Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Father's Vote

We called him Daddy. Today, election day, November 4th, 2008, I'm thinking about him and asking myself the question: Would he agree with my vote? I believe he would. In this limited space I will attempt to explain why I believe that.

Daddy was born in 1909 and spent most of his life in a small farming community in Gibson County, Indiana. His early years were spent on Granddad's farm, doing chores from a very early age until he graduated. He married mom in 1929 in Flint, Michigan where he worked at a Buick plant for $7.00 a day. The stock market crash of 1929 sent him back to Gibson County to find work. He worked hard from his childhood years through World War I and the Great Depression, earning only enough for a roof over his family's head, heat and food on the table. He lived back then in what today we would call a shack, but in those times it was better than others lived. Things were better by the time I came along, but not by much. He knew poverty, hard work and hard times unlike we, his children, have ever known even though we cannot be considered rich. The poorest of us will still be considered middle-income, while he never rose to that level. He did live comfortably, however, when he finally did retire on my oldest sister's farm. There, I believe, he finally was at peace and happy with his situation where he was able to spend time with his children, grandchildren. and great grandchildren.

I hope you get a picture of him up to this point. You can't say that he was not ambitious or that he did not take opportunities to make a better life. His ambitions were different than the typical "get ahead" ambitions that you typically think of today. His ambition fit his values. His values were family centered and based on goodwill among friends. He was described by his high school classmates as "gentle" and usually occupied at "being polite" and his chief aim in life was "to do what is right." I don't recall him being or doing any differently. I don't recall him saying a mean word about anyone nor do I recall anyone saying a bad word about him. He treated everyone with respect and trust and I believe he expected the same treatment in return. He sincerely believed that one should treat others as he would have them treat him. I know of two people who took advantage of him because of his trusting nature. In both cases he was very upset, not, I believe, at what they had done, but because they had taken advantage of him. The worst he called them was "peckerwood" and then he dismissed them from his life with "I have no use for him (or her)." I don't recall him bringing up their names ever again.

Daddy's response to something said that he didn't agree with was nearly always, "well." That single word usually stopped the discussion because he gave no other response. He said nothing more about whatever subject was being discussed. When we criticized someone, he more than likely would wrap his arm around your shoulder, laugh jokingly, and ask, "When did you walk in his (or her) shoes?" That too stopped the criticism. When we complained about something that had happened, his response was, "no use crying over spilt milk," which also stopping the complaining. He always looked forward, never behind.

So, his ambitions were to live each day doing the right thing the best he could for whom ever he could. He sincerely believed in the goodwill of people. I think I can honestly say that he succeeded in achieving his ambitions each day where a friendly greeting or a favor done was more gratifying than a pocket full of money gained through trickery and ill will. In all his dependence on the goodwill of others, he would recognize the greed of today's corporations and the ill will and contempt they display toward the general public. He would call them peckerwoods. He would also see the connection of corporate greed to the government policies of the past 20 or so years and he would, after some time, identify the responsible political party. He would not be one to listen to talk shows that constantly criticize either, such as Hannity and Colmes, Bill O'Rielly or Rush Limbauh, for they too would become peckerwoods in his opinion. He would dismiss them from his life. His news sources would be good information sources. He would likely stick with ABC, CBS or NBC and he would more likely listen to or watch PBS than not. So, he would be better informed than many. He would develop well balanced opinions but he would not be vocally opinionated on most issues. He would, however, staunchly stand by the Constitutional equal treatment of people. Any attempt to change the Constitution may be the only thing that would prompt him to be more vocal and in fact may make him angrier than any of us have ever witnessed. He would, in that case, expect and in fact insist that people respect the Constitution because it is a document of goodwill toward all people. He would, I believe angrily, oppose any change that would treat anyone with discrimination, no matter the reason for the proposed change.

I have no doubt that he would vote. His opinion, I believe, would be that if you didn't vote then you have nothing to complain about if the vote turns out different than you like. His response would be that if you didn't walk it, then don't talk it. He may have the prejudices of his Gibson County, Indiana environment regarding black candidates for high office, but I also believe that his assessment of the goodwill and good heart of a candidate would overcome his prejudices. To my knowledge he never used the "n" word, or any other derogatory word, to describe blacks or any other race. He would vote for Obama. I'm glad that he would.

As I reread what I've written above, I think that belief in the goodwill between people is one of the corner stones to Daddy's soul and belief. In fact, I knew of several men in that little community where I was raised who displayed similar beliefs. Those men who worked at or owned Marvel's Hardware, Doc Strickland's Drug Store, Yeager's Gas Station, Tudy's Garage and others held beliefs greater than making a dollar off your neighbor; they believed in the goodwill of their community and country and doing everything they could do to support those entities. That fulfilled their ambition. Goodwill was of greater value than the dollar. They would not need to wear a flag lapel pin to show their allegiance or to fly the flag at their home. Their allegiance to their country was understood and was in their everyday actions toward their neighbors, community and country. I don't know that they would all vote for Obama, but most would. Of all of the places in this world that I've visited, and there are many, I'm very happy and feel very fortunate that I was born and raised in my family in that small town in Indiana. I hope that goodwill among people that I witnessed there returns as a keystone in our beliefs and actions to our neighbors, community, country and world.

Today, when America is faced with unbelievable problems caused mostly by men of ill will and contempt, I want to thank you, Daddy, for teaching me to vote for goodwill and hope.

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