Monday, June 28, 2010


Never visited a presidential library or museum--resolved to do so here--in Abilene, Kansas--home town and grave of Eisenhower. It's late in the day so I settled along this quiet street on the outskirts of town--will visit the museum tomorrow--will bike around the city --letting it speak to me.

Ike as a boy--an accurate likeness--in a park downtown--made me ponder what accidents of fate or traits of character propel someone to greatness--wonder if any of his townspeople saw anything remarkable about him.

He grew up in this house--upper right room--one of several kids---all had distinguished careers.

Next day I paid the $5 and spent the day in the museum---which was excellent--really well done with full sized panoramas--movies--maps, guns--everything. I come away really understanding his life and times--I was a part of it--remembering election day--our store was the community voting place.

The Library is mostly for scholars and researchers---The Museum is an equally imposing building. I learned that the taxpayers fund all this.

Mural in the museum. I resolve not to leave till something "touches me".

Ike wearing the famous Eishenhower jacket--he selected for the troops--thought they looked spiffy. I do too. I wondered how he managed to stay so trim even into old age. Learned the secret from a historian on the scene. (Managed to corner two of them before I left.) Turns out Ike was a super heavy smoker--3 packs a day--It finally killed him--via heart trouble. I quizzed a second historian about his (alleged) affair with his female jeep driver---said it was probably true. Truman wrote about it in his biography--said Ike asked permission to divorce Mamie and marry the lady--apparantly was swept away---like the governor of South Carolina. Truman said he ordered Ike to end the affair and get on with the invasion of Europe. In all fairness I should report that Truman when writing this years later had soured on Ike--considered that he'd betrayed democratic principles. (wikipedia)

He and Mamie are buried here---I waited till everyone had left--wanted to be alone with the president.

He lies beneath this simple plaque.

And on the wall--these words--a fitting epitaph. no way of life at all

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Alone in the buriel chapel, letting myself feel whatever surfaced, my first flash was a poem fragment by Grey:
" The boast of heraldry and the pompt of power,
and all that beauty and all that wealth ever gave
awaits alike the inevitable hour,
for the paths of glory lead but to the grave."
True enough, but once understood as the context for all our lives, is somewhat irrelevant to the keener question: WHAT IS A LIFE WELL LIVED? Was Eisenhower's a life well lived? Is mine?
Big subject, but I'm a clever condenser: I thnk Eisenhower was a product of Germanic culture that stresses obedience (duty) as a primary value--as the path to success--a higher value than creativity. Emotions must subordinate themselves to the prime value. So Eisenhower plodded his way to the top---a career of endless years--following orders---slowly discovering his personal genius for herding humans by wielding power inoffensively. So rock steady and dependable that superiors could not but appreciate and promote him. But was he happy? Was he a joyful--well-rounded personality like Franklin or Teddy Roosevelt---or Ben Franklin for that matter. The answer is NO. They led us creatively and progressively. He had to be dragged into issues of social advance. (Little Rock school integration)
The sad incompleteness of his character surfaced in his addiction to cigaretts and his heartrending hunger for romance. I would not trade lives with Ike--I would rather be a creative, joyful nobody---which I am.
P.S. The Germans have much to answer for---foisting on the world a scripted, joy starved culture of obedience--that leaves them vulnerable to emotional con men.
And to my question about the good life---I say it is a life of LOVE AND CREATIVITY.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, Randy.

Thom Hoch said...

Enjoyed this entry Randy. But I thought it was George Marshall that Ike supposedly asked about divorcing Mamie?

Randy said...

Thom: Turns out--you're right--it was Marshal--and it was reported by Truman in his oral biograbhy (late in life)--who interestingly--said that a final act as president was to retrieve Marshal's threatening letter to Ike and destroy it--to preserve Ike's reputation. Kay Somersby said the romance was real but unconsumated. for the full story, click here:

Steve said...

Sorry for going off topic ...

Would you have any interest in doing a "Ask Randy Anything" bit.

A Q&A isn't dynamic enough and some questions are already answered in your blog. When and what question you choose to answer are purely for you to decide. It could be a once a month or weekly thing.

Make it easy by setting up an account for questions that you answer in the blog.

Answer only one question at whatever interval you choose.

Keep it simple like ...

This weeks question comes from Steve in Texas.

Steve - Randy, do you like unicorns?

Randy - I love Rhinos! Why? Because I think they're fat grey unicorns!

You get the idea.

Randy said...

Steve: I like the idea--would you send me an e-mail telling me how to do it precisely---my computer skills are scant. ( )

Tadeusz Deregowski said...

I think you are conflating "Germans" with the millitaristic, and domineering Prussians and propunding a tired sterotype about German people.

There's not much that's joy starved about Beethoven or cabaret, the wonderful German Expressionist painters, and their beautiful porcelain or Baroque churches, say.

Randy said...

Thank you Tadeusz--You may be right about the Prussians vs the Germans--I need to educate myself. My grand generalization about Germans came from a book by a German (can't remember the title)which focuses on their harsh child rearing techniques which makes kids grow up and raise their kids with a heavy hand also. One spin-off effect is an emotional vulnerability to heavy handed political leaders--and face it--you were led down the primrose path by Hitler. No doubt your clever and prosperous culture has moved well past that now--I hope. Are you (in general) harsher in rearing children than say the British or French? Perhaps you know--I don't. Do Germans grow up more compliant than creative as a result? My own culture has even worse problems--we grow up religious and stupid--50% of us do not accept evolution. We elected George Bush--twice.

Roger said...

Yes, we are stupid. We elected Barack Obama- ONCE.

Tadeusz Deregowski said...

Hi Randy,

I'm not German myself, but I've been there a good number of times: they really changed their culture quite dramatically after the war- it's considerably liberal now: you might well enjoy it there.