A House Divided…We’ve Already Fallen

This isn’t about one president.  No one president can accomplish what they promise during their election campaigns since Congress is really running the show. If that’s news to anyone, I’m even more sad for this country.  To be fair, I have been so repulsed by political discussions for so long, that I avoid them. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid, and I’m listening more now.  What I am now is incredibly sad, and overwhelmingly unhopeful. It also stirs up painful reminders of how politics divide families, and erode even simple interactions.  There is nothing civil about US politics.

The divisions between the Republicans and Democrats is certainly nothing new, but it’s gotten to the point that there seems to be absolutely no common ground- like the fact that we all live HERE isn’t a good enough reason to come together.  A few days after September 11, 2001, there was that nice gathering of Congress on the Capitol steps singing God Bless America (and without the ACLU or athiest organizations threatening them with a lawsuit over a religious song- go figure; must have been their day off), and that was nice. It  is the last time I remember seeing any sort of overt public unity among our elected officials.  It was the last time I remember feeling like this is one country, “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

During the Bush Administration, the ‘left’ media was nothing but vicious towards President Bush.  There wasn’t even any minimal respect for the office of the POTUS.  That wasn’t something I’d seen before (and please don’t start in on my lack of political knowledge- I’m just writing about what I remember; I spent a fair amount of time simply trying to survive personal issues to be all that cued in to what was going on in the world).  It was personal.  Pure anti-Bush… because people didn’t like him?  He wasn’t a democrat? He had an accent?  JFK had an accent, nearly got us into nuclear war with Cuba, and yet he walked on water… even more so after he was dead.  The country mourned what COULD have been. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.

Bush  dealt with something that no other president had been forced to deal with, and there really isn’t a ‘perfect’ way to manage terrorism on home soil in a country that had, for the most part, been mercifully spared until then.  There was the first WTC bombing- and OK, so maybe Clinton could have done more- but I firmly believe he did what he thought was best with the information he had.  Nobody gave Bush that same consideration. What’s to say that in the vast deserts of Iraq there aren’t WMDs?  Do we really know?  Maybe they aren’t there. Which leads to the only option- the far left is into some consipiracy theory that they mock the extreme far right of getting into with their apocalyptic storage sheds and ammunition accumulation.

So Bush did what he thought was best. Is it better to be proactive or reactive with terrorism?  Nip it in the bud, or clean up the mess? Congress signed off on the military action, and domestic surveillance programs.  It’s not all on Bush’s head- but that’s so easy to blow off, since it was a democratic Congress that passed those things.  They certainly can’t take any responsibility…gotta be all on Bush.

The economy undoubtedly started to go south on Bush’s watch.  That’s a no-brainer.  He brought Obama into the picture before the swearing in to ensure the smoothest transition possible.  Obama had a mess to deal with, but it’s not like it was something that was done purposely to  undermine the stability of the US… or do people think that?  (padded room time).  Obama had to appear like he was doing something, so we all got those token checks to ‘stimulate’ the economy.  I paid bills; I didn’t stimulate anything besides the utility companies.

The ‘right’ media certainly doesn’t have anything decent to say about Obama.  I no longer read any media without looking for other sources of the same story before I even consider thinking about it.  It doesn’t do anybody any favors for either side to attack ‘the other guy’.  It just makes them ALL look petty.  And there are so very few media options to get anything approaching ‘fair’.

The most unity I’ve seen in the past 3 1/2 years is when Representative Gabrielle Giffords so nobly came to the State of the Union Address (or some such gathering in the Capitol), and she got what appeared to be genuine welcome and support after being shot and nearly killed by some whack job in an Arizona grocery store parking lot.  SO, let’s see- the worst event of terrorism on US soil, and the near death of one of their own- those are things worthy enough  to join together and be supportive about.  The budget, economy, healthcare (which nobody had time to review before voting), education (we’re dropping every year in the sciences and math), and just getting along aren’t worth enough.  Congress supports the destruction of this country whenever they get together- by inaction.  The survival of the country isn’t a reason to  work together.  Watching CSPAN is like watching a schoolyard nanny-nanny-boo-boo contest.  They get nothing done that actually matters.

I have no reason to think they’re going to act like adults in Washington, D.C. any time in my lifetime.  This country will continue to fall apart, and with the lack of emphasis on general education in public schools, the next generation is getting zippo  to help them figure out how to get out of this.  Congress is a body of  elected civil war participants with words and inaction as their weapons.  The country is imploding, and pride is going to keep it moving in that direction.

I don’t identify with either party.  I’ve got relatives that think I’m so far right, I’m fascist- but that’s based on what I don’t want to hear about, nothing about any actual conversation to actually find out what I think (or make assumptions because of my personal spiritual views; I didn’t come from a cookie cutter, no matter what someone thinks). Come election season, I don’t want to hear about people’s political views.  I miss the days when those things were kept private, and didn’t color what someone thought of another person. Or destroy relationships. I’ve also got friends that make me cringe with thier intolerance about anything to do with the left- if it’s democrat it’s wrong. Period.  That is just as counterproductive as what they blame the other side for doing- because it’s the same thing.   I find it all quite repulsive.   I believe everyone should have political views just as strong as they want to…and I believe I have to right not to put up with them in social settings. There are groups to share common ideas, and I’m not in those groups.  Everybody wants to be heard, but nobody wants to listen.

The house has not only divided, it’s not much more  than crumbling rubble.  Can it be repaired?  I don’t know. But if those who ‘represent’ us in Washington, D.C. can’t get it together, this country is going to slide downhill even more quickly.  What took 236 years to build up will go down like a house of cards with the slightest winds.  Our allies won’t stick around a train wreck forever.  And for those of us here, who remember ‘good’ years, it’s going to be a very painful thing to watch.  This isn’t just about a presidential election- it’s about government growing their asses up and doing what’s right for the majority of the country in a way that is responsible and sustainable.  Or get ready for anarchy.

80 Years Young…. My Dad

Tomorrow, my dad will be 80 years old. He’s playfully denying it.  And, he can get away with denying it since he looks so good and still runs around like a maniac.   He spent many years taking care of my mom as she declined from dementia, and since her death, has finally been able to retire; she was work (though he loved her enough to stay with her through anything and everything).  He is healthy, has friends, and can do pretty much what he wants to do. He’s blessed, and he spent years working to have a nice retirement.

My dad was the first born child of immigrants from Sweden.  His father came from Borgholm, Öland, Sweden, and his mother came from Nordmaling, near Umeå, Sweden.  They arrived in separate boats, and had very different experiences on their journeys.  Grandpa thought everything was a party, and enjoyed the whole trip.  Grandma and several of her thirteen siblings were miserable, and once they got to Ellis Island actually ‘lost’ little  Elida, who had gotten sick. They later found her in a New York City hospital suffering from asthma. She was eventually sent back to Sweden, and never saw the Midwest.  None of them spoke English, and their last names were changed to a more American spelling.  Then one of them goes missing. It was a terrible first few experiences in a new country.  It got worse.

Grandma and her siblings took a train from NYC to Chicago. En route, one of the passengers slit his throat in the bathroom of the train, and they all had to watch the blood flow down the aisle of the train car.  From what she told me, nobody did anything to help the situation.  They were all quite young, in a new country, not knowing the language, and witnessing things that were completely horrifying to anybody who was familiar with their surroundings.

My dad was born in 1932, and his parents were too poor to care for him initially.  They were thrilled with a new son, but heartbroken at not being able to care for him. They were very  grateful to have family friends  ‘keep him’ for nearly eighteen months until they could properly care for him.  They all saw each other, but it wasn’t the same.  Once he was back with them for good, he did the typical things a young boy did. His first major accomplishment was to learn English when he went to kindergarten; he spoke Swedish the first five years of his life.  His parents learned English from him, and immersion in the American culture.  Dad went to Boy Scouts, had a paper route at age nine, and ran with his friends in the neighborhood.  He still has some of those friends now.  He remembers hearing about Pearl Harbor when it was announced on the radio.   He remembers clearly when his younger brother arrived in 1946.  He remembers every job he had, and worked hard for decades.

He became a born-again Christian just prior to going to college.  That was the single most important decision in his life.  He joined a solid church, and still goes there nearly every Sunday.  His core circle of friends is there- and they’ve all known each other since the 50s or before.  I’m indescribably thankful for his decision that I be raised in the church.

Dad went to college with a good friend, by working his way through, and graduated from the University of Illinois.  He became a teacher of history and P.E.  He got his Masters in Education in night school.  Later he became an assistant principal of a middle school, then the principal of another middle school, and finally a high school principal at the school I attended.  He was there for twelve years. Now they can’t get anyone to stay for more than a few years. Fortunately for me, he was liked, or that could have been weird.  At first, he’d gone to college to become a lawyer !

He and my mom got married in 1957.  A couple of years later, they lost their first son to hyaline membrane disease (something that would be easily treated now).  Another couple of years later brought more devastation when they lost the second newborn to the same disease. My mom never saw the babies.  Dad had to plan each funeral on his own- both before he was thirty years old.  It was then they decided to adopt a child, and got me in 1963. Mom never really recovered from the deaths of the babies; dad became more driven to work.

Dad and mom travelled extensively over the years, getting to all fifty states and fifty countries before mom died in 2003.  As a teenager I wasn’t that thrilled about not getting to go with them, but I got to stay with my grandparents (I was the only grandkid on that side of the family, which definitely had perks).  That was OK.  Now, I’m so thankful they had the opportunity and ability to do that traveling.  Since mom died, dad has travelled even more, including two cruises (Australia and the Panama Canal) and a trip to Ireland.   He’s done countless road trips, and winter escapes, in this country.

Mom’s illness had a huge impact on dad.  She had multiple cancers and other surgeries,  so was frequently in some state of recovery.  The dementia from the brain radiation was the roughest , as she deteriorated one cell at a time. That left a shell of who she had been and froze the grieving process mid-stream, as she was still technically present. He never complained about taking care of her.  He shaved her legs, trimmed her radiation-ravaged hair, and bought her clothes. He learned how to dress and transfer her from her chair to the bed, and anyplace else she needed to ‘land’.  When she thought it was time for Thanksgiving in July, he went to as many grocery stores as it took to find pumpkin pie for her.  He never thought to tell her ‘no’, as he never wanted her to  feel he was treating her without dignity.  When she died, I knew what was happening (I’d been a nurse for 18 years at the time), but he thought she would pull through just like she always did.  He was heartbroken.  He really loved her; they were faithful to each other for 46 years.  He has told me that if he were to do it over again knowing how she would end up, he still would have married her.  She could be difficult; she  could carry on a conversation about 40 years ago, but don’t ask her what she had for breakfast.  He still stayed with her, and refused to consider a nursing home.

He was (and is) fortunate to have many church and high school friends, and kept active in those early months after mom died.  He found people to hang out with, and when my health has had some significant bumps in the road, has always been there for me.  His main ‘job’ when I’m in the hospital is dog-sitting.  He loves his grandogger. And she loves him.

My dad isn’t perfect, and some in my mom’s family have seriously disliked  him over the years.   He cares about them, because they’re part of my mom. He’s ticked me off at times, but he’s my dad.  I love him more than I could ever stay mad at him.  Yeah, he can drive me nuts sometimes, but that’s just ‘normal’. I’m sure I drive him nuts sometimes, too !  I was never beaten or otherwise abused by him.  He always sought my greater good.  But he never ‘made’ me do anything for his sake.  If he nudged me, it was for my good.  He has a really good heart, and can’t stand to see anyone in pain.  That’s the only thing he’s ever stepped away from the room for when I’ve been in the hospital- even if I don’t complain. He can’t stand to watch someone he loves hurt.  The people who don’t believe that don’t know my dad well enough to have a clue.

In the end, I know he is the primary human in my corner, who is there  unconditionally.  I dread the day when his time on earth is over.