Romancing the Stone in Ottawa


Lloyd and Wilmer Fesmire at the Ottawa Stone

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year I visited the Ottawa site of the original Lincoln and Douglas Debates. A few days later Dotsie Corwin sent a copy of the photography you see to the right. It shows her and Connie’s father Lloyd (L) with his father Wilmer (R) on a historic sites trip many decades before. Life is really strange.

I am the son of slaves several generations removed. These men are the sons of immigrants several generations removed. All of us paying homage to the memory of a man who was as reviled in his time as President Obama is today. And oddly enough by the very same sons and daughters who sided with Douglas in the debates with Lincoln.

The party of Lincoln has effectively been co-opted. The part of the Old South is now the GOP and the slaves who were loyal to that party up until the Great Depression made Franklin Delano Roosevelt their hero are now proud members of the Democratic Party. Go figure!

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. It took this sea change in party loyalty to resurrect the GOP. It took the campaign management and strategies of several Southerners who ran GOP presidential candidacies to make this happen. It began with the campaigns waged by Richard Milhouse Nixon and culminated with that of George H. W. Bush. The politics of America has turned on a dime with the election of Barack Obama.

It is interesting to see that normally middle-of-the-road Republicans like Mitt Romney have learned to swing as far to the right as they dare in order to appeal to the Southern vote. And that vote is moving West as well. The Red States as they are called include much of the west and northwest.

The legacy of Lincoln is hardly spoken of today. In fact in places in the South folks have lobbied against having statues of Lincoln erected the hatred of this man has remained that deep for this long. The oddity is that Lincoln was once for the GOP a very proud symbol of equality and leadership. You hear very little about him today from his own Party. Very odd.

The Drive

We took Route 71 out to Ottawa. It begins in Naperville as Route 34 and eventually takes you into downtown Ottawa where you must head south to reach the square. The debates took place in a town which even today shows signs of the grandeur it once held. It does not resemble the scrawny towns out this way in that it has buildings made of Galena limestone that look quite grand and definitely built 150 years or more ago.

The stone where Connie’s father and his father stood so many years ago is still there. It is quite large and the plaque is quite legible. Across the plaza you can see a very long mural of the debates. I have photographed it many times in the past. Today all of the images were made not with a camera but rather a smartphone. Specifically the iPhone 4S. Frankly I am quite impressed with the image quality. Technology has come a very long way as well.

Apple Computer was once considered a joke. The Macintosh was reviled by the IBM PC crowd as a toy. But that toy has long ago supplanted the IBM PC as a social icon. And its operating system with that much maligned mouse is now the standard of the world. Apple is now the largest company on the planet. Go figure!

On the way back we stopped and got additional images. The weather was a bit windy and wet today. But it was still quite nice to stretch the legs and enjoy the little sunshine there was. I will be keeping an ear to the political ground to learn what 2012 will bring.

I expect the party of Lincoln will be forced to say and do some very ugly things to oust the man who despite his rather moderate politics is considered an enemy of Capitalism (even though one of his biggest supporters is the country’s wealthiest man) and has been branded by the likes of Rush Limbaugh as a non-black person because his mother was white. Rush likes to call him a Halfrican-American.

Black Conservatives spit when they try to say his name. And yet when they put forth a candidate to run on their behalf they found a fellow who while likable and a staunch Christian was forced to drop out of the campaign when it was learned that he had a history of adulterous behavior. Hypocrisy is sometimes colorblind.

Many Conservative Christians rallied to put Newt Gingrich over the top in South Carolina. The irony of this is that they chose a philanderer over two fellows one Mormon and the other Catholic who are straight arrows if ever there were any. Again, politics is amazing. But the real kicker is that the folks who are staunch defenders of Traditional Marriage were the ones who voted most heavily for this fellow. Do they really dislike Mormons that much?