My mother passed away a few years ago. My father predeceased her by a few. There’s no one to take even imagined offense if I use one of my mom’s characteristics to illustrate a point. Otherwise I wouldn’t.
Likely everyone has heard the admonition: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” My mother lived the maxim, and took it to virtually every aspect of life. I can’t recall her ever saying anything negative about anything at all.
When it came to movies, say Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List, I might ask my mom whether she’d seen them. “Oh, I don’t need to see any of that stuff.” “Stuff” being depicted graphic illustrations of the brutality of war or the brutality of humans against other humans. Through my childhood and adolescence, the Detroit Free Press hit the porch every morning. My father read it. I can’t say about my mother. She was usually busy preparing breakfast for my dad, then for my two sisters and me, then it was off to school we went. So I don’t know whether she troubled herself much with even mildly perusing its pages.
It wasn’t that my mom wasn’t intelligent. On the contrary, she always struck me as innately quite bright. I never heard her misuse a word, be short for another, or mangle grammar as many of today’s on-air talking heads manage to do. (It is not “There’s many ways to look at this.” As the subject “ways” is plural, the predicate must agree with it; correct: There are . . ..” Nor would a double-negative such as “I don’t have no ” issue from her lips.) Rather she seemed to choose not to make an intense or unnecessary acquaintance with external disquieting events and situations.
By and large, I’d guess she was a happy person. She tried to agree with Abe Lincoln’s hypothesis that “A man is as happy as he chooses to be.” It’s not that her life was some uninterrupted visit to Sunnybrook Farms. She was a teenager during the Great Depression and she waited for my dad during his Army stint in World War II. And while they never had a ton of money, neither was our family ever desperate for the basics. So my best guess is that indeed she was a happy person who lived a fairly pleasant life.
Prior to the 2004 election, my mother called on my younger sister to tell her how she should vote. (I know this — “tell her how to vote” — would prompt strenuous outrage from her if somehow she could know how I’ve described her request, but it is the striped-down-to-its-basics truth of the matter.) When my dad was alive, he provided all she needed to know: vote straight GOP. By way of background, my dad was raised Catholic, left the Church in high school and turned protestant, was a member of the John Birch Society for a few years following WWII, thought Senator Joe McCarthy was a dead-on-target patriot, considered William F. Buckley a paragon of intellectual virtue, quit attending Allen Park’s Presbyterian church because it was too liberal, became an ardent and contributing advocate of Jerry Falwell, and drove all over Detroit, chauffeuring Republican delegates during the convention that nominated Ronald Reagan for president. It doesn’t matter a whit that, not entirely unlike George Bush, my father’s history is evidence of a frightened boy in search of constancy, the aura he cast was of a fellow who was certain. It was all that was sufficient for my mom. And she seemed as happy as she chose to be, which was happy.
In contrast, I often feel very unhappy. I feel deep and seething anger. I read the news; from a wide variety of sources. I read books. I’m a dedicated history, philosophy and political buff. I watch C-SPAN. Even when I’m asleep, C-SPAN is on as white noise. I know what’s going on; or, at least as much as anyone can. Though over the years I’ve become an atheist, I’ve studied the Bible, its history and that of Christianity. Jesus of Nazareth doesn’t have to be genuinely of divine origins for me to admire and appreciate him, and to take his teachings to heart. What has been going on in the Christian movement and in the Republican Party all the way back to Nixon, and what has been their gathering intensity pisses the hell out of me. Neither have anything to do with American democracy or what Jesus taught, and everything to do with hypocritical dissembling and power grabbing. And god I’m pissed! You becha: I am so pissed!
I’ve become sadly aware how the majority of Americans are like my mother: happy as can be, content in their ignorance, and not bothered the least over their elected pursuit of it. It angers me, and scares hell out of me, for I believe Burke’s dicta that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
And I don’t know which is the better way to live one’s life.
— Ed Tubbs