November 29, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III
Contact: ahgunther@hotmail.com

We all have our time and mood anchors, those moments of memory that moor us in the ordinary as well as during the storms that hit our lives. Stress of any sort — financial, emotional, health — drive us to port, and we are grateful for the safe harbor. 

 When I was a youngster, one of my safer slips was early morning in winter, about 6:30, when the house heat had started to come up and I was rousing to get ready for elementary school. My working mother was already off, and my father, on the night shift, would be getting breakfast for my brother and me, a simple affair of Rice Krispies or hot oatmeal, as well as making our lunches. 

 In those years, when there might be a new school to attend (we moved around a bit), friends to make, classes to get used to, different woods to explore in the semi-rural areas in which we lived, having the routine of a small breakfast prepared by a busy dad, in a house just getting nice and warm, with the dark of winter yet to raise its nightshade on dawn, with the wonderful smell of my father’s fresh-brewed coffee and the sound of New York radio’s Martin Block on 1130 AM, there was reassurance that the day would proceed in good-enough fashion. 

 The scene was the same, you see, no matter where we lived, so it was one of those safe harbors. The available anchorage continued through high school, and the memory of it still comforts today. 

 When I was older but not far beyond my teen years, yet some seasons removed from my father’s breakfast morning routine, another early-day moment came my way and also reassured. 

 In that time, I drove a friend daily to a New York City college, and since one of my many faults happily did not include honking the horn for someone to come out, I was invited in to wait a short while. In the winter, the same sort as my youth, in the dark, I again felt the rising heat of a household and the strong whiff of coffee brewing as my friend’s mother prepared breakfast for her daughter. 

 Not much conversation passed between me, shy enough, and the mother, though it was more than what was said between father and son just 10 years or so before. Yet nothing had to be spoken. It was the reassurance of the moment. The memory of this woman’s welcome, as with my dad’s morning routine, was one of those small treasures available in the box that you open to begin your day. 

 A polished jewel, really.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier piece.


November 23, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III

(contact/comment: ahgunther@hotmail.com)

     “Gimme rewrite!”

     Once, there was a “Front Page” in every community, newspapers and characters straight out of the famous 1928 play/movie by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, but now the city rooms are fast shutting their lights as the roar of the presses gives way to smart phone clicks and word/visual bites, blared gossip and falsehoods on social media instead of informed articles that can thwart democracy dying in darkness.

     Newspapers continue to disappear, some after a century of providing the who, what, where, when, how and why that is essential to the republic, victims of fewer readers and folk who prefer the immediacy of the iPhone. Victims of advertisers who flock to the internet. Victims of hedge-hunter investors who sell off newspaper assets for quick profit.

     Town boards, school boards, planning/zoning boards are not covered in depth any more, if at all, and so many shenanigans can occur in that dark. Newspapers also help bring communities together in local sports reports, feature stories, coverage that reinforces pride, the good news counterpoint to the crime news of imperfect humanity.

     The recent presidential election and Trump’s dictator-like assault on facts, his reliance on cultivating fear and worry and change and stroking it with false promise, was the swollen river difficult to cross as far fewer newspapers could offer facts. The depth of ignorance he mined is so very great, and the worry going forward is that it will lie like an ember until he or his like are next on the stage to ignite the real “fake news.”

     The bromide quote is that you shoot the messenger, and that’s why newspapers have always been derided. “You can’t believe what’s in the paper.” “Good to wrap the garbage in.” “Only liberals work at newspapers.” Common comment, and actually healthy, although not intended. Always question what you read, check things out, be skeptical, write a letter to the editor. Such is the forum of democracy.

     But embrace the messenger, too, for without the irreverent tribe of women and men who take names and poke and poke, only the con men will rule.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Many painters don’t title their works or provide only cryptic ones, perhaps  because they do not know what the pieces say, preferring that their “language” speak for itself. Maybe even tell the artist what “it” means. And, besides, it may be in the eye of the beholder anyway. 

     Is a painting ever finished?

     Take this piece. I can offer various stories for my “Woman on the Stairs,” as can anyone. 

     When I paint, I usually do it from a “flash” — something I’ve seen quickly, on the street, in a film, in a magazine or on social media. It’s like writing these columns. A flash of thought comes, and I build a narrative. In that, as in my newspapering days, I “make deadline” and move on to the next cycle. Some of the output is better than others, as are newspaper days. It all gets done — and forgotten. Wrap the fish in newsprint.

     Since I am trying to get better at painting, I usually post an image for comment on Facebook and Instagram. Typically receiving a handful of replies, some prove critical, which is great. Humility can be a kick in the rear, but it is instructive. After the wounds are licked.

     And the comments show varied interpretation, which is also great.

     For example, the painting with this column had some viewers seeing a woman on the edge of a bed, not the top of stairs; one said it was “racy,” to which I replied, “Hope so” since the physical is present in everything; “She looks like she can’t take it any more” offered another viewer; a “non-political piece about pure beauty,” said another, and yes, the woman is beautiful, as all women are; and “alluring.” Yes, that too. What woman isn’t if you care to find out?

      My take is that the woman in the painting is just thinking, in quiet, in her space. She’s happy. You can fill in the blanks should you care to.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ANY COMMENT TO: ahgunther@hotmail.com



November 10, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Joe is in, so is Kamala. Next, it’s gotta be the people.

     Kamala Harris cannot have her office in Washington, where the K-Street lobbyists and other special interests buy elections and pull strings for clients from domestic to foreign, from the military to the industrial.

No, the first female vice president, the first person of color in that office, must establish rotating offices in the heartland, in the inner cities, in those suburbs that are decaying. She must help push the right buttons to restore dignity to those who have lost manufacturing and other jobs; she must help address the lack of job retraining and affordable health care, the scourge of substance abuse, the loss of hope. Harris must hug beyond red tape those who face despair, even suicide. Do all this from a regional vice-presidential office with direct access to the president, agencies and officials who can make progress happen.

     What must Joe Biden do? Many things, of course, since a president must lead the nation in all matters domestic and foreign. And he has an even stiffer job since such presidential action and example have not been seen for four years.

     Biden must get the people “in,” in the war room of actual change, by creating a new cabinet post, “Secretary of the People,” as powerful as the Secretary of State. It would be filled by someone who advises the president, who can bring to that person’s ears the drowned-out voices of all the diverse people.

     If there were such a secretary sitting with other counselors of government, perhaps the White House cocoon that is inaccessible these days to ordinary folk would at long last have an inside person to get to the president.

     To prevent special-interest wooing of the Secretary of the People, the post would be held for just one year, with the president appointing each successor from somewhere in ordinary America. The chief executive would not select the individual himself, but rather an independent, volunteer group would search the nation far and wide and make a recommendation. Senate ratification would be almost a given, in the spirit of cooperation and to avoid lobbying by groups sure to be hurt by “common sense.”

     Special interests already have their counselors, appointed and otherwise. Why not the people? Perhaps there is no other way to gain access to the White House for them.

     Joe and Kamala are in; now the people, too.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com 



      November 2, 2020

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     It should be un-American to hate, to be a bigot, to let fear and want from loss of job and community change to bully others from speaking, to let your religion tell you it is right to exclude non-believers. It should be un-American, but it is not.

     Trump has said such thought, such behavior, IS American, a not-so-subtle reaffirmation that white is good, and only white is good. And his way of boosting his ego. Trump is only about Trump.

     No matter that except for Native Americans, we are all immigrants on stolen land, paved over in the march for “progress” and white manifest destiny.

     It has been wholly convenient in our short U.S. history to deny our racism. Cities were built. Industries rose. Opportunity increased. Great advances were made in technology, medicine, the standard of living. And, admittedly, in human relations. But all at the cost of ghettos, the poor, the disenfranchised, the drug-addicted, the mentally afflicted, chased from sight so we could live the white version of “progress.”

     When, in the course of growing maturity in this American democratic experiment, the one envisioned by the founders, we saw leaders like Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy trying to cast light on the neglected, telling us the debt must be paid for paving over paradise and putting in a parking lot, we shot them.

     Now in the age of Trump, who would never sit down at Mar-A-Lago with the white victims of job loss and poverty, the crowds he lies to in false promise, there must be a reckoning. We must face our sins.

     Far-right, greed-driven politicians, long-removed from the Dwight Eisenhower era of progressives and compromisers, today join special-interest lobbies ruling from K-Street offices in D.C., deliberately obstructing change that would help the middle class, the generational poor, minorities and the fully forgotten. While this influence is at work in both political parties, it is truly sinister in the hijacked GOP. The Democrats are flawed, yes, but they are currently capable of seeing the error of their ways.

     The nation’s bleeding offers perhaps the last moment to turn the tide in special-interest influence, in a Republican Party that has lost its way, in a Democratic Party that offers decency, and thus hope, in Joe Biden.

     We must, in this election, begin to reclaim government for the people, to defeat racism, to educate, train and provide jobs for forever-neglected African-Americans, Native Americans and other minorities, including poor whites.

     The money is there — in the vaults of the super-rich. The “hope” is there in articulate voices, particularly women today.  The means are there in this nation that overcame a civil war, the Great Depression and led the world 1941-’45. We can devise a plan of action, as FDR did, as the Marshall Plan did for post-war Europe.

     The timing is right. Flip the switch Tuesday. Begin the gathering of decency.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com