Growing up in a small town, one grows accustomed to certain “facts”. The school district could all sit on one parcel of land, and if you are from the south, there is only one place to be on Friday night…the High School football game! Neighboring families share history and when discussing family history, the family church must be also mentioned. Dating can be awfully dreadful in a small town due to the fact that “blood relationships” are common among members of the opposite sex. Feuds and Fights can last for generations, with no need for an explanation of why; that’s just how it’s always been.
No small town can be a “true” small town, without a little taste of Gossip. Some of the best Gossip takes place ironically after church, and typically about the people who attended church that Sunday. “How could she show her face in service after what SHE’S done” or “it’s a wonder he could even stay awake during service, he was out all night!”. Fashion critics, Music critic, Oratory Critics, show their expertise over the dinner table with always a disclaimer coming from the person with the juiciest person. This disclaimer came as a warning that simply stated, “If I hear this again, I’ll know EXACTLY where it came from”! With this staunch warning, one would not dare repeat the information shared over that dinner table; because if he/her did, they would be nothing more than an idle gossiper, and heaven forbid anyone view them as nothing more than a “Gossiper”.
Believe it or not, there is an old adage about the origin of the word Gossip. As it was told to me, “Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what was considered important to the people. Since there were no telephones, TVs or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars, instructing them to ‘go sip some ale’ and listen to people’s conversations and political concerns. When assistants were dispatched, they were told, ‘You go sip here’ and ‘You go sip there.’ The two words ‘go sip’ were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and thus we have the term ‘gossip.” Now whether or not this adage is really how the word Gossip was formed, you’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Although the adage has been questioned in years past, the irony lies, in that the lives of Politicians have been notoriously the root of much gossip. This is most evident during campaign season, as we just experienced with this last election. The number houses held by one politician and “Who’s the Mama” from his running mate, ran a hard race against a man who we were not sure was born in America, and with a running mate who was going to drop out of the race at any minute. The gossip surrounding the last election is child’s play if we take a look back in history.
During the presidential campaign of 1800, the Federalists attacked Jefferson as an infidel and a Deist, claiming that Jefferson’s intoxication with the religious and political extremism of the French Revolution disqualified him from public office. President Andrew Jackson dealt with much sorrow, when his wife was viciously attacked by his opposition after it was discovered that she was not divorced from her first husband when she married Jackson. Although he won the election, his wife died of a heart attack after shopping for an inaugural dress; for the rest of his life he blamed the opposition’s attacks on his wife for her death. But NONE of these compare with the gossip surrounding the “Bachelor President”…James Buchanan.
Not much now is discussed about James Buchanan, but when he was in office, scandalous rumors circulated about Buchanan, his “bachelorhood”…and his roommate Senator William R King, who would go on to be the shortest serving Vice-President in our nation’s history, due to his death only 45 days after taking office. Buchanan and King were inseparable while in Washington. President Andrew Jackson, known for speaking his mind, would begin referring to King as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy”, while Aaron V. Brown (Governor of Tennessee) spoke of the two as “Buchanan and his wife”. Below is an excerpt of a letter from Buchanan to King:
“I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”
In hindsight, we must remember that men spoke in very classical and endearing ways at that time. It is very possible that this letter was just a simple letter to a friend he missed while he was away. Nonetheless, with all the other correspondents between the two gentlemen burned by their descendents, we will never know; but there is a video documentary that will is threatening to “Out” some modern day politicians who have advocated against gay rights in their respective offices.
Directed by Kirby Dick, “Outrage” premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. One of the politicians targeted by this film is Charlie Crist, Florida Governor, and a viable candidate for the 2012 election on the Republican Ticket. As summed up by the director, he views this film a way to expose those politicians who live outwardly as straight men for political gain, advocating against issues that would help advance the Gay Community in achieving equal rights; while secretly living as homosexual men. He hopes by making this film, these politicians will be bold enough to see that this is a bad decision both personally and politically. Rallying around the fact that this is the 21st century, he hopes that this film will encourage politicians to know that they can run in their districts and win by honestly portraying their sexuality, whether on the Republican or Democratic ticket.
Now in regards to if the adage I told earlier is true…it too is mere Gossip. The word “Gossip” spans far before our political system was in place, deriving from the old English word godsibb, a combination of god and sib, the term which was used for what we call Godparent. In the 16th century, the word assumed the meaning of a person, mostly a woman, one who delights in idle talk and chatter. The verb to gossip, meaning “to be a gossip”, first appears in the classical work of William Shakespeare.
In regards the reaction the documentary “Outrage” might receive, it’s almost certain to make friends and enemies; this I am sure of. But maybe this will finally open an honest dialog that will address whether the American people should be more concerned with whom a politician takes to his/her bedroom, or the policies they are introducing in the Halls of Congress, which directly affects their lives. Maybe James Buchanan had some feedback about the inner thought of a man, who might feel less of a man, because of his/her sexuality and how others view him or her.
“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.“