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Keillor writes: "Truth begins with facts. Facts are solid, like bricks. You build a house out of facts, the wolf won’t blow it down. But you drop a fact on your foot, it hurts."

Garrison Keillor. (photo: A Prairie Home Companion)
Garrison Keillor. (photo: A Prairie Home Companion)

Beauty Is Truth and Truth Is Factual

By Garrison Keillor, Portland Press Herald

12 September 17

Facts have a tendency to bring us down a notch. Even presidents must yield to them.

ruth begins with facts. Facts are solid, like bricks. You build a house out of facts, the wolf won’t blow it down. But you drop a fact on your foot, it hurts.

I learned this as a boy, living near the Mississippi River in Minnesota when I discovered that where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi near Cairo, Illinois, the Ohio is actually larger than the Mississippi. So it’s the Mississippi that flows into the Ohio. The Ohio is the big show. This fact was shocking to me. I was proud of the river, spent hours on the shore, skipped stones on it, and I felt diminished by the new information. To go from Father of Waters to a mere tributary is a definite fall.

Facts have that tendency to bring us down a notch. I’d been 6-foot-3 since I was in high school and now I’m a half-inch short of that. If people ask, I still say 6-3 but it’s not true and I know it. I’m shrinking.

Even presidents must yield to facts. The horse-faced William Henry Harrison lasted only a month in the White House. He was a military hero, having defeated the Shawnees at the Battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana, and he was anxious to show his intellectual acuity and so, having defeated Martin Van Buren in the 1840 election, Harrison composed a massive speech for his inauguration and stood and delivered it for two hours in a cold rain, a 68-year-old man, hatless, coatless, and then attended three inaugural balls. His wife had stayed home sick and wasn’t there to advise him. A couple weeks later, feeling very ill, he took to his bed. Pneumonia was the diagnosis, though it’s now believed he had a bacterial infection from drinking bad water, there being no sewers in Washington at the time. His doctor dosed him with opium and repeated enemas, and the treatment likely hastened his end.

He had written the speech himself and the first sentence gives you an idea of the style: “Called from a retirement which I had supposed was to continue for the residue of my life to fill the chief executive office of this great and free nation, I appear before you, fellow citizens, to take the oaths which the Constitution prescribes as a necessary qualification for the performance of its duties; and in obedience to a custom coeval with our government and what I believe to be your expectations I proceed to present to you a summary of the principles which will govern me in the discharge of the duties which I shall be called upon to perform.”

In other words, “You elected me president and now I shall address you.”

As he lay in the White House, in an opioid stupor, with a hose up his rear end, W.H.H. might have dreamed of Tippecanoe when he rode around waving his sword at Tecumseh’s warriors, or maybe he revisited the debacle on the Capitol steps, the crowd standing glumly in the cold rain listening to 8,445 words of hogwash and horse feathers which, what with the rain and the lack of a megaphone, were incomprehensible to most onlookers, a faint murmurous croaking like a cricket in the weeds. In the space of one month, a hero became the butt of a joke – Longest Speech led to pneumonia which led to Shortest Term in Office.

Now it appears he died by drinking water that contained his own waste, the executive chamberpot having been emptied on ground near the White House well.

As the current occupant cuts his prime rib under the John Adams inscription on the dining room mantel (“May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof”), he seems impervious to reality. Like many real estate salesmen, the gentleman has a poetic imagination. Any man who comes away from a visit to Houston and says people there are happy is eating the wrong mushrooms. He has stood in a cold rain for seven months, pretending the sun is shining, winning the admiration of a shrinking bloc of barflies, bikers, and Baptists, and now he is drinking bad water, and eventually reality will catch up with him. It always does. He is headed for Harrisondom.

W.H.H. had a large vision of westward expansion but he should’ve thought about sanitation. The Romans had built a massive sewer, the Cloaca Maxima, back in Jeremiah’s day and a system of aqueducts by the time Jesus was in the third grade. Wake up and smell the excrement. your social media marketing partner


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+45 # Wise woman 2017-09-12 11:57
Let's hope Garrisons prognostication s are true although the WH now has indoor facilities. The things called facts always seem to flow into those facilities by this administration.
0 # randrjwr 2017-09-15 08:37
Be careful what you wish for, as they say. Pence would be as bad or worse, except that he might (MIGHT!!) not nuke North Korea. But he could probably get more of the alt-right agenda done.
+35 # PABLO DIABLO 2017-09-12 13:31
So the old maxim, "Eat shit and die" came from facts.
+10 # DurangoKid 2017-09-12 13:52
It's the correlary of don't shit where you eat.
+18 # futhark 2017-09-12 16:10
Every time President Trump flies to Florida on one of his "golf holidays", Air Force 1's jet engine's exhausts spew out many kilograms of climate changing fecal matter, aka carbon dioxide. I know he doesn't acknowledge the connection between human technology sourced carbon dioxide and climate change and probably doesn't think there will be any tangible adverse consequences for himself, the billions of other people around the planet are even now experiencing the premature termination of their own aspirations and lives,all because he can't tell the difference between environmental excrement and a once popular brand of shoe polish (Shinola).
-8 # rprichard 2017-09-12 19:05
The most alarming lesson from the 2016 campaign is how persuasive propaganda and disinformation are in shaping the beliefs of even the most informed, educated, and otherwise advantaged people.

A Garrison Keillor fan, I was dismayed when he included false media narratives in his August 22 nationally distributed column, ”We’ve Never Been Here Before,” -- lies repeated virtually daily by people like Keillor so that people like Keillor come to believe they're factual:

Keillor: “Clinton was a symbolic candidate with a nice résumé who lacked the ability to connect with voters. This is a fatal flaw. She was almost beaten in the primaries by an elderly Vermont socialist.”

Hillary trounced Bernie in the 2016 primaries by over 3.7 million votes. She won the popular vote in the fall by almost 3 million votes, receiving more votes than any presidential nominee except Obama in 2008 – for whom both Clintons campaigned passionately as soon as he won that actually close primary contest.

No matter how much Keillor wants to believe it, Hillary’s having gotten 3.7 million more primary votes than Sanders is not “almost beaten.” And her winning an historic 65.9 million votes in the fall -- despite relentless disinformation campaigns against her by our media, Bernie, Putin, Trump, and Comey, disproves Keillor's regurgitated lying spin that she “lacked the ability to connect with voters."

D Moynihan re propaganda: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
+4 # dbrize 2017-09-12 21:03
The master had it figured years ago:

"Nines time out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is no truth to be discovered; there is only error to be exposed."
H L Mencken

Garrison has been in the dumps since election eve. At least he is beyond excuse making and dealing with reality.

Hillary lost under the system we have. No one changed the rules on her. And she lost decisively where it counts. The Electoral College. As always with the Clintons and their brigades, it's never their fault, always that nasty "conspiracy" against them.

It's over. Time to move on.
+8 # librarian1984 2017-09-13 09:23
That sounds awfully uncynical for Mencken. Nowadays I'd say corruption far outpaces error.
+9 # librarian1984 2017-09-13 09:21
I find it interesting that I agreed SO completely with your first three paragraphs only to find we interpret the facts in opposite ways!

I truly believe Hillary, despite her resume, was widely disliked and distrusted by Republicans AND Democrats, that she and the DNC cheated Sanders out of the nomination and that Sanders, and probably many other politicians, would have beaten Trump.

One needs only to look at their present behavior to decide which one was, and still is, working for others and which one is a delusional narcissist. Sanders stuck to policy during the primary while Clinton and her people insulted him, progressives and conservatives -- and now she takes little personal responsibility but blames misogyny, Comey, Russia, Obama, millennials, the DNC, the NYT etc.

Sanders' (Nina Turner: "He has no ego.") focus was on helping others rather than the establishment -- and now he's working his butt off to get decent health care for all Americans, while Hillary ('I'm With Her') is still attacking OTHER DEMOCRATS and totally uninterested in unifying the party.

She is a neoliberal, primarily concerned with militarism, privatization and corporate welfare, while Sanders (whose supporters gave her the popular vote win) wants to return the party to that of FDR. Do you really see Clintonism as the desirable goal of the DP?

It's unproductive to keep replaying the 2016 election. Sanders has moved past it. Clinton and Trump have not.
0 # bird 2017-09-15 11:40
I agree that the quote you cite form Garrison may be "factually" true in it's isolation, and also note, that in it's isolation, it resembles no more, or less, than Garrison's opinion. It is, however, shared by an awful lot of people. Your focus on the primaries as a factual representation of Hillary's ability to "connect" ignores the fact, more specifically, and less prosaically than Garrison might offer, is that he, Mr. Sanders was a serious challenger, despite the media blackout of his very real world connection in auditoriums and stadiums around the country. Something that IMHO, yes OPINION, is much more "factually connected" than the multi million dollar corporate funded media "campaign" that Ms. Clinton benefited from. Now what was that about propaganda? A well dressed goose? (That was a joke, son.)
Thanks, btw, being so focused on one thing. No doubt where your coming from.
+5 # elkingo 2017-09-12 20:32
What dismal pictures, both of 'em. But on balance from what you say, Trump seems even more wacky and delusional than WHH.

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