Sunday, May 14, 2017

My mother

My mother has been dead nearly two decades. I frequently wonder what she would have made of our contemporary USofA. There's been a lot of water under the bridge -- especially 9/11, meaningless forever wars, torture at Abu Ghraib -- that I am glad she missed.

She was a politically engaged person. Although more to the right than the left, during the 1930s, she was well aware that something evil was brewing in Germany, something that decent people and countries would have to fight. The spectacle of Nazi atrocities led her to reject bigotry when she recognized it, though she carried vast reservoirs of WASP supremacist assumptions about which she was oblivious. Having listened breathlessly to the European war on shortwave radio, she feared and hated war itself. Though a lifelong Republican, she could not bring herself to vote for Barry Goldwater; his bellicose conservatism was not hers.

Her Republican allegiance was not mean or angry in the current style. She raised me to do grassroots election work, keeping a card file of registered voters in the neighborhood and chivvying them to turn out. But she expected to lose those elections. Buffalo was a working class Democratic city; for better (and often worse), her kind were not the local government.

I don't recall how she responded to Watergate; we were politically distant in those years. She was not a particular fan of Ronald Reagan, though his marriage to a graduate of Smith College where she had spent four exciting, independent years atoned for his Californian swagger. George H.W. Bush was more her sort; I think she saw him as more New England than Texas.

She lived just long enough to endure the revelation of Bill Clinton's dalliance with a White House intern. She was not amused. In fact, I think revulsion from his boorish behavior probably would have delayed a political trajectory that would have made her a Democrat by now. She believed in women's rights, in reproductive choice, and in general decency. She would have liked Obama -- I can hear her saying "such a nice family."

I think Donald Trump would have disgusted and frightened her, as he disgusts and frightens me.

The photo is from about 1950.


Rain Trueax said...

I have a letter from one of Washington's senators at the time as he took the time to write back to the letter my mother had written him (in the '50s sometime but forget the date right now). Mom had written her great concern over the US debt which was a few billion at the time. He said he worried about it too.

My folks were politically active in terms of talking about politics and always voting. She was against NAFTA, which I thought wrong at the time as I thought open trade would be good-- except trade agreements aren't often open trade but have all kinds of caveats.

I think mom always voted Democrat but she never hero worshiped any politician. It was always the issues that I remember her talking about-- not talking down any of them either. The political arguments at family gatherings got loud but nobody got mad at anybody. My parents' sense of political responsibility to be aware definitely carried over to my brother and me :).

janinsanfran said...

Rain -- I think you've hit what I value so much from my mother: she gave me a "sense of political responsibility." Nice phrase for something which seems less often cultivated these days. Politics has become less considered, more expressive. Perhaps we all feel more powerless than some in previous generations.

Hattie said...

I like her mother's pleasant looks. There are several women like her here, upper middle class wives of the old school who do a lot of good work for the community and who take a lot of responsibility. They work harder than a lot of people who have paying jobs. A vanishing breed, perhaps, but they define certain rules of decorum, demand high ethics of themselves and others and are, in general, exemplary.

Hattie said...

That's "your" up there!

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