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Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published
June 22, 2006

Always tell the truth

After a little over four years, 116 columns, and nearly one hundred thousand words this is my last column for the Reader Weekly.  I’m about to embark on another campaign for political office. This time it’s for the Eighth District Congressional seat. It would be ungallant of me and unprofessional of the Reader to permit me to continue using my column as a platform to steal votes away from my opposition.

The day after this week’s Fourth of July, I will have begun circulating a nominating petition to ask voters for enough signatures to place me on the ballot along side Congressman Jim Oberstar and Minnesota ’s former United States Senator Rod Grams.

My reasons for running for public office yet again are personal: I’ve always wanted to be in Congress, and political: I’m appalled at America’s ten-trillion dollar debt, by its criminally inept foreign adventure and by the relish with which too many self-righteous politicians appeal to the most unreasonable Americans for votes. 

My abandonment of the Reader will not be a total loss for my eight loyal readers. They will still be able feast on my puny musings, either at my blog or my new campaign website: www.welty4congress.org.

I will miss the opportunity I’ve enjoyed for these four short years to get things off my chest, to reminisce and to be silly in public. I’m already in mourning over the premature extinction of the many column ideas that have been accumulating between my ears. On a more positive note - should I lose in November, I’ll have much more time to sit down and write the books that have been making a nuisance of themselves between those same two ears. Of course, if I should win all will not be lost. Winning would fulfill a lifelong dream to prove that politicians imbued with honor, creativity and tenacity can change the world for the better.  Either outcome will leave me richly rewarded.

I am indebted to the Reader’s publisher, Bob Boone, and all the people associated with the Reader for giving me this unexpected chance to find my voice and see it put into print. For old time’s sake I’d like to bid adieu with one of those columns that have been buzzing around upstairs, albeit in abbreviated form: Always tell the truth.

Always tell the truth like Mark Twain did.

Twain, who was not always right, is nonetheless the most celebrated truth teller in American literature. Not just any author can, a hundred years after committing his words to paper, make a high school junior burst out laughing during study hall and earn the dirty look of his school’s most feared teacher. After this happened to me it’s no wonder that I’ve been a Twain fan for life.

Culled from his voluminous writings are more witty and wise aphorisms than you can shake a dead cat at. I’ve contemplated two of them in particular for years. The first is undeniably true: “Always tell the truth. This will gratify most people and astonish the rest.” I have tried to follow this advice for years as it echoes another great moralist, Jesus of Nazareth, who said the same thing somewhat less flippantly: “the truth will set you free.”

And like Jesus who used the shorthand fiction of parables to tell his truths so too did Twain use fiction to tell the truth. Those who doubted that black slaves were the equal of their white masters would certainly have been chagrined at the depiction of Miss Watson’s slave, Jim, risking his life to gather up the family that his kind masters had sold away from him.  The readers who were annoyed with Twain’s depiction of Jim’s nobility were just like the Pharisees who could not see holiness in the much despised and heretical “good Samaritan.”

But then there is this contradiction from Twain: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” 

I’ll let the people who live in black and white and who war with the dangers of “relativism” wrestle with this advice but I adore it. Our best truth tellers often lie with their fiction to tell truths that ten truckloads of Fox News couldn’t convey 

I wrote a while back that I was taking another giant of the nineteenth century, Abe Lincoln, with me to an unexpected place. Let me add that I’m also planning to take Twain with me to the same destination. And here’s a little sample: I’m going to win this race for Congress.

Harry Welty is a candidate for Congress who blogs at: www.lincolndemocrat.com