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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Once more with the centennial

The day before I was scheduled to do an internet interview with Mayor Jane and Congresswoman Kathy, my dear friend Mitzi Anderson knocked on the door.  She has been with the Mango Post Office forever, and she held a sheet of stamps that honored the 19th Amendment.  As you know, this was added to the Constitution on August 26, 2020.  It ensured all American women of the right to vote, no matter in what state they lived.  I wrote about this long political fight recently, so I won't rehash.


Although the postmaster general managed to get it out only one day prior to the due date, it is a beautiful stamp.  It's purple, gold, and white, the colors most prominently associated with the women who marched for the vote.  I had bought a gold oval frame some time ago – just because it was lovely and on sale, so I've put the stamp sheet in it and am enjoying it on my desk.  Thank you, Mitzi!


I think I could tell that the stamp was a surprise to the mayor and our congresswoman, which says a bit about the publicity job that the administration wanted:  none.  I suppose the stamp had been in the design process for a longtime, and the Trumpster who is politicizing the post office decided that he dare not cancel the plans.  Someone would tell, and that would be another negative story for him and his boss. 


So I'm asking you to go out and buy these stamps in great numbers.  They are "forever" stamps, which means they retain their first-class status even if postal rates rise.  You could buy enough to last the rest of your life, and thereby show the anti-feminists who are running things now that you support equal rights, for women and for everyone else.  It's the way to put a "stamp" on yourself, letting everyone know what you believe.


By the way, what happened to the $20 bill reform?  Prior to Trump's election, the Treasury Department announced plans to replace the image of Andrew Jackson with that of Harriet Tubman, but nothing has been said about that lately.  Jackson was a populist who did indeed expand voting rights for white men, but he also strongly promoted the genocide of American Indians.  Tubman, on the other hand, repeatedly risked her life and liberty to bring slaves to freedom.  No American money honors a woman, and the change would be appropriate.  All we need is a new secretary of the treasury.




The postmaster general is our oldest official position, as the post office began prior to the nation itself.  The Continental Congress created it in 1775, and Benjamin Franklin was its first head.  I see now that internet revisionists, doubtless politicos employed by Trump, are dating the UPS to 1971.  You know better than that.  You grew up with the PO, and it will continue to be the most popular federal agency long after its enemies are gone.  Still, because it no longer holds Cabinet status, I'll skip a fantasy appointment to that and go on to the four other positions created by President George Washington.


Secretary of State is the highest ranking.  Until recently, if both the president and vice president were incapacitated, the secretary of state took over.  Now it is the Speaker of the House, with the reasoning being that the Speaker is not an appointed position, but instead is elected by elected representatives.  The first was Thomas Jefferson, probably the most traveled and cosmopolitan man of his day, admired by everyone abroad.  Now I would choose Susan Rice, who has the respect of our allies and has represented us well at the United Nations.


Second comes the secretary of the treasury.  No doubt about it:  Elizabeth Warren.  She would bring Wall Street gamblers under control and implement policies to address the increasing division between the rich and the poor.  Massachusetts would elect another Democratic senator, so we don't have to worry about losing that Senate seat.  Beyond that, no women ever has held this position.  (The US treasurer is a different and ceremonial office at the US Mint; that meaningless appointment has gone to a long string of women.)


"Secretary of War" was the term used until after World War II, when in a burst of global politeness, we changed it to "secretary of defense."  Actually, we are just as likely to call it "the Pentagon," another change that came after WWII.  Again, no woman ever has held this job, and again, no contest about my nomination:  Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both of her legs in Iraq.  A helicopter pilot, she had risen to lieutenant colonel.  That rank should be high enough for the boys; it was for the notorious Oliver North.  Illinois, the home of Barack Obama, probably would elect a decent replacement.


Postmaster general came next in George Washington's appointments, but we've already discussed that.  The last was the attorney general, who heads the Department of Justice.  We've had two-and-a-half women in that position:  Florida's own Janet Reno during the Clinton administration; New York's Loretta Lynch during the Obama administration; and Sally Yates of Georgia, who held the office on an acting basis early in 2017.  Lynch (properly) resigned on Inauguration Day, and it took Trump a while to think about this important job.  Then he appointed Alabama's Jeff Session, who now is one of Trump's biggest bullying targets.  In my fantasy Cabinet, of course I'd bring back Sally Yates.


Congress has created more than a dozen additional Cabinet positions since George Washington's day, but women currently hold just two.  Betsy DeVos, who never attended a public school in her life, heads the Department of Education, while Elaine Chao, whose Taiwanese family is heavily investing in shipping, oversees the Department of Transportation.  DeVos's fortune is based in the Amway pyramid scheme, and Chao is married to Senate President Mitch McConnell.  Need I say more? 




I wasn't writing for LaGaceta in the earlier part of this century, so I never reviewed these books by fellow Tampans.  It's past time to do so.  I think I'll arrange them by publication date.


Jack Fernandez issued Café Con Leche: A Novel in 2005.  I remember going down to his Harbour Island condo to have him autograph a copy as a present for Hubby.  Jack was a chemistry professor at USF and a member of United Faculty of Florida, of which Hubby was president.  I don't know how a chemistry professor became such a brilliant novelist, but Jack pulled it off. 


Café Con Leche begins in Cuba, where the protagonist is disinherited by his wealthy family because he wants to marry a girl whose great-great grandmother was African.  They elope to Ybor City and eventually establish themselves there, in Brandon, and in Hyde Park.  The story also follows an Afro-Cuban cigar maker and his Marxist wife, a Cuban who is white.  He becomes one of the deservedly famous Tuskegee pilots in World War II, and they both end up fighting for Fidel Castro.  The differing settings and emotional ups and downs of these two couples, plus others, make for a page-turning book.


The next year, 2006, Green 61 was published by Tampa attorney Cody Fowler Davis.  He is the brother of former Congressman Jim Davis and a descendant of the family for whom Fowler Avenue is named.  "Green 61" refers to the mile marker of a boating channel near Boca Grande.  An accident there kills three people, and our hero is the lawyer who eventually wins a significant settlement for the victims' families – defeating his former boss, who argues for the insurance companies.  The key witness is a little girl, and the book involves a number of women.  Don't be put off by my legalistic description:  this also is a page turner.


As is the last book, by my friend Susan Edwards.  Man Overboard, published in 2007, is loosely based on the 1927 disappearance of D.P. Davis, the presumably bankrupt developer of Davis Islands.  Historians never have figured out the truth of the matter.  He apparently jumped or was pushed from an ocean liner on his way to Europe.  Or maybe neither of the above – maybe he successfully hid himself and a bunch of cash.  His ostensible widow, a member of a prominent Anglo family, hires the protagonist to find the truth.  A second-generation Sicilian, he is based in Ybor City, and a lot of Latin flavor comes forward as someone tries to kill him.


The story is written in the voice of the rough detective, a bachelor, and I asked Susan how she learned to write from such a male perspective.  She replied that she had gotten some men to read the manuscript and suggest changes.  I don't still understand how to do that, just as I don't understand how a chemistry professor can write from the viewpoint of wronged women.  Fiction is a miracle to me, and I'm so glad to have friends who write it.  And I'll be even gladder when we all can get together again and celebrate our unique local heritage!



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