Our Family’s History in Politics (Hint: We’re Not a Dynasty)

1972-74: My husband and I are mesmerized by Watergate.  When we finally get what we want (Richard Nixon’s resignation), I am elated, then saddened.  I realize that some of the best days of our lives may be over.  Oh — but at least we’ve accomplished something!  Permanent political reform.  Right?

1980-present: We finally get around to voting at a later age than normal.  Over the next decades, my husband and I will often cancel out each other’s votes.  This provides endless conversational fodder and I-told-you-so’s. 

1990s: We live in Dallas.  This is fine, except for a few heated political and/or religious exchanges:

      * We put an Ann Richards sign in our front yard.  The next day, we receive an anonymous post card saying: Please!  Your sign is so contrary to Park Cities standards.  The next day, we put up two Ann Richards signs in our front yard.  We also wonder what kind of class act sends anonymous post cards.

      * Every time their classes hold mock elections, our children are the only little Democrats.  One day, our son is surrounded by classmates demanding to know whether we go to church and, if so, which church we go to.  “I told them I worship Satan,” he reports to me later.  I note that some people might take that information a bit too seriously.  We talk about alternative responses in the future.

     * I get into what I consider a fun-loving political argument with our next-door neighbor.  Later, my husband reveals he was fearful our neighbor was going to attack me with his rake.

      * Our son dresses up as a Republican for Halloween, going door-to-door in a little three-piece suit with his hair slicked down and carrying a briefcase for his candy.  He gets more candy than any other kid in the neighborhood.

2000 (now in Austin, where we can have friendly political discussions in our neighborhoods without getting into fistfights): I am extremely bitter about the contested 2000 election.  When my husband and I are invited to one of the inaugural balls in Washington, D.C., I throw the invitations in the trash.  A few days later, I hear those suckers are selling on Ebay for $3,000 apiece.  I am newly embittered.

2002: My husband gives $1.98 to the Republican Party so he’ll receive mailings to see what the conservatives are up to.  Every time he receives a plea for more money accompanied by a stamped, addressed envelope, he dismantles a piece of a broken ceiling fan, tapes the envelope to it, and mails it at our local post office.  He always attaches a note saying “I’m a big fan of the Republican Party.”  After three fan blades have evidently been received by the Republicans, the post office turns surly.  Future fan blades are returned to our front door with a friendly warning to cut it out.

2004: Our daughter signs up to work for Howard Dean in the New Hampshire primary.  January in New Hampshire is too cold.  She moves to South Carolina to work for him there.

2005: Our son vacates an apartment and moves home temporarily.  Coming into the house from the garage, I see a man standing in our kitchen.  I proceed to have a near-fatal breakdown, till I realize the “man” isn’t moving.  He is, as it turns out, a lifesize cardboard cutout of George W. Bush, which was previously housed at our son’s apartment.  “We knew that would scare you to death!” he and his friend Rob chortle.

2008: We can’t talk about anything but the ’08 elections — the two of us, the four of us, with friends, with acquaintances, with total strangers.  This makes me a little nervous.  When it’s all over — will it be just like Watergate?  A great joy, followed by years of continuing disappointment?  Don’t tell me the answer.  I don’t think I want to know.

How to Get What You Want for Valentine’s Day KUT commentary by Ruth Pennebaker: http://kut.org/items/show/11609

Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker

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