Sunday, May 08, 2011

My Mom was a Democrat even when she voted Republican

I wonder who my mother would vote for in 2012 if she were still alive.

It's Mother's Day today. I've spent 25 of them without my own mother, who died too young at 59.

She worked as a nurse her entire life. She sometimes took time off to have a kid, but then was back to work. She had so many kids (nine), that I wonder if she felt like those mythical women of old, who just delivered their newborns onto the fields and kept on harvesting while breast-feeding the baby and riding herd on the rest of her brood. Jimmy -- put down that rattlesnake! Janie -- keep hoeing those potatoes! 

My mother was made of sturdy stuff. We talked about many things, including politics. But I don't know whom she voted for. I know that she voted. But she kept it to herself. My father did, too, but I knew his politics from our many arguments and/or debates.

It wasn't as clear with my Mom. As both a nurse and a human being, she had deep reservoirs of empathy. Her nine kids turned to her for solace and advice. So did our friends and neighbors. I sometimes wonder if the cancer that killed her so quickly wasn't from a build-up of ingested sorrow.

She had no tolerance for cruelty. Some teasing was inevitable in a large household. But Mom drew the line when teasing wandered over the line into cruelty. She didn't like it in her home or out in the world. She devoted her life to the alleviation of suffering. She suffered along the way, but rarely spoke about her own travails.

No political party has a corner on kindness or cruelty. They are public beasts, focused on accumulating power. They nurture and encourage some, steamroll others.

But the current crop of Republicans possess a rare brand of self-centered cruelty. They seem to have no qualms about enriching the rich and engendering their selfish needs. They also go out of their way to target the powerless, the elderly, women, and "The Other," which includes people of color and non-Christians.

We now know the details of Republican priorities laid out in the Paul Ryan budget passed by the U.S. House. Permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and even further tax cuts down the road. Cuts to Medicaid, which serve the least among us. Privatizing Medicare for the retired. The end of Social Security. If Mom were alive, she would have turned 85 yesterday. Happy birthday, Mom! She would be receiving Social Security and using Medicare for the inevitable ailments of old age.

In Republican-majority states, we see attacks on unionized public sector workers. This is done in the name of "fiscal responsibility" but really is a war against working people. People like me. People like my mother. Many of these same people are Republicans who've been manipulated into siding with Repubs on social issues. Meanwhile, their taxes pay subsidies to businesses so send their jobs overseas.    

Empathy is a dirty word to these people. We've heard that over and over again from the talking heads at Fox, and from Tea Party types.

Empathy was not a dirty word to my mother. She lived her life by it.

Who would she vote for in 2012?

It's easier to list who she would not vote for. They all have an "R" after their names.

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