Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Humble Beginnings

I grew up in a household of democrats. I myself was a democrat. My excuse is that I knew no better. I excuse my Father, because times were different then. Democrats were different then. There was a time when liberal meant freedom. There was also a time when Southern Democrat meant racist. My Father was never a Southern Democrat. In fact, my father came from, as do I, a long line of radical thinkers. To Dad, the Democratic party stands for the little guy. To him, they are anti-war, pro peace and pro free speech. Perhaps it was that way once, but it is no more.
One of my distant relatives was John Holland. For those of you with a public education in the latter 20th century, John Holland was a pilgrim. He sailed on the Mayflower from England to the new land to escape religious persecution. He was also the only guy to fall off the boat, but fortunately, they got him back aboard.  I digress.

In the early 1900's, another of my relatives, Aunt Tilly, took food in to starving miners who were on strike. They were under siege by company men, and were being starved out of their stronghold in a small church in Rossiter, Pennsylvania. Tilly wrapped herself in an American flag, under the theory that even the Pinkertons would not fire upon a woman AND an American flag. She turned out to be correct, and the men were saved.

My grandfather taught blacks in the Knox School in Selma Alabama long before the famous bus ride, and at a time when teaching blacks was very unpopular in the deep south.

I grew up listening to these stories. John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were the great men of my youth, and I learned that Franklin Delano Roosevelt saved the country from the Great Depression.

My family was anti-Vietnam War, and my father is anti all war to this day. I do understand his angst. I grew up listening to Walter Cronkite give the body counts every night over dinner, and when Walter was talking, no one else should.

Dad taught school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. When I was about ten years old, I remember attending sit-ins on the lawn of the ROTC building there. I had little understanding of why, but it seemed like a good time to a ten year old, especially with his much older brother. No, there was no throwing of Molotov cocktails, I didn't even know what a Molotov cocktail was. It was all very peaceful.

We thought Nixon was a crook, and I know dad voted for Hubert Humphrey.

I excuse my dad, because he still thinks that the Democrat party is the party of the common man, peace and freedom. He still is anti-war, more so now than ever. He is for equal rights, while the rest of the party has blown way past equal rights to special rights for “friends of the party”. He believes in opportunity for all, he is kind to animals and humans, he has a strong work ethic, and he believes in God.

He thinks taxes are too high, gas is too high, food is getting a little too high, and unfortunately, Democrats are the answer. It's not that he doesn't pay attention either. He still watches the news every night. He watches PBS. He believes technology reached its peak with the ball point pen, so the only news he gets comes from broadcast TV and the local papers. His news is one sided, but having little to compare it to, he doesn't know. I try to help. I made him a copy of the first 2011 republican debates in South Carolina, so he could get a clearer picture of the modern Republican party. I hope he watches. I hope his VCR still works.

So yes, friends, it's true, I was a Democrat. I confess! With that pedigree, what else could I be?

Then came Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter, my saviour. Jimmy Carter gave us lots of stuff. He gave us high unemployment. He gave us high inflation. He gave us 21% interest rates, and he gave us a nifty hostage crisis, ahhh good times. Fortunately, he gave us Ronald Reagan!

I didn't like Ronald Reagan. That was my first election, and I lost interest in a girlfriend because she voted for him. Believe it or not my friends, my first ever election I actually voted for a second term for Jimmy Carter... what was I thinking? Actually, I was thinking that Mr. Reagan would get us in a war with the Russians. I was thinking that I was a little fond of my skinny butt, and didn't want to get it all shot up. I was wrong. I was wrong about much in those days, but that is another story for another day.

President Reagan didn't get us into war. Peace through strength, that was his idea, and it worked. Lower taxes, not his idea, but he ran with it and it worked. Interest rates went down, unemployment went down, wages went up, and inflation went down, and I became a Republican. I couldn't wait for election day so I could vote for Ronald Reagan.  Vote for him I did,  and helped elect him to his second term. I'm sure this was much to my father's dismay, and dad and I have been canceling each other's votes ever since!

I should say here, that my father is the most honest man I have ever known, and except for his party affiliation, the sanest. If all Democrats lived their lives as he has, and thought like he does, I would still be a Democrat. He is patient with me, and listens to my ideas. He is not a parrot of the talking heads nor is he a particular fan of those inside the beltway. His only prejudice, as far as I can tell, is for the state of Texas. It used to be France, but I think the Bush's changed it to Texas.  He only allows himself one.

He has always been a creative person. He taught photography and motion picture production for most of my youth. He still writes and gardens.  When I was a boy, he was always building something. Often his projects would start with a balsa wood or cardboard model, to be worked on and perfected for weeks, before moving into actual production. It is his creative nature, along with my observations of politics in the twenty-first century, that got me thinking about the difference between Democrats and Republicans. I learned from him to listen to what everyone has to say, and from that listening, I learn. I learn and I theorize. Perhaps that is a dangerous thing, but it keeps me off the streets at night.

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