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One recent morning, I turned the corner to go back in the neighborhood when I heard a great line on a podcast. In this case, great means true. “Conservatives long for a Golden Age that never was and liberals hope for a perfect tomorrow that will never be.” That’s it, I thought. That’s the gospel truth!

There was never a Golden Age in America, at least not for everyone. Just ask the Natives like Chief Powhatan. And there will never be a perfect tomorrow–or even a fair and equitable one.

When planning our 50th class reunion, some classmates and I talked about how fortunate we were to have grown up in a sleepy little town in South Carolina’s midlands. Before I go any further, don’t be offended, fellow Camdenites. To us, it might be the best little corner of the world ever, but I’m often amazed and disappointed when I tell people where I’m from and they give me the stare that asks, “Where is that?”

“About thirty miles east of Columbia,” I tell them, and if they still look befuddled, I add that Columbia is the state capital. It’s nice here, always pretty and usually peaceful. There are robberies and drug busts and hungry children, heartbreakers in all locales, but that’s a story for another day.

Back to the reunion planning day. After bandying back and forth about our good fortune at having been raised in Camden during the best of times, those years of relative prosperity after WWII and before Vietnam, someone said, “For us, it was a good time, yes. But it wasn’t for everyone.”

I recall being glad that someone besides me had introduced the elephant in the room and led him to the center ring. Someone else’s bravery in truth telling gave me a pass that day. I could listen and contribute to the conversation without being blamed for casting a pall over our lively and lovely lunch by bring up something unpleasant.

Every girl (we still think of ourselves as girls, not old ladies) at the table had grown up in a similar environment. Some were raised in wealthier families, and some were Baptist while others were Methodist. You get the picture. We had been homogenous as kids, not a Buddhist or African American among us. In fact, we were raised in an era when JFK was given some flak for being Catholic. Would he answer to the Pope or to the people? It’s actually laughable to consider how scared some Americans were of JFK’s religion.

About our so-called Golden Age, there was that Bay of Pigs thing, the Red Scare, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Am I going to mention the Civil Rights Act of 1964? You can bet on it. Although change had been brewing for years, this legislation changed America’s landscape forever. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter from the Birmingham jail. His “I Have a Dream” speech is a standard selection in college literature texts. There were other leaders, but this is a blog, not a history lesson.

I’ve rambled. My point is that to my classmates and me, we thought we lived in a golden age. We were naïve. We lived in a bubble, blind to social injustice and the several horrors and misfortunes that others suffered. In our white-bread world, we actually believed Native Americans were the bad guys. Or I did. I believed the history books. And we knew little about African Americans although they likely comprised 25-30 percent of the community’s population.

Then one day at the doctor’s office, I noticed another door at the end of the hall, one that had escaped my notice before that morning. While waiting for Dr. Shaw to come in and diagnose my tonsillitis, a frequent happening, I asked my mother about the door. When she didn’t answer me right away, I looked at her face and could tell she was bothered by my question.

She leaned in and whispered, “That’s the colored waiting room.” My mother, by the way, was simply using the parlance of the day and was the least bigoted person I’ve ever known.

Shocked at the revelation, I didn’t answer. I see that moment as an awakening, for it was absolutely the first time in my young life that I recognized inequality. I’m not dissing the doctor.  Like my mother, he was a product of the times. I’m simply expressing my feelings about America’s mistreatment and marginalization of people perceived as “different.”

While conservatives long for a golden age that never was and liberals hope for a perfect future that will never be, could we just love one another?

 

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I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog to something that more aptly describes its purpose and focus. When I started it a decade or so ago, my primary role was that of a mom. While it’s still the one that I hold most dear, my life and the lives of my children have changed greatly. They’re all responsible adults who left the nest many years ago. Some of them have children of their own, so grandmother is a role I’ve acquired too.

Should the blog’s title be Grandma Jayne’s Musings? No, I think it’s time to come up with something that describes my life as a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, retired educator, truth seeker, traveler, and child of the universe. Musings of a Matriarch? No, that’s not it either.

Today, my thoughts are about the crazy political scene and a recent trip to Alaska. Never far from my mind are thoughts of the children and grandchildren, so they’ll likely get more than a nod in this post.

First, I think I’ll be glad when the election is behind us. I say “think” because it all depends on who wins. Which way will he or she lead this great nation? How will the next administration’s policies affect the average American’s life, livelihood, and pursuit of happiness?

Today I’m disturbed by the prancing about, the finger pointing, and well, just the ugliness of not just the folks who are vying for the title, but also of the news people who are supposed (or so I thought) to tell us the truth. It’s becoming increasingly hard to distinguish fact from fiction. And don’t even get me started on the average Joe or Jane who wastes no opportunity to “slash and burn” every contender with whom they disagree. I refuse to become contentious about this (at least today) and will leave the hate mongering to those who are better at it than I.

Next topic: recent trip to the 49th state of this great union. It’s always good to see something a little different from one’s regular surroundings, and as Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

There are so many ways to live and love and greet and meet, and we (I) tend to forget about that as we move about in narrow, but safe, spheres. At the moment, I’m recalling the dignity and sheer joie de vivre of an Athabascan woman who won the hearts of all who heard her words on a September afternoon on Primrose Ridge in Denali National Park. Her life, though different from yours and mine, has meaning and integrity.

I can’t end this post without mentioning my three children, especially since they’re the impetus behind Mom’s Musings. Their father and I are in awe of the adults they’ve become, and although this might seem strange to say, I feel confident in the knowledge that after their parents have left this life for the next one, these children will continue to find their way(s).

Topic for the next several days: Alaska! And by the way, I hope to find inspiration for a blog name change through my writing this week. Maybe you’ll offer suggestions.

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