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The Country’s In The Very Best Of Hands

THE COUNTRY’S IN THE VERY BEST OF HANDS
From the Musical “Lil’ Abner” (1956)
(Gene de Paul / Johnny Mercer)

Recorded by: Percy Faith; Shelly Manne;
Peter Palmer; André Previn.
Them city folks and we-uns are pretty much alike,
Though they ain’t used to living in the sticks.
We don’t like stone or cement, but we is in agreement
When we gets down to talkin’ politics:

The country’s in the very best of hands,
the best of hands, the best of hands.

[Note: the above two lines are interspersed among
all the verses and wherever else needed.]

The Treasury says the national debt is climbing to the sky
And govermnent expenditures have never been so high.
It makes a feller get a gleam of pride within his eye,
to see how our economy expands,
The country’s in the very best of hands.

You ought to see the congress when it’s drawing up a bill,
“Where as”‘s and “to wit”‘s are crowded in each codicil.
Such legal terminology would give your heart a thrill.
There’s phrases there that no one understands.
The country’s in the very best of hands.

The building boom, they say, is getting bigger every day.
And when I asked a feller “How could everybody pay?”
He come up with an answer that made everything OK,
“Supplies are getting bigger than demands.”
The country’s in the very best of hands.

Don’t you believe them congressmen and senators are dumb.
When they run into problems that are tough to overcome,
They just declare a thing they calls a moritorium.
The upper and the lower house disbands.
The country’s in the very best of hands.

The voters are connected to the nominee,
the nominee’s connected to the treasury.
When they ain’t connected to the treasury,
They sits around on their thigh bones.

They sits around in this place they got,
This big congressional parking lot.
Just sits around on their you know what.
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

Them bones, them bones gonna rise again,
Gonna exercise a franchise again,
Gonna tax us up to our eyes again,
If we gets them off of their thigh bones.

The farm bill should be 89 percent of parity,
Another feller recommends it should be 93.
But 80, 95 percent, who cares about degree?
It’s parity that no one understands.
The country’s in the very best of hands.

Them GOP’s and Democrats each hates the other one.
They’s always criticizing how the country should be run.
But neither tells the public what the other’s gone and done.
As long as no one knows where no one stands,
The country’s in the very best of hands.

They sits around in this place they’re at,
Where folks in congress have always sat.
Just sits around on their excess fat,
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

They sits around ’til they start to snore,
Jumps up and hollers “I has the floor!”
Then sits right down where they sat before,
Up there they call them their thigh bones.

Them bones, them bones gonna rise again
So dignified and so wise again
While the budget doubles in size again,
If we gets them off of their thigh bones.

The money that they taxes us, that’s known as revenues,
They compound up collaterals, subtracts the residues.
Don’t worry ’bout the principle and interest that accrues,
They’re shipping all that stuff to foreign lands,
The country’s in the very best of hands.

 

********************************************************

Al Capp, the creator of the comic strip, “Li’l Abner” (most notable among a number of others) was, until the early 60’s, viewed as a “liberal” and, in some circles, a “progressive”. During the cultural upheavals of the 60’s, however, he came to be considered a solid right wing conservative. He was known as one of the country’s great satirists and his wit and not so subtle parodying of anything and anyone of note brought him both reverence and disdain.

His satirical strip about simple folk in the South ran from 1934 until 2 years before his death in 1979.  He enjoyed speaking to colleges and universities across the country, was a frequent guest on numerous radio and TV talk shows throughout the 40’s 50’s, ’60’s and early 70’s and had several ventures of his own in television.

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Above: Cover graphic from an old TV Guide

Al’s full name was Alfred Gerald Caplin. Born in New Haven, Ct. in 1909 to the US born children of Lithuanian immigrants, Al spent the better part of his life residing on the East Coast (Connecticut, New York, Boston, Cambridge and New Hampshire…where he died, not so  far from this writers home, in South Hampton).  His father was a Yale graduate who failed to thrive economically leaving Al and his family to poverty.  At the young age of nine, Al lost a leg in a tragic trolley car accident and reluctantly learned to walk on a crude prosthetic limb which caused him considerable pain.  This pain, along with other health issues and charges of sexual assault and impropriety (which caused loss of access to TV appearances and loss of newspaper space for his strip), would eventually embitter Al to reclusion… pushing away friends and family and, at times, contemplation of suicide.  A life long smoker, his death was attributed to emphysema.

Al was a basket of contradictions. While his persona, for the public, was one of sarcastic and often sardonic disdain for humanity, he was deeply committed to human civil rights causes… often ahead of his time.  He was a strong supporter of racial equality (He loved Martin Luther King, Jr although was not so fond of Malcom X or the Black Panthers) as well as Gay rights (He once shocked attendees at a Whitehouse function when he arrived with a rather colorful gay man as his guest), often spent time either visiting or writing to amputees… offering them encouragement and coping strategies…and supported women’s equality and advancement through education.  He was one of the original 19 Trustees of the Endicott Junior College for Young Women in Beverly, Ma..  Capp was a recognized womanizer and eventually an infamous predator.  In contrast, he resigned from the National Cartoonist Society when they refused to allow a female member.  He donated time, artwork and money to numerous civic causes, government programs and non-profit organizations and was a member of the National Reading Council while showing disdain for the public support of Sesame Street (He felt kids would better learn to read through the use of comic books).   Al started out parodying New Deal Dixiecrats and wound up hanging out with Richard Nixon (whose executive council, Chuck Colson, would tell Nixon he had fixed “attempted adultery” charges, initially sodomy charges, against Al.  The “fix” failed). In his earlier years, Al targeted corporate greed, political bluster and buffoonery.. only later to target protesters against the very same thing. He was called a “penny pincher” and a “curmudgeon” by many who were never aware of his generosities and compassion.  He seldom exploited those parts of himself.

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Above: Richard Nixon with the dapper Al Capp

Al Capp filled his 70 years with incredible endeavors in so many arenas of the media circus which painted America throughout his childhood and later life.  Not only a satirical serial cartoonist, Al wrote articles for magazines, columns for newspapers, worked in various positions both in radio and TV, was, himself, a noted celebrity unafraid to publicly lampoon the persona he carefully crafted, a public speaker at colleges and universities, creator of public service publications and so much more.  He did all this absent a high school diploma (after spending 5 years trying) and three attempts at Art Schools (two in Boston and one in Pennsylvania)… each halted due to inability to pay tuition.  He was an avid reader of classics, periodicals, papers and, of course, comics. Despite his known distaste for the underground culture of the 60’s and 70’s, his volume of work and craftsmanship were inspiration to a great many cartoonists of that period.

One might ask why this writer has chosen to gloss over the life and character of Albert Caplin.  The answer is that Al was a genuine rebel… a true to life contrarian, self-possessed when right and nonplussed when wrong.  Al Caplin, despite his critical fall from grace and disturbing mental decline of later years, overcame incredible obstacles, persevered and created a remarkable legacy… all by doing life his way.

Rebel·lió és el rebuig de l’obediència.

Rebellion is the rejection of obedience

 

[The subject matter in at least 40 books and numerous interviews, Al Capp is now a seldom recalled memory of this writer’s generation… the generation that grew up with his wit, sarcasm, parodies equal to, if not better than, those of the early Mad Magazine whose parodies, read by millions, were said to be modeled after Capp”s work, and like half of the adult population of the US, at one time, avid consumers of Li’l Abner (though at the time many “intellectuals” would deny until caught).  The honest ones admitted their joy in spending those few moments reading his strip and there were many willing notables such as John Kenneth Galbraith, William F. Buckley,  Marshall McLuhan, John Updike, Harpo Marx, Charlie Chaplin, and even Queen Elizabeth.  John Steinbeck actually called him “possibly the best writer in the world today” and recommended him for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Many were delighted to be the butt of his satirical musings… Many were not.  A good source to learn more about this genuine rebel is the 2013 biography “Al Capp: A Life To The Contrary” by Dennis Kitchen and Michael Schumacher]

 

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