Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Reflections on the election of 2016

Well, it is now the day after election day and Donald Trump won fairly and squarely, against most odds.  Lord, how I dislike pundits..
The American people have spoken, and I, for one, accept their decision.  I am grateful to God that I was born in and live in the United States of America.  I have loved this country for as long as I can remember; " For purple mountain majesties, Above the fruited plain,".
As a child I won a civics award, for best composition on the American Flag.  In the piece I wrote of our horrendous treatment of American Indians, slavery, the women's vote, the depression  and the wars we fought and the tremendous toll it took on our country and soldiers.  I spoke of my faith in the American people and how as a country we always attempted to correct our wrongs.  I spoke of the strength of our Constitution and Bill of Rights and how regardless of our differences we were a strong, proud and good people and our flag would forever fly as a beacon of freedom to immigrants,and to other countries in the world.  You might wonder how I remember all of this from an eighth grade composition.  I remember because these are the things I have always stood for.  My eighth grade teacher told me, "Claire, you have to continue to write, of course no one will ever be able to read it"( he was commentating on my spelling which I am proud to say has improved dramatically due to spell check).
As I said, I love our country and its diverse peoples and I have every expectation that regardless of who is President, we are bigger and better than an individual or group of policies.
I grew up in the tip of northern New York near the Canadian border in a small town called Potsdam. I know the upstate peoples and the struggles they have encountered.  My dad worked for Alcoa Aluminium. and was always a union man  He worked as a construction worker to help build the Seaway.  He worked for Putnam Hawley, (our local Home Depot),  cutting lumber and loading and unloading trucks.  He was  a union carpenter and a jack of all trades.  I mention this because I know what it like to be poor in an unforgiving, cold, upstate county where jobs were scarce, where Native Americans lived on reservations,and Blacks and Latinos were few and far between.  Even Jewish people were few back then in Potsdam and my Jewish schoolmates went to Massena to worship
I also know what prejudice is like because it was present in the rarefied air we breathed.  Prejudiced against anything or one who was different.  If you were poor you were looked down on because the chamber of commerce and the country club set had their own values and restrictions.  I remember my mom writing letters to the bank with five dollars to put down on the mortgage, saying to please wait until next month to foreclose as she could then make a larger payment. She wept as she made calls to her relatives to once again ask for a loan. My dad worked very hard at every job he had but was prone to injuries and frequently lost jobs to heal.  There was no paid health insurance in those days and we certainly could not afford doctors and hospital bills.  We always said my dad was an accident waiting to happen.  My uncle Jerry bailed my dad out countless times, recommending him for jobs and slipping him pocket money for gas to go for an interview.
Ok, so I know what it is like to be poor and to have baked beans and mac and cheese the night before payday and there was no meat left in the house.  I remember in high school our home ed teacher, asked us what our favorite meal was and I said baked beans and mac and cheese.  She was horrified.  She said "there is no Meat!!!!!"  I laugh today as a vegetarian, because it was a very high protein meal, but then I was just embarrassed.
My new clothes came from Fishman's, (the 5 and 10 cent store), or mama laboriously made them as she hated to sew, and worked full time as a teacher, and later a social worker.
I say all of this because I know the rural areas of the US and understand that if you are not among the favored few, life and Washington seem stacked against you. When there were large industries around and steel and aluminum plants, and manufacturing plants, and the auto and coal industries; at least you could find some kind of work.  Today those jobs are few and far between because most of our industries have gone east to China.  In this country today the rich and business' have gotten richer and richer through foreign investments and offshore bank accounts.  Even if the common middle class worker has a has a savings account they are lucky to earn 1% ROI.
So all in all, to sum it up.  I understand the rural mentality and it's desire for change regardless of the cost.  I know I got the hell out of there as fast as I could.  There was no room for a bleeding heart liberal like me in the beautiful farm country, unless I went to be a forest ranger in my majestic Adirondack mountains.
I know the rural vote is now in control and hope and pray the alternative right and the hate groups will continue to be disavowed by Trump and his soon to be formed cabinet.  We are going into unknown territory and we must bring our better angels to the foreground, and trust in our Constitution with its separation of powers and Bill of Rights, and the goodness and strong will of our generous American people.