Sunday, November 14


I can't cite all the articles that have motivated me to publish this post. I'm just too tired. But I will tell the truth right now, as I know it, with no attribution other than my own experience; after all, a web log is a personal journal, isn't it?

I'm a grandmother now (a YOUNG one!), born and raised in the South. My daddy retired as an Air Force officer, ran JFKennedy's northwest Florida campaign but in later years supported George Wallace. I married into a family of rock-rib Midwest Republicans, who proudly claim to the closest extant relationship to Abe Lincoln while shame-facedly acknowledging a similarly close tie to cousin Rick Perry, currently governor of Texas.

With that said, I have to confess to loving but not relating politically to my extended family, who mostly despise non-whites, the economically challenged, and "liberals" as a point of pride. I don't know where that attitude of hate/fear originated. My childhood memories are filled with Patty, our sweet, hardworking ironing girl; my third-grade class president Kirk, a black American child with so much ability and charm I still wonder what and where he is now; our military chaplain in England, an African-American USAF colonel; and the talented, handsome and fascinating black tenor in my late-teens folk music group. I remember highly charged family circle discussions over the Vietnam War and civil rights, when I was the sole voice anti- and pro- the two issues. Uncle Jimmy, in particular (FSU head coach Bobby Bowden was a pallbearer at his funeral, and his son, my "twin cousin," was largely responsible for convicting Ted Bundy), loved to get me going.

But that's me. Just a month ago I visited my beloved 80-year-old Uncle Johnnie in panhandle Florida and he reinforced all of what I'd hoped were my ancient and now incorrect assessments of my homefolks' political views. In the early eighties, Uncle Johnnie threatened with a shotgun the Puerto Rican beau of his daughter (my cousin and bridesmaid) because he was of a different race. I'd hoped he'd evolved over the last 20 years, but since his sole visitor during our time together was one of his former (black) employees just checking on his well-being out of the goodness of his heart, who Uncle Johnnie insulted with his Lord-of-the-Manor attitude and to whom he gave orders he no longer can enforce, I guess that hope is futile.

I'm wandering, as I often do. Uncle Johnnie is just an example of what urban northern Democrats don't get about Southern voters.

I adore my sisters, brothers-in-law, uncles and aunts and cousins. We're close and supportive of one another in all of life's trials. It's often remarked how unusual it is, the ease with which The Sage and I can assemble our brood of five young adults to visit my Florida family. But the reason is, we're just exceptionally tight, and the kids love them as much as I do.

I wish I were half the woman my younger sister is -- she's my ideal in so many ways. And if I could choose a little brother from all the men in the world, I couldn't find a better man than her husband. My older sister is such a fascinating conversationalist, a multi-talented artist, so amazingly full of life, drama and humor that everyone who meets her falls completely into her thrall. Her husband, too, is one of the greatest men I know, a retired Air Force fighter jock who'd do anything in his power to make the women he loves happy. Our adored AF dad has been gone from us for over a decade now. But Mama, who's into her eighties, is still the same lovely, brilliant, energetic, kind-hearted, genuine LADY she has always been. Eerily, she just gets neater and more lovable every year. But she, like most of her well-to-do widowed friends, still voted for Bush.

I don't to this day understand how I could be so different in my political views from the people I love and respect most -- my family. I even have two daughters who voted Republican (two sons and a daughter voted for Kerry). They're not anti-gay (anything but) but fervently anti-abortion and pro-Israel (so am I, but we see things differently). They're not comatose, in fact very well-informed, but their choices and priorities differ from my own. Yet we're as different in our political outlooks as night and day.

Remember the Judds' hit, "Love Can Build A Bridge"? I used it as the theme music for a video years ago benefitting the Dallas Women's Foundation.

If love's not the answer, I just don't know what is.

Maybe it's time we recognized the differences without judging them. How, exactly, can that be done?


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