* A Note: People who write letters to the editor to their small town newspapers are generally crazy old coots. That may be true of my dad, but he makes some solid points nonetheless. As those who have heard me talk about my dad ad nauseam on the radio already know, he was an auto mechanic for 35 years (alternators, generators and starters) and now tutors kids part-time. He probably reads a couple books a week, as well as renting out his services to whack the weeds from neighboring lawns for $50. He is my idol. And possibly a crazy, old coot. Here is a letter he wrote to the venerable Record-Bee:
Letter to the editor:
A few weeks ago I went to Los Angeles to be with my daughter and son-in-law at the birth of their first child (and my first grandchild). It would be a C-section and we knew that going in: A week before, my daughter was handed a sonogram which said “Frank Breech.” Her first thought was that she had gotten the sonogram of the wrong child, a child named “Frank Breech.” She was soon to realize that “frank breech” means the baby is lined up to come out feet first, just the opposite of ideal.
The night before the surgery they took me to see the new Michael Moore movie, Capitalism, A Love Story. The movie had a newsreel of FDR, filmed a year before his death, earnestly expressing his vision of the fulfillment of the New Deal. FDR enumerated four things that every American should have: healthcare, decent housing, a decent job, and an education. That is the legacy I want to leave for my grandson. And, I want that for all children.
Then I thought, “what good are all these things if there is no planet?” And, how can we do any of these things while our precious resources and genius and life are spent on the folly of foreign wars?
What to do? I am prone to get self-righteous: I ride my bicycle to work a few days a week, I don’t eat meat, I go to Democratic Club Meetings, I occasionally volunteer to help. I tell people about what a champ I am (and, by implication, what losers they are) and it all makes me feel good. However, the reality is that I have not made a damn bit of difference. This thought leads to a “pity party.” But, then I remember the words of Norman Mailer, “self-effacement is the worst manifestation of the ego.” The other side of “self-righteous” is “I suck.”
But, they are two side of the same coin and only cause my mountain bike tires to spin. That having been said, I feel that I should try to work toward some worthy ideals. And, as the character of Shirley McLaine put it in the movies, “There aren’t that many shopping days ‘til Christmas.”
Somehow, I began to think about Lech Walensa and the Solidarity movement in Poland during the Cold War. At one time, I had thought that the movement spontaneously grew out of the working class. I was to find out later that that the movement was born at a meeting of a few college professors. “Solidarity” was born as an idea. Maybe, what we need are ideas.
However, many of the folks that have ideas have those ideas influenced by corporate power (money). Most of the elected leaders that I see on TV are gray haired men, widening at the girth, wearing big shiny rings, drooling with self-satisfaction, and taking care to do and say the things that will perpetuate their time in office.
So, here is my thought: change must come from the bottom (us). We need some ideas to fuel that change, and as starters, what better ideas than those propounded by FDR? I think that most of us could rally around those four crucial ideas. When my grandson or better yet, all our grandchildren ask us what we were doing when the dream soured, we better have an answer.