Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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Charlie (Colorado)

The really sad part is that she's now a more than comfortably well-off Harvard-educated lawyer, married to a Senator and within shouting distance of being married to a President, and I bet she still feels that way.


It seems to me that many, if not most, people feel out of place in college--although they may not have a hook convenient as race on which to hang their outsider feelings.

Here's the end of a thoughtful piece by Peggy Noonan on Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama seems keenly aware of her struggles, of what it took to rise so high as a black woman in a white country. Fair enough. But I have wondered if it is hard for young African-Americans of her generation, having been drilled in America's sad racial history, having been told about it every day of their lives, to fully apprehend the struggles of others. I wonder if she knows that some people look at her and think "Man, she got it all." Intelligent, strong, tall, beautiful, Princeton, Harvard, black at a time when America was trying to make up for its sins and be helpful, and from a working-class family with two functioning parents who made sure she got to school.

That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family, and she apparently came from the privileged part of that divide. A lot of white working-class Americans didn't come up with those things. Some of them were raised by a TV and a microwave and love our country anyway, every day.

Does Mrs. Obama know this? I don't know. If she does, love and gratitude for the place that tries to give everyone an equal shot would seem to be in order.

Gregory Koster

Dear Amba: If Michelle Obama felt alienated and out of place at Princeton, there were always colleges such as Spelman, the historically black women's college in Atlanta, that were available. There she could have written a thesis about being excluded from the "power schools," such as, oh, Princeton, and how unfair white society was being in keeping blacks out...If you thought Hillary Clinton was a disaster for her husband's administration, and for herself, here we go again.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster


I know what it was like to feel inadequate while privileged to be in a very privileged context -- I was at Harvard pre-feminism, when women were condescended to, deprecated and double-binded in all sorts of matter-of-fact ways (e.g. "if you're smart you're not attractive and if you're attractive you're not smart, and in any case you can never, by nature, be as good as a male at any of the really important things") -- and what a relief it can be not to totally blame yourself for that feeling, to understand its historical context.

That said, then what? Someplace else I described feminism as an elevator that got me out of the cellar so I could get out on the ground floor and walk away, and added that while running the elevator was a valuable service, spending your life in the elevator rather defeated the purpose.

People who have never felt that internalized shame shouldn't be too quick to judge that part of the equation. Michelle Obama can't be said to have used the explanation as an excuse. She went on and achieved and, Charlie, I don't agree: I bet she no longer feels that way herself. But to what extent does she, out of inculcated guilt, make it an excuse for others? Who didn't have, and didn't see any reason to create for their own children, the intact family she had? There Peggy Noonan is right on the mark.


It can lead to an understanding of why she got involved with Trinity Church: trying to restore family values and the work ethic to the black community is first-order important. But blaming history or society (or, as people in therapy used to, your parents) for your problems needs to be a very temporary step. At best it's the moment when you realize you are not sui generis, that you come out of a context that itself came out of a context that . . . (karma, Charlie). At best, that is the turning point when, freed of a burden you didn't understand, realizing it isn't personal, you become responsible for yourself and have choices for the first time.


LOL. Peggy Noonan goes on to say:

Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like "international justice" than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?

Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised--so raised in the liberal cocoon--that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?

Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it's his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America's leaders don't love America tenderly, who will?


"But what she wrote as a college student in 1985?"
Not important! Unless, of course, it was a non-socialist nominee for the Supreme Court and you were an anti-American member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


It may be obvious, but she was writing this for the sociology department at Princeton. Any time you are writing a thesis, certainly in a social science department, you are constrained to give some attention to the political philosophy of the members of the department who will be reading it. Even if you have been studying under them for 4 years and managed not to accept their cultural perspective. I would be amazed if the sociology department at Princeton in that era differed from the one at Berkeley at the same time.

Which means that Ms. Obama may have truly felt that way...or she may have been essentially writing department-centric boiler-plate. Which is to say, I'd be a lot more interested in what she has said, and especially what she has done, in the last decade or two than in what she wrote in college.


I think Peggy makes some excellent points. However I don't think that every president 'loves America tenderly.' I think blind patriotism is something that few have. Like human beings, every country is flawed. We are proud of what we love and wish to change what we don't. That's why people get into politics. I don't doubt that while the Clintons are very proud to be Americans, there are things about this country that they do not love as tenderly. I don't think the Obamas are any different in that regard. Their discontent happens to lie in different areas.


The more I read about Michelle Obama, the more unnerving I find her. I heard some clips of a speech she gave a few weeks ago that made Barack sound like a combination of MLK, Werner Erhard, and Jesus Christ.

Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

Michelle Obama at UCLA

However well-intentioned the Obamas may be, they are playing with the energies of a religious mass movement and it may all end in tears.


I'm sorry Huxley, I'm missing something. I read her statement to mean that we - the people - NEED to get involved in politics in order to shape our own future rather than wait for someone else to shape it for us. Our voter participation has been low for decades and look what it has gotten us. I don't see what the problem with that is or how that is religious. If the Obamas get more/new people involved in the political process, what is the problem? There's a good chance that it does not benefit Obama. Who cares. More involvement is better than less.


All she does is scream discrimination and gets school, jobs and cash.

Obama did the same with his church and Chicago.

Finals are crack


A lot of scrutiny of Michelle Obama these days, Amba. What are your thoughts on Cindy McCain?


Mitch -- That was the first excerpt that I found transcribed. I'm annoyed by it because I'm not looking for a politician to demand that I shed my cynicism and be my personal coach.

However, you're right it doesn't really illustrate my concern. Here's a better one:

We have lost the understanding that in a democracy, we have a mutual obligation to one another — that we cannot measure the greatness of our society by the strongest and richest of us, but we have to measure our greatness by the least of these. That we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done.

That is why I am here, because Barack Obama is the ONLY person in this who understands that. That before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation.

Is Barack Obama the Messiah?

By all means click on the link and look around the site. The blogger is documenting all the over-the-top messianism around Obama.

To hear the audio excerpts: Michelle Obama's Vision of America


Elyas: I don't know a whole lot about Cindy McCain. My completely superficial impressions probably sum up what most Americans know about her who -- out of either lack of time or lack of effort, in my case both -- depend for information on what the media's obsessing over.

1. She started out as sort of a pretty younger trophy wife.

2. She had a prescription drug problem at one point.

3. She has a sort of buttoned-up stoical quality.

I'm not proud of not working to inform myself better, but there it is. I'm sure we will hear a lot more about her, pro and con, very soon.

P.S. McCain's 95-year-old mother is a pistol.


By the way, I like Michelle Obama. I know where she's coming from, and I'm not sure she's come far enough yet. She and Barack are looking too left, too recently, to win the White House; they may be the Huckabees of the Democratic party. Does that mean Hillary has another shot??

I'm comfortable with President McCain now and President Obama later. They both need some more seasoning, that's all. Youthful political radicalism is no disqualifier. Many of today's neocons were probably once farther left than the Obamas ever were.


Huxley: I appreciate your steady refusal to be provoked out of civility. Thanks for coming over and modeling classical liberalism, the real thing.


Thanks, Amba! You're an inspiring model yourself.

For myself, I don't think the Obamas are "looking too left"; they are too left. Once Americans get a good look at their politics and background, Obama will be as likely to win in 2008 as McGovern in 1972.

In addition to one of the most liberal voting records in Congress and the unsettling cultishness of his followers, Barack is surrounded by the footprints of sixties radicalism in his parents, his mentors, his church, and his community organizing.

I am surprised at how people from the far left keep showing up. Obama has even worked with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, the two most notorious and unrepentant terrorists left over from the Weather Underground.

I'm sure he'll continue his piecemeal disavowals of the worst of these linkages like he did with his minister and Farrakhan, but after a while I suspect the majority of Americans will just say, thanks but no thanks.

We can still appreciate Obama as a senator and a voice for many people, but that doesn't mean we have to make him president.


Huxley, I understand what you mean. There is a bit of a 'preacher' tone to the way Obama speaks but I don't fault him for it as some of Rodham's supporters do. I do hope my tone was not 'picking a fight' but rather challenging debate.

You raise a good point. What DO we want from our politicians? If inspiration is not part of what we want from our politicians then we have the wrong political system. In much of Europe, you vote for platform/party and who leads it is almost irrelevant because it's not about a personality. In the US, personality is part and parcel to our political debates, rightly or wrongly. Whether we agree with it or not, we evaluate the person as much as we evaluate the party and Obama inspires more people to participate rather than just appealing to those who already do.

I think Obama's appeal is probably stronger for those who have felt left out of or are jaded by the system and needed an invitation to be part of it. You seem to be someone who has been involved in the political debate for a long time so this invitation is not needed and perhaps insulting. But we are running at between 55% and 60% participation. Even if Obama brings Rodham supporters out of the woodwork, it's a good thing.

BTW: I use 'Rodham' because I want to talk about her as her own person vs. just wife of Bill.


I'm comfortable with President McCain now and President Obama later.


I don't know Amba, but after 8 years of republican rule, I've had enough of republicans. McCain's stance on the Iraq war is enough for me not to vote for him. They love to talk about fiscal responsibility, but think nothing of a war that is costing 12 billion a month with no end in sight. Wasn't it McCain who said we'll be there another 100 years? We'll see, but I think the country will not be going republican this time around. The pendulum always swings.


Mitch -- Well, politics is complicated. For me, Obama is the worst choice out of both parties. He is young, inexperienced, I'm not sure what he stands for except that it's farther out on the left than I care for, he got the surge completely wrong and hasn't climbed down from that in an honest way, yet he can put large crowds into an ecstatic trance. That's a bad combination in my book.

I listened to the end of the "Yes We Can" video and to me it sounds like all those young people chanting "Yes We Can" might as well have been chanting "Sieg Heil." And his wife speaks of him as though he were the next Great Leader who will lead us out of the darkness, heal our souls, forego our individual interests for the collective, and remake us as a People. Volksgemeinschaft here we come! I find that scary.

Sure, he's bringing lots of people into the system, but what happens if (and I would say when) his movement collapses, either of its own weight or because the adult supervision of the country kicks in and says No. Where do those people go then?

Michelle Obama looks at the mass movement of people supporting her husband and says that she is proud of her country for the first time in her adult life. If America rejects Obama, do she and his followers go back to being ashamed of America?

Rick M,

Imagine poor, disenfranchised, liberally elitist, Ivy League trained Michelle Marx Obama now being proud of her country because she has a national forum from which to espouse the evils of white society to the useful idiots who support her husband, another self-proclaimed poor, disenfranchised, liberally elitist, Ivy league trained Barack Marx Obama. See the two of them eating lobster bisque and steak tartar as they tell you how they suffered for being black in a white man's world, while they both received the benefits of private school education, sitting on various boards making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries and lawyer career benefits, living in exclusive Chicago neighborhoods and getting sweetheart deals on land purchases. Finally, listen to the empathy in their speeches as they relate to past junior achievement-like political accomplishments while they spend Sunday mornings in their Afro-centric congregation listening to their pastor spew anti-white messages for decades, and now, wanting to lead the very people they despise. Does this sound Clintonesquely familiar to anyone???


Huxley asked, "If America rejects Obama, do she and his followers go back to being ashamed of America?"

As someone who is currently supporting Obama, I take offense to your question. Why would I be any more ashamed of America than you? What makes you think you love America more than I do? The whole subject about Michelle Obama's comment irritates me, because of the intense condescending that come from the right. I don't have a problem with criticism of ideas that liberals have, I like to debate. But do I have a problem with the right when they start telling me that they represent God and country better. You never hear of the left doing the same thing to the right when it comes to God and country.


I've been thinking...

do we need so much involvement from spouses to float their Presidential mates and speak for them? Since when did listening to MObama &BClinton get to be as important as listening to the candidates themselves? WHO'S running, here?

I love Laura Bush- her grace, her manners, her support for W- her ability to do seperate things not really inclusive of "running the Country". That gives me peace of mind. To many folks thinking they get to wear the Engineer's cap and we're really going to crash.

AND- do we need more Lawyers, too? I mean, yeah- they're bright lights, they put my Hick thinking in a box marked: "Un-educated", "Less Inclined to Lead" or even "Poor". To pick up on spud's thread- that doesn't make them more able to run our Country than Huckabee or Romney. What, no Lawyers on the Conservative side? Huh.

I think grassroots, hometown ingenuity is a great way to go and more alternatives offered than the elite suggested and controlled-- elite on both sides. Lawyers- for all the inclusive, big talk-- i don't beleive will actually do this.


huxley, I think that drawing a parallel between "Yes, We Can!" and "Sieg Heil!" rather assumes the conclusion. Political rallies frequently tend to this kind of inane chanting. Are you old enough to remember the Republican Convention a while back chanting "Four More Years!"? Talk about vacuous slogans.

As Amba pointed out earlier, if we really object to this kind of mass appeal, we've got the wrong kind of political system. But personally, much as I don't want to spend any of my time at that kind of a rally, I see it as part of the price to be paid for a system which overall works better than any of the alternatives I can see.


wj -- Everyone is welcome their own responses, of course.

Mine is that Obama taken as a whole package -- not just one detail like the chanting or the flag pin or his inexperience etc. -- really unnerves me. I can't think of another candidate in modern times who came within striking distance of the presidency and had so many red lights flashing.

I can understand that he is appealing and inspirational and all that, but good grief we are talking about putting this 46 year-old with almost no experience running anything beyond campaigns into the most powerful office on the planet. How much could he possibly know about economics, the military, foreign policy, or even the interests of Americans outside his bailiwick of Illinois?

There are places for inspiring people in our society, e.g. late night infomercials, but not president of the United States, not if that's their main claim to fame.

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hmmm, nice post, i really appreciate your work.

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