Friday, December 19, 2008

Farewell, Paul Weyrich

"Moral Majority" concept inspired some liberal-leftist fun

I have to say belated thanks to Paul Weyrich, an architect in the shaping of conservative thinking in America – and I don’t usually pay much homage to that wing of social (or antisocial) thought.

Weyrich, who died Thursday at 66, is credited with the buzz-phrase “moral majority” that in 1979 became the name of an influential Christian-right organization led by his pal, televangelist Jerry Falwell.

The name clearly had its roots in the “Silent Majority” mantra coined a decade earlier for Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign to counter a growing outcry over the war in Vietnam and social ills that, sadly, still plague America.

But were it not for Weyrich’s little wordplay, my wife Bonnie and I might never have become card-carrying members of a group it inspired: The Immoral Minority.

We were introduced to those entertaining leftist subversives in the early 1980s while visiting an Oregon woman old enough to be our great-grandmom. I recall she was 79, because she was in failing health and told us she planned to die by the time she was 80 and be buried alongside her husband under a lovely tree in the pasture where her old Arabian horse was grazing.

She gave us literature on two organizations she belonged to – one of them the Hemlock Society, which advocated the right to die before it was a fashionable topic. The other was the Immoral Minority.

We soon joined both organizations, not necessarily as active members.

From the Hemlock Society, we received more literature, including a book by founder Derek Humphry, who evidently is still around marketing his ideas even though Hemlock has changed in management and softened its name to “Compassion & Choices.”

From the Immoral Minority, we received membership cards, buttons, bumper stickers and a good laugh – which, I might add, we never got from the Moral Majority.

Well, actually we did get some other laughs – particularly in the late 1980s when a Moral Majority fellow traveler, the Rev. Jim Bakker, got caught up in sex and fraud scandals, went off to prison, and got quite the tongue-lashing from Falwell, who rescued and took over Bakker’s lucrative PTL (Praise The Lord) Club television show.

So impressed were the founders of the Immoral Minority that they decided to go out of business – because, among other reasons, the Moral Majority had demonstrated it wasn’t particularly moral. They advertised a “garage sale” offering up the remaining stash of regalia.

We’ve got some of it down in the basement or up in the attic, in one of the dozens of boxes of stuff that packrats like me seem to accumulate over the years as souvenirs, stuff like the newspaper rack placard declaring NIXON RESIGNS,

But at least we have the button in hand – Bonnie just found it (photo, above) lurking in the bottom of her purse. Time once again to wear it like a badge of honor.

More troubles at my old newspaper

I went to a little sendoff party Thursday night for my friend Norm Gomlak, one of several editors who have held my old job as night metro editor at The Baltimore Sun since my buyout-retirement party nearly 18 months ago. The “buyout” or “voluntary layoff” window (whatever they’re calling it) had opened recently, closed, and then apparently opened again before year’s end, and he opted to squeeze through as management sought a little more trimming of the newspaper’s decimated staff.

So I talked to lots of my friends joining in the party at a nearby bar/hangout called the Midtown Yacht Club. I heard that a couple of newsroom fax machines are on the fritz, and getting them fixed is a problem when parent Tribune’s recent bankruptcy filing makes paying for repairs a little tricky. There were even questions whether the newspaper would be able to pay freelance writers, whose contributions to the content of The Sun have been increasingly apparent.

And in the wake of the decision by Detroit’s daily newspapers to cut home delivery to three days a week, there’s thinking that Tribune/Sun management is at least watching that development in the relentless search for ways to slash costs.

A free-distribution competitor, The Baltimore Examiner, launched two years ago as a daily newspaper with home delivery in upscale city and suburban neighborhoods, scaled back months ago to mostly city news rack and hawker giveaways, and home delivery only on Thursdays and Sundays (but almost never in my Anne Arundel County community).

The Sun, meanwhile, has gradually cut back publication of its reintroduced zoned Anne Arundel County section from three days a week to the latest schedule announced this week: Only on Sundays.

Norm, by the way, worked at The Sun for a bit over six years and is one of the nicest folks I’ve ever met in the news business.

Cheers, pal!

Fortune cookie message of the day

“Get your mind set – confidence will lead you on.”
Daily Number: 701

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