Saturday, May 14, 2005

Reflections on a Past Perspective

It has occurred to me (it's up at the top of the page) that my political awareness began with Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. Barry Goldwater seemed, to me at the time, to represent how we did things in Iowa. In particular (because I already had a sense of where I'd be the following September), if we were going to engage the communists in Southeast Asia then let's commit to that and get 'er done.
I've been thinking back to those times, not so much in nostalgia but to try to regain the perspective I had at the time on issues that now separate America. What were you people who voted for Bush thinking? Did I used to think that way?
My great-uncle believed that internal combustion engines were bad for crops. He parked his Ford in a shed down next to the road, and he farmed with two Belgian horses. Seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, things had to be done.The cows had to be milked twice a day. The livestock had to be fed. You don't feel well? It's dark/cold/hailing? Well, tell that to the livestock, and if it's okay with them then it's okay to skip your chores. Bucket's too heavy? Don't fill it so full and make two trips.
When it came time for harvest, the nearby farmers would all work together to get everyone's crops in... but as time passed there were fewer and fewer neighbors who farmed with horses. If you got sick or hurt, your neighbors had your back... but if you weren't able to make it anymore then it was time to "move into town."
He and his wife went to church every Sunday, a little one-room church you could see from his farm, but their mantra was "The Lord helps those who help themselves."
His son was a different sort of farmer. He embraced mechanization and technology, and bought the latest equipment... on credit, of course. A gamble? Farming is a gamble. He'd rent out the equipment he wasn't using himself. He knew all of the programs there were for paying farmers not go grow surplus crops.
When I went to live with the foster family many of the same themes continued. They had a cow, a pony, and poultry; and they had a couple of large garden plots on the edge of town. We all had our chores, and the chores all had to be done every day by someone.
I learned about gleaning there. The farmers outside of town would harvest their corn, but there was always corn that the reaper didn't get. We'd all go out and walk the fields and pick up the "missed" corn for our livestock. It was actually a win-win because we got the corn, and the farmer didn't have to hire kids to come out the next year to cut corn out of his beans. I also learned about hunting for wild mushrooms and berries in season.
We went to church on Sunday, morning and evening, and on Wednesday nights; but we didn't go to the "revival" meetings. They only had about one a year come into town. They did watch Billy Graham on television.
I was aware of the second Eisenhower/Stevenson campaign, and I recall that it was generally accepted as a foregone conclusion that General Eisenhower would win.
I remember, of course, the Kennedy/Nixon campaign. Both had paid their dues, serving in the War. Nixon looked unshaven... unkempt... but Kennedy was... you know... Catholic.
I moved into town in the summer of '61, but still worked farms in the summer doing yardwork in town the other three seasons until I was sixteen.
At that point in my life I didn't understand welfare. You worked. If you couldn't work then you found something you could do, but you worked. I'd had a paid job since I was eleven.
At that point in my life I never thought about abortion. There's not a farm kid in the world who doesn't know that sex is for reproduction. If you had unprotected sex and got pregnant you simply started your family a little earlier than you planned. (One store, in a town where everyone knew everyone else and their business, sold condoms.)
It never occurred to me not to fulfill my military obligation. It scared me when I got my draft notice toward the end of my second week in boot camp and realized that I wouldn't be able to report. My Company Commander explained to a few of us who'd received them that we'd be okay, and that we were no longer subject to the draft. (We burned our draft cards!)
I mean to continue to reflect on this... if toward no other end than my own peace of mind. I still don't know where the anger between right and left... between red and blue comes from. I wonder how much of it is manufactured in order to emphasize our differences.
There are right answers upon which we should all be able to agree. My understanding is that Buddhists believe one knows the truth because it is always and invariably true. In that context, can one be "pro-life" if one kills under certain circumstances? Is it rational for someone who is "pro-choice" to oppose the death penalty under any circumstances?
I think we should stop shouting and discuss these things.
By the way, in any election prior to 1964 I don't think there's any way that George would've beat a combat veteran. I could be wrong... again.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Tamar said...

If there is one thing I love, it's reflection on why we do what we do, how we think the way we think, and where it all comes from. It takes courage to reflect on past perspectives, ask questions about how we were taught to believe and behave, and just hold it all up to the light.

The more I do that the more complex I find life to be. I can no longer uphold purist views or just one "truth." For example, I have watched people close to me as they lose their identity when the Wall came tumbling down - after they had been staunch communists all their adult lives. They had to readjust to different truthes even as they took up other dogmatic points of view to fill the vacuum.

It's not easy.

Yes, I think it would do us all so much good if "we could stop shouting and discuss these things." It's just so hard when one's identity is caught up in being right about one's opinion.

10:30 AM  
Blogger ®osie said...

a meager comment by another Vet:

By the way, in any election prior to 1964 I don't think there's any way that George would've beat a combat veteran. I could be wrong... again.

Then yet... no freaking draft dodger would have made it into the Commander in Chief's seat, let alone TWICE!
Ironic, huh?!

2:14 AM  

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