When I was young, my Grandma was a good liberal. In second grade she paid me to hand out fliers to re-elect Governor Docking, a Democrat. She repeatedly won election to the Kansas State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. She campaigned for Democrat Jim Slattery when he ran — and won — for the House of Representatives. To this day she’ll tell you about the time she met Jimmy Carter at the White House and what a bunch of skirt chasers all those fellas were in Washington.
All these years, I’ve given her the lion’s share of credit for making me the hardcore lefty I am today. I protested Bush’s stolen election in January 2001. Every weekend for months back in 2002-2003 I proudly carried anti-war signs at the Country Club Plaza fountain to protest the looming war with Iraq. I collected signatures for Kansas City’s anti-Patriot Act resolution. I booed Attorney General John Ashcroft in Columbia, MO. And all thanks to Grandma putting me on the path that embraced worker’s rights, equality for women and government’s necessary role in creating a just and fair society.
But then something changed. Maybe it was old age. Maybe Grandma was a racist all along, and it just never came up until we had a black President. Whatever it was, I was totally caught off guard when one day, during a discussion about the economy, my dear old liberal Grandma used words I’d never heard her utter to badmouth President Obama and blame him for the state of the economy.
Naturally I jumped to his defense. “Grandma, Michaela and I went to President Obama’s inauguration! He’s a good President who inherited two wars and an economy in free fall from Bush. That guy wasn’t even elected!” I said, shocked that I had to lecture her on politics.
“Well they’re talking about cutting Social Security,” she argued. “And they’re re-negotiating that insurance I get as part of my telephone company pension,” she added. “Old folks like me are gonna be in a world of hurt if they start messing around with that stuff.”
“Republicans have wanted to privatize Social Security for years,” I said. “Democrats are the ones who have been fighting that! And the President has nothing to with your pension or your insurance. You need to quit watching Fox News and start paying attention to what’s really going on.”
My arguments fell on deaf ears. Since that epiphany several years ago, I’ve corrected her about the deficit, the war on terror, welfare, education and more. It’s as if the pod people came and replaced my real Grandma with an exact replica that spouts Republican ideology as if she’s always held it sacred.
This week I was in Grandma’s email, copying and pasting addresses from her old account into her new one. I noticed a subject line that read something like “Obamacare claims its millionth victim.” I scrolled down just enough to read a line or two of the right-wing screed, which claimed that Americans were dying every minute as a result of Obamacare and that the emergency was about to reach the point of no return. “Quit sending my Grandma your racist bs and stick your emails up you ass,” I replied to what was no doubt an outgoing-only address. At least that was one email she’d no longer be getting, I thought to myself. That is until her friends send her another link and she signs up again.
It’s been really depressing to watch this woman who was my role model for so many years drink the right-wing Kool-aid. “Does everyone turn into a Republican eventually?” I’ve thought, horrified. Thank god I stumbled across the blog of Margaret and Helen. I discovered them while searching for blogs that might have an audience similar to mine, and the first paragraph I read, which made reference to the newly opened Bush Library, made me laugh out loud:
While watching the dedication I was reminded of his idiocy (I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully) as well as his arrogance (I am the decider). Lord help me. I wonder if that man’s library even has books. I bet nobody ever has to be ssss-hushed in that place. It’s probably filled with paint-by-number sets.
These two ladies are pictured on their blog riding scooters, so they’re no spring chickens. But by god they’re still good liberals! With more than 11,000 followers and six million hits, they’ve obviously found a following. And they can add me to that list. I can never thank my Grandma enough for teaching me early on that women are just as strong as men, and workers deserve the same rights as CEOs. But no matter how old and scared I get, I will never turn my back on my liberal roots.
It’s my turn to carry the torch now, and I think the Grandma I grew up with would be proud. I’ve instilled her sense of right and wrong in my daughters, too. Michaela cast her first presidential vote for Obama; Chelsea voted for him at least once as well. This year Chloe became the co-founder and communications coordinator of her high school’s Young Democrats Club. Maybe they’ll change their minds as they grow older, but for now they know evolution is a valid scientific theory, not the devil’s work, straight from the pit of hell. They know gay marriage won’t end the world. They know there’s no such thing as “legitimate rape.”
In other words, they’re picking up where the real Grandma left off. And that’s a good place to start.