A dissenting voice is silenced forever

We lost AVOPWA the other day.

“I’m going to run for Brock Adams’ U.S Senate seat next year, and I am running as AVPOWA,” said the voice on the telephone back in 1991.

Dan? I asked, John? Booth? Al? Sam? Billy?

“Do you know who this is?” asked my caller. Yes Clarence, I said. I know.

How could I not recognize the voice who called me more often over the years than all the Democrats and Republicans put together.

Clarence Dahlke, then 79, a retired shipyard electrician who lived in Port Orchard, called me almost every day. Mostly, it was to read me me excerpts from the Congressional Record and, mostly, I listened patiently because he was articulate, the excerpts often were interesting, he only called after my deadline and he was brief.

For a while, he tried to include the then-editor of the Sun on his phone list but made the mistake of calling him at home early in the morning before the editor got up. That went on only briefly before Jack McHenry told him, “If you ever call me at home again, Clarence, I’m going to kill you.”

Clarence reverted to his daily call to me.

On this particular call, he announced his candidacy for the Senate ads AVPOWA, A Voice from Port Orchard, Washington. “I am not going to have a campaign fund,” he said. “I don’t have the money for a filing fee and I won’t sign as an indigent so I am going to be a write-in candidate, running as an independent on David Duke’s platform because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are worth a hoot.”

You’re not racist, are you, Clarence? I asked. You don’t hate black people like Duke does?

“No,” he said. “I’m just opposed to any more immigration of any kind. I support a 10-year moratorium on immigration.”

That was no surprise. I’d already been though his campaign earlier to replace Emma Lazerus’ famous words at the base of the Statue of Liberty with something a little more up to date.

"We should take those old words off,” Clarence insisted. “Those words are terrible.

“ ‘Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free’ That’s a Trojan Horse,” he said. “It says come over here if you want freedom. Back when we took in refugees, the tyrants in the rest of the world persecuted the minorities and week took them in. It’s had a serious backlash. Freedom has taken it in the neck. This country has the most liberal immigration policy in the world.”

The words the statue should bear, he said, should be words emphasizing freedom elsewhere, not calling every poor soul onto our doorstep.

He’d been reading John Greenleaf Whittier, said Clarence, and he’d found a more suitable verse for the Statue. “Rise, stately symbol, holding forth thy light and hope to all who sit in chains and darkness. Belt the earth with watch fires from the torch uplift.”

Very nice, I said. But I don’t think you’re going to see any change.

He called back later with another offering. “They who beat their spears into plowshares live to pull the plows from them who kept their spears.”

A bit overly feisty, I critiqued.

Anyway, the Dahlke anti-immigration campaign came to naught when Clarence withdrew from the Senate race a month later. “I came to the conclusion,” he said, “that I was giving aid and comfort to the enemy (the Ds and the Rs) by thinking I wanted to join them in their lair. Because until they give the president a line item veto, and limit bills to one subject, it’s a mad rat race.”

I think Clarence was in poor health in his last years because I haven’t heard from him or seen any letters to the editor from him, although I figure the David Dahlke who does write the newspapers is one of his eight children. Anyway, AVPOWA has been silenced by death. What a senator he would have made. He’d have shaken up that den of rip-offs and rotters.

Adele Ferguson appears Wednesdays. She can be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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