Mark My Words

Four months ago today, my mama died. Yes, I’m still a tangled emotional mess, still apt to cry  when I’m making her potato salad recipe or applesauce cake, still punched in the gut when I walk past the Happy Birthday, Mother, greeting card section of the Hallmark store, still overwhelmed with loneliness when I pick up the phone to call her and suddenly remember she’s not there.

Despite those moments, the sky over my world is a little brighter. I’m no longer exhausted all the time. I’m motivated to go out in the world and do things again. When I’m engaged in activities I don’t feel as if I’m swimming through mud. That’s all progress for me.

I still filter a lot of things through the lens of my mother and our relationship. Comments people make, things I see in the store or on television, foods I eat, places I shop, the flowers in my garden - all these things bring her to mind. She’d love this, I think, as I eat crab cakes for dinner at her favorite restaurant. I wish I could show her how big this hanging basket has gotten. Darn, I need to know how much sugar to put in the spaghetti sauce - and is it brown sugar or white? 

On this really hot and humid days, I know she’d be complaining like crazy, and worrying about power outages that often occurred in her neighborhood during hot spells. She’d be agonizing over the way her lawn had dried up, lamenting she wasn’t able to go out and water it like she once did. 

I also know what she’d be saying about the current political situation. She had plenty to say about it all winter during the primary season. She cast her first Presidential vote for Franklin Roosevelt and her last one for Barack Obama. A southern Democrat born and raised, she never had many good words for the Republican candidates, but this year was worst than most. 

“You mark my words,” she said on more than one occasion, a favorite preface of hers that indicated she meant business. “That idiot Trump is going to win. The American people have lost their minds. I’m just glad I’ll be dead, and won’t have to see it."

 My poor mother preferred death to a Trump presidency. 

Frankly, there are days when I almost agree with her. 

Maybe it’s my overwrought emotional state, but this whole election cycle has me feeling sick inside. And as badly as I feel about the notion of Trump being the leader of our nation, I’m even more distressed by the numbers of people who actually support him. Not just the Republicans who feel they must vote for him out of party loyalty. But the people who actually believe in what he’s saying, who think he has anywhere near the qualifications or character to run this nation.

Even if he loses, we the people are so fractured by our divided loyalties, so at risk with our judgements and fears and paranoias, I wonder if we’ll ever recover.

 I believe in the two-party system, I believe people should “vote their conscience.” I know I have personal friends who will vote for Trump. And I’ll be honest with you -  that bothers me.  I’m not sure I can forgive them for it. And therein lies something very telling about this man and his ability to cause conflict and havoc. The fact that he could incite those kinds of feelings in me, someone who is forgiving almost to a fault, speaks to the kind of divisive emotions he engenders in people.  

I know everyone has their opinion, and my few words are not likely to change anyone’s mind. Normally I never write about my political preferences. I don’t want to offend people, I don’t want to engage in discussion or dissension about it. But this is not a “normal”  election. What other candidate in memory has been denied the endorsement of major figures in his own party, particularly the living past-Presidents? What other candidate has aroused so much denouncement by scholars, economists, historians, musicians, writers?  There has never been an American President whose platform was based purely on vituperative rhetoric aimed at people who are - by his definition - “different."

I consider myself a “true American,” and by that I mean my ethnicity is as diverse as this nations. I am middle eastern, western European, eastern European, and a smidgen Native American. The melting pot is in my bloodstream.

Just like it is in every one of yours. 

Those differences are the way American became great in the first place. Accepting them, celebrating them, working with them in unity, is the only way to retain that greatness. My Armenian grandfather and my Kentucky tobacco-farmer grandfather came to Detroit at the same time in the Great Depression to build cars for Henry Ford. The fact that their children met, fell in love, and created ME is the 20-th century American story. The fact that my son met an Asian woman from Thailand online, fell in love, married, and created my grandson is the 21-st century American story. It’s stories like these that make America great. 

Not stories about building walls to keep people out. 

This is a troubled nation, there is no doubt about it. But have we become a people who are so desperate for change that we look to a bluffing, blustering bully for leadership? So tired of “politics as usual” that we would resort to a man with not only NO political experience or education, but NO history of public service in his entire life? There is no logic in this. It’s as if a cancer patient, unsatisfied with his doctor’s treatment plan, decided to go to a plumber for surgery instead. 

I have always read a lot about World War II. My dad and all my uncles fought in that war. I have often wondered what I would have done if I were an adult living in Germany in those days that Hilter was coming into power. Would I have gathered up my family and fled the country for somewhere “safe”? Would I have spoken out in print,  joined a resistance party? 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” wrote Edmund Burke, a Revolutionary War Statesman, often considered the founder of the Conservative movement in America.

He also wrote this: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing believing he could only do a little."

 My words and my opinions will matter “only a little” to the people whose minds are as definitive in their choice as I am in mine, but I'm stepping out of my corner and saying them anyway. “Your sword may be a sermon, or the power of the pen,” sings Coalhouse Walker, Junior, in the song Make Them Hear You, from the musical Ragtime.

So I wield my own little sword today, speak out in my own little way. Because it’s better than doing nothing. 

You mark my words.