This can be an awful dirty little world. But sometimes what I call the Trump Impulse – to smatter everything with caca – doesn’t have its desired effect. It can even backfire on the smatterers.
We’ve had some pretty brutal caca moments in New Mexico recently. While the southeast Atlantic Coast and the Caribbean have been decimated by one hurricane after another, while Mexico is cracking open from massive earthquakes, some New Mexico political operatives can think of nothing better to do than to ramp up their vile, scummy, low blow pettiness in a “tv attack ad” by trying to smear the reputation of the mayoral frontrunner in Albuquerque with totally bogus innuendos of coddling sex offenders.
But there’s sunshine, too, though not without its clouds. Lobo track sensation Dickie Howard, who won the bronze medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, finally got the recognition he deserved. He’ll be inducted November 3 into the UNM Athletic Hall of Honor. After it was announced, though, the Trump Impulse whacked him. Fifty seven years after his stirring performance, and 50 years after his premature death, a sports writer here tweeted that even though he “did not live an exemplary life” he was “one of UNM’s best.” In a later tweet the writer said that if he had to do it again he wouldn’t have written what he had. But did. And once said it stays said (and the writer didn’t apologize). Many UNM track folks were furious. And still are.
I’m one of them. It’s a philosophical and ethical question now. It has very little to do with the writer. It’s about the terrible power of accusation.
Who has lived an exemplary life, anyway? And what does it mean to say in a tweet that Dickie’s wasn’t “exemplary”? Did he have problems? Yes. Doesn’t everyone? Yes. But was he racketeer, a white collar criminal, an assassin, an un-indicted co-conspirator, did he collude to rig our last presidential election with the Russians, was he an embezzler of old folks’ money? NO. Did he propose cutting the firefighting budget for the Forest Service and National Park Service by $300 million in an Age of Raging Firestorms like the current White House has? NO. Did he stand back and do nothing while New Mexico became again the worst state in the union for childhood poverty, like the Martinez administration has? NO. Is he playing games with nuclear war against the “Rocket Man” like our President is? NO.
But saying he didn’t live “an exemplary life” in a tweet lets idle minds assume the worst.
Dickie Howard was a veteran, a boxer, a great runner, and a friend of mine from long ago. Born in l935, he was five years older than me when I came to UNM in 1958. UNM was still a “southern school” then, with very few African-American students. I went out for the track team with high hopes, a kid from Los Angeles, only to find that I was so far behind world-class runners like Howard and the soon-to-be world-record holder Adolph Plummer, not to mention fine local quarter milers, that my aspirations were laughable. But I was never laughed at by Dickie or Adolph. One year, maybe in 1959, the year Dickie won the NCAA 400 meter hurdle championship for UNM, I remember hearing a cowboy in Lubbock at a track meet with Texas Tech use the N-word on Dickie. Without hesitation, Dickie cracked him one, knocking him to the floor. A small riot ensued, it seems to my memory. I also remember Dickie standing up for me in a pool hall in downtown Albuquerque where I’d have been in deep trouble at a snooker table if it hadn’t been for him. He was a star in my eyes. And a trusted friend, though I’ll always regret not getting to know him better. What happened to him after the Rome games, where he represented our country with such brilliance, has never been chronicled. Exemplary or not, no one knows for sure how his life played out, except that he died in 1967 at the age of 32. So why on earth say he didn’t live an exemplary life and leave in his wake sordid implications? Is there an innuendo of racism here? Many of my friends believe there is, not necessarily on the part of the writer, but from a general atmosphere at UNM, and Albuquerque too, over the years. And I don’t disagree.
Low down, chicken s..t, caca tossing came to Albuquerque politics when that TV ad proclaimed, according to the Albuquerque Journal, that somehow mayoral candidate Tim Keller values “sex offenders over children.” Now this is a known tactic by belly scratching low life on the Right. It was used some years ago as a fatal nudge to unseat the long reigning speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, Raymond Sanchez. It was a rotten lie then and a rotten lie now.
Keller’s website rebuts the smutty ad, saying that the “attacks are absolutely false.” Keller continues, saying that “as a father of two young children it is absolutely offensive to suggest that I would let anyone harm our kids, let alone make life easier for those who do.” This all has to do with a New Mexico Senate bill Keller supported in 2011, which, according to the campaign, “would have enabled consistent statewide restrictions on sex offenders to ensure there is oversight, reduce recurrences, and provide proper parole and monitoring, instead of through a patchwork of city by city ordinances. The NM Attorney General and the Sex Offender Management Board both supported this position.”
The Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, Kim Alaburda, is quoted by Keller’s campaign as saying that “To suggest that Tim Keller, who did support well-written, informed, evidence based legislation that truly protects children, is anti-child safety, is unconscionable.”
We haven’t heard, so far, the other mayoral candidates do the right thing and categorically denounce that smear campaign TV ad as malicious BS that does nothing but taint the nobility of the election process. You’d think at least fellow democrats would voice outrage. But politics in Albuquerque has become so base, so vulgar, so driven by “me-first-ism” that his opponents seem to be secretly licking their chops waiting for the upticks in their polling.
Innocent stupidity or the act of a malicious prankster, if you make an accusation, blatantly false or not, it sticks like a stink that takes years to dissipate.
*Nullius in verba: take nobody’s word for it
(Image by Roberlan Borges)