Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Cultural War: Dis-united States and Dis-united Sisters

Differences Between Sisters on the Left and Right

My 85-year old Democratic mom is not speaking to her Republican sister. Despite being hospitalized twice in the past month for dangerously high blood pressure, my mom has not spoken to, or seen, her sister for two months now.

Both women are in their eighties. For countless years, they have visited with each other every week. They’ve given each other rides to the doctor, helped and supported each other for almost a century. They’ve lived in the same neighborhood for decades.

The women have had disagreements before, but not like this.

After years of being polite and keeping her political views to herself, my mom snapped two months ago. She told her sister that she didn’t understand how she could listen to and approve of anyone as “hateful as Rush Limbaugh.” She told her that Limbaugh is “a crass and vulgar man,” who spews “hatred and intolerance” at everyone who disagrees with him. She asked her sister how she could vote for a president who needlessly sends children to their death in Iraq. She asked how she will feel when her own son loses his health care because she “blindly followed her husband” and voted for a man who thinks tax breaks for the wealthy are more important than health care for the sick. Finally, my mom told her sweet and gentle mannered sister that she is no longer her sister.

My aunt called my mom today and asked if they could get together and talk. My mom said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Afterwards, my mom called me, and along with our usual daily political rant, I listened to the sad story of the apparent end of her close relationship with the only sister she has in this town. She said that with her high blood pressure she just can’t take being around Republicans, “not when it’s someone in my own family, someone I’ve been close to all my life.” She said she can’t understand the values of her sister. She can’t understand how this soft-spoken woman, who has probably never said a crass or vulgar thing in her life, can be a fan of “the hateful and selfish Rush Limbaugh.” She said she can’t understand how the sister she thought she knew can support a president who is “tearing the country apart with his thoughtless and selfish policies.”

I’m very conflicted about all of this. I wish my mom and her sister would simply agree to disagree and get on with the business of supporting each other in the ways that they can. I wish they would remember that they are sisters. But then I also feel no inclination to spend a lot of time with people who support an agenda that threatens the health, happiness and lives of so very many innocent people. I also don’t understand how my aunt can support a president whose policies threaten to rob her own child of the health care that is vital to his very survival.

Differences Between Sisters and Brothers on the Left and the Left-er

While I’m on the subject of differences, this seems like as good a place as any to get something off my chest. There are some ‘loyal democrats’ who are angry with me specifically and with the Tennessee Guerilla Women generally. There are loyal democrats who believe that everyone on the left should support elected officials who call themselves democrats regardless of whether they actually behave like democrats. We should support Governor Phil Bredesen because he is a democrat, and we should overlook the fact that the Governor’s policies threaten the health and lives of our friends, family, and neighbors. We should support conservative democrats because they are the best we can get. Sorry, I don’t believe that. Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, here.

But given the high stakes, I’m willing and able to tolerate and even offer some measure of support to people on the left who choose a different path to the place where we stop the horror of the ongoing right-wing devastation.

It took the Black Power movement to make Martin Luther King Jr. look respectable. It took the Women’s Liberation Movement to make NOW’s demands seem reasonable. Both King and NOW were enabled to demand far more because there was a vocal and visible presence further to their left. I worry that unless we on the left try very very hard to put aside some of our differences and make common cause, the damage to our family, friends, neighbors, country and world will be so great that it will be irreparable. It’s already too late for the thousands and thousands who have needlessly died thanks to the relentless obsession with domination and control of the radical rightwing regime of George W. Bush.

End of rant. Except how the F-k am I supposed to wait until August for another hit of Bill Maher?????