Listening and watching some of the reactions to Hillary Clinton’s character and campaign, I wonder about perspectives. The world is really big now but it wasn’t always big, it used to be very small. I watched clips of Hillary giving an interview in grainy 1970’s footage and to be fair, also the clips from Trump’s past. It’s easy to look back at the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s –to see them as clichés and movie tropes. I often hear people say the Breakfast Club defines the 80’s for them, but what about how others define the same time? Some of us were young adults, middle-aged or toddlers.
My generation’s world, Hillary’s world and even Trump’s world (Baby Boomers) was much smaller in those years. As we got older, went to college, served in the military (me) and started our careers -our world got bigger -not much, but it expanded. Unlike today, where I can go to youtube and watch Irish people sample American fast food, watch their reactions and laugh. I can look back on my life and see it from today’s perspective and think, wow! Everything has changed. I am not a big fan of wishing we were back there, life was not better. Yes, movies give glimpses of hair and clothing styles, humor and opinions. But, I also remember those days from being there.
I grew up wondering, like many other teens, if the guys who wrote Archie Bunker knew my Dad? Dad called people all those racist, misogynist labels originating from hate and ignorance. My grandfather, who was my go-to hero for all things good, refused to talk to my grandmother for a week because she wore a pantsuit! Women were threatened with divorce for any ‘woman’s lib’ nonsense. My role models for strong women were in books by Harold Robbins… groan! Then there was my father, a mean, abusive drunk and oh, all the world owed him, the world was so unfair to him and yet, he was also well-liked by other men. His therapist told my mother to quit her job as a legal secretary at the Supreme Court because she was emasculating her husband! The priest told her that it was her fault Dad drank and if he was abusive, she had to take it and pray for him, because her reward was in heaven. Nothing seemed fair for women but it was all too common for our neighborhood. And even on television, women spouting woman’s lib were tough, unlikeable ‘broads’.
Even though my father was constantly spouting racist hatred, no one really listened, or so I thought, I certainly didn’t. Which was why I never mentioned to them that the Woman Marine roommate I was driving up the east coast with to spend Christmas in N.H. –was a black girl from rural Texas. My sister came down the stairs in the morning and screamed in fear when she saw Helen sitting at the table. I was taken aside and asked why I hadn’t ‘warned them’ and what would the neighbor’s think? After watching my father try and fail to drive into the garage drunk for years, I doubted the neighbors took much notice. I was ashamed. When my grandmother greeted her by saying she was happy to meet my little colored friend, I apologized. But, Helen said, “Your grandparents are loving people and so what if they don’t use the ‘correct’ words… it’s those damn scary silent sisters of yours that make me sleep with my eyes open.”
I sat in restaurants with Helen and watch no one wait on us. I’d get up and ask if there was a problem? Helen would explain that we were Marines and had heard this restaurant had the best barbecue in Virginia. Suddenly, the racist owners saw us as ‘fellow Marines’ and we’d get a free meal, a tour and their tales of their wars. I felt self-righteous but Helen told me that they still won’t feed blacks -they only fed Marines. I still like to think we opened a small crack?
Yes, my world was small, yet expanding it was an ongoing adventure. In high school my boyfriend was going to the University of Miami, we talked on the phone -it was a nice safe relationship for me. One day he described a local treat, it was a jewish thing but so good. I told my mother and that Saturday my mom and my sisters sat at the table eating bagels and sour cream… we weren’t so sure what was so great about it. Later, on the phone my boyfriend told me I was an idiot, he’d said, Bagels and Cream Cheese! Ah! We tried again and all agreed it was delicious. I though it was pretty cool to try a jewish sandwich. I wasn’t sure what Jews were, as a local Jewish kid, Adam Sandler, said in his comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live, ‘jew’ is a verb in NH. Albeit, the nuns had taught us, they killed Jesus and are pagans… and will be going straight to hell. I knew most of what they told was suspect after they tried to lure me into their world with promises of working with lepers in Hawaii! I grew up thinking they meant the ancient Jews because WWII movies showed us they had been persecuted.
Jews… much later I almost converted, I still occasionally spend a Sabbath Saturday . But, in those early days of my young adulthood, I knew little about Jews. I do remember bringing home a few bottles of Nouveau Beaujolais for Thanksgiving. My grandfather was shocked and declared no one was drinking pinko communist wine at his table! He said we were going to drink good old American wine – Blackberry Manischewits wine! Funny, twenty years later he moved to Florida and told me that his new friends were Jewish and that wine is kosher! Even my grandfather could adapt to a larger world and my grandmother wore pantsuits all the time!
So, I’m a storyteller, even before I started writing books, I told stories and I am going to start posting little bits of my history, the history I saw first hand. Yes, from today’s recliner, my past was full of ignorance and stupidity, people were politically incorrect, –but as my world grew larger I changed, my family and friends changed. I can only ask you to think when you look at a clip from someone’s past, did they evolve when their world got bigger? Or did they hold firmly to a past that wasn’t all that great for those who were there –those who lived it and remember wanting something better?