My dear friend, Richie Rothstein, passed away two years ago. A year or so after he died, I went to visit his wife. She handed me an envelope full of pictures that Richie had taken while we were both students at SUNY New Paltz. I was surprised to see a slew of photographs of George McGovern, taken during a campus visit in the early seventies. I felt almost a bit ashamed by the fact that the event apparently meant so much to Richie, yet nothing to me. My priorities during college did not include politics.I was already in my thirties the first time I exercised my right to vote. My second husband was a former Air Force Captain who awakened me to my responsibilities as a citizen. Once I voted in my first presidential election, I realized what a privilege it was and I have never missed an election since. Every four years, I voted for the person who I felt best represented my beliefs. Some years it was a Democrat, others it was a Republican. I honestly never felt the need to pledge allegiance to one side or the other. Sometimes my candidate won, sometimes he didn’t. But whoever won became my president for the next four years and to me, he was the person in charge.
The political climate in this country has changed and it seems you are no longer allowed to straddle the fence. I sometimes feel as if I am back to being a kid, once again playing Red Rover. I despised that game. As a slow runner and a puny girl, I simply didn’t have the strength to ever succeed at it. Before I knew what was happening, I would get picked for a side (often the last pick) and the next thing I knew I was interlocking arms with the rest of my “team”, unsure if those were the people with whom I should be aligned. Why couldn’t they have some non-intrusive positions in that game, like a line judge or umpire? I wanted to be the person that settled disputes and pointed out the strengths of both teams.I feel the same way about politics. Forward thinkers exist within each party; it’s just a matter of getting them to work together. Yet it seems if we express an opinion on any issue, we are automatically associated with a particular party. The scary part is that those affiliated with the other party react as if we have contracted leprosy. I honestly have friends among whom I am afraid to express my opinion for fear of being ostracized. It all has become black and white, or actually red and blue, and apparently gray has been completely eradicated from the color spectrum.
I am fearful about the direction we are headed and envision a complete division of our country based on political beliefs. But how will the division be achieved? One group lives in states that start with the letters A to M while the opposing side takes N to Z? Will it be east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet? Will some go to the mountains and others to the prairies? Let’s just go back to the civil war division, no sense reinventing the wheel. But I’ve got dibs on the south since I want to be near my grandchildren.