xml:space="preserve">

On a crisp autumn day when nothing but the sky is clear anymore, I step off my front porch and think of Eusta B. Wunce.

You know ol’ Eusta B. We all do, though in different ways. Eusta B. resides in our individual and collective histories and will, presumably, outlive us all, even if we never cross paths again.

Advertisement

“Eusta Be a lady wore a hat and gloves to church.”

“Eusta B. men would tip a hat to a lady and take her arm when she stepped off the walk.”

And Eusta was there on our first day in school, our last day and home, and most of the firsts and lasts of events in everyday people. First girlfriend or boyfriend, first kiss. First baby.

Eusta B. moments like that were shared by just about everyone; we didn’t have to be there to know how others felt. We related to Eusta B. And we did it without social media, which would have been considered impolite and downright unsociable. You shared things with notes, personal visits, or if the distance was great by personal telephone call.

Eusta B. most everyone showed respect for the town cop or the judge or the schoolteacher. And despite arguments to the contrary, Eusta B. once had faith in facts printed in the local paper. It was in the paper it had to be true, or at least fair.

When lawyers spoke, it was assumed it was at least an attempt to preserve rights and uphold the justice system, and not just let a rascal get away with something.

And politicians were expected to stretch the truth, so when they were talking everyone took it all with a grain of salt because that was how it was, Eusta B.

But a stretch was one thing, and a bare-faced lie was something else, and no one with any self-respect would want to be victimized by a liar. To be taken in like that was an insult and an embarrassment to be tolerated.

The days of open argument by an agreed set of rules seem to be over, but Eusta B. Wunce lost out to a newcomer called Charming Charisma. Charisma could take over a crowd and lift their wallets, steal the virtues of their women, clean out the reserves of character and reason and walk away with the remorse of a raiding Hun.

Riding a horse called Popularity, Charisma careened through the lands winning fans from envious peasants who were in awe of the audacity, sheer disruption and general disarray created by one who told them what they had wished they had the courage to say in polite company.

The Populist needs no leadership skills because he mines the weaknesses of human nature. Bad boy rockers, celebrity stars of stage and screen and music and the world of the rich and famous seem to survive their escapades off the leash of normal human decency and good manners, and there will always be those who wish they could live like that. And do, vicariously, to the point they will defend any offense, excuse any outrage, in those who have won their attentions.

Eusta B. leaders had to walk the same roads as the common people and come to the villages to stand on a tree stump and speak, in person, so the populations could see and hear the voice without the aid of sound effects and special lighting and other artificially staged enhancements.

Folks were not assailed by the constant pleating of political ads or incessant analysis by visitors to cable news shows on television. But then again, maybe we need to hear from someone other than the players to know the real score — or even what games are being played.

We need to pay attention because you never know when the good guy who came to town to save us from the bad guys becomes the worst bully of all.

Advertisement

Dean Minnich is a retired newsman who served two terms as a commissioner. He writes from Westminster. His email address is dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement