by Viki Reed
Perhaps one of the more curious maladies related to this election crisis is that a great deal of people who placed their votes with gusto had as little political ideology as someone who voted for any other reason-or not at all. Not everyone, but a great deal of our leaders, are elected and supported with snarls, by people who don't even know why they're a registered (fill in the blank).
This insanely important and subtle election (not as bad as when Bush Sr. or Reagan left office) is crucial to the Young Clinton Generation. We partied in the nineties, had at least one nervous breakdown, and are having our ninth and most Buddhist existence of our lifetimes. Everything has to go well and right this time.
So how does someone like myself arrive at the decision to vote for Al Gore? Why was it so difficult to get out and vote that I didn't even try? Two reasons: my parents.
Dad had always been a New Jersey redneck who likes to shoot deer, fix trucks and be left alone with his dogs and his undershorts. Mom was always some intellectually liberal butterfly. Though she looked more like Benny Hill in drag, she was some gadfly interloper in our masculine world. Her desire to share the stories, books, experiences, and worldly knowledge of her truncated life's education; gave me the open-mindedness that was unknowingly vital to survive the family and culture I inherited.
Real life was more of a sales convention for a company that I knew nothing about.
Every three years brought a major change in the way I experienced the adult world. Slowly, but surely, like everything you make the effort to practice, my life-skills became measurably but indiscernibly more steady.
I practiced making big mistakes, then I focused on honing my reacting muscles.
My twenties culminated in divorce, a mini-breakdown, remarriage, a career change, and a baby; the synthesis is near enough to completion that I can now call myself a student of life.
I can teach more to my daughter than my mom ever blew-off explaining to me. I can also promise not to close my mind and become victims like my folks who have been barnstorming Republicans (though not even registered for years) forcing their lives into a black hole of poverty, illness, bad parenting, irresponsibility for basic things in general and doomed to the disastrous fate they find themselves in today. Despite that I am the most successful member of their six person family: me, who has: one toddler, a one bedroom apartment, one car, and reliant upon my husband's income - me.
My parents' house is literally condemnable with animal waste and garbage underfoot in every room. A bathroom that rivals the community-john at Riker's Island in terms of untouchable filth. They've owned sick and improperly cared-for but much loved pets for years. Garbage and abandoned refuse sprouted on their once pastoral acreage from the first week they lived in noman's land, Kentucky.
A film of soot and dust, years thick, covers everything in the house. Beams are exposed, floors unfinished, clothing is vile and there is no way to keep food in that house to make it edible for even the most lax and only the most desperate person. My parents cheer the Republican party and their pundits. From Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura all the way to George Bush Sr., they've promoted almost nothing in their lives except right-wing party members. More so than they regaled their own children.
They didn't plan for their future and squandered what money my dad made fixing cars. Their only large scale investments were: their outstanding mortgage, overwhelming credit card and medical bill debts, guns, professional quality tools, and some beat-up vehicles. They served society in their life, worked hard, and had lots of problems-always. Despite their Republican leanings, they assumed that when they got too tired and infirm to coast anymore that the government would just start picking up the tab. They were blown away as everyone around them, in their Kentucky county, manipulated the 'Democratic' system. New immigrants, people lying about disabilities and workman's comp claims and fake car accidents were the associates they had experience with who lived the lives of many Rileys on the government's tab. My parents couldn't get a nickel, not more than a whopping bill of unpaid taxes from the I.R.S.. My folks were too lazy to file bankruptcy and many of their bills are outside the protection of that cheapskate way out anyway.
They still continued to be generous to a fault to people in and out of their family - Mother not telling father what she's doing with the bills; Dad not wanting to know anyway as long as he had $600 of mad money in his pocket. Now they have less than nothing. Now mom has had her second stroke in two years. Because she had no adequate health care options, no insurance, no social worker to make sure she's cared for, no will to get up and do for herself, and no sense of responsibility for miles around, she lies in a nursing home bed all day now.
Her sons enjoy life's amenities and they have done-so-within walking distance of my folks' home-all their lives. My adult brothers even moved from New Jersey to Kentucky to be near my parents, continuing the Big Mooch as if they'd be 15-years old forever. I went the opposite way, living on the other end of the country. I still got financial help, but at least I was trying to have a real life outside their nestled jingoism.
So my folks are left with absolutely nothing but debt, while whining about how the government has ignored their long years of hard labor. When my dad had bypass surgery four years ago, they forgot a good soul kept them insured under their company and irresponsibly threw out all their disability and insurance paperwork. The end was nearer than ever. They used their blood money to bail out my pathetic grown brothers, all the while saying that they'd rather die than be Democrat.
All the while, my ultra Ditto-Head mother argued over the phone, in her convoluted stroke enhanced negativity about how the Democrats and lyin' Clinton types had screwed them blind. Nothing about how they threw away money for decades on helpless, ungrateful sons - or let their only asset, their property go to weed. It was all Clinton's fault. Things would be better if Reagan was back in office because he did things for the better even if people hurt as a result.
My folks were jealous that losers who ripped-off social-services had an easier ride. They were furious that the government sent them bills for taxes they failed to file. What they missed was that because of what little Democratic leanings that existed in those times, my parents both got life saving medical treatment despite not having a pot to hold, much less piss-in.
Here they exist, die hard Republicans; living in vast American countryside, spread out far from the compact cities where Bill Mahr perfectly defined as being people forced to live and communicate atop each other. Here they are, broke, living in crap, clutching their guns in their rigor mortised knuckles, waiting for hunting season and loving red meat. Here they are, at the mercy of sons who learned nothing who have more and at the behest of government agencies that asked for their basic fair share. My folks would die saying things about those damn Democrats while they starve to death.
I wonder how they'll further fare from G.W. Bush's new regime. Under a man who refused to put his name on his own state's patient bill of rights. Under the auspice of a man who can't wait to destroy Alaskan wildlife in the name of American oil-independence. I wonder what George Bush Jr.'s cabinet will dictate for folks who've stupidly worked their asses off in a blue collar way while supporting equally blue collar kids. I know that Bush's government will not address the vital need for government sponsored hospice-care. My mother will die alone in a nursing home, getting the minimum care eligible under the state's mandates. My father will lose his home or die there in his sleep or at the end of his favorite shotgun. My brothers will take and reap and move on. I will remain 2,000 miles away, unable to affect any impact on their care, their paperwork, their bills or anything that would help me sleep at night.
My parents will die a sorely unfair, miserable, and lonely death during George Bush's tenure as president. Partially because I am limited through my distance from them. Mostly because the states are left to deal with their manual labor as they choose through Republican thinking. While Viagra is covered by most insurance companies, dying will not be. While state assistance with life is restricted to scam artists and savvy loophole magicians, my parents and brothers will fall through the gaping holes to their dark demises. Someday, I fully expect to walk the beach, and see the Statue of Liberty crowning from a shabby finger of beach, as I fight for my last breath.