I want to talk about my dad. He passed away this year – actually he made his transition as I was sitting on a chemo drip a thousand miles away, so I couldn’t be there. He was a victim of old age. I’m a victim of our chemical swamp of a polluted world (no… my cancer isn’t hereditary and please stop asking that, like it’s some sort of explanation).
My father was a very good man. A staunch conservative and lifelong Republican. Though I have fought conservatives my whole life, and blame them for the fact that our world is not clean and safe from the industrial soup of big business, I have always put two things together in my mind: Good person + Republican.
When my dad was a young man in Chattanooga Tennessee he was a “Young Republican.” Back in those days the party was progressive and a proponent of human rights. I can’t even say how many stories I’ve heard about gracious and kind things my dad was involved in. My dad ran a foundry in Chattanooga and many of his employees were black. One guy in particular was literally the best employee my dad had. The most responsible, smartest and hardest working. Dad wanted to promote him to manager but that was actually against the law! So dad invented some position with a silly “not manager” title and paid the guy his equal due. That’s what I remember as the Good Ol’ Party.
When I was in second grade we moved to Denver Colorado. One of the best stories of the Young Republicans from that time was when they all got together and bought a window for the weatherman… who would always report stuff like a sunny day when it was raining cats and dogs outside! He clearly needed a window and the Young Republicans stepped up to the task. That was not only a good thing to do, but it was funny and a great story to tell around town. That was the fun, kind, honest and true Republican party that I remember.
My parents taught me that goodness is an action. A good person would never just sit there and watch a bully hurt someone. I would actually stop fights in my elementary school when I came upon a circle of boys harassing a little kid. I got away with it cause I’m kind of mean, and I’m a girl. A good tongue lashing could make quite a dent in an angry crowd of peers.
I was taught to speak up against tyrants, and to be able to tell the truth from a lie. My parents were from the World War II generation and a constant topic in our house was about the forces that caused Hitler to come to power. We were taught that he didn’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey! Let’s start killing Jews.” Instead it was a slow, insidious, downward slide of truth and morals that made the horrors of that war a “norm” for people who would have otherwise been good human beings. I learned that leadership itself is the thing that “leads” populations into hope or despair, into kindness or cruelty. I was taught the tactics of Mussolini and Stalin, and how hard it is to overcome that kind of leadership.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of colossal arguments with my dad. I’ll admit, and admitted at the time, that he often won those arguments. I’ve been (and still kind of am) a “Get rid of all money” sort of person. But he would argue, “So then, how do we come together to do something big like build a bridge?” My rebuttals of “We would just do it because we are so full of love…” did not make it very far against his actual experience in building bridges. He made me think, and think hard. Because of him I know that changing the world is a big task, and it will require a tremendous amount of attention to details, changing of hearts and habits, and a willingness to experiment and grow with the changes. He was a constant challenge to my thinking. In other words, he taught me that when two good people have a disagreement that this is the way learning happens.
The bottom line… the total and complete bottom line, is good people. We aren’t perfect, but as citizens we at least try to be good. And we demand an even higher level of goodness in our leaders.
So this is my main shock today. What happened? I feel that our nation has been totally abandoned by the Republican party. They are not just a bunch of innocents here. In my mind that goes for the voters and the leadership alike. This is so clearly that long insidious slip of truth and goodness that gripped Germany and lead to atrocities we don’t want to think about.
And liberals too… don’t think we are off the hook. We also fell for the insidious barrage of negativity in 2016. So many of us believed it! What happened to us? Why are we just speaking up now?
Believe me, I know I’m guilty of that as well. Heck, I was sick (sort of a good excuse.) But mostly I was afraid for my business. I live in a small town in Idaho and I know that even admitting in public that I am a “Liberal” is enough to have me ridiculed and blacklisted. The posts I’m making to my Facebook page these days are clear financial suicide for me. That was my excuse… besides being much more of a chicken than I was in third grade. Yep, me.
Even I fell for the long downward slope of the Good Ol’ Party, as I watched them get meaner and meaner and either laughed and brushed it off, or just stayed quiet. I never could believe that the people around me were not good. I couldn’t believe that they were actually as mean as the mean things they were saying. I’m as big a part of it as anyone else.
I think the final thing my Dad taught me is that something can be done about this. We have history to teach us. We have a common spiritually that teaches goodness and kindness. It’s possible for both sides of the aisle to at least have a moral ground. Good people need to stand up and speak, and hold firm. It’s gotten this bad and we can see it. At this point if we let it get any worse than it’s totally on us.