Updated on May 1, 2017
Mothers, Daughters and Voting.
I invited my mom to come spend election night with us. I had this dreamy notion of the two of us in front of the TV watching the slow march of U.S. history catch up with much of the rest of the world. Mom didn’t really care if a woman was elected president. In fact, she supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries. More than anything else, she wanted Trump to be defeated. By the time we went to bed, the race had not been called, but we had the sinking feeling of what to expect. As she climbed the stairs to our guest room, she told me she was going to “cry herself to sleep.”
Mom’s first election was 1948, the previous greatest election upset in history–Truman’s victory over Dewey.
She’s voted in 18 presidential elections and told me she’s voted for democrats in all of them.
I did not follow that path. I mostly register Independent and have voted for both Republicans and Democrats in my 14 presidential elections. In 1972 I was among the first wave of 18-year-olds allowed to vote.
A sophomore at MU, I campaigned for George McGovern, the first anti-war candidate. There were over 58,000 U.S. soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. The number of Vietnamese casualties, both civilian and military, was far greater. Even though the war was winding down, classmates, friends and my boyfriend at the time were all eligible for the draft. We would gather to watch the lottery drawing on TV hoping the guys would get high numbers. Low numbers meant you would probably get called up. My boyfriend’s number was 18.
When I looked at the tear-stained faces of the Clinton supporters last week, I saw myself at 19 after Nixon defeated McGovern. Devastated. Confused. Angry. Then I did, what I’ve come to do throughout my life. I became a student of what went wrong.
The late Leonard Cohen recently said, “Whining is the least appropriate response to suffering.” There is some whining and a lot of genuine suffering going on right now. I respect people who are still mourning, but I can’t stay there.
I’ve spent the past week thinking about what would be the productive thing to do in response to this election. There are so many people doing things to ease their pain and that of others. They’re eating at Mexican restaurants to show support, handing out flowers in immigrant communities, stopping to talk to homeless people, giving money to strangers who look like they could use it. One of the most comforting gestures offered to me was a song. Our friend Susan sent me a link to Eva Cassidy singing “American Tune.” The lyrics seemed to say it all to me at that moment: “It’s alright, it’s alright, we can’t be forever blessed.”
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be thoughtful, analytical and optimistic. I’m going to stay away from Facebook until the steam goes out of this fight. I’m going to carefully consider where to put my donation dollars this holiday. The ACLU and Refugee Relocation services will be added to my list. And I’m going to be a student of what led us to this and how to go forward. Here are the books on my reading list so far: “The Unwinding” by George Packer, “The Unnatural World” by David Biello, “Muslim Girl” by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, “Thank You for Being Late” by Thomas Friedman and possibly “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance.
In the meantime, I will be respectful to people who voted for Donald Trump including friends, family members and neighbors. I also plan to spend a lot of time with my sweet mom who at 91, will probably not live to see a woman president or possibly another Democrat.
The morning after the election, mom grabbed my hand to pray as we sat down to bagels and cream cheese. She said, “Dear God, We know he is reckless and dangerous. Teach us how to deal with this man.” By lunch time she’d gathered steam. In a circle of hands at a restaurant she said, “Lord, protect us from this idiot!” My nephew and I were laughing so hard we almost broke the chain.”
No matter what happens, I’m not giving up. As composer Sara Bareilles wrote in her new song, Seriously: “In a history of incredible mistakes, I still pledge my allegiance to these United, divided States.”
Here’s another Leonard Cohen quote for you: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Keep the faith friends. Look for the light.