Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa

Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

October 5, 2017 Richard M. Johnson and the sorry state of modern political discourse
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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Old Dick – AKA Richard Mentor Johnson – continues to haunt me!

As you may recall, I wrote a few weeks ago about Johnson’s troubling history. My primary goal was to get folks interested in learning the history of Johnson County’s namesake.

In the weeks since, I have received over a hundred emails, many Facebook messages, and a few calls. A few thanked me for bringing the issue up. One woman noted, “I have lived my whole life in Linn County without knowing for whom it was named. Now I’m determined to learn.”

Unfortunately, she was part of a distinct minority. Most people have simply chosen to call me names. Many were upset at the costs associated with changing the name. I agree! That is why I NEVER suggested changing the name! This is a really important point to make.

In the 9-12-17 edition of Salvos, I wrote: “Obviously, changing the name of the County itself would cause millions of problems for thousands of people. But what about honoring a DIFFERENT Johnson?”

I think I was pretty clear – I was talking about the namesake, not the name. I recognize that many people do not read articles thoroughly. I also realize that some people just read what they want to read. But I wish they would stick to the topic.

It really hasn’t even been mentioned that Johnson thought of Native Americans as “vermin”, and kept track of Native American killings the way a deer hunter might be able to tell you how many bucks he had killed.

Now, perhaps you can argue that he was just a man of his times. Unfortunately, Johnson’s attitude was far from unique for the time. In fact, Johnson’s exploits are precisely what made him a popular choice for Vice President. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just have that conversation civilly? What if we were able to actually reflect on just what this meant then, and what it means today? What if we actually brought some Native Americans into the conversation?

Meanwhile, I just find this whole episode sad. That is what has become of political discourse in our country.

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