left on walnut

Tag: environment

Why my dad would no longer vote Republican

Dad was quiet. He was born, lived, and died all within a five mile radius in rural Indiana. He served in the Philippines during World War II and placed his hand over his heart when the Star Spangled Banner played. He expected me to do the same.

Dad voted Republican. But he would be shamed by the Republican party now.

When Dad came home from the Philippines, wounded in action, he didn’t sign up for Veterans’ benefits. “I live in a country that’s free. Guess that makes us even.” In his eyes, if we were capable of contributing, it was our duty to do so. Did you know that during Reagan’s first term, the top tax rate was 50%? During the Nixon administration, it was 70%. Dad wouldn’t understand why the rich now pay lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Back home from the war, Dad gave away his hunting rifle because he had no more killing in him. Eisenhower told the nation that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” Republican and NRA-backed measures supporting concealed weapons and assault rifles would sadden my father.

When asked if we’re our brother’s keeper, the answer was always, “Yes.”  So we planted more garden than we needed and gave away vegetables. Did you know Eisenhower supported a higher minimum wage and expanded unemployment benefits? Dad would be disgraced by the Republicans’ stand against the Affordable Care Act.

Sometimes we fished together. I could throw over the crust of my sandwich so the fish could eat. But we could never have thrown the wax paper the sandwich was wrapped in. It wouldn’t have occurred to us. Care for the Slough was second nature. We had a moral obligation to care for our environment. Did you know that Nixon proposed the EPA? Dad would be shamed to know that Republicans are silent on issues of clean energy, disgraced that they denounce the science of climate change.

His only daughter, I always felt precious in Dad’s eyes. I’m certain he never used the words “legitimate” and “rape” in the same sentence. He would be angry that Republicans would take away women’s rights to make their own health choices.

Sometimes I hear people say, “I am Republican” as if they were born that way and cannot change. Thoughtful people, though, listen carefully and make up their minds that way. Thoughtful people change over time.

Third Planet of the Sun

Since my return from India several people have asked, in one way or another, if the human condition there was difficult to observe. A mother, baby on hip, taps on the car window asking for money. A man with an open leg wound reaches his hand out for help. A man with no legs hobbles on his hands.

Guilt can be a healthy, compassionate endorsement of accountability and responsibility. Our compassion reminds us that to be truly human is to be uncomfortable because decency compels us to be better than we are.

We fall short as moral beings if we only steward our little corner of the world. I have been thinking about how I can be more effective in social change that reflects my values of inclusion, fairness, opportunity, and concern for the environment. Not more pure, just more effective.

In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself

by Wislawa Szymborska

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn’t know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they’d claim their hands were clean.

A jackal doesn’t understand remorse.
Lions and lice don’t waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they’re right?

Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they’re light.

On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.