Serendipitous Journey

I was on a quest to visit the shrine of the quintessential American sport and President William McKinley’s tomb. I have been mesmerized by the Roman-style display of “pane et circenses,” the festive “bread and circuses” atmosphere which is not unlike soccer in other countries and on other continents. Nowhere, however, are sports such an integral part of the American psyche – they live and breathe football. Going to the shrine, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio is a necessary rite of passage for sport-loving American enthusiasts and die-hard fans. Along the way, I embarked on a serendipitous journey into America’s past and present.

Not even the location of our hotel across from a cemetery dampened our enthusiasm – it was peaceful in a creepy sort of way, resplendent with resident Canada geese and ground hogs. We crossed four states on our journey, and, since my husband was driving miss Ileana, I slept blissfully through the state of Maryland of which I am not particularly fond – I get hives on account of its communist stance on everything.

Pennsylvania’s Amish communities amid the beautiful landscape of the Allegheny Mountains are God’s country – a lush and verdant paradise. The recent drought did not affect the area much – the fields of corn were tall and dense.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike, baptized the Blue Star Memorial Highway as a tribute to the Armed forces that have defended the United States of America, displayed political billboards on the left side of the road and regular advertising on the right.

During World War II, the Breezewood exit 6 to the turnpike was considered a major stop-off for many servicemen on their way to Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. The Snyder family had a contract to supply fuel to military convoys and became famous for bartering meals, gasoline, and rest to servicemen for Military Service Insignia Patches found inside the Gateway Inn.

Pennsylvania is coal country –Black Gold. The economy depends on the exploitation of coal, the almost 50 percent engine of our national electric energy. Coal power was advertised frequently. “Wind Dies. Sun Sets. We Need Coal,” said a billboard near Crystal Springs.
“Coal Powering America 24/7,” said another billboard near Somerset.

Less than a mile down the road, a sign touted in big, green letters, “Windmills Powering the Future.” It was ironic that the sign was placed close to six gigantic, barely rotating windmills. I am not sure how much wind there is in the area on a regular basis or how much energy those particular six generated. I do not know whose future windmills will power – perhaps some liberal village? It certainly is not enough for our large economy and I have not seen any wind driven cars.

In Donegal, PA, a billboard exposed the distortions and lies of environmentalist groups fighting the development of natural gas, a cheap and pollution-free source of energy – “You’ve been slimed!” New Stanton, PA residents went after our President – “Vote Change! Vote Nobama!”

For 180 miles, the Turnpike revealed through its political billboards, the pain and economic suffering under this administration’s policies that are destroying the coal industry, the engine of our American energy.

Upon exiting and paying our $12.50 toll, I was pensive about the reality disconnect between the unemployed coal miners in Pennsylvania and the bureaucrats in Washington. Three days ago, on the streets of D.C., two young men were pushing glossy fliers in the faces of pedestrians, advocating renewable energy. I asked one of them if he knew where his home electricity came from – surprisingly, he did know but he did not care – his job paid $12 an hour and allowed him to buy necessities and gas to drive home. To say that he was misguided, it is an understatement. It was more a reflection of our insane educational system and effective socialist brainwashing which creates drones willing to shoot themselves in the foot.

Crossing through God’s country, I felt at home among the hard-working and polite Amish, tending to their immaculate farms and dairies. People like them and the coal miners have made America an exceptional and abundant place through their work ethic, responsibility, faith, self-respect, respect of others, and fierce independence.

The moment we crossed into Ohio, the road became rougher and all political billboards disappeared. Instead, political ads from both parties bombarded the local television channels.

Our next stop was Canton, Ohio with its 80,000 square feet of interactive pro-football memorabilia. The Hall of Fame Museum is home to legends, their plays and names forever etched into the memory of football fans.

The National First Ladies’ Library, located in an 1895 bank building in Canton and the 1840 former Victorian home of First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley, showcased first ladies and other notable women.

I was fascinated by President William McKinley for two reasons – his electoral campaign and his insistence on the gold backing of our currency. We visited his burial site and memorial library in Canton. The classical Greek Mausoleum is fashioned in the style of Hadrian’s 2,000 year old tomb which is now St. Angelo’s Castle in Rome. It was built from over 2 million bricks and pink Milford granite.

Our 25th President, William McKinley, was assassinated in 1901 during his second term in office, presumably by an anarchist. I am not so sure it was a random lone anarchist – McKinley’s insistence on the gold standard and his political and financial enemies may have played a part. President McKinley’s resting place was not dedicated until September 30, 1907. He was a beloved Ohio son, war veteran, attorney, governor, and Congressman. His successor, Theodore Roosevelt, appointed a committee to select the memorial from 60 entries and the winning design chosen in 1904 was that of Harold Van Buren Magonigle. The committee raised $550,000 and the ground breaking ceremony was June 6, 1905. The corner stone with a copper box containing data about President McKinley’ life exhibits the Roman numeral 1905. Theodore Roosevelt delivered the dedication speech. The importance of President McKinley and the support he received from the American people is underscored by the lavish mausoleum funded and built with contributions from nine states and citizens around the country and abroad.

President and Mrs. McKinley are interred in the polished dark green granite sarcophagi on top of the central pedestal while their infant children are on the north wall in the back. The sarcophagi, designed to appear as two pieces in a pod, were carved from single blocks brought from Windsor, Vermont. They are resting on a large black polished Berlin marble base ten feet square, cut from a quarry in Wisconsin. The stained glass inner skylight contains the 45 stars representing the states of the union in 1901. The inscription on the freeze at the base of the dome is chosen from McKinley’s final speech in Buffalo, “Let us ever remember that our interest is in concord not conflict, and that our real preeminence lays in the victories of peace not those of war.” The monument is 97 ft. tall and has a full basement crypt. The exterior bronze doors were the largest ever cast at that time. The 9 ½ ft. statue located half way up the 108 steps was carved by Charles Hendry Niehaus from a photograph taken of the President a few hours before he was shot. A chair in the back of the statue is draped by the American flag. A bronze wreath encircles the top of the dome. (Stark County Historical Society bronze plaque, 1973)

William McKinley campaigned in 1896 on the platform of the Gold Standard – every U.S. dollar should be backed by 100 percent gold. His opponent, William Jennings Bryan, campaigned on the coinage of silver in a 16 to 1 ratio. Those who voted for McKinley were known as “gold bugs” and even wore bug lapel pins to signify their support of his platform. The gold “bug” pin with the representation of a beetle was easily recognized – everyone knew it referred to McKinley. McKinley garnered the popular vote with over 7 million and 271 electoral votes while his opponent received 176 electoral votes and 6.5 million votes.

McKinley’s campaign manager, Marc Hanna, perfected the idea of campaigning for the presidency without leaving home. Using his front porch, Marc arranged for special trips, publicity, money, and organization to bring party faithful on trains to hear McKinley speak. Hanna gave him advanced notice of who was coming and thus McKinley tailored his speech to the issues and concerns of the visitors. People from all over the country arrived at the Canton train station every day, bands played, and visitors marched to McKinley’s home on Market Avenue. This went on for 8 weeks and the locals were happy to accommodate the visitors. His opponent, William Jennings Bryan, traveled 18,000 miles during three months and spoke to an estimated 5 million people. (McKinley’s Presidential Library and Museum)

McKinley, a war veteran himself, tempered the war mongers who wanted to protect their sugar plantations from the conflict between Cuba and Spain. He did not want to engage the United States into a war without a real threat. He did not ask Congress to declare war on Spain until the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor. The Spanish-American War lasted 113 days and completely destroyed the Spanish fleet in Cuba and the Philippines. The U.S. emerged as a world power with the stigma of imperialism. The war cost the U.S. $300 million and added 124,000 square miles to the American territory. After the war, President McKinley signed on July 7, 1898 the annexation of Hawaii and Guam to the U.S. territories. The cartoons of that era portrayed Uncle Sam as a caretaker for these new “babies.”

How many innocent lives and trillions of dollars could we save today if presidents exercised McKinley’s temperance before declaring war? How many billions of dollars could be saved and months of constant bombardment by the biased media and expensive, mud-slinging commercials avoided if Hanna’s campaign method could be used again in a modernized version? Billions and billions of dollars wasted on pandering to the misinformed voters, smear campaigns of one’s opponent, and buying votes from illegal aliens and special interest groups would spread a lot of wealth to the poor and downtrodden. President Obama has been in campaign mode ever since he was elected, making him the perennial Campaigner-in-Chief.

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