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Writer's Block: A political affair

Arya Valar Morghulis

Do you think the public has a legitimate right to know about a politician’s personal/romantic life? When, if ever, do you think a politician’s personal history is relevant to his/her ability to perform in office?

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There are several factors at work here.  I think anyone's private life is just that: private.  It should be kept to themselves. I personally have little interest in it.  I think it is unseemly for the media to pursue facts which both sides are trying to keep private.  I think it is immoral to trade on the private lives of celebrity as so many rags and tv programs do. I blame the fans for consuming it and pursuing information they have no need to know.
That having been said, I'm a firm believer in the First Amendment, and the rights of those who follow the lives of Politicians to say what they have seen and heard should be protected.  I do not want everything a politician does to be kept secret.
Once certain facts are made public, it is very indicative of how that person reacts that tells us much about the character of the person. But the acts themselves do not necessarily pre-empt their ability to hold office.  Having an affair does not in itself preclude a Governor from being an effective executive of state.  However, it does raise character questions which every voter should take into account when he or she is re-elected.  If the 'fire storm' around their private lives are so distracting that they can not effectively do their job, they should step down. 
If they stand and wag their finger at the cameras and deny what they know to be  true, they should be held accountable for that lie during re-election or later campaigns for new office. If they lie under oath during a trial or grand jury testimony, they are guilty of perjury and should pay the penalty of that crime.  In the US, for example, the general perjury statute under Federal law defines perjury as a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to five years.  If the statues of the office they hold preclude them from holding office if they have committed a felony they should step down or be impeached as the statutes allow.  Under Article I, Section 3, Clause 7, the Senate has the option, upon conviction, of disqualifying convicted individuals from holding other federal offices, including the Presidency. 
So it is more the person's reaction to the public display of their private lives that get them into trouble than possibly the actions themselves.

My First Post

Arya Valar Morghulis
Okay, so I opened this account mainly to be able to reply to another blog.  Then a prominent talk radio host recommended we journal about our thoughts during this time because it is our words and thoughts that may inspire others in the future who look back at this time and try to understand what the heck we were thinking!

I've thought about posting for weeks now, mostly around petty issues I wanted to "vent" about, but for some vain reason I wanted my first post be be monumental and memorable.  I've decided I'd never start if I waited for the "perfect" topic.  So I'm just going to dive in and start ...

Why "Just Plain John"?
Well, it kind of says it all.  I consider myself an average guy, and what name is more average than John?
My mother often tells the story when I was about 3 or 4 years old.  She was introducing me to an older gentleman who replied by calling me "Johnny."  I had a friend named Johnny, and he wasn't me.  I had also had people try to call me Jonathan as if that were my real, full name.  Because my father was named John, my extended family often called me "John John" (this was the 60's and John John Kennedy was still fresh in people's minds). I guess even at this young age I had enough of these other names and I blurted out, "It's not Johnny, its JUST PLAIN JOHN!"  Apparently I emphasized each word and drew out my name in a long "j-AHHHHH-n."  At least, that's how my mother tells the story.  

As I got older, I became conscious of the fact I had never earned a nick name.  In high school, I hung out with a bunch of guys who called them selves "The Crew."  My friend Ken was known as "The Captain."  Not because he was the leader of the group, but because he once brought a bottle of Cutty Sark Scotch to a party, which he called "The Boat." So he became the Captain of The Boat.  Later, our friend, Ray, became "UB" which stood for "undercover blaze" which apparently came from a dream another guy had which involved something Ray had going under the covers.  We forgot the actual story and what the dream was about (or I never got the full story, or understood what they were telling me) but the name stuck. 

People would try to call me "Lumpy" since my last name is "Lampe" (we pronounce the 'e') but because I was tall and thin, it didn't stick.  But BECAUSE I was tall and thin, and my hair was bushy and curly, another friend (not in The Crew) tried calling me "QT" for "Q-Tip" swabs.  But that never stuck. Mostly because it was kind of stupid, but more because I resented it, so did what I could to discourage it.

I knew American Indians would earn their names from events in their lives.  Great warriors got epithets because of their great deeds.  I wanted that for myself, but all through my formative years, I was always known as "John."  As I got older, I came to grips with the idea that I had enough significant achievements in my past that choosing one just for a nicknamed seemed more limiting than defining.  So I've made peace with being "Just Plain John."  

WHO AM I?

I was born in 1965 in a little town in the suburbs of St. Louis, Mo, called Glendale. Population 3500. I'm sure that's pretty close to the same today.  I was raised in a middle class, Catholic family.  I had 3 older sisters and a baby brother.  My parents never divorced, and remain devoted to each other today.

I grew up on a street called Nolan Drive.  It was made up of "The Straight Part" that led into the neighborhood, and "The Circle."  There were 8 houses in the middle of the circle and probably twice that on the outer circle.  We lived between the Whitmeyer's and the Axtels, both older, retired couples.  Down the street was my best friend, Mark Rogers who had an older brother, Mike, and a sister, Katie.  There was also the Stubeys, Susan was my age, Ann was a year or two older, and Tommy was a few years younger than me.  We all car pooled to Mary Queen of Peace in near by Webster Groves. I hated it when Mrs. Rogers pulled up in the VW Bug to pick us up from school.  The older kids would choose to walk home, but at least one time Mark and I sat in the cubby in the back window of the Bug. Years later I would look at that cargo space in the old, classic Bugs and marveled how the hell we got in there, let alone sat there for the duration of a ride.  Thinking back, I seem to have a vivid memory of sitting back there waiting while Mrs. Rogers stopped at Warson Village shops to run an errand.  It was much nicer when my mom came in the Ford Country Squire station wagon and we could sit in the jump seats in the 'way back' that faced each other.

Also in the neighborhood were the Corbett's.  Stacy, a few years older and I always thought the cutest girl in the neighborhood, Steffie, a year younger, and little Brad, who I think was younger than Tommy Stubey. The Rogers, Corbetts and Stubeys lived at one end of the circle. At the far end, in a house I realized much later in life was exactly the same as the Rogers which was not typical of that neighborhood, lived the Crancers. Barbara Crancer was my sister, Liz's, age, about 2 years older than me.  She was named after her mother, who was born Barbara Hoffa, and is the daughter of Jimmy Hoffa the famous leader of the Teamster's union.  Though I have met him, he didn't often come to the neighborhood. They lived in Chicago.  He disappeared when I was young.  Due to a life long legal battle about her father's estate, Mrs. Crancer, went on to get a legal degree, pass the bar and eventually become a judge in later life.  Always a close friend of my mother's, it was weird at that time for a "housewife" to do something like that. I'm still impressed with her for that.

It was a very Brady Bunch life, growing up on Nolan Drive.  With bikes, roller skates and Big Wheels up and down the street.  Eating Bomb Pops and Push Ups from the ice cream man, or home made Kool Aid pops made in an ice cube tray with toothpicks.  Playing ball in the street (since it was a circular drive, no one came back there except local traffic, which was very light), playing Army all around the houses in the neighborhood because there were few fenced yards.  Playing tag and kick the can, and "Red light, Green Light" and "Statues." We often played in Lang's Field, a small side lot on the corner of the street that was too small for a house, but big enough for baseball, football and soccer.  It sat between the Langs and the Whitmeyers, but we knew it was owned by the Langs, hence the name.  Later, the Langs planted three trees at one end, I always thought it was to discourage the kids from playing there all the time.  At night, the lightening bugs would come out and we'd chase them down and put them in jars trying to make a lantern that would light the night.  They gathered around the honey suckle that grew along the back yard fences, and we'd pass out in the clover that bloomed in Lang's Field. 

My fondest memories were of things like decorating my bike for the 4th of July parade from North Glendale Elementary down Sappington and back for a picnic celebration at the school.  People would decorate their cars either just with crepe paper, or often with themes and designs.  I recall one VW Bug owner (not Mrs. Rogers, she had long since traded it in, but there were loads of them on the road back then) made a 'whale' out of the car, opening the front hood like a giant mouth, with paper teeth, a large eye on the side, and a paper mache tail mounted in the back. It was very cleaver and I remember being very impressed with the creativity.

Mr. Corbett was a VP for the marketing company that had the 7-Up account. For years, we would get free stuff from 7-Up and it was more than just pencils, pens and refrigerator magnets. It was all kinds of really creative stuff usually emphasizing the "uncola" concept with upside down fake soda bottles, or green plastic dice with 'bubbles' inside that made it look like it was full of 7-Up.  One year, I think for the parade, he was able to borrow the company PPV (Pedal Powered Vehicle).  It was a 2-man pedal car with the 7-Up logo and colors all over it.  We decorated it up and fought for our turn to pedal it in the parade. We got to ride it around the neighborhood all that week.

On year, inspired by the autoanimatronics at DisneyWorld, I built an "Uncle Sam" robot out of my Erector Set.  I had planned to make his arm wave, but the motor that came with the set required an AC outlet and i was pulling him, seated in a chair, in my red wagon.  I was probably 11 years old.    It "The Bicentennial" which anyone alive during that time remembers the whole country gearing up for the years leading up and wearing red, white and blue all year long.  The build up was so huge that it was almost disappointing in the out years, and people tried to carry over the energy into each successive 4th of July.  That time was so magical to me, so perfectly wonderful in memory, that it's where I "live" in my mind. Its where I go when people talk about "patriotism" and "Americana" and "American as Mom and Apple Pie."  Oh, yes, it was a time of drugs, hippies, the Vietnam War, and lots of dark, ugly things too.  But those were kept at bay by the happy times.  You didn't lock your front door when you were home even at night and only if you were going away for a long time.  You rarely locked your car even, but you didn't leave your key in it, not because it would get stolen, but because there were so many kids around. It was dangerous. 

It was a shock when we discovered someone had gotten into our open garage and stolen some sleeping bags.  The story the family always told was that it must have been a vagrant or hippy looking for something to sleep in.  I suspect it was probably some teen ager, like Mike Rogers or his friend, who was running away from home for a night or two. Thought it was most likely one of Kathie, my oldest sister's, friends, who was either drunk or stoned and needed to sleep off a hangover somewhere and borrowed the sleeping bag. But because they couldn't admit to why they borrowed it, never admitted to having it, so it was never returned.  But it was a traumatic event that our family always looked to as the first sign that the darker, evil outer world had crept into our idyllic neighborhood.

Perhaps because of all this, is why I am so fiercely Patriotic and Conservative.  I yearn for my kids to know years like that.  Politically, it was the Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter years, so it was hardly the high times of America. But it was definitely a simpler time, when my Mom could send me off at 5 years old to walk up the busy Sappington Rd (Still only 2 lanes, but one of the main roads of the town and cars were constant) every day to Kindergarten.  Where we would head out almost before the sun came up, play outside, and our mother wouldn't see us again until dark.  I don't remember having street lights, so we didn't have the "come home when the streetlights come on" rule like other kids I know, but we knew to quit playing at dusk and better get our butts home before dark.  One family had a hand bell they would ring to call the kids home. My mother had a green Girl Scout whistle she would sometimes blow and I'd better come home and see if it was me she wanted or there would be hell to pay later. 

After school, I would go to Mark Roger's house and we'd eat a snack and watch Mr. Patches followed by Speed Racer on Channel 30 on the UHF dial.  Then we'd go outside with our GI Joes, the 12-inch ones with the Kung Foo grip, not the little molded plastic crap that my brother's generation had.  Our GI Joes had cool clothes and helmets to wear, and guns to carry.  We'd spend hours trying to get their removable feet out of the plastic, molded boots until we decided it was easier to leave them and play with them without feet.  Their fingers broke off because of the Kung Foo grip, but it was better than the old hands hands that didn't move and were held in unrealistic 45-degree bends around their guns.



( To be continued)

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Arya Valar Morghulis
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