We’re having an election! An honest-to-god election with clear cut issues and substantive differences in stances. It really is the most important election in most of our lives. (I think FDRâ€™s first election was equally important.) But even the people who were babies then are getting older now.
In my last post I talked about my mom who asked me two weeks after 9/11, if I thought it was retribution for all the horrible things we had done to other countries. My five foot tall, ninety five pound mommy was asking me this unthinkable question when I was ready to love anything America has, had or will do.
By profession but not vocation or even avocation I’m a clinical geriatric social worker. All I could think about was how my mom was on the fast track to dementia. I forgot that she lived through the Depression, World War Two, the Cold War, and The McCarthy era.
I was a very young child during the last, and all I remember is seeing blacklisted Charlie Chaplin films with my dad at MOMA. To this day I hate all silent films. We had to see them because Charlie Chaplin had been unjustly accused of being both a Communist and a pedophile because of his marriage to Ona O’Neill. I’m not sure that I was told about the marriage, nor did I ever think that Joe McCarthy was going to pound down our door. I just knew that we were something called â€œProgressive,â€ and that meant we were more sophisticated than most people.
During VietNam my dad turned into an ardent Nixonite. He didn’t stop me, when I was in high school, from going to demonstrations in DC, and would wait all night for the bus to stop in Great Neck. By the Reagan years, some of my momâ€™s organizations banned him from husband nights.
I was no longer embarrassed by him because I knew that he more of a Social Liberal than most people who called themselves Leftists. A math genius (or idiot savant, Iâ€™ve never been sure) he would become befuddled when he tried to understand why a woman didn’t have a right to do what she wanted with her own body, why I didn’t have the right to my adoption records, and among many other things, why people judged people on any other variables but wit, intelligence and goodness.
My parents love was obvious, but my mother would never give up her political beliefs to placate my dad. After my mother died suddenly two weeks after asking me that question and 33 days after The Towers imploded, I told a political cartoonist who was my dad’s client and friend what my mom had said. He was amazed.
Your mom? I thought she was this cute sophisticated suburban housewife.
Actually she was. But she was also the oldest daughter of a Communist, and Suffragette, who designed amazingly sophisticated clothes. Bubbe Celia died when I was eleven, but she had taught me about Sacco and Vanzetti, The Scottsboro Boys, The Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, and many other landmark incidents that she had witnessed.
My father worshipped my maternal grandmother and had become a Communist for a few years because of her influence. My parents had an amazing library. Sometime in my 20’s I lost a first edition of Living My Life, Emma Goldman’s autobiography complete with a carefully cutout New York Times obit. I don’t regret many things but I regret losing that book.
This election eve I think about my parents with love and some sorrow. I pray to them because who else do I have to pray to but my grandmothers, many friends and relatives, and Warren Zevon who I am obsessed with? I play â€œThe Wind,â€ over and over again, as itâ€™s the most optimistic CD I have ever heard.
This election eve I need all the optimism I can muster. I need my mother who believed in looking forward and though she never gave false praise or encouragement always managed to cheer me. This election eve I will watch my dadâ€™s 30 seconds of fame; the, mid â€˜80â€™s MTV commercial where a middle-aged businessman held up an MTV sign. After he was asked to be in the commercial he called me and asked what MTV was. When I told him that it was a station that only played rock videos he refused to believe me. He refused to believe it even after The Times wrote about the series and called him a middle-aged businessman when he was in his early 70’s.
Tonight I will be by myself and make new election rituals. For some reason it feels like the first night of Yom Kippur; a night to think and repent. Tomorrow night Iâ€™m having a party that somehow feels like the celebratory break-fast that follows Yom Kippur. (I know almost nothing about my religion so I can make it into anything I feel like, as I can make my parents into imperfect deities.)
Tomorrow I hope ushers in not just a new year, but a new era. One filled with all thatâ€™s good about this country called The United States of America. It’s not about what Bush represents; it’s not about war and homeland security and hating people or big oil interests or big business. My America, the one that my family including my father, taught me to love is about social justice, letting people in, and opportunity. Most importantly it’s about The Constitution and The Bill of Rights, those wonderful documents that ensure our rights. Here’s to The Founding Fathers.