Scott Cawelti

About Scott Cawelti -

Scott Cawelti was born and raised in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He taught writing, film, and literature at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) from 1968-2008, and has written regular opinion columns and reviews for the Waterloo / Cedar Falls Courier since the late 1970s.  He played for years in a folk duo with Robert James Waller and still regularly performs as a singer/guitarist/songwriter. Scott continues to teach as an adjunct instructor at UNI.

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  • Patriotism, Groupthink, and PINOs

    • Posted on Jul 06, 2014 by Scott Cawelti

    This appeared in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier this morning, July 6.   

    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

    Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

    Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    For 238 years we’ve been a union, minus five years for a terrible civil war to resolve slavery.  Since then we’re united by shared beliefs in freedom, individualism, rights, and equality before the law.  Oh yes, and we’re eternal optimists—Americans remain optimistic about nearly everything.   At its core, the American Dream involves hope for a brighter future, given hard work and a bit of good luck.   

    OFIRE, I used to remind American Civilization students:  Optimism, Freedom, Individuality, Rights, Equality—five pillars of American ideology.

    Thomas Paine wrote in late 1776, six months after the Declaration of Independence:   

    “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

    “Summer soldier” and “sunshine patriots” rings true still—those who love their country when it’s easy, when it requires little more than a pledge, a flag-wave or two, some fireworks and repeating talking points for your base choir.  Patriots in name only, or PINOs. 

    The real sacrifice today, however, doesn’t involve going to war against a tyrannical enemy.  Our age involves something that’s both more complex and almost as difficult:  Questioning your own party, its behavior and stance on major issues. 

    As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo put it last January, “The gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans. It’s more about extreme Republicans versus moderate Republicans.”

    The “wacko birds,” as John McCain calls them (Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and others of their ilk) play well to their base but turn off most voters for being utterly out of touch.  

    Rabidly pro-gun and anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, anti-government spending on anything except the military, anti-immigration, and certainly anti-compromise, they don’t reflect the rest of the world or most of the country.  

    Yet GOP Moderates other than McCain seem to tolerate and even kowtow to them, especially since Eric Cantor’s loss to another wacko bird.              

    It’s going to take heroic effort to oppose them, since the radical right owns talk radio and the Fox News propaganda machine.   

    WE’RE A COUNTRY IN DECLINE!  They cry from their Fox News rafters.   Their evidence?   Cherry-picked issues and manufactured crises, including a lawsuit from John Boehner over Obama’s use of executive orders—and our President has used far fewer than any modern president, (168 total so far) including their beloved Ronald Reagan, who issued 381.  Check Snopes.com for the facts on this one, facts which the radical right ignores.

    They’re grasping at straws, and it’s both mean-spirited and unpatriotic.  Put another way, the entire GOP has become victims of “groupthink,” a psychological phenomenon in which the desire for harmony or conformity in a well-defined group results in terrible decisions that group members won’t criticize or even analyze. 

    These PINOs are un-American because they’re total pessimists, group thinkers who’ve lost their individuality and freedom to question, who pay little attention to the issue of rights when it comes to sexual orientation, and for whom equality gets lumped in with political correctness, which they also despise.

    As Tom Paine would put it, those who stand up to them deserve the love and thanks of man and woman.

    Moderate Republicans: Endangered species and true patriots.  

               

               

     



    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

                Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

                Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

    Early July brings out patriots, waving flags and proclaiming allegiance to their beloved country.  I love our patriotic parades, red-white-blue displays, picnics, and the night’s bombs bursting in air.

                Since childhood, they stand as highlights of summer. 

                Behind it all, that great 1776 July day in Philadelphia when our forefathers proclaimed we were free from British tyranny. Then came a war to win our independence, a victory, a long constitutional convention full of compromises, and finally a union of states.  Well worth celebrating.   

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    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • Epitaph for Elmer

    • Posted on Jun 15, 2014 by Scott Cawelti
    Published on March 1, 2008.  I repost it here in honor of Father's Day and Elmer Cawelti, who died late February 2008.  I miss him.  

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    My dad Elmer lived five years shy of twice as long as my mother.

    Beany, as everyone called my mom, (she was bean-pole skinny) ) died when I was twenty.  He died at 95 early last Monday morning.  

    In that forty-five years he remarried, changed jobs, retired, traveled, and most of all became a role model as a husband, father, grandfather, neighbor, and friend. To everyone who knew him in one or another of these roles, he served almost as an ideal. Or at least that’s how it seems to me now, having known him for six and half decades. 

    Until my mother died he and I weren’t all that close.  He tended to be the reinforcer of her threats, as well as the distant, busy working man that so many fathers become to their younger children.  He lectured me on my sometimes unruly temper, and usually didn’t miss a chance to berate me about my general klutziness. 

    After Beany’s death, though, we began to spend more time together.  He transformed into quite a different man, especially after he married Jane, our family’s longtime friend and his second love.  He became, well, just plain fun, generous with his time, completely non-judgmental, and breathtakingly good-natured and optimistic.

    When he began to get down, he would mutter out loud,  ‘I’ve got to get my mind right” and sooner rather than later, he found a brighter side. He actually developed a mental habit of seeing goodness and humor everywhere. That’s a prescription every doctor would support, and probably one of the reasons he lived so long.

    He didn’t pursue happiness; he found it, in his friends, his cards, his jokes and joshing, which were almost constant, and his kindnesses to everyone.  As his neighbor Les Huth told me, he was the class act in our family. 

    Though I felt sorry for myself when my mom died, realizing that she would never see my children, my years and years of friendship with Dad has almost made up for it. He could never replace a mother, but he made a world-class father.

     When I came into his room last weekend, I woke him from one of his many naps, and I asked if he had been dreaming.  He hadn’t been dreaming, he said, but thinking.  “What about?” I asked, wondering if he had caught a glimpse of an approaching light.  “I’m thinking about what a great family I have,” he said. 

    We had become a mutual appreciation society, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

    Now, one of the many passions he bequeathed to me was a love of music, and he and my mom encouraged me to sing and play almost before I could walk.  From my dad’s example, I learned to love music, and to sing harmonies almost as effortlessly as he did.

    Angeleita and I sang this simple old folk song, not for him, but WITH him, last Saturday afternoon, 36 hours before he died.

    DOWN IN THE VALLEY 

    Down in the Valley, the valley so low.
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.
    Hear the wind blow love, oh hear the wind blow,
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

    Dad sang those old folk tunes, and whistled so well,
    His harmonies echoed, gave hearers a thrill. 
    The best words were spoken, by a neighbor so wise,
    He knew Elmer’s presence made everyone high.

    He said it and meant it, and now it’s a fact.
    No doubt about it, you’re dad’s a class act.
    Down in the valley, the valley so low
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow. 



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    Posted in
    • Nostalgia
    • Personalities
    • Death
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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