Teacher's Ramblings

A potpourri of education, politics, family matters, and current events.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Evolution of A Daughter

The political landscape has been an odd scene most of my life, the price I guess, of being on the peak of the babyboom. Being Irish Catholic, I was influenced early on by my parents excitement of a Kennedy presidency. The first time I remember having a babysitter, it was because my parents were going to stand in the rain to see Kennedy at the high school, http://www.jfklink.com/speeches/jfk/oct60/jfk251060_elmhurst.html . I do know that my mom bet a breakfast with my best friend's mom, a confirmed conservative, that Kennedy would win, she never was able to collect. My friend's mother was too upset, she was sure the Pope was going to take over US policies, (she is now a precinct worker for the Democratic Party, go figure).

I can't remember political dinner conversations before that time, after all I was only four, but from that point on I do know that politics dominated family conversations. My aunt was employed by the Cook County election board. My mom's cousin was private secretary to Richard J. Daley. I had an uncle that was a priest in Chicago, another that was a lieutenant on the Chicago PD, another a Captain on Chicago FD. The family was well connected in Chicago's democratic scene. My parents decided to go Republican. Perhaps being much younger than their siblings made them ornery, I don't know.

Maybe I was too young to realize that it was the times, more than Kennedy that changed their thinking? My mom, with my father following, became more and more conservative from JFK on. She thought Vietnam might not be a great idea, but still thought that what was happening in public, was sending the wrong message, to both the American people and the 'Russians.' At the same time, she led the family towards awareness of problems in the larger society, including racism. My mom believed that the ills of society could not be cured by government, though infractions could be punished by the government. I went into the university intending to major in journalism, (ala Woodward and Bernstein) and political science, (ala thanks Mom!). By the second year I had dropped journalism and picked up sociology, (thanks again, Mom).

She, (I thought at the time), droned on and on, that real change could only come from educating people that differences between groups were more influenced by professions, values, and attitudes, than by race or religion. She was constantly reading aloud from newspaper and news magazine columns that she thought proved her position on things. I know that I never went into a friend's house and had to listen to their mother read to us during a meal, this happened often at our house. Our friends thought she was cool, my brother and I thought she was obsessed. I guess it is no surprise that my brother became a policeman or I a teacher, or that we both still are active in community activities or that we have tortured our children with dinner table readings too.

My high school years were weird. The country was in a turmoil, but the war was winding down. I started exploring alternatives to my mother's take on the world. I read Marx and Nietze, Henry David Thoreau and Samuelson. I loved the idea of finding something more 'enlightened' than my mother's practical view of the world. What is a girl to do when the college kids are rioting, but she is stuck in a very uptight midwestern suburban high school? Did it occur to me that my mom had done her own 'rebellion' by going Republican in a family of Democrats? (I am consoled thinking of this, as my youngest son sent me 'George Bush's resume' last week via email).

My mom loved Richard Nixon, luckily for both of us I left home for the university in the summer of '73. I think we may have killed each other. I remember the morning I picked up the Chicago Daily News and saw the front page, looking like a 'most wanted' poster, covered with 'Indicted/Unindicted' Co-conspirators of the administration. I called her, she was crying, (I mean we really took politics seriously), she said, "Ok, you were right, he has to go." We were both relieved when Nixon resigned, though part of me wanted him in jail.

By my junior year of college, I was the university representative for James Thompson for Governor, yes the same that served on the 9/11 Commision. I had begun to evolve as my own person, not just a mouthpiece or the antithesis of my mother. I had transferred from a cornfield university to one in the city. There were many demonstrations against the Shah of Iran. The students were not only passionate they were scary, everyone gave them wide berth, when they set fire to effigies of the Shah and the president.

We both liked Ford, though I voted for Carter, (sorry). Then came Reagan. Again, my mother was ecstatic. In spite of the hostages in Iran, I could not bring myself to vote for Ronald. I got married, had my first child, then a second. Time for another election. I had no intention of voting for RR. I hadn't really been paying much attention to politics, I was a bit busy with a four year old, an almost two year old, and was pregnant again, not to mention a disintegrating marriage. As I was dragging the two kids into the polling place, my daughter started singing, "Ronald Reagan is our man..." I must have looked at her with a very strange face, she said, "Mommy, I love President Reagan, grandma loves President Reagan, what's wrong with him?" I didn't have an answer. I was about to vote for Walter Mondale, who I knew to be an idiot, only because I didn't like Richard Nixon. I voted for Reagan.

Looking back, I can see why I flirted with alternative philosophies of government, I mean my mom was really way passionate. I also had many professors at the opposite end of the spectrum, many of whom were very good looking, not to mention credentialed! I mean my mom had just graduated from high school! Geez, what could she know?

I am confused however, maybe because I'm old, how so many can fail to see 9/11 for what it was? How can anyone put that together with all the attacks since the Iranian hostage crisis and consider it an anomoly? How can we even, as a country, consider for one moment that what we are facing is analogous to the 'war on drugs' or any other police action? Maybe there is a Kerry supporter, especially a young one, that can explain this to me?

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