Opinion The Salina Journal Friday, January 31,1986 Page* m %^-iifei T i 1 ne Journal Founded in 1871 HARRIS RAYL, Editor and Publisher KAY BERENSON, Executive Editor SCOTT SEIRER, News Editor LARRY MATHEWS, Assistant News Editor LORI BRACK, Weekend Editor JIMHMG, Night Editor MARY JO PROCHAZKA, Associate Editor Sad reality For most Americans, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which killed all seven crew members, was an unremitting shock that abated little Tuesday. Employees at TV stations in Salt Lake City, and presumably elsewhere, faced another shock. They were swamped with calls from viewers who complained because their soap operas had been preempted by news coverage of the shuttle. "It's unbelievable," a secretary at one station said. "Something as tragic as the space shuttle blowing up happens, and people want to know what is happening on their soap operas. "I explain the tragedy, and some people say, 'Yes, it's a tragedy all right. I can't watch "As the World Turns." ' " How sad, to think of Americans untouched by a national tragedy. Sad also, to realize there are people who care more about fantasy worlds than about reaJlives, losses and pain. The Kansas example A reporter for The New York Times handed Kansas a compliment the other day. The reporter, Steven Roberts, wrote in an article on the paper's Washington news page that Gov. John Carlin had done something "remarkable." Carlin, Roberts wrote, had told the Kansas Legislature and the people of Kansas that if they wanted a certain level of government services, they would have to pay for it with higher taxes. Such plain talk is in short supply in the nation's capital, where everyone privately concedes that taxes must be raised and spending cut, but no one is willing to press such action, Roberts noted. What Roberts experienced during his visit to Kansas was not only Kansas plain talk but Kansas conservatism. That conservatism sometimes stalls needed change. It sometimes slows recognition of serious problems. It can be maddening when it prefers hypocrisy to common sense (the state's prohibition against "open saloons"). But this conservatism has its blessings as well. Above all, it ensures fiscal responsibility in government, a trait Washington desperately needs to relearn. We're glad The New York Times noticed. Thanks to the paper's wide reach, maybe a few people in Washington will notice, too, and take the hint. VJMAT A I'M HAVE.' IVA GONNA PUT ON MY N£W NORMA KA/AALI OUTFIT-£ETW VCR,, TO fteCOKP "MlAMI Y)CE- SIGN OFF MV CO/APUTK- Hometown writer recalls Christa Bob Hohler met Christa McAuliffe when she was a finalist in the teacher-in-space program. Hohler, who spent many hours with her over the past seven months, is a feature writer on her hometown newspaper, the Concord, N.H., Monitor. A longer version of this column appeared in the Monitor Wednesday. By BOB HOHLER Christa McAuliffe died with a few of her favorite things: her son's stuffed frog, her daughter's cross and chain, her grandmother's watch, her Carly Simon tape. She died with little things. Ordinary things. Put her by a swimming pool with her family, a bacon-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich and a cold beer, and she needed little more from life. Give her a compass, her childhood friends and a forest, and she flourished. Call her a hero, and she shuddered. In the 200 days I knew her, Christa went from a Concord High School classroom to a spacecraft bound for an infinite frontier in the sky. She asked to be nothing more than an ordinary person on an extraordinary mission. How silly, she said on the day I met her in Houston, that people would swarm her for autographs. How absolutely crazy, she said three weeks ago, that the New England Patriots would line up after a game for her signature. What a joy it would be, she imagined, to return to signing hall passes at the high school. When I met her, I was an ordinary reporter and she was a finalist in NASA's teacher-in- space race. I shadowed her. She had a nervous giggle and the gee-whiz bounce of a camp counselor, but she made me want to follow her. She made me wish she taught every child. We hit it off, and on the day she was chosen to pioneer space for the common man, she kept a promise. She let me ride away from the White House with her after a dozen reporters had tried and failed. I sat with her an hour later when she called her husband, Steven, to share the news. She cried for joy, and I fidgeted, waiting for her patience with me to wear thin. It never did. I wrote about Christa for seven months, • hopscotching from Concord and Houston to Florida and her hometown of Framingham, Mass. My 6-year-old daughter lost me to a teachernaut. "Christa this, Christa that," she said. ''When's it going to be over?'' In Houston, Christa and I ate tortellini with friends at an Italian restaurant. We talked about her children, Scott, 9, who couldn't sleep without his stuffed frog, Fleagle, or his cat, Rizzo; and Caroline, 6, who loved Michael Jackson and liked to draw pictures of her mother in a spacesuit. Both were afraid of loud noise. She worried about them watching the shuttle take off yesterday. "Caroline likes to turn up her "Thriller' album sometimes," she said, "but Scott's the only kid I know who turns down the commercials." When I last talked to her 1% weeks ago, Christa was in quarantine in Houston and Scott was watching a Boston Celtics game at home. She had called to say goodnight to the children and asked to say hello to me before she hung up. She was proud she had won a beer from mission commander Francis Scobee when she bet on the Patriots against the Los Angeles Raiders a week earlier. And she was excited about her space flight. "Have fun," I told her. "I will," she said.... Letter A misconception I enjoyed your article on coyote trapping in the Jan. 12 issue of The Salina Journal. But I want to clear up some misconceptions held by some who obviously know nothing about trapping. Are the animals really in bone-crushing, life-maiming, excruciating pain? Several years ago a fish and game commission in another state trapped a number of coyotes to be released in a different location. Know Letters The Journal welcomes letters to the editor but does not promise to print them. The briefer they are the better chance they have. All are subject to condensation and editing. Writer's name must be signed with full address for publication. Letters become the property of The Journal. what? Within two days the animals had quit limping and were running around on all four legs, as if nothing had happened. Those silly coyotes didn't know they had been maimed for life by the inhumane steel trap. I have at times come upon my sets quietly only to find the animal sleeping in my trap. Evidently, nobody informed them that they were supposed to be in frenzied pain. As for leaving animals in traps for days, every trapper I know anticipates checking traps the next morning. Kansas law also makes it mandatory to check them once every 24 hours. All things considered, trapping is the only practical method for coyote-livestock problems. I guess one other alternative would be for ranchers to keep their calves and sheep in the living room during the night. But this would create other problems. Is it morally wrong to wear fur? No. In Genesis 3:21, it says God clothed Adam and his wife in "coats of skins," and I don't think they were synthetic. — MICHAEL SEARS Ellsworth HOP IN M N&W ANPZl?POWNTOLAK£ MEET FREP.' I HEAR THBV WORK THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL What makes the Challenger stick in our minds? The Sunday after President Kennedy was assassinated, when Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV, the networks kept running the film over and over. Sometime that evening, our 4-year-old daughter, Mariann, with rising anxiety asked, "Mommy, why do they keep shooting that man?" I remembered that Tuesday afternoon as I watched the space shuttle Challenger blowing up, over and over again. It was that kind of day. A day, John Glenn said, "we've managed to avoid for a quarter of a century." A day of national grief — of national fascination with death. It was the teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who made all the difference. Oh, any space accident would have been a monumental news event, a national calamity, given that quarter-century safety record. But had Challenger's crew been a half dozen military pilots or other professional astronauts, their fates would probably have been accepted as tragic but understandable prices paid by those who enlist to serve the country. They would have been regarded in somewhat the same category as the 250 Marines blown up in Beirut, or the soldiers lost in the pre- Christmas plane crash in Newfoundland. But teacher McAuliffe, with her parents, husband and children actually there watching her death, and her students back home cheering in the gym before they realized John McCormally HARRIS NEWS SERVICE what had happened—that put this tragedy in an entirely new, unique category. This spectacular, televised death was not a vicarious, but rather a very personal experience for millions of Americans. Thus, in a painfully perverse way, NASA got what it sought when it promoted the civilian-in-space project as a way of reignit- ing waning public interest in the manned space program. A successful mission would have resulted in intensified, but far from permanent, public involvement. This tragic and unforgettable failure assures a deeper and more lasting public involvement. Almost immediately there was speculation about what the tragedy would mean for the space program. Certainly there will be a delay while the accident is investigated and new assurances found for the safety of the program. But the program will continue. The president assured us of that in his moving benediction for the lost crew. National pride, which fueled the program from its inception, will be intensified by adversity. Patriotism will vie with prudence. This would be an excellent time to re-examine whether so much manned space flight is necessary to accomplish scientific goals; whether so many lives need to be risked for commercial, military and beat-the-Reds purposes. But I doubt that will be done. The pressure will be too great to prove we were right all along. Some other thoughts while watching the explosion, over and over: Two women died in the sky with the men, while the argument still goes on down here about their equal rights and comparable worth. Not long ago, in states like South Carolina, it was hardly thought worth educating blacks like Arnold McNair at all, let alone granting one a PhD from MIT so he could be a pioneer. Not long ago, Japanese-Americans like Ellison Oni- zuka were being sent to concentration camps. Along with all it said about danger and bravery, Challenger's last flight seemed also to be telling us about the changing heart of America. Most of us weren't even watching Tuesday morning because it had become so commonplace. But of course it never was. Flight is not the natural state of man, so it is always dangerous. "We always knew it was going to happen," a UPI editor said to me afterwards. "That's why, even after we quit covering every liftoff, we always kept a camera there." A chunk of history Kansas needs to preserve TOPEKA — It has been a half-century since they buried the 31st vice president of the United States in Topeka Cemetery on East 10th Street. He was laid next to the woman he had loved more than the White House. The gravestone says: Charles Curtis, vice president. He died Feb. 8, 1936 — the year that Alf Landon, a fellow Topekan and brother Republican, would run against Franklin Roosevelt, who had taken Curtis from power at the top and sentenced him overnight to ranks of the unknown. Now, 50 years later, a measure to save the historic Topeka home of Curtis gathers dust down the street in the statehouse. We neglect the memories of so many good Kansans. Dwight Eisenhower was an Army captain when Curtis was running much of the government from the United States Senate! We might not save the man's memory. Surely we can save the place he always called home, at 1101 Topeka. It's a mansion of many bricks and cupolas, ornate woodwork and elegant glass. It is 107 years of history, the den of congressional and presidential campaigns. It was headquarters for a man who brokered power in spite of one president, and tried to be the conscience for another. It is now headquarters for an insurance agency, surrounded by asphalt and consigned by the Kansas Legislature to drift in a sea of parking spaces. His father was French, his mother a Raw Indian. Curtis was born Jan. 25,1860, in a dirt- floor log cabin on the north bank of the Kansas River in what is now north Topeka. He was tough and curious. He read law. He passed the bar in 1881, was soon Shawnee County Attorney. He was elected to Congress in 1893 and served 14 years there before election to the U.S. Senate where, for 20 years, he would accumulate power through wisdom and experience, and fame as a fighter for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. Curtis was elected "whip" in the Senate in 1915 and embraced the cause of women's suffrage. He led the floor fight for the 19th amendment to the Constitution in 1919. John Marshall HARRIS NEWS SERVICE At the same time, Curtis fought furiously for others' rights. He hated what had happened to the American Indian, what continued to happen to blacks. He spoke furiously for anti-lynching laws. That this nation even needed laws against lynch murder was an outrage in itself, he said. During the '20s, Curtis accumulated more influence in the Senate. In 1924 he was one of the most powerful men in the country and became the first person elected majority leader of the Senate. He might then have been the most powerful man in the country, although he wasn't president. President Calvin Coolidge had never been to Washington until his election as vice president four years before. Curtis had been around for 30 years. In 1925, Coolidge began his management by avoidance. Curtis, the Kansas Republican, proud Indian and Senate strongman, tried running as much of the government as he could. Coolidge was unsure, short on leadership qualities and afraid to make enemies. Curtis was a veteran of 14 years in the House of Representatives and 16 years in the Senate. Gossip had it that Curtis might have been president had his wife, Annie, not been so ill that the senator stayed away from the 1924 Republican convention to be with her. In June 1928, the Republicans nominated Herbert Hoover in Kansas City for president and selected Curtis as his running mate; they beat Al Smith and Joe Robinson in November. Hoover, a bureaucrat and former Commerce secretary for Harding, was green in politics and a mess as president. To be fair, he had made some improvements. But the nation was unemployed and starving. By the end of his term in 1932, most of the banks were broke and the farms were turning to desert. Hoover agreed to spend $25 million on feed for farm animals on the condition that a bill allowing $120,000 for hungry people be tabled. Curtis, a man from Kansas where farmers gathered to watch their topsoil blow away, was appalled. He tried action as vice president, but the power he once used as boss of the Senate had vanished. Washington was more and more blamable. In the election that year, Franklin Roosevelt and John Nance Garner slaughtered Hoover and Curtis. Curtis was glad he had always called Topeka home. In the 38 years that he served as a congressman, senator and vice president, Curtis never bought a house in Washington. The red brick Topeka mansion is threatened by years of Capitol neglect. The stories that can be told about this home, its history and heritage, the ideas hatched in it, are enough to fill volumes. Today's stories of the Kansas home of a vice president, senator, congressman, are mostly about the threats to it. Asphalt is a menace in Topeka. Not far from the former Curtis home, an entire Supreme Court palace erupted amidst a sea of new pavement. There are even 10-hour parking meters near the Capitol. But not a nickel has been spent to save the stranded home of Curtis. A House bill would protect the home. The measure, in limbo before the Legislature, authorizes the State Historical Society to buy or condemn for preservation the Curtis home. Provisions for money have been left out. The chief estimates are that it should cost the state $180,000 to buy the home, and ask the public to help with the rest — say another $200,000—needed to restore the ornate home. Here is history, home of a man born Indian who bustled toward the top of government in this country. We have a chance to cherish a chunk of it. Let's preserve the place, on the grounds that history is important; it tells us where we have been, how we got here. It's a clue to where we're headed. Why let it slip away?
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