I was raised in a home where politics went unspoken. As my Mom explains, she hates politics because her father and uncles argued politics ad nauseam when she was growing up. That would put just about anyone off politics. My great uncles were republican, but my Grandfather’s strong democratic beliefs earned him the nickname “Demo” as a young man…and he would go by that name for the rest of his life. That passion for politics skipped a generation.
We grew up rural, sheltered from the horrors of Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge. Watergate was not discussed, Ford was a joke on Saturday Night Live and Carter was a peanut farmer from the South. We did not talk about the fights for equal and/or civil rights. My parents loved teaching us about the past…but they did not engage us in the present. Ignorance is bliss...but only to a point.
It was not until I left home at 17, that I started to pay attention and my horizons began to expand. This was mostly due to my first husband. Before he was old enough to drink, Don knew more about world politics than most people ever will. Over the next decade of my life, so much would happen…and, though it did not come naturally (or nurturally), I started to notice. While Americans talked about MTV and Indiana Jones and personal computers, Islamic Afghan Freedom fighters would spend the decade fighting and dying until they hamstrung the Soviet Union. The Cold War that had plagued us since 1950 was coming to an end. Ronald Reagan was president over most of that decade and Nelson Mandela was serving his third decade in prison. Great and terrible things happened over those years. In 1989, I would paint “End Apartheid” across the front bumper of my truck in support of those fighting that terrible battle…meanwhile, across the world, the Berlin Wall would fall, the Exxon Valdez would spill 10.8 million gallons of crude oil along the Alaska coastline and hundreds of peaceful student protestors would be gunned down in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
What I discovered when I paid attention, was a world of injustice that offended my innately fair-minded little soul and tore at my empathic little heart. Everywhere you looked there was something or someone worth fighting for. I was pulled in a dozen directions at once…outraged, overwhelmed, heartbroken and discouraged. I donated money, time and art…I recycled and voted. I wanted do more, though, like help clean birds by Prince William Sound. Instead, I told myself that it was better to give the world what I was “good” at by focusing on my art. In hindsight, maybe I was wrong.
The most important lesson I learned by going to DC last June was that we can and should be involved and engaged regarding the issues we are passionate about...and we can make a difference. Our politicians work for us and sometimes we need to hold their feet to the fire. It isn’t easy…it means researching the issues and learning to discern fact from fiction. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and delving into the things that worry or scare us. It means making an effort to think for ourselves and express our beliefs in a world that won’t always “like” what we think or, worse, will respond with hateful vitriol.
I may not have children…but I worry about the future of my niece, my nephews and all the children/young people who will inherit what we are creating (and destroying). What will we leave them? Will they have clean water and air and wild places to escape to? Will they be saddled with the crushing deficit that the GOP is creating to enrich the rich? Will they have opportunities for education and equality?
Most of us hate politics, or at least some politicians...but you don't have to like politics to be involved. Like it or not, the decisions made by politicians involve you. I would think any parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle would want to do whatever they can to protect the future of the children, nieces, and nephews grandchildren they are so fortunate to have and/or love. Our country is on fire, my friends...and we should all be grabbing buckets.
the MOST patriotic and the truly American thing we can do is be involved, speak out, vote and sometimes (gasp) protest..
“Well, I won't back down
No, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down”