Tagged: politics

The day reality got real

Last Friday as I was leaving the nursing home, the parking lot was full of residents holding American flags as they hobbled and rolled to the curb. They were waiting for the Blue Angels to fly over in honor of Veterans Day.

 

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I drove past the group and waved. With minds held captive by dementia, many stared blankly back at me and waved their red, white and blue on the cue of their caretakers. To keep from driving off the road in despair, I had to focus on positives: 1. These residents were once vital contributors to society—mothers and fathers, teachers, businessmen, pastors, nurses, engineers and veterans. 2. It’s an honor to care for such trailblazers.

But a bigger part of me wanted to punch the accelerator to speed away from this preview of all our futures. I tried to fill my mind with all the urgent tasks I needed to accomplish. But something within me knew I had to turn around and share this important moment with my unlikely adopted community. And so I did.

I turned around. I parked. I walked from my car and joined the huddled geriatric masses slumped in their wheelchairs. Out of the 15 facility residents who are veterans, only one made it out for the festivities. The activities director moved him to the front row. I kneeled down and thanked him for his service. He gave me a nod. I’m not sure he could hear or understand me. But in that moment, it didn’t matter. We were all just united…Americans celebrating the freedom we enjoy.

To have this experience on the heels of the bloodiest (political) battle since Antietam is not lost on me. Last Tuesday we all watched—some with excitement, some with horror, and all in disbelief—as Donald Trump was elected our next President.

I’m not gonna lie…I spent the better part of the Fall burying my head in the sands of entertainment. My biggest nail-biter, while eating Skittles and watching back-to-back episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, was hoping Pnina Tornai could come through for the picky bride and her overbearing mother.

But even with my news fast, stories about the two candidates seeped into our house like black mold. Hillary left me with huge trust issues and Trump just made me sick. No amount of mental gymnastics would allow me to pull the lever for either one. So armed with my conscience and a handful of sugar high, I voted third party.

Whether the former Celebrity Apprentice star really meant to win or not, November 8th is the day reality got real for us all. The negative fallout was immediate. I was extremely proud and encouraged when Hillary Clinton and President Obama urged our country to come together and give the new President-elect a chance to lead. But unless acceptance looks like riots and #notmypresident, a lot of people are still pretty worked up.

Here’s the deal…Contrary to the inflammatory rhetoric on both sides, I think people just voted for whomever they felt could better help them survive their daily lives. And on lots of days for lots of people, just surviving is a bitch.

My biggest take away from this election cycle is that we have become a nation that has lost the ability to communicate. Screaming obscenities over police lines or firing verbal bombs from social media bunkers doesn’t count. I’m talking about face-to-face conversations…asking questions and actually listening to each other’s answers. It’s a lot harder to demonize someone when you’re looking him/her in the eye.

It’s normal for us to filter everything through the grid of our own realities. For us it’s self-employment and trying to squeeze life-blood from our bank account turnip while holding a health insurance letter saying our premiums will just about double in 2017. But guess what? Our needs are only two out of 318.9 million.

I recently learned that we have a poverty rate pushing 40% (according to census.gov) in our little town of Ruston…40 percent!!! What? (Randy has never mentioned that on Say Yes to the Dress.) Aside from our inherited involvement with eldercare, a few years volunteering at an elementary school, and annual holiday drive-by good deeds, I’ve been oblivious to the needs of others.

So while I’m watching and praying that President-elect Trump will have an attack of humility, I’m going to focus on my own need for change and engagement. No politician can fix all our nation’s ills. We each have a responsibility to be a part of the solution.

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Back in the parking lot, it was all a blur. “I see them!” someone yelled. “Wave your flags!” Old hands held up Old Glorys as the Blue Angels screamed by and dipped their wings. Set against the backdrop of a brutal election, this was a freakin’ Hallmark commercial—these aerial symbols of freedom zooming past our living heirlooms. The only thing that could have added more emotion to the mix was if the Angels had air-dropped a box full of cute babies and puppies.

I stumbled back to my car and ugly-cried for a few minutes. But then, I felt hopeful. When you get right down to it, we all want the same things—safety, respect, and a little compassion. Surely we can work at making that a reality for everyone?

Watching Trump and Hillary play kickball at recess

I don’t know how it was at your grade school, but in Slidell, Louisiana, in the late 1960s, we had certain playground customs.

Photo by simpleinsomnia, Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/24Ibb0K
Photo by simpleinsomnia, Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/24Ibb0K

So, for example, if you decided to choose up teams for kick ball (or play a game that required someone to be “it”), nobody—at least at Florida Ave Elementary—began with, “One potato, two potato, three potato, four…” That was, well, so fifties.

We had far cooler “selection rhymes.” My friend Craig usually went with:

“Engine, Engine #9, going down Chicago Line…if the train should jump the track, do you want your money back?”

“Yes.”

“Y-E-S spells yes, and…(pause for Craig to do word math in his head, trying to figure out how to manipulate the outcome and subtly stop on the kid he either wanted on his team or wanted to be “it”) you are definitely…going to…be…the one…who is IT!”

I preferred a rhyme I learned from my friend, Cheese:

“My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes. My mother smacked your mother right smack in the nose. What color was the blood?”

“Green.”

“G-R-E-E-N spells green and you are…not on my team…this game…but YOU are!”

After the game got underway, that kid nobody liked would run up and ask which side he could join. If we didn’t resort to lying — “Sorry, but the principal said we can’t have more players than this” — someone (or several someones) would yell emphatically, “Tick tock, the game is locked!”

Inclusiveness was not our strong suit. The girls, jumping rope on the far side of the schoolyard usually went with the far more literary, but equally exclusionary: “Criss cross, applesauce, no one else can play with us.”

In races, if you got to be the “starter,” you would abuse your power by saying things like: “On your MARK…get SET (dramatic pause for tension while kids leaned forward until they were almost parallel to the ground)…SMOKE A CIGARETTE!” This resulted in making everyone look foolish—false starts, bodies collapsing in a heap. Such tricks were almost always met with a punch or two in the arm, and it was still totally worth it.

If, during dodgeball, let’s say, you declared a kid “hit” and told him to get out of the ring, he might threaten, “Why don’t you make me!?” To which you were expected to say in a snarky voice, “I don’t make trash, I burn it!” or sometimes, “You’re already made and too dumb to know it.” (Bam! Ten-year-old tough talk at its finest!)

If he resisted—bowing up or resorting to name-calling—one of your cohorts would step forward and speak of the cheater in third-person, “He thinks he’s hot snot on a golden platter. But he’s really cold boogers on a paper plate.” (A disgusting image, I know, but you have to admit: As put-downs go, that’s Hall of Fame-type material.)

Most times, the chastened kid would then turn to the “Old Faithful” of childhood comebacks, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!”

Then, if he still refused to leave the circle, someone might threaten, “C’mon, get out of the circle… or I’ll hit you so hard, I’ll kill your whole family!” Possible replies included “You and what army?” or “Better bring your lunch, ‘cuz it’s gonna take you all day.”

When everyone got bored with all this dumb bickering, we would call a temporary peace, lock arms and begin steamrolling across the playground like a row of German Panzer tanks, disrupting other games, tromping over any innocents in our way. Our chant? “We won’t stop! We won’t stop! We won’t stop for a lollipop!”

Then, smelling like a flock of goats and snickering proudly at all the carnage we’d inflicted, the bell would ring. Our teacher would appear, we’d line up by the door, and some kid, the class knucklehead usually, would blurt out some crass, off-color joke.

Maybe something like, “What’s brown and lies by the fence? (pause for maximum comedic effect, then the punchline) Gomer’s Pyle!” All the girls would scream,“Gross!” All the boys would hoot with laughter. The teacher would glare at us and shush us into the building.

DonkeyHotey, Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/1WmMaac
DonkeyHotey, Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/1WmMaac

I don’t remember what made me think of all this. But I think it may have been the result of watching the evening news about the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Feel free to draw your own parallels and conclusions.