Nuclear War, Nazis, Racists, and Grandchildren

This post has been a week in coming. It’s taken so long because every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it got worse. And just as I had something composed in my head, a new atrocity rose up to overshadow the previous one.

A week ago, my grandson spent the night with me. He’s a smart, precocious rising fifth-grader who enjoys babies and small children, Jeopardy, CNN, most of the shows on HGTV, and is a walking encyclopedia of baseball statistics. He reads the Farmers’ Almanac, trivia (or did-you-know) books with the same intensity I used to read Nancy Drew. He’s also a lot of fun to spend time with, and we talk about almost everything.

Last week we discussed Trump’s words and actions relative to North Korea, and any fears he might have or what he thought might happen. I told him about growing up in during the Cold War, and living just a mile from the base headquarters of the Strategic Air Command in Tampa. I explained how scary that could feel, and how we had “bomb drills” in the same way he has fire drills or lock-down drills. Although we obviously came to no resolution, I tried to assure him that it was unlikely we would actually have war, since, pragmatically, our threat to North Korea was much greater in terms of lives and damage than their threat to us. We agreed that war is bad, that any loss of life would be horrible, and I think it helped him to talk about it.

That conversation was on Friday, and I thought it was probably the most serious conversation we would have for a while. Then came Saturday in Charlottesville.

This grandson wrote a paper on WWII last year for class, so he has some knowledge of who Hitler was and about the Nazis. And, like the rest of us, he likely thought it was an evil that had been put to rest. Oh, he knows about racism and discrimination. He has a virtual rainbow of friends, both at school and in his neighborhood. He has a gay uncle and great-uncle, and a couple of gay cousins, knows people who are in same-sex marriages and committed relationships, and his parents don’t put any questions – from him or his sister – off-bounds. So he’s aware, but it’s not a big deal. His greatest concern following the November election was for his friends who are Mexican and those whose religion is Islam. It probably isn’t necessary to mention that he’s no fan of Donald Trump, and takes every opportunity to mention it!

So, how do we talk about Trump’s recent remarks about the events in Charlottesville? How do I explain that there are people who would hate him because he’s one-quarter Puerto Rican? And how does that work with the fact that he’s descended on my side of the family from people who owned human beings and who fought to dissolve this union of states, so that they might continue to profit from slavery? How do I explain that the word “n***er” was used freely within my extended family when I was growing up. What will he think when he’s old enough to be interested in my grandfather’s memoirs, which are filled with epithets against people of color, Jewish people, and a host of others who weren’t White, Southern, and Episcopalian?

What do I say about the people who voted for Trump? Do I say they aren’t bad people? Or that they aren’t all racist or bigoted? Do I say that somehow they were able to ignore Trump’s words and vote for him anyway? Do I fall back on my mother’s old saw that politics makes strange bedfellows? Do I tell him that there are people who are genuinely concerned about the economy and hoped Trump would make it better, and that they were angry enough to vote for him? How, then, do I explain that a race of people who have suffered from a depressed economy for generations don’t have the same right, according to some, to be angry?

What words do I use to tell him that Donald Trump has a son-in-law and two grandchildren who are descended from Holocaust survivors, yet he defended Nazis, surely knowing, and just as surely not caring, about the pain that must cause them? My grandchildren – all of them – think of grandparents as protecters and defenders, as people who love them and would never choose to hurt them in word or deed. How can he understand that there are grandparents who put their own selfishness above the emotional well-being of their grandchildren?

How do I explain that the person who occupies the highest elected office in this land has defended and provided excuses for Nazis and white supremacists, and those who would divide us by race and religion? How can this even be a current events discussion in the 21st Century?

And how will Donald Trump explain his angry words and his support for Nazis and bigots to Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore?

Why I #RESIST

In late summer of 2015, my sister, niece, and I made our second genealogical Southern tour. This time it was precipitated by the news that one of our forebears, John Justus Grovenstein, was to be honored by the DAR at Oak Grove Cemetery in St. Marys, GA.

St. Marys is a lovely little seaside town just across the Florida/Georgia state line, and is where my grandfather was born and grew up, and where many of his family (including his mother) are buried. While there, we also planned to visit some other family gravesites, as well as the town of Ebenezer where our ancestors first settled in the mid- to late-18th Century. We also planned to finally meet up with a long-time Facebook friend and attend services at his church, have dinner with a cousin, and – one of the highlights – actually have a tour of the house that my great-great-grandfather lived in after the Civil War.

We were able to do all of these things and more, and had a wonderful time. One thing I had hoped to do, but didn’t know if we could, was to visit Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. This was just a few months after nine people were murdered by a White Supremacist as they met for prayer and Bible study. Since my great-great-grandfather’s old home was also in Charleston, I had high hopes.

In fact, we did visit Mother Emanuel, and as we gathered, there were a large number of other people arriving as well. The gates were locked and we weren’t able to go inside, and there were obvious signs of construction and repair following that hateful and horrendous act. There was a man there who had created great signs with sheets of plywood, and he invited each of us to sign our name, leave a few words, to honor the memory of the victims. I can’t remember how many hundreds of thousands of signatures he told us were there, but it was impressive.

As we stood there on a hot southern summer day, I began to weep. Looking back, it was similar to the spontaneous and uncontrollable weeping I had experienced at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC several years before. A weeping not just for the awful loss of life, but for a society that allows such things to occur, that at times seems to foster the very hatred that is represented. An African-American woman who was there saw me and opened her arms to me. We embraced, and through my tears all I could say was, “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.” But I felt her consolation even though I should have been consoling her. It was a sacred moment in a sacred space.

This week I am watching “O.J.: Made in America,” a documentary film that won an Academy Award this year. It’s long – five episodes, each about an hour-and-a-half long. I’ve just finished the second episode, and it’s gut-wrenching. You see, it isn’t just about O.J. Simpson. It’s about the Watts Riots and Eulia May Love and Rodney King. It’s about all the things I was too busy to pay close attention to when they were happening, but that were telling people of color over and over and over and over again, “You’re not important to us. Your lives aren’t as valuable as ours. You are disposable.”

It’s about Mark Fuhrman (remember him?) saying, “What do they think they’re proving by burning their own businesses? I don’t understand it.” It’s about Police Chief Daryl Gates defending the indefensible, and blaming King for the excessive force that was used against him. It’s about all the ways we as a nation have failed the most vulnerable among us. Perhaps if Mark Fuhrman had read history, had seen that generations of our fellow citizens had tried every method available to them to achieve parity, only to be spurned at every turn, perhaps then he could have understood the anger and frustration that leads people to set fire to their own neighborhoods, to break and destroy, to loot and to crush. Perhaps he would have understood that when the wall of injustice is falling on you, you do whatever it takes to get someone’s attention, even if it seems unreasonable and counterproductive to passers-by.

I can see that. I don’t like it and I don’t condone it, but I can understand it. I’m just sorry it took me so long.

And now we are living in a time when people are being banned because they’re Muslim or Mexican, when cemeteries are being vandalized because they hold the mortal remains of Jews, when a White Supremacist sits in the highest halls of power in this country. I may have been busy working and raising children in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s and not paying close attention, but I’m paying attention now. And I’m using my voice in whatever way I can – postcards and rallies and marches and town halls. Tweets and emails and Facebook posts. Learning how to be not just an advocate, but an ally. Learning to put aside my natural inclination to speak in favor of listening and learning – and then speaking the truth of what I’ve learned. That’s why I #RESIST.

And I think often of that kind, embracing woman in whose arms I wept on a hot summer southern day. And I wonder if she ever thinks of me.

Dinner with a friend

Last Friday, I went out to dinner with an old friend. Patty and I first met when we both worked for Portland Parks in the late ’90s, lost touch after I left in ’01, and reconnected on Facebook a year or so ago. I always enjoy her company and look forward to our occasional dinners.

As is common these days, our conversation soon turned to politics. Patty voiced her concern that those of us on the left are fragmented in our approach to what’s going on right now, and that it would be better to be cohesive if we hope to have electoral successes in 2018 and 2020. The question is: How do we do that?

Right now, we do have a lot of fires that we’re trying to put out. The Trump administration has mounted assaults on LGBTQIA rights, Women’t rights, immigration and human rights, our national lands, our ecology, education, and with the “get tough on crime” stance, a certain assault against people of color. And, really, that’s only part of the things we’re fighting against. The lack of qualifications and sheer incompetence of Trump’s cabinet is frightening and threatens the very foundations of our nation.

I don’t think anyone has all the answers, but I agree that we do need to work together. The most important thing we can do for now is continue to voice our objections, to attend marches and protests, to participate in Town Halls, call our representatives, and as we are able to provide financial support to those politicians whose positions most closely match our own. We also need to continue to support our representatives who are taking a stand against the current administration’s appointments and policies. There is an abundance of resources available on the internet, and most anyone can find a cause to support.

I believe the great danger is stretching ourselves too thin, or exhausting ourselves with outrage. For me, the decision of the 9th Circuit Court last week caused me to breathe such a huge sigh of relief that I became fully aware of just how wound up I’ve been. When I realized that the action of a court on just one issue seemed so monumental, I knew that I need to find a way to pace myself. I can’t do everything, so I’ve had to make hard decisions about just what to do. My choices are going to focus on particular human rights, even though that decision necessarily means I can’t focus on the environment, education, egregious cabinet choices, or even the Supreme Court. Of course, I can still make phone calls on those issues – and I will – but my volunteer time will go toward protecting vulnerable people.

Other people – those with more experience and more knowledge – might find that focusing on DAPL, NAFTA, SCOTUS, or any of our alphabet of issues fits more comfortably into their lives. The important thing to remember is to not burn out. Take some time away from Facebook and the news, even if it’s just a few hours or even a day or two. Treat yourself to a massage or a nice dinner out. Pet your cat. Walk your dog. Appreciate the view out your window. Whatever it is that brings you joy and peace, do that thing – even if it’s just for a few minutes.

This week I’m going to a campaign kick-off for a woman I know only through Facebook. She’s running for the school board, and although she isn’t in my district, I’m supporting her with my presence even though I can’t support her with my vote. We need new blood in politics and those who are willing to put themselves out there deserve more than just an attaboy – they deserve our presence and where possible, our dollars. If you’re thinking about running for office, good for you! Let me know and I’ll publicize your campaign.

Each time I blog I will try to post new links to information that will help you find your place. If these links are useful, please let me know. If you know of other opportunities, put them in the comments and I’ll highlight them in my next post.

And to respond to Patty’s concern: Yes, we are fragmented to some degree, but the bottom line is that human rights covers everyone’s rights. Concern for the environment covers pipelines, fracking, drilling, loss of Federal lands, and animal protections. So really, we aren’t that divided. We just need to hold the umbrella a little higher and let more people into the shelter of our concerns. I’m optimistic that before the mid-terms roll around we’ll have identified a more cohesive message. And in the meantime you can still make those phone calls, send postcards, and show up when you can.

And still we persist!

How to Get Out of the Cycle of Outrage in a Trump World

Your Guide to the Sprawling New Anti-Trump Resistance Movement

Elect a Brand New Congress That Works for All Americans

Indivisible – A Practical Guide For Resisting the Trump Agenda

A Call to Action

There were a lot of reasons I didn’t participate in the protest movements of the ’60s and ’70s. In retrospect, most of them still seem legitimate (although boy-chasing might not make the cut), but I do remember being somewhat disdainful of those who did. I was a much more establishment person than my younger sister, but not quite as rigid as my older brother. That’s been the story of my life: Too old for this, too young for that. Middle child, middle path.

I first put my toes gently into the waters of protest and civil disobedience in the late ’70s when I protested the actions of the mayor of the small Florida town where I lived. We marched. We gave television interviews. We wrote letters to the editor. We hanged the mayor in effigy. Our efforts were largely unsuccessful, but at least we hadn’t sat home doing nothing.

So last month when I dragged my somewhat-reluctant daughter-in-law off to D.C. to the Women’s March, I was nearly as new to protest at almost-70 as she was at 40-something. But we did it. We both moved out of our comfort zones (I hate crowds, she hates crowds), and went off to an unfamiliar place to participate in an unfamiliar activity. And even though it very nearly broke my body, I look forward to participating in more actions.

So, how do we find those places where marches and/or protests are taking place? Last weekend after Trump signed and announced his overreaching Executive Order banning people from entering the U.S., demonstrations seemed to happen almost spontaneously at airports across the nation. Since they went on all weekend, it was almost guaranteed that you could show up at an airport and be part of a group protesting no matter when you went. But what about the not-so-obvious protests – how do you find those?

Google is your friend. Type “protest” and the name of your city (or nearby big city) into the search bar. You can also check out the American Civil Liberties Union  and get on their mailing list. Better yet, ask if you can volunteer; they need more help than just attorneys. This Mashable site also has a lot of good suggestions for getting involved. Protest.net has a list of activities by issue as well as several other good resources. You can also search groups on Facebook (some of the Women’s March groups have resources), and send out requests to your local friends on FB who might have information. The more connected you are, the better your chances of finding out what’s going on.

For those who can’t get out, there are postcard and phone call campaigns going on all the time. You can sign up to have a weekly action checklist emailed to you here, or you can just go to the website at your leisure.

If you can’t do rallies or marches, offer to watch someone’s child so s/he can go. You might also offer rides to those who need them. There are many ways to help and all of them are vital.

Trump’s Alt-Facts

I’ve begun keeping a list of information to use to debunk the lies that flow from the Trump White House. I’m starting it here, but will also create a document that will be updated as necessary. Please feel free to disseminate this blog or any other information as you find helpful.

Alt-Fact: The addition of Steve Bannon to the National Security Council is in keeping with the actions of Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama

FACT: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/31/sean-spicer/spicers-misleading-claim-trumps-national-security-/

Alt-Fact: Trump’s immigration policies are no more restrictive than Obama’s

FACT: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/30/donald-trump/why-comparing-trumps-and-obamas-immigration-restri/

Alt-Fact: Syrian Christians weren’t able to enter US under previous policy

FACT: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/30/donald-trump/why-comparing-trumps-and-obamas-immigration-restri/

Alt-Fact: “Millions of people” voted illegally in 2016

FACT: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2017/jan/25/sean-spicer/sean-spicer-wrongly-uses-pew-study-bolster-claim-n/

For Further Information

I highly recommend Politifact and Snopes for checking what you read online – and especially before you post something that seems too far-out to be true. Unfortunately, we are in a situation where the unbelievable has become all too easy to believe, but by perpetuating questionable information we leave ourselves open to criticism and disbelief. Better not to post that questionable item than to be unable to defend it.

Finally…

It’s critically important to take care of yourself. Activism is exhausting and outrage can only be sustained for so long. You may find it easier to throw up your hands and say “fuck it” than to continue on your course. Don’t do that, please! We need every voice, every postcard, every body! Here are some tips to help you de-stress, and if those don’t suit you, find someone to talk to or – as always – Google is your friend!

This collection is by no means exhaustive, so please feel free to add to it in the Comments!

Welcome to The Resistance!

Politics, not as usual

Ninety-seven years ago today, my mother was born in the small Central Florida town of Orlando. She was the first child of John and Willie Peck, and her beginnings were humble and inauspicious.

cecilia

(Mom in the front, with her sister and cousins, about 1928.)

Mom’s stories about her childhood were always uplifting, and photographs (of which I have many!) show a happy, playful child, surrounded by friends, cousins, grandparents, and her sisters. Her life was peripatetic, as her dad was a seafaring man and he took his family to his ports of call whenever he could. That life didn’t suit my grandmother well, however, and they were divorced when mom was about 9 or 10 years old. Throughout my mother’s life, she remained devoted to her dad in nearly unreasonable circumstances.

Mom – her name is Cecilia – suffered a variety of illnesses as a child, including malaria, which kept her from attending school regularly, but she studied hard and maintained her grades. In 1934, when she was just 14, she was raped by a young man who was a boarder at my Granny’s boarding house. In order to preserved the family’s “honor,” she was then forced into marriage with a man who was 35 years her senior. George was a bootlegger, and his money and connections likely made life during the Great Depression much easier for the family. Mom’s feelings didn’t matter much, and she resented that forced marriage for the rest of her life.peck-fam

(Mom is the taller of the two little girls; the other is her sister. L to R, back row: her dad, her mom, her aunt, and the man she would be forced to marry. About 1924)

cecilia2

(Teenaged wife of a man older than her mother. Mom’s on the right. About 1935)

Mom met my dad while still married to George, who had been convicted and imprisoned for selling untaxed alcohol, and divorce proceedings were underway. Dad was handsome, mom was pretty, war was on the horizon – they were married February 12, 1941. After Pearl Harbor, dad enlisted in the Navy and was sent to the Aleutian Islands – a harsh environment for a boy who had been born in Frostproof, FL! Mom stayed home and awaited the birth of my brother in early 1943, and then she, too, went to war. Well, not exactly, but she was a version of Rosie the Riveter, working as an aircraft mechanic at the nearby Army Air Base.

Following the war, mom and dad had two more children – me and then my sister – and mom contracted polio in the summer of 1950. The disease would leave her crippled in her left leg, but never in her spirit! She and my dad divorced in 1957, and she was left – at age 37 and with three children – to raise us with very little help. She sold Avon, World Book Encyclopedia, Plymouth cars, and whatever else she could do to keep a roof over our heads and food in our mouths.

I don’t know exactly when or why she developed her interest in politics, but she was avid! Some of my earliest memories after the divorce were meeting with the Mayor of Tampa, State Senators, US Congressmen, campaign signs and slogans, and long periods of normalcy with sudden flurries of activity – based, I assume now, on election cycles. In 1960, at age 13, I was involved in my very first political campaign – to elect JFK to the presidency. You can read more about that and about my young adult aversion to politics here.

In 1974, the Democratic Party held a Mid-Term Conference in Kansas City, and mom was elected to represent Hillsborough County. She didn’t win all of her battles, but she never stopped fighting for what she believed in, and she always believed in the future.midterms

In the late ’70s, mom was diagnosed with osteoporosis, which was exacerbated by her having had polio. She suffered a lot of pain during the last years of her life, finally succumbing to the complications of Post-Polio Syndrome in 1992, just 13 days after her 72nd birthday. I have missed her every day since, and wish I had asked a lot more questions and listened to a lot more answers over the years!

I find myself thinking of her even more often these days, during these tumultuous times. I like to think that she would be proud of me, that she knows somehow that I am carrying the banner on her behalf and on behalf of women everywhere. That I, too, feel a strong sense of leaving a legacy for my children and grandchildren to point to with pride, just as she did.

Happy Birthday, mom. I love you.

 

Women’s March on Washington

I knew when I saw the post that I had to be part of this. I was devastated by the election, as were so many others. I was so hurt and angry that I couldn’t even cry. I couldn’t sleep. I was stunned. I’m sure many of you felt the same way. That this country – MY country – could elect a person – I can’t even call him a “man”; my sons are men, he is not – who mocked the disabled and a war hero; who collected a Purple Heart “the easy way”; who characterized an entire nation as rapists and killers; who demonized a religion; who had spent eight years perpetrating a lie about the birthplace of our President; and who spoke about sexually assaultive behavior – no, that couldn’t have happened.

But, of course, it did. So when I saw the seeds of a Women’s March to protest all that he stands for – well, I wanted in. I just wasn’t sure how to go about it – airfare, transportation, hotel room, all on one of the busiest weekends in D.C. And I sure didn’t want it to look like I was supporting him!

And then I discovered that there were going to be buses, roundtrip, no layover, no hotel room. Roundtrip from Portland to D.C. and back was $700 and would mean about 24 hours each way, plus the time at the march. Oh, my aching back! Literally. But I would do it if that was the only way. Then I had a better idea: If my daughter-in-law who lives in central Illinois (with my son and three oldest grandchildren, I should add!) wanted to go, maybe I could fly there and go with her. The bus trip would take half the time and I’d have the company of a woman I admire and love. And she and I had never spent a lot of time together, just us, so it was appealing. It became even more appealing when I found out that airfare + bus fare was $100 less than the trip from Portland. And I could build in rest time and time with a part of my family I see too seldom.

As it turned out, Lisa was eager to go as well, so the plan was put into motion. On the Wednesday before the March, I flew into Champaign and we began planning our trip – snacks, drinks, posters, what to wear. I had a day-and-a-half with my son and grandsons and then Lisa and I were off – accompanied on our journey by 46 women, three men, and a bus driver. But before we boarded, I dragged Lisa away from her friends so we could be interviewed by the local news station! When it aired that night, my son texted it to us and we got most of the air time. It was pretty darned exciting!

The bus trip was fairly awful – cramped and crowded, worse than any airplane I’ve ever been on. There was zero space to extend our legs, and when the young girl in front of me reclined her seat I had to ask her to put it back upright, since it left me unable to move at all! But the adrenaline was flowing, we were making friends, and the excitement was in the air! We left Champaign around 6:00 pm CST and arrived in D.C. about 8:00 am EST. One of our group was knitting pink pussyhats as we traveled, and giving them away as they were completed; I was thrilled when she gave one to me! Finally, the bus parked, we took pictures and bathroom breaks, and started following the crowd to the location of the March.

Some of the marchers walked the approximately three miles to the starting site, and reported back that night how, as they walked through neighborhoods, people were clapping and cheering them, there were encouraging signs in the yards, and one couple even made their bathroom available to a youngster who was in dire need. Lisa and I – as well as most of the others – walked about a half-mile to the Metro Station and took the train. Along the way, we encountered D.C. police officers, security personnel, and National Guardsmen, all of whom were friendly and welcoming. We thanked them for their service – and they thanked us for coming! At the Metro, we got our tickets and then we really started to become aware of how many people were there. The lines for the escalators were lengthy, but there were plenty of staff on hand to help keep things running smoothly. As each train arrived and the doors opened, we joined the other marchers who were already on the car – and who welcomed us with cheers and clapping. This ritual was repeated at each stop.

Finally, we reached our destination and, Oh! My! So many people! Pink pussyhats everywhere! Signs of every description – funny, serious, poignant, profane – you name it, it was there! Everyone was friendly and helpful, and we didn’t experience any negativity at all – no small feat with a half-million people! It was a sea of humanity and we had no clear direction as to where to go, so we just moved with the crowd. There were speeches – too many of them, we thought, since the actual march kept being delayed. Then we heard that there were so many of us we wouldn’t be able to march. The speakers assured us that we would, but still the speeches went on, and people were beginning to leave to catch their buses back home. We were all tired and getting restless, when finally we were told to begin marching. We started out, but some in our group had to take a bathroom break, so we said we’d wait – and were glad we did! As we stood watching others go, the speaker introduced Amy Shumer, who then introduced Madonna! It was electric! We sang and danced, took pictures and videos, and then at last we were marching! It took us about an hour to march the 8 or 10 blocks toward the Washington Monument along Independence Avenue. We later learned that there had been an equally large crowd along the Mall!

Lisa and I began to make our way back toward where our bus was parked, but first walked over to the Mall so she could get a good view of the Capitol and the Mall. We wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, but it would have meant another 3-mile walk since public transportation was restricted in some areas. As we headed back, once again we were greeted with smiles and thank-yous, and so much encouragement to continue the work. I don’t think we met a single person who gave any indication of support for the new administration. Trump is not liked in the city where he now lives.

The trip back to Champaign was even worse that the ride to D.C. We were all exhausted, it was impossible to sleep for more than an hour at a time (if that!), and I was plagued by knee pain and leg cramps. Fortunately, our stops for fuel or breaks seem to arrive just as I was sure I was going to climb out the window! We arrived home Sunday morning, and Lisa, bless her, managed to go to the annual meeting at her church – which was good, since she’s just been elected to the Vestry! I slept. And slept. And slept some more. My body hurt all over and I had no energy at all.

Sunday was my oldest grandson’s birthday, so we went out to dinner that night and had a lovely time and great food, then we went home and I slept some more!

Tuesday afternoon, I boarded the flight home, happy for having participated in an important event, protesting the new administration’s stated policies, being a part of something bigger than myself, and with a renewed determination to continue my activism in support of those who are much less fortunate than I.

As I disembarked from my flight in Chicago, I was immediately confronted by a man who, seeing my sweatshirt, said, “Were you there?” “Yes, I was,” I replied proudly. “Good for you – and thanks!” Awaiting my flight from O’Hare to Portland, a young woman sitting next to me asked the same question. When I responded, “Yes,” she said, “I marched in Chicago!” At the gate, I was again asked by the young male gate agent if I had been there. When I happily replied, he gave me a thumbs-up. And on my flight, I sat next to a young woman – an attorney – who had marched in New York. We spent most of the flight in conversation about next steps.

I’m happy to be home, and am slowly recovering from the stress I put on my aging body, but I will always be thankful I followed through on that first impulse to go.

From the Left Side of My Brain

Politically Autobiographical

With a few changes, I am resurrecting my political blog, which I first began following the election in 2008 of Barack Obama. And, in case you wondered, politically I am somewhat left of center, though that wasn’t always true. It seems that in my later years I have found my way back to the politics of my youth, and I felt that a few (or, perhaps, many) words of explanation were in order.

If one can be raised within a political party, we were. I don’t recall much in the way of politics from my very early years, but after my parents were divorced, my mom entered politics with a vengeance. My earliest political memory was campaigning with her for Nick Nuccio to be elected Mayor of Tampa in ’56; I was 9 years old. Nuccio was elected, and was a sometime visitor to our house, along with people like the late US Representatives Sam Gibbons and Claude Pepper. In 1960, we campaigned fervently for John Kennedy, and had the memorable pleasure of meeting him on the Monday before he was assassinated.

Mom was Democratic Precinct Committeewoman for more years than I can remember, and held a tea in her home for Rosalynn Carter during Jimmy Carter’s first campaign for the Presidency. She was invited to both Carter’s and Lyndon Johnson’s inaugurations, and was a delegate to the party’s mid-term convention in Kansas City in 1974. In short, my life was infused with political activity and activism, to the degree that, when I left home in the late 60s, I was glad to be away from it all, and frequently (and obnoxiously) stated that the only political thing I ever wanted to do again was vote!

Fast forward to marriage and children, and life in a small farming town where I became actively involved in my church. I worked only sporadically, so my social circle was filled with like-minded people. My husband was a volunteer policeman in addition to his full-time paying job, and so my world became more and more circumscribed and influenced by political conservatives. I did vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976, but shortly afterward changed my party affiliation to Republican. After all, they were the “family values” party and I was all for family values!

In 1987 I became very involved in working with AIDS patients, and shortly after that learned that my own son is gay. A change began to happen inside me, and my devotion to God and my family led me to start asking myself some hard questions. I saw intimately what happens when those with few options are denied help in the midst of ostentatious plenty. I saw things and heard stories that made me weep. And I began, slowly, ever so slowly, to question my adherence to a political party that seemd to lack compassion for anyone except the very wealthy.

Allthough I was conflicted, I maintained my official affiliation with the Republican Party. When my mother died in 1992, I had never garnered the courage to tell her of my defection, but that fall I cast my vote for Bill Clinton, largely because of his promise to pave the way for gays to serve in the military.

Upon my divorce in 1994, I moved to Oregon to be near my sister and her family, bringing my youngest son – then 14 – with me. My sister is four years younger than I (really only 3-1/2!) but despite my elder sister arrogance, she has often had insights and words of wisdom that have had tremendous impact on me. As I mounted one of my best arguments against social services – that our mother had managed to raise three kids in the 50s and 60s with no help from our father, and without once having to resort to government aid – Peggy looked at me and said, “Instead of using her as a yardstick by which to measure others, you should admire the fact that she had the knowledge, skills, and perseverance to do that. Not many people do, you know!”

I knew she was right, but pride – my old enemy – still kept me as a registered Republican. I even took a certain pride in being an “open-minded conservative.” I am ashamed to admit that I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 for the most frivolous of reasons: Al Gore bored me. And I was willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt for his first few years in office.

The war in Iraq, however, was an eye-opener – but only after we began to learn of the deceits that launched it. In 2004, I voted for John Kerry and began to see the true nature of what the Republican Party had become when the swift boat affair was initiated. For an entire party to impugn the integrity of a man who had served so nobly was anathema to me. Inertia being what it is, however, I remained a Republican in name only.

Until 2008. When I heard Rush Limbaugh exhorting Republicans to switch party affiliations so that they could vote in Democratic primaries and try to undermine the integrity of the party, I was finally, at last, appalled beyond belief. So I switched back to the party of my youth (I’m home, Mom!), and for the first time in my adult life, I not only voted but campaigned and donated money as well. And I’m proud – very proud – that my man won!

The ensuing efforts by those on the Right to not only discredit those who are trying to help our country, but to have no shame in putting forth blatant lies and ridiculous assertions have only strengthened my resolve to work harder for what I believe in.

This past fall, the United States elected a man who is the antithesis of everything my mother stood for, and his racist, bigoted, misogynistic policies and actions have only strengthened my resolve to work for those who are among the most desperate in this nation. I will make no excuses for my partisanship as I call him out on his lies and his wrong-headed actions. He represents the most sordid and shameful aspects of our country and I can no longer attempt to “understand” or to excuse those who voted for him. It is time for those who live in their own small and small-minded worlds to begin to listen and understand those whose lives are in peril from this man.

Truth alone will bring this country back to – in the words of the original Pledge of Allegiance, “…one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

And I’m determined to do my part!