Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Election is over

I have spent too much time on Facebook this week. Like many people I had to vent and have my say on a few things. I will be honest. I was so turned off by Mr. Trump's words and actions I could not possibly vote for him even if  he had been my party's candidate.

I grew up with  men in his  generation, men who thought women were only here for their pleasure, who laughed at people who were not like them. I saw men belittle their wives so badly that the women left the dinner table in tears. But the men saw no harm in what they said. Maybe it was a generational thing, but I think not. I think it was a male domination thing.

I think men have tried to dominate women, if they could, since time began. I have this visual image of a cave man with a club dragging his woman by the hair.  In my own family, my mother was the calm one, the sensible one, who held the male-dominated family together. When all the egos rose up at once, Mother could usually keep the peace. But she got very little in return for her work. The men always  thought they had solved the problems, they had worked out their differences, and never thought about what she did in her quiet way. Her influence on her oldest son, her devotion to him, was instrumental in his taking on the leadership of the family. She was a woman who never had the  opportunity to realize any personal dreams, but she did her job of raising seven kids better than most anyone.

It was not surprising to me to see the demographics of the Trump supporters. The men I have talked to in the past year who supported him are very familiar. They are the rural good old boys I grew up with in south Georgia. What surprised me was how the wives of those good old boys hated Hilary Clinton as if she had stolen their first born. I don't think I have ever hated any candidate for president. I did not  like the policies of some who were elected. In fact, I didn't know anyone who hated a politician. We just accepted the inevitable governing that we didn't like. But I was not a political junkie.

The first political campaign that piqued my interest was when John F. Kennedy ran in 1960. I was captivated by his earnest words about why we should help those who are less fortunate and how our government can do more to bring freedom to the world, how we as individuals can do more for those who need help right here in our own country.

"My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."     John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961

I had heard the tales told by my father of working in a mill when he was twelve and the supervisors who were cruel to the children and would not let them have breaks. I was in college when Kennedy ran for president. I was old enough to understand what he stood for and what his party wanted to do for our country. I read everything I could find on him. I fell in love with his family. I had some difficulty understanding why a man of his wealth and ease would want to work so hard when he had it made.

Looking back I wonder if I were not like those who, at a young age, fell in love with Princess Diana. Maybe I loved to read about him in order to live vicariously through him. I was planning to be an elementary school teacher. I would never be wealthy, never be famous, and if I was lucky, I would marry someone and live a simple and normal life in south Georgia.

Most surprising to me was my father's reaction to my support for Kennedy. He had always been a Democrat, a huge fan of Franklin Roosevelt, and when I listened to him speak of the horrible ways Negroes were treated, I could tell he had empathy for their plight. But he was furious with me for being a Kennedy supporter. He completely changed his thinking. He became a Republican because the Democrats listened to Dr. King and planned to integrate the schools.

"When they let them go to  school with white people, it will just bring down the education of the whites," my father said. I soon realized that most of the people I knew felt the same as my father. I was confused by his change of heart. He was the one who had taught  me to  care about the poor blacks who were lynched by evil white men if they were found on the road after dark.

The  belief that white people are genetically better than black people was inborn and bred in southern culture. Perhaps to believe differently would create too much guilt for those who used them as slaves, kept them uneducated and later kept them as low paid servants. I know that most white southerners like black people as individuals, but not as a group. They consider the black friend is "not like all the others."

Until I was in college at the  University of Georgia, I had my own prejudices that had been taught to me since I was a child. I had been told by my mother not to ever be alone with a black man. They were dangerous. My father had told Mother to make sure my sister and I never wore shorts when the black laborers where around. We thought that was ridiculous. We were teens and everyone wore shorts in the summer.

My father did not hate black people. He worked with them all the time on the farm and he liked them. Abe Dawson had a large family like my own and in the summer his family and my father and brothers harvested crops together. On Saturdays the black boys and my brothers played corncob war in the barn.

It wasn't unusual for black and white boys to play together until they were in their early teens. Jimmy Carter writes about his experiences playing with the black children on his father's farm. I heard two prominent black leaders in our town talk about how they had played with the man who was head of our county commission when he was a boy. The sons of other white families played with these men when color didn't matter. But as adults, the relationships ended. Neither of the black professionals were ever invited into the homes of the white men they had played with as children.

I never knew an  educated black person until I was married and met the doctor and lawyer I speak of above. I remember entering the well-appointed home of Dr. C. He was wealthy, as wealthy as his former playmates, but money made no difference in the traditional ways whites treated blacks in our small town.

Because I had been brought up with prejudice toward black people, I had to adjust to the different ways of the world when I learned more about race issues. Looking back, I am embarrassed about my thoughts when a charming Chinese boy was thrust into our lives when I was in  high school. I don't remember why he was with us, but several of us girls walked down the street in our small town with him. I could see strangers glaring at us as if we were doing something wrong. I knew it was because he was different and that made us suspect in the eyes of our townspeople. I hate to admit that I tucked my head in shame.

In 1960, a junior at the University, I  had my first opportunity to be with educated people of other races and other cultures. My roommate was the  daughter of the Education Minister of Indonesia. She was adorable. Her sweet and kind personality shined through her dark almond eyes. Her hair was long, black and crinkly, and she usually kept it braided and neat. We were the same age and had such different lives. I loved hearing about her country and soon realized how much we had in common. She  changed my  life, my beliefs, and made me see that we can't judge people by  the  color of their skin. Her country was in the midst of a revolution, and she was distraught as she could not reach her father. She was afraid he would be killed. Seeing her tears and feeling her fear,  I held her in my arms as she cried.

During that year, I took her home with me. She performed an Indonesian dance for my  parents. They were impressed, but my father never spoke of it to me.

That same year I met Emily, the Chinese American from Augusta, Georgia. She never referred to herself as Chinese American. She spoke southern English just as I did. She was funny and fun to be with. She and my sister became the best of friends and are still today although they live on opposite sides of the country. I learned from Emily that she and her siblings who were all born in this country had to endure some of the crazy prejudices of those who judged her by her looks. If one looks Chinese, she must speak Chinese, right? But when Emily opened her mouth, you never heard a more southern accent.

I credit my college education to opening my eyes to a new world of diversity. Had I never left south Georgia, might I have been persuaded to believe that all people who did not look like me were somehow inferior. Even now, I find myself aggravated when I have to choose English on my bank ATM. Old ways of thinking die hard.

So, I understand Mr. Trump and many men of  his generation. He was brought up with servants who were likely black or brown. From seeing interviews with him when he was a young man, I can imagine how egotistic, arrogant and demanding he was. He had everything he wanted when he was young and had to be sent to military school so he could learn some discipline. Why would anyone who has had a marginal life believe this man has a clue about what they need. I don't think he knows what I need from my government, what I want my taxes to pay for, how important it is to me that Social Security stay solvent and stay a government program.

He certainly couldn't understand a couple from Mexico who came here on a visa years ago and worked at menial jobs, even though they were both  professionals, to raise two children as American citizens.. He could not possibly understand their sacrifices to give their children the best life possible. He called a Latino Miss Universe Miss Housekeeping, remember? How could he understand? If he did, he would not want to send these parents back to Mexico when their children are American citizens.

I am not against enforcing our laws to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the  United States. President Obama deported more illegals than any president ever has. I think we must have compassion for those who have been here many years and have children who grew up here and go to school here. They will someday have jobs and pay taxes and help our economy. They will bring more diversity to our culture which I believe is a good thing. We live so isolated from the rest of the world in our rural areas, like I did as a child, we tend to believe we are the only people on this earth, the only ones who know what to do and how to think.

I would like to see an education system where all  high school students spend part of their school years in another country where they can see how other people live. My nephew has been to a country in South America two or three times on mission trips. He has such compassion for the people there and has fallen in love with the kids.

More and more college students are doing that now. Maybe in time, the number of those people will outgrow the number who never leave their own little world, and we can have more progressive government in this country. I see a difference in the young men in my family who have traveled abroad. They are open minded and enlightened.

Meantime, I hope Mr. Trump will surprise me. I am more concerned with Paul Ryan's ideas on privatizing Medicare and Social Security. What he wants to do will be disastrous, I believe. We will have to  become proactive with our letters and calls to  make sure they know we oppose them messing with our senior programs.

I want to stop thinking about politics now. I want to write and think about more pleasant things. Thanksgiving is coming and I have so much to be thankful for today.

What about you?

1 comment:

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for this thoughtful, and thought provoking post.
From this side of the world I watched your election process in confusion. And fear.
I do worry that a man with significant anger issues who seems to believe that attack is the best form of defence is the leader of your extensive military.
And I deplore his comments about those who are not white, male and heterosexual.
Time will tell, and I hope that (like most politicians) some of his election promises are not met.
Sadly, immediately after your election I have experienced people here who feel free to spew invective and prejudice - 'Donald Trump can do it, and so can I'.