, 2016

If someone had told me while I was sitting at the breakfast table Thursday morning that I would be spending much of that day defending the decision to award Bob Dylan this year’s Nobel Prize for literature, I suspect I would have done a spit take and blew Raisin Bran all over the room…


Every year when the Nobels are announced, there is always at least one recipient who becomes the subject of some form of controversy. This year that recipient was Mr. Dylan; a lot of people agreed with the...


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IT'S MORE THAN JUST A RIGHT; IT'S A RESPONSIBILITY

August 24, 2016

Believe me, nobody will be more happy than I will to see this current campaign season - with all its circus atmosphere and a cast of characters that makes me wonder sometimes if both major party candidates are being funded by Mad magazine -  finally come to an end.   


People complain about “election fatigue” in pretty much every campaign cycle, but I can’t remember a time when my own sense of fatigue has been so pronounced and, at times, downright painful to bear. More than once in rec...


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A WRITING EXPERIMENT...

August 18, 2016


Okay, so here’s the thing…


Not too very long ago I was talking with a writer friend of mine who told me that he was taking a stab at writing a romance story. When I commented that this was a genre I was not particularly comfortable with, he basically called me a coward and challenged me to give it a try. So just to shut him up I told him I’d think about it and we turned toward a different subject.


Fast forward to this past Tuesday night, after I got home from the newspaper. I was sitt...


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HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION (2016 EDITION)

August 10, 2016
Above: Yours Truly (bottom left) and my FarmerCon friends at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio, during the 2016 PulpFest convention July 21-24)

Apologies if I’ve looked or acted a little out of it over the past week or so, but it hasn’t been without reason. My mind and body have been in recovery mode, trying to get re-acclimated to the usual day-to-day routine after the whirlwind extravapalooza that was (drumroll, please) Small Family Vacation 2016.


We set out bright and early on the mo...


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SOMETIMES WORDS FAIL ME...

July 13, 2016

There is a lyric in the Harry Chapin song “Story Of A Life” that I’ve always found somewhat appropriate for those of us who toil in my particular line of work: 


“Sometimes words can serve me well,

Sometimes words can go to hell

For all that they do...”


As a newspaper columnist, I understand and appreciate the sentiment Chapin was attempting to convey in those lines. Because there are times when, as much as I hate to admit it, words fail me.


I was oh so proud back in 1991 to earn ...


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NEW TARZAN IS A WINNER

July 4, 2016

It occurred to me recently that it had been a while since the last time I devoted this space to reviewing a new movie. This seems like as good a time as any to rectify this - and frankly I could not have picked a better movie with which to do so.


Full disclosure: The Legend Of Tarzan was one of those movies I was looking forward to with both great anticipation and, at the same time, a certain degree of dread. Anticipation because, as I have written about many times in the past, Tarzan is a c...


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REMEMBER CIVILITY...?

June 23, 2016
(Note: This is a slightly revised version of something I recently wrote and posted on Facebook, and then published as my weekly column in the June 23, 2016, edition of the Johnston County Capital-Democrat.)


I recently had a… well, I don't know that it actually rises to the level of being an honest-to-Jed Bartlett "epiphany," but it is darn sure something that bears being shared the rest of the world.  (And if it does qualify as an epiphany then I'm just tickled to death, because I don't know...


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ELEMENTARY, DEAR READER...

May 13, 2016

(NOTE: The following is a longer version of one of my recent newspaper columns.)


Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to become reacquainted with an old friend. A fellow I first met when I was a young boy and who became one of my most faithful companions as I was growing up. A gentleman who taught me about the importance of being observant, and of not allowing emotions to overpower logic - a skill I readily admit I have yet to master, though I continue to strive in that direction...


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MEMOIRS OF A BAT-FAN

January 15, 2016

MEMOIRS OF A BAT-FAN



In case you happened to miss it (you’d be surprised, it seems like there is always a few who somehow manage to not receive the memo), this past Tuesday marked an important milestone in the history of American popular culture. 


Well, it was important to some of us, anyway...


January 12 marked the 50th anniversary of the night that the television series Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, premiered on the ABC television network (WLS-TV, Channel 7 in Chicago if y...


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About Me


John Allen Small John A. Small is an award-winning newspaper journalist, columnist and broadcaster whose work has been honored by the Oklahoma Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Associated Press, the National Newspaper Association, and the Oklahoma Education Association. He and his wife Melissa were married in 1986; they have two sons, Joshua Orrin (born 1991) and William Ian (born 1996). Mr. Small is the News Editor and columnist for the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Tishomingo, OK. He obtained his nickname, "Bard of the Lesser Boulevards," from a journalism colleague - the late Phil Byrum - in recognition of the success of his popular newspaper column, "Small Talk." (In addition to the many awards the column itself has received over the years, a radio version of "Small Talk" earned an award for "Best Small Market Commentary" from the Society of Professional Journalists in 1998.) John was born in Oklahoma City in 1963; lived in the Bradley-Bourbonnais-Kankakee area of Illinois for most of the next 28 years (with brief sojourns in Texas and Athens, Greece, thrown in to break up the monotony); then returned to his native state in 1991, where he currently resides in the Tishomingo/Ravia area. He graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in 1981, and received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais in 1991. The years between high school and college were a period frought with numerous exploits and misadventures, some of which have become the stuff of legend; nobody was hurt along the way, however, which should count for something. In addition to his professional career as a journalist he has published two short story collections: "Days Gone By: Legends And Tales Of Sipokni West" (2007), a collection of western stories; and "Something In The Air" (2011), a more eclectic collection. He was also a contributor to the 2005 Locus Award-nominated science fiction anthology "Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton Universe," edited by Win Scott Eckert. In additon he has written a stage play and a self-published cookbook; served as project editor for a book about the JFK assassination entitled "The Men On The Sixth Floor"; and has either published or posted on the Internet a number of essays, stories and poems. He has also won writing awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Library of Poetry. He is a past president of the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce in Tishomingo; was a charter member and past president of the Johnston County Reading Council, the local literacy advocacy and "friends of the library" organization; served as Johnston County's first-ever Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator in 1994-95; served two terms as chairman of the Johnston County (OK) Democratic Party; and has taught journalism classes for local Boy Scout Merit Badge Fairs. He is a member of the New Wold Newton Meteorics Society.
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