Polecats and Weasels©Averyell A. KesslerMy grandfather told me that all politicians are polecats and weasels. I can’t say that today for fear of offending polecats and weasels aka the Quadruped Community. For me, his humble opinion is a steel-tipped arrow into the heart of today’s tedious political yip-yap and gotcha games. He solved the polecat problem by contributing to candidates from both parties because “I want’em to answer the phone when I call. Dadgumit!” Not a bad idea. Fortunately, they did not visit his office at the same time.Since my twenty first birthday, I’ve voted in every election that came along, including one featuring a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate who was pictured naked in a bubbly, heart shaped bathtub before he drifted into the weeds of political embarrassment. My mother taught me about elections when I was six, and she took me with her to vote in a city-wide election for mayor. At that time, the neighborhood voting station was on the campus of Belhaven College. It was a modest affair, two folding tables, a group of metal chairs and several three-sided booths made of slapped together plywood boards. Inside, a small uneven shelf supported by chains. No one else was there when we arrived. Mama signed in and received a paper ballot and a pencil. There was an intense discussion about whether I would be allowed to accompany Mama into the voting booth. She won. She explained the ballot and I watched her vote, then drop her ballot into a slotted box with a lock on the cover. Simple and quiet.Daddy taught me too. We were driving to the farmer’s market when his car radio announced that President Eisenhower had suffered a heart attack. My father was devastated. He pulled over and stopped the car while he regained his breath and collected his thoughts. After that, he explained what would happen if the famous general didn’t survive. It was a rough but practical lesson in constitutional law. My first.My next political adventure occurred when my best friend Martha’s father, Mr. C, ran for the state legislature. He was a Democrat because that was the only political party in Mississippi. His timing was spot on, as one else had entered the race. Campaigning was simple, he spoke at rallies and shook hands at civic clubs. Mrs. C, my friend and I spent many afternoons, tucking printed campaign cards under the windshield wipers of parked cars. His qualifications for office were simple – married, Baptist, two children. He was a lawyer too, but the card didn’t reveal that until the end. On election eve, the neighbors gathered in a garage on St. Mary Street to watch the returns on a black and white portable balanced on a metal TV tray. Except for stepping around a tangle of extension cords, and a shortage of potato chips, it was a pleasant evening. We cheered when he won. Again, simple, and quiet.Mississippi politics have always engendered a special kind of craziness. Small town gossips told the story of an enraged wife armed with a pink umbrella confronting her candidate husband mid-speech as she shouted, “How dare you!” His mistress was sitting on the front row. When the police arrived, the wife as well as the mistress were taken into custody. The candidate escaped by slithering into the crowd, jumping behind the wheel of a Chevy pick-up, and roaring away in a cloud of dust. There’s a lesson here, if you allow your mistress to open a charge account at an upscale clothing store, make certain your wife does not receive a duplicate copy the bill. The Clarion Ledger either. One of our former governors also suffered from duplicate bill syndrome.My all-time favorite for nefarious Mississippi activities was the black-market tax. “Can’t sell liquor; but if you do, you gotta pay.” A nonsensical solution to the dry state problem before an infamous raid at a society reception ended it all. My mother was serving champagne punch when axe wielding deputies arrived. Her only regret was her failure to take a cup herself before all &^*& broke loose.I hate to see the old Sun and Sand motel falling victim to growling bull dozers. So many scandals, so little time, so much cash passed around in paper bags. Sadly, cell phones did not exist at that time. I missed my chance at that too. While enjoying a delicious steak dinner at a popular steak house on County Line Road, I heard a snore louder than a buzz saw. It’s origin – a big wig from the state legislature, whose glass was always full and whose brain was frequently empty. Quick! Dial 1-800 – National Inquirer. I opted for discretion and my cell stayed in my purse. Luckily, his sycophants hustled him out before he collapsed.Over the years, I’ve seen a steady coarsening of politics, as it has slowly degenerated into a death battle of us against them, even in my small state. As always, money and power, plus a healthy dash of narcissism are indisputable motivators. Political combat is here now, snarling and snapping like an enraged werewolf seeking his next victim. I choose to meet the challenge by maintaining a sense of humor, protecting friendships with people of varied opinions, and remembering that there are two sides to every story. The Englishman who wrote the powerful phrase the pen is mightier than the sword, also wrote It was a dark and stormy night, one of the most ridiculed phrases in literature. Lucky for me, the plague of robot calls has diminished, but they’ve been replaced by cut and paste political chatter on the internet. I’m weary of it. Perhaps this is the proverbial millstone hanging around our necks. In the meantime, I’ll stick with WG’s opinion and his problem-solving advice. If a weasel is hiding under your front porch, run him off!The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other – Will Rogers

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