July 19, 2008
The Road to Fairfield, CA
The Art of Evaluating “I” with Angst.
So often during this campaign my children, all grown women, have informed my thoughts and actions. For my granddaughter and stepdaughter, who are of similar stock as Barack Obama, there has been additional angst. I have always believed one should serve the life one wants. I tried to be an example. History always bites us.
In first grade I knew it was wrong to have inserted “Under God” into the Pledge just to flush out the “Commies”. I approved my Lutheran father’s decision to tell his employer that he would not sign a loyalty oath(A fight to this day!) and my Methodist mother’s disgust over his switch to Nixon. My next young stand was a prodigious eighth grade thesis supporting Gov. Pat Brown’s stand on the horrors and uselessness of the death penalty. We lived in Whittier. I played softball with the boys, rocked around the clock, had a suburban life amongst resinous rosemary hedges, and the neighbor’s pool, learned about the Constitution from a wonderful teacher, and saw Nixon’s portrait daily at the school once his.
Perpetual re-establishers, we moved, pulled in the wake of my father’s upward mobility. My mother packed and built a home again. We had family dinners at the table, the news on. l remember what TV used to add to our family discussions over dinner. Brave and righteous people were hung, shot, tortured, taunted, hosed, refused education and the vote. So many heroes and heroines, one can’t begin to list them all. Shocked, I cried when Jack died. Young to march, and too far away in the then white upper middle class bubble of Peacock Gap, San Rafael, I pretended. My father joined the club. We were to learn golf or tennis. My brother sold golf balls he fished out of the pond. As a girl, I wasn’t expected to be entrepreneurial. We vacationed in Palm Springs. Less than 20 feet away, through a local clubhouse window, I saw Eisenhower tee off while I sampled my first pepper steak.
Our community, of course, was better. We were floating in the bubble of expectation: sons to attend the highest institutions and succeed as doctors, lawyers, engineers, or architects, and daughters to be the best ornaments and homemakers. Our school had a young man on the cheerleading team who was black, there were a few others. I was new to the school, and I didn’t know them. It never occurred to me to question anything about their lives, it just seemed right, and the way it should be, that we were all there together. I joined the Pep Squad. My father helped me build a paper mache bulldog for the cheerleaders’ float.
I was artistic, righteous and self involved; I did not see the City of Marin, the Tenderloin, Richmond, and Oakland were nearby. My father’s work entailed a lot of travel. His dinner tales added to the stew. He spoke of his surprise at the lack of output of Indian workers, until he realized they didn’t have enough food to sustain the energy of an American worker. He had set up lunch. He talked of helping to build a company shower in the still segregated south, where black men were not entitled to shower in the white men’s locker.
Five moves later I was: married, living in Chinatown, San Francisco, and raising children. Civil Rights Act of 1964 was accomplished. Martin left, and then, Bobby was gone. I built my arsenal of understanding, tools that I needed to serve. Ernest groups were multiplying. The Black Caucus that Shirley Chisholm cofounded was birthing in 1969. Other groups, like the NAACP, the NUL, SNCC, SPLC even The United Way to the Black Panthers came into my view. Readings of Malcolm X, R. Wright, Farrakhan, Griffin, Cleaver, Davis, The Black Scholar, that I still love; Black Power and it’s theology were daily soup. I didn’t necessarily always agree, but it was not frightening. The point was to gain knowledge. Eventually Caesar Chavez and the necessity of strike were included in the mix.
Finally I did march. My husband had been in VISTA. We were against the Vietnam War. The FBI used to investigate CO’s. A scalped suited man came to the wrong door, ours, to ask our neighbors about us. We believed our phones were tapped. I opened my arms to the monsoon of the remaining century and sampled many things, I was enthralled by a secret desire to travel space even though driving to Bolinas meant 2 hours motion sickness going and back. Eventually, living in Oregon and carrying my arsenal, I went to work to help those in need. Whoever was discriminated against, CETA would surely help. I was a worker ant, and I carried my pebbles willingly for many years.
Pushed by the poor economy and back in San Francisco, I went to work in a hall of knowledge, amongst many gay friends. The vinegary slaw of angst, concern and fear grappled the air. From the store, I spread the excitement of learning. One day, a simple haunting thing happened. A woman my age came up to my counter. So long ago and different, I locked eyes too long. She was a San Rafael cheerleader, whose face had been before me each week. I was a stranger. I looked down to three beautiful young children. Before I could say “Weren’t You a..?” her expression closed, and they ran.
Again, we believed our phones were tapped. Our strange neighbor came to tell us that he could hear us across the wall and asked if we knew that our daughters were in the company of their rainbow colored and multi sexed friends. A day came that our street was barricaded; we watched from afar as his stash, in his garage next to ours, was hauled off and Coy Ray Phelps was revealed as a sex offender and the SF pipe bomber. The FBI said he acted alone. We had seen associates. Later, hater’s hang up calls came, our home (accidentally?) caught fire, a pseudo father called our children’s school, and with our home gone, we moved and adapted. Belief and service in civil rights remained the loam of life. “Hope and Change” were the seed of today’s blossom.
Except for the civil rights of women. In an odd reflection to Smith, my support was an “add on”, an “of course!” Oh sure, I was and am a feminist in belief and action. My mother read Freidan; I read some Steinham. I sent money to NOW. I supported the ERA. My bubble intact as an equal, I apprenticed in a roofers union, later held union cards for both roofers and bricklayers, since my occupation included waterproofing and these two trades overlapped. I became an inspector, then a consultant. Less than 2% in US construction were women at the time I entered the trades.
Still, my list is that; I sent money, worked with men I loved for their straightforward acceptance and desire to do a day’s work, struggled to promote good construction, waved to children from my swing stage, and read. CETA, in my experience, while promoting non-traditional jobs for women, had done so by primarily aiming at minorities, disabled, veterans, older workers, youth, and the impoverished; not women as a separate group. It did propel women into the workplace, but it did not remove underlying problems of discrimination or pay. While promulgating non-traditional jobs, most of the women in my CETA district were learning to type. The percentage of women in the trades remains less than 2%, although, some vocations have moved up to around 5%. I behaved as though women were moving forward, but I did not really serve the equality of women. With my father’s Midwest “can do” as shield, I did not look my discrimination in the eye. I glibly assumed the mantle of extra work and trouble to stand on the stage with men as the cost of moving forward. History always bites us.
This campaign there were so many brilliant Democrats to pick, I really couldn’t choose at first. I read platforms. I researched voting records. Then something happened the night before the New Hampshire Primary. It wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s “Moment”. It was Barack Obama’s response about it to Brian Williams . Then he pushed Michelle away after the loss when she went to hug him. After that I started paying more attention. I began looking at how money had begun to flow to the Obama Black Caucus supporters, and other long noted affirmative action groups, even in 2004. I remembered Kerry’s comments about the cities and their bright blue jeweled upon the red.
So many things have happened now, I can but think, not Clinton, nor any other, would have fit the “Liberal Plan” as well. The boy whose stepfather taught him that weakness was death; strength or peace with it was best, eschewed the Doughfaced Democrat and cleaved to the other. Have they miscalculated? Was the country ready to turn liberal so quickly? Are we even going there? To me Clinton’s platform was more progressive, textured and forthright. I cannot swallow a canard that at once cries out Obama’s and Clinton’s platforms were so similar, that I should be able to vote for either, while telling me that Clinton is out of date, and Obama is not. I cannot digest the condescension that working class white men simply weren’t educated enough to see Obama as the better choice, or were racist, when he agreed with her on NAFTA. I cannot, with near 18 million votes, believe that had the Democrats united before the race she would not have won. I cannot understand how the “Liberals” could have saddled Obama with this Party divide. Against them, will I support a Democratic candidate who approves of a guest worker program, or a Republican? I wanted “No Child Left Behind”, left behind. I thought her economics were better crafted; his were straight out of school. If her platform prevails at Convention, will I feel better? I think not. Is the Convention even going to allow a vote?
Democrats are exhorted to place campaign rhetoric and mistakes aside. A mighty 40-year-old cohort has been built to actively support a Democrat. Kerry’s transformation is touted as imminent. The curse Reagan contrived and Bush Senior cast upon the Liberals is vanquished. Card carrying ACLU members will again be in fashion. The magic of the Kennedy name is rebuilt. Martin’s life and death is honored. Ted’s next great battle inevitably is pulling at many chords. But wait, Krugman says that If Obama wins, it is because the world has already been transformed. Does Krugman mean that if Obama loses, it has not? What sophistry! I know. I have imbibed the specious wine myself.
Transformation has occurred. Today I live in Fairfield surrounded by multicolored peoples who struggle to make ends meet, and my life choices. My journey across the Bay from Marin Co. has changed my view of the bubble. That encounter with the San Rafael cheerleader haunted me, but it was not for the reason I first thought. White to white face we peered at each other. Her instinct was to protect her precious café au lait progeny. Mine was to touch the past. She saw evil, not a sister. So it continues even in my neighborhood, even to this day. It is an old defense and an outdated war.
And, in perpetual digitally remastered recycle, while women today really do float through space, Capt Kirk still calls his lieutenant “girl”. Females compete with men. Media behavior is abysmal. The blogosphere is unspeakable. Obama discusses all the attributes he eschews: whiners, enablers, silliness, claws, childishness, Annie Oakley, wrong-headedness, his grandmother’s fear and his mother’s weep, contrejour of the shining woman whom he has opposed.
Am I Styron’s Sophie, forced into this choice by the “Men from Massachusetts” or the solons of the DNC? Certainly this campaign has been personally excruciating. As I try to prise apart two groups I never thought I would, I realize it’s older than that. The path of righteousness was not extended to my mother. I failed to listen to my ancestral Mothers. It stands as cold accusation that another anniversary happened this year. One hundred and sixty years ago in Seneca, the universal US suffrage movement began. Half the US, even the world, is waiting for equal treatment. Senator Obama is in Kuwait.
In the ascension of one idea whose time is due, I have learned something. I must speak it. I am not the repository of a white mother’s “needlepoint moralities” , nor a participant in national self-hate. Those are Obama’s “Others”, though they sisters of mine. No, something else has occurred. What is old is new again, and I have just participated in a national game of “Let’s You and Him Fight”. Now I know. While in small girl’s fashion, I thought I was trying to share, teams were forming; Not realizing, I was on one side to play and another to only cheer. Worst, I did not pick the field, the sponsors, or the referee. I did not even think to do so, for I was a Liberal Democrat. So yes, I am deeply sad. History always bites us, but I am still an ant, I still have family, and I have some time left.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Guestworker Programs in the United States
Guestworker Programs in the United States