How I Know Benjamin Harrison From A Fellow Miami Alum.
It was a fall morning in Oxford, and as I strode along the Slant Walk the Beta Bells rang out nine times in the chilly November air, indicating I was going to be a few minutes late to my morning class. Just a few short years before, my fellow alum Benny no doubt strode down the same iconic pathway past the Phi Delt gates and the Poli-Sci building which bears his name to this day. You see, Benny and I have a certain affinity for one another, given we went to the same university… all of the pundits, authors, and commentators can say what they want about him, but you really have to have studied in the same general area of him sometime after he did to really grasp his true beliefs and character. Yes, Benjamin Harrison and I both went to Miami University – thus my credibility for all that follows here is established (thanks COM 131).
OK, now some may say that our 158 years of separation implies that Miami was a different place back in the Gilded Age than it was during the time following my matriculation as an undergraduate student, but these people are no doubt unaware of our alma mater’s opening lyrics: “Old Miami, New Miami” – you know what that means, right??? Miami never changes. Old Miami IS new Miami. Benny Harrison knows this, Wally Szczerbiak knows this, and of course, the most famous of all Miami Alums who is making a splash in current day politics, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, knows this. Now that I have silenced all of my nay-sayers, I’ll get on with my point.
In the time that big Benny has left Miami, many who did not really know him have pontificated on his accomplishments, they have written books about him, they have even attempted to paint pictures of him – well let me just say this: all you “historians,” “accomplished portrait artists” and “experts in your field” really know nothing about my fellow alum, Benny Harrison. I’ll bet you did not know that we call him Benny. I’d even bet you guys don’t even know the name of Miami’s football stadium. You probably think it’s “Miami Florida Hurricanes Field” or something, don’t you? No. Miami was a University before Florida was a state, Buck-o!! Well, Benny and I know what the stadium is called. In fact, I can still see him there, cheering in the bleachers for the ‘ol Redskins as they drive down the gridiron in hopes for their next Go-Daddy.com bowl title – not literally “see him” in the sense of using my eyes… I mean see him in that we shared such a common experience that I may as well have seen him… it’s called “imagery”, folks.
The thing about Ben is that he so exemplifies typical Miami students across the ages that you really need to have spent four years at his alma mater to know what makes him tick. Some may remember him as a typical tariff hiking, big spending, protectionist, Gilded Age Republican, but those people probably never took Zora Thurston’s history class at Miami. Credible academics the world over can’t stop writing about how right I am about this. It’s all about thinking critically and understanding context. Most if not all historians who have published books about Harrison just don’t know the context, that’s all. They have never spent those long nights partying uptown into the wee hours of the morning on “Misogyny Monday”, “Tipsy Tuesday”, “Wild Wednesday”, “Thirsty Thursday”, and “Find Yourself Waking up in McCollough Hyde Friday” (Just to ensure that I have not just ruined my credibility as an intellect by appearing like a binge drinking, womanizing college student, I’d like to remind you I have two degrees, and darn near graduated with honors). Thorough examinations of the Harrison administration, in fact, reveal that he had these nicknames which have been in the Miami vernacular for years embroidered on a set of Oval Office couch pillows. That’s right, Benny was just like the rest of us Miamians: He worked hard, and he played hard – if you think that his protectionism and tariff hiking only prolonged America’s rise to global prominence in an ever increasingly globalized society, you are forgetting that Benny was a product of his time. He wasn’t going to be the first bearded old white man in history to tell middle-class Americans working in the auto-factories of Detroit that their jobs were in jeopardy because we can get cheaper tires by importing them from Shanghai… no, that’s not the Benny I know; ‘ol Ben knew how to play the game.
So for all of you historians out there who think you know Ben, all I have to say is please refer to the following YouTube video which he has dedicated just for you. That’s right: you don’t know him at all. But I do. I spent TIME at Miami and know the likes of the man who became our “Michael Jordan” president. Before you write some blog, publish some book, or paint some “official White House portrait,” consider the fact that you don’t know him at all, because you did not go to Miami. I did. He and I are kindred spirits, and although I truly know nothing about his administration or policies, I can envision myself alive during his time, standing in the Oval Office while he receives Otto von Bismark of Prussia, who looks down at the embroidered pillows on the couch and in his broken English with a skeptical lifted brow asks, “What’s up with that, man?” Benny looks at me and with a wink and slight grin just says, “Nothing Otto, nothing…” Ben and I know. And that’s all that matters.