My mother is an 80 year old Holocaust survivor and is not in the best of health, but as a former writer and journalist, has never shied away from offering an opinion, such as police and their interactions with black people and how the fabric of American society is gradually being torn. Her opinion, like those of everyone who are lining up to share theirs, is valid, if not more so simply because she’s seen more and lived more.
During an outing this past Saturday afternoon from her apartment in a north suburban retirement community, my 25 year old son, my 4 year old daughter, and I took my mother out for lunch for Thai food. During the drive, my son asked his grandmother if she had heard about the shootings of black people in Minnesota and Baton Rouge this week along with the ambush of Dallas police officers the previous night. She said that she had, of course, and was quite troubled.
My son asked her then if she’d ever heard of Dale Hansen, a Dallas sports anchor who is somewhat famous for his on-air commentaries. Apparently Hansen had spoken about the Dallas police ambush on the evening sports report and now, as things usually happen, his commentary had gone somewhat viral. My son played the video for my mother. Since it was on an iPhone and my mother didn’t have her glasses on, she listened:
“He makes some good points,” my mother said at the conclusion of the commentary, but it’s not that simple. “It’s not just that we’ve lost common decency in America,” she went on to say referencing the fact that Hansen said that the Dallas attack was on our “basic humanity and the common decency we used to cherish in America.” Rather, she said, “It seems to me that we’ve lost all respect for authority and for each other and that acting wild and acting without regard for rules or laws is ok.”
It’s as if hating someone is ok, she explained. “While I don’t think Donald Trump can win, look at all the support he gets for popularizing and promoting dislike for other people.” With Trump, she said, it’s disturbing to her to see the rallies and the joy that his supporters seem to get from the seminal arguments that he makes or pictures that his rallies paint: Hillary Clinton is a bad person and we shouldn’t like her or let’s beat up the people that are protesting against us.
“I came to this country as a 3 year old girl and grew up listening to Franklin Roosevelt on the radio explain to us about war, depression, hunger, economic growth and patriotism. His apparent kindness and wisdom brought a calm to people in dire and turbulent times. To think that we’ve come such a relatively short amount of time since FDR and now a presidential candidate talks about building walls, targeting religious groups, promoting anti-Semitic sentiment he took from a neo-Nazi website, and how his popularity wouldn’t diminish if he shot someone. It sickens me.”
She said that she can’t understand how people can possibly support someone like Trump who stands for so many things that tear at the fabric of American society, such as hate, isolationism, xenophobia, classism, and lack of tolerance.
My mother went on to comment on television shows that she’s seen or flipped past, like “Bad Girls Club” or “Jersey Shore” where fighting, swearing, getting drunk and arrested, or getting pregnant at 16 years old is glorified as a means to getting rich, famous or both. Hello Kardashians.
“It’s offensive to me; a person whose family was virtually eliminated because of hate and intolerance and whose parents came to this country as refugees to find something better. Now I see ranchers in the northwest who challenge the government and claim they are not subject to our laws. I see policemen shoot black men in cars and on the street for no reason whatsoever. It’s like I live in a different country altogether.”
“Your father and I,” she said to me, “always taught you and your brother to be tolerant and accept people.” I think it worked I said. Except for bad drivers on the Dan Ryan. She wasn’t amused. “You know what I mean.”
My mother concluded our discussion as we pulled into the restaurant parking lot by telling us that she played rock, paper, scissors for the first time in her life a couple of days earlier. I was surprised and jokingly asked if she hadn’t learned the game in Germany before coming to the US. My son interjected that her family probably had more important things to worry about, like “finding the first flight out of Frankfurt in 1939.” Quickly, his grandmother corrected him saying, “We took a boat, there were no planes to the US that we could take.”
“I didn’t do very well in the game” she said. “I kept throwing out the scissors and got beaten by rocks.” We had a very nice lunch.
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