Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Edwards' Camelot ended like all Camelots end

Photo by Jim Keyworth
Bob Edwards addresses his followers just after the election results were announced.  Edwards unseated Barbara Brewer and sent the establishment scrambling.

(Editor’s note: The following was written on the occasion of Bob Edwards’ 70 birthday, an event that was celebrated by his legions of friends and supporters last Saturday at Rumsey Park.)

I’ve been supplied with some biographical information about Bob Edwards.

Where he was born. Where he went to school. His first job. His favorite vacation. His first dog’s name – Tippy. Tippy?!?!

I didn’t see column fodder in any of that. Maybe a dog named Bruno. Or Fang. Or Whiskey. But Tippy?

I also know that Bob and I both spent a fair amount of time in Flint, Mich. That he had a distinguished political career as a legislator in the home state we shared.

Although my right wing nephew campaigned door-to-door for Bob, I didn’t know him in Michigan. No column fodder there.

How strange that fate should bring us together many years later in Payson, Ariz. It’s where most of you became acquainted with Bob as well.

And it’s here, on the occasion of Bob’s 70th birthday, that we appropriately pause and reflect on how our lives would have gone if Bob had never come into them?

Would I still be writing for the Roundup? You will remember it was Bob’s run for mayor that did me in.

Or rather it was then police chief Gordie Gartner’s letter accusing Bob of not liking Mormons. But that’s a story we all know too well.

How Bob won the election despite a host of mudslinging beyond and below Gartner’s letter. Bob’s victory was one of those brief moments that make you believe in humankind.

For two years, Bob brought Camelot to Payson. A glorious time when the people truly determined the rules they and their elected officials would live by. It never rained when Bob was mayor either, but that had nothing to do with Bob or Camelot.

Bob Edwards turned back the clock to an earlier time in our country when people were truly involved in the democratic process. His town council meetings were standing room only. Friends and foes stood toe to toe and slugged it out. The meetings were loud, unruly and delicious.

It was an exciting time to be working as a journalist in Payson, and I had my own newspaper. Nobody could fire me for anything.

It was true what our mothers and Roy Rogers and Superman taught us – that the good guys could win in this world.

Of course, we all know the end of the story too. How, after wailing and pouting and gnashing their teeth and licking their wounds, the bad guys took out their checkbooks and regrouped. How they took the town back and shut down the discourse. How they removed, one by one, the few people left from the Edwards era.

How a different kind of reporter now covers the festivities at town hall – one who uses way too many words in support of the establishment.  How the status quo is never questioned or challenged.

How the town council meetings have become like white bread – lifeless, without texture, devoid of nutrition. Only the occasional act of meanness to an Edwards holdover breaks the monotony of 7-0 and 6-1 votes.

But, you will recall, that’s the way Camelots generally work. They last a while. They are so glorious that they burn white hot. And, inevitably, they burn out from their own energy.

So here we are. Standing in the park reminiscing.

But Linda May sent me an e-mail that bears repeating.

“At a time when the world seems so nasty and there is so much animosity,” she wrote, “how nice for small town friends to stop and pause and reflect on what is good about life, friendship, and making a difference in this world.”

Does that mean our day has come and gone? I don’t believe it. Not for a second.

Because we did what was right. We fought the good fight. And we will live to fight another day.

At least some of us will. Bob, after all, is 70.

1 comment:

Dean Shields said...

Absolutely, without question, the best thing you have ever written Jim. The difference between then and now is absolutely scary. I was going to ask "how could this have happened??" But I know the answer. The answer is money.
What is happening now at Town Hall leaves a knot in my stomach. Why can't people see what is happening here? And if they do see what is happening, why aren't they doing something about it?
They must really like the taste of that Kool Aid they're drinking.
Thank you Jim, and Bob Edwards, for all that you have done for us. Maybe someday things will get back to the way they were. I have to believe that. I have to believe someday people will wake up to what's happening here.