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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Blueprint for America's Future (Part Three)

(Editor's note: This is the third segment in a multi-part series titled A Blueprint for America's Future. The underlying theme highlights the iconic presidential election of 1912, which some believe contains the true blueprint for America's future. The second segment covers Theodore Roosevelt's transformation of faith, acceptance of the nomination for his new "Progressive" or "Bull Moose" Party and vision for a moral society.)

As October 1912 reaches its midpoint, the political calendar reflects that US presidential election day is still about three weeks away.  This provides sufficient time for mystical interlude.  For if superior wisdom accepts that reason lies on one side of the purely psychic --- and faith on the other --- that interlude would project into the psychic realm.

A twenty-six-year-old unemployed recluse named John Schrank lives above a New York City saloon which had employed him once.  This is before Theodore Roosevelt, then police commissioner, had gone on a Sunday-closing crusade.  Schrank has been unable to get a job.

Shortly after President McKinley had been assassinated in 1901, elevating T.R. to the presidency, Schrank has a dream.  His shabby surroundings are transformed into a funeral parlor full of flowers.  An open coffin lies before him.  President McKinley sits up in it and points to a dark corner of the room.  Peering out, Schrank makes out the figure of a man dressed as a monk.  Under the cowl Schrank recognizes the bespectacled features of T.R.

“This is my murderer,” McKinley says.  “Avenge my death.”  Schrank awakens from his nightmare and checks his watch.  It is 1:30 A.M.  He goes back to sleep.  The appeal would not be renewed for another eleven years.

Fast forward to September 1912.  John Schrank sits writing poetry in his two-dollar-a-week apartment in downtown Manhattan.  It is the anniversary of the McKinley assassination.

When night draws near
And you hear a knock
And a voice should whisper
Your time is up. …

As Schrank doodles, he feels the ghost of the dead president lay a hand on his shoulder.  It does not stop his pen.

Refuse to answer
As long as you can
Then face it and be a man.

Later, it is revealed that the appeal of McKinley’s ghost has been renewed at the same hour of the same night of the week as the earlier episode.

Back in the real world, T.R. is scheduled on October 14, 1912 to give an important speech on Progressivism in Milwaukee.  On the way to the hall he takes his customary right-hand seat in his roofless, seven-seat automobile.  His escorts fan out to take their seats.  Acknowledging the crowd, T.R. stands up to bow.  At that moment, no more than seven feet away, Schrank fires. 

The bullet lays embedded against T.R.’s fourth right rib, four inches from the sternum.  Heading straight toward the heart, its upward and inward trajectory has to pass through T.R.’s dense overcoat into his suit jacket pocket, then through a hundred glazed pages of his bi-folded speech into his vest pocket, which contains a steel-reinforced spectacle case three layers thick, and on through two webs of suspender belt, shirt fabric, and undershirt flannel, before eventually coming into contact with skin and bone.  Even so, the force has been enough to crack the rib.  T.R.’s personal doctor points out that the spectacle case has deflected the bullet upward.  Had it gone through the arch of the aorta or auricles of the heart, his patient would not have lived 60 seconds.

A witness to the shooting marvels at the freak coordination of all these impediments.  Had Schrank’s slug penetrated the pleura, T.R. would have bled to death internally in a matter of minutes.  “There was no other place on his body so thoroughly armored as the spot where the bullet struck.”   As if by some miracle, T.R. survives the attempt, and actually recovers quickly.

At times Schrank claims he is penniless.  Other times, he claims he had inherited Manhattan real estate from his father, a Bavarian immigrant.  Whatever his finances, he has enough cash to purchase a gun and pursue T.R. for two weeks through the Deep South and on across the Midwest --- intending but failing to shoot him in at least five cities before Milwaukee.  “I intended to kill Theodore Roosevelt, the third termer.  I did not want to kill the candidate of the Progressive Party.”

Schrank later claims that he was neither insane nor a socialist.  T.R. is inclined to agree.  “I very gravely question if he has a more unsound mind than Eugene Debs (the Socialist Party candidate for the presidency).”

Pleading guilty to T.R.’s shooting, with qualifications, Schrank is committed to the hospital for the criminally insane and remains there until his death on the anniversary of his first vision of the ghost of McKinley thirty-one years earlier.

-Michael D'Angelo

(Editor's note: The fourth and final segment closes this multi-part series with the results of the 1912 general election --- and its aftermath.)

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