November 9th, 2016


I was brought up as a Republican.  But this was in the 1940’s and 50’s, when the parties were a lot different from today.  The Republican party, in Des Plaines, Ill. was a liberal party on social issues.  The Democratic Party had its vice-grip on Chicago, the big bad bear to the southeast, and was, even the party would admit at the time, exceeding corrupt.

Mom was active in the League of Women Voters, and believed strongly in as many people voting as possible; everyone should be voting, even the blind, the lame, the drunk.  Dad ran for city council (and lost, in the primary) on a liberal platform.  Mom helped run the Migrant School (which see), and both Mom and Dad were thoroughly cosmopolitan, though not advanced beyond the times they lived in (see Dad’s later reaction to my gayness).  There were gay actors living in our house, and lesbian lovers living in Boggin’s house.  Mom was aghast when, in the 6th grade, I reported that the teacher had put up a large “Welcome Back, General Mac” poster, when Truman had fired MacArthur for insubordination [he advocated, loudly and at length, bombing China]  in Korea.  When Toshio Suda, the janitor at our church, wanted to buy a house, it was my mother who led the fight against the bigots who wanted to prevented him from buying into the neighborhood.  When I was still in grade school, Mom gave me John Hersey’s Hiroshima to read.

In high school, my political awareness began to really gel.  My parents had always subscribed to the Saturday Review of Literature, the New Yorker; I found free subscriptions to both right- and left-wing publications (see A Visit from the FBI).

Wabash College was a political backwater for me; politics was a subject not much discussed there — perhaps because there was too diverse a student body: many yankee rich kids in a small southern town.  But in my “gap year,” as I began to come out of my shell, I was also more open to different peoples and ideas.  Just the trip every week to visit Dr. Deutch was an education, taking public transportation around the city.  Falling in love with Federico made me more radical and open-minded.  In that job in the art department, I bought the NY Times on my work every day.  I was incensed over the bomb shelter frenzy; that was a crazy idea.  And the slow, gradual buildup of “advisers” in Viet Nam, an obvious entry into a war that we had no business interfering in, made me aghast.

The death — assassination — of John F. Kennedy hit me hard: sort of like, ‘Why bother, if it can all be so easily taken away?’   But Goldwater was scary —- not only for his militarizm, but his far, far right-wing proposed policies: doing away with Social Security, ending poverty programs, privatising public constructions like highways, etc.  So, though I had just turned 21 and only a couple of months earlier I had move to New York, I went down to the Johnson headquarters and stuffed envelopes for a few days.  And then I voted.

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