It was good to see — in the Wednesday, October 25th edition of the Shoshone News-Press – that Wallace’s upcoming mayoral election will be contested.
I’m guessing that Lynn Mogensen is the likely frontrunner at this point. Her long service on the city council and perhaps especially her employment with the U.S. Postal Service have surely provided her with a wide array of acquaintances and friends around our town. I like Lynn, and, speaking for myself, our interactions have always been friendly.
At the same time, I hope Wallace voters will take a close look at Lynn’s opponent, David Sherman. I don’t know him well, but I’ve been following his remarks and commentaries for some time on Facebook. On that medium David Sherman may be said to come across as an intelligent, thoughtful, educated, and sensible voice. Perhaps especially in his many exchanges with our local Hunter-Thompson-esque and firebrand wordsmith, the redoubtable David Bond, Sherman elevates the medium.
By way of an example of this, I recently appreciated one of Sherman’s longer Facebook commentaries to the degree that I made a copy for future reference. Here are his words, in response to some “experts'” suggestions that our nation may be headed toward a second Civil War.
“Experts”, eh? We have had a lot more divisive times than today, without it ever escalating to war. By “more divisive” I don’t mean “more people screaming at each other”, but rather “more legitimate things to be upset about and more people with nothing to lose by fighting over them.” Three examples come quickly to mind.
One is around the turn of the past century, also known as the Gilded Age. Multiple new technologies were transforming society in ways more shocking and unexpected than the Internet is today. Labor was in open revolt, and Bolshevism was looking like a real plausible alternative to capitalism. There was a crisis of debt and of monetary policy. Labor disputes turned into pitched gun-battles in many instances, and radicals assassinated public officials up to and including the President. As if that wasn’t enough, we also had serious fights about race relations, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, immigration, and even dangerous foods and drugs. Perhaps the only thing that saved us from a civil war then and there was that the past Civil War was still well within living memory.
The next crisis that could have become a civil war was the Great Depression. Other developed countries either collapsed entirely or transformed into hyper-nationalistic, militaristic, autocracies. As the Depression dragged on and all manner of government programs attempted but failed to end it, serious people questioned whether Capitalism was even worthy of serious consideration, while people with less time for contemplation revisited the idea of Socialist revolution or corporate coup (see: Smedley Butler). In any country at any time in history, large numbers of unattached men means trouble, and at the depth of the Depression, 25% of American working-age men could not find a job. There was no unemployment insurance, and perhaps only good upbringing and a sense of duty kept a critical mass of them from starting a civil war.
The third close call was very different from the previous two, because economic hardship wasn’t part of it. But social strife and the need to deal with the unaddressed issues of modern life — race relations, environmental degradation, and chronic foreign warfare — led to huge riots, new federal police powers, gun control, and serious calls for a second constitutional convention. The fact that this was taking place an even century after the previous Civil War did not go unnoticed. What saved us that time, was our political institutions. The worst of the issues were addressed through major pieces of legislation, passed with bipartisan support by a generation of congressmen who had been through WWII together and when push came to shove, valued country over party. Of course none of the problems was totally solved, but the Civil Rights Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, and the decision to quit fighting in Vietnam took the pressure off of revolutionary demands.
By comparison, we have things pretty easy today. The economy isn’t great everywhere, but the social safety net largely functions to prevent repeats of Depression-era scenes. Social justice warriors are arguing about points that are finer, at least, than lynchings and “whites only” signs. The only real risk factor for war that I see is that very few modern Americans of fighting age have any experience with war or even realistic book-knowledge of war. Wars start when at least one side thinks it will be easy. If war looked likely to break out, we might avert it merely by educating potential fighters about what they’re in for. Cell phones may not work. There may only be one food option in the mess tent, and it probably won’t be vegan or gluten-free. People you don’t like will boss you around. You will have to get off your fat ass and work hard. People will say crude, hurtful, insensitive things and nobody will care that they bother you. Places you like will get destroyed. The power will go out. For a long time. There won’t be any gas. Whatever money you had in banks and investment funds will disappear. You will see people get badly hurt and die. You may get badly hurt or die. You will wonder what the point of it all is and whether it will be worth it in the end. To avoid all that, it would be better to do all our wondering about whether it will be worth it before we start.
David Sherman, by profession, is an engineer. Without wishing to fall prey to stereotyping, my experience with engineers and physical scientists is that they can on occasion be somewhat tone deaf when it comes to human relations, history, politics, and culture. But I think the long quotation I’ve reproduced above shows something quite different about Mr. Sherman – which is to say, it shows a keen sense of history, strong values on compromise and civility, and no little just-plain good sense. It was a commentary worth saving.
My sense is that Sherman would bring the same sort of intelligence and good sense to the mayor’s office. Beyond that, I’m guessing he’d bring the office some valuable extra horsepower too – in the way a good writer can elevate public discourse and public service.
Anyhow, I’m hoping my neighbors and other fellow voters will give his candidacy their careful consideration.
— Ron Roizen