How Politics Is Hitting Home, Or In Ralph’s Case How It Isn’t

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Living through this political season has been a more emotional experience than in past election years for three reasons.

 

One

Obviously the candidates have raised strong reactions. Like so many others, I have VERY STRONG opinion. I don’t want to be coy here—I dislike Trump to put it mildly while my enthusiasm for Hilary has been growing as the campaign evolves. But living where I do, in a smallish, very conservative southern town, voicing opinions can be risky. I have plenty of friends who I am sure have different political opinions. Usually our differences have been the basis for lively discussions. But this year we are all careful around each other, too careful. Friendships may be at risk in this climate.

 

 

Two

Hearing the rhetoric from all sides has set me thinking about my experience of family as a microcosm of the larger community experience, and specifically about how my family represents of today’s America.

My grandchildren through Ralph’s son by his first marriage visited this summer. It was a big deal because they live with their mother in Namibia (in southwestern Africa) so don’t get here often. And when they come they split their time among a lot of people—us, Ralph’s first wife and family, plus relatives of our ex-daughter-in-law. There are grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins in a never-ending stream. Often the question of who gets to visit for how long causes tensions. But this year we worked the schedule out, and our extended families came together for various cookouts and bbqs.

Today I glanced at the photograph from one of those gatherings—I have blacked out the faces to protect the innocent and guilty—and saw a world: Caucasian, African-American, American Indian, Goan Indian, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Atheist, Straight, Gay, Old, Young, Middle Aged, Careers in Business, Education, the Arts and Health Care, Long Married, Single, and formerly married (Ralph and his first wife). My proud, rather self-righteous thought was what a poster family we are for the United States but then I realized we are probably a fairly run-of-the-mill mash up in today’s America.

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Three

For the first time since he was a fourteen year old and his best friend’s mother involved him in her political activism, Ralph is watching the election from the sidelines. Even as recently as four years ago, when he’d already started to show symptoms of cognitive impairment, he actively and somewhat vociferously followed politics. I have previously written that Ralph’s political views have softened—from a hard-line socialist to a hard-line libertarian back to somewhere in the moderate middle—but this election has thrown his changing concern for the world at large into stark relief.

As he says with a chuckle whenever politics comes up, “I’m not really following.” And he’s not. He has decided he likes Hillary and doesn’t like Donald, but also has trouble remembering they are running against each other. As for the issues, he nods when I pontificate or voice outrage but then, like a kid caught stealing a cookie, he admits he’s not really been paying attention. The problem is that there are too many details to hold on to. Analysis requires remembering layers of thought. So does nuance. Ralph is great at remembering certain stories of his own and even lots of facts, but when he listens to sentences that should add up to someone else’s story, or argument, he gets lost. Therefore he steers away from stories and arguments.

But this may be my limited explanation of his disinterest. He would disagree. “Been there, done that,” he’d laugh before explaining that he’s simply over politics, the same way he’s over fishing and boating and business, because he’s been deeply involved in each and now he’s moved on. I am careful not to ask moved on to what?

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12 thoughts on “How Politics Is Hitting Home, Or In Ralph’s Case How It Isn’t

    1. Thanks Joy. Not sure whether to laugh or cry over that altercation. I am grateful that Ralph and I are not at odds over this election. That would be incredibly difficult. Our six years of extreme political disagreement was no fun….

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  1. I will tip toe through the minefield of commenting too much about politics. This is an election that seems to have pushed a lot of strong and conflicting opinions out into the open on a lot of issues. The polls suggest that there are a lot of Trump supporters out there, and I mean no offense to any who follow this blog.

    However, last month during one of my neuropsychological testing sessions my psychologist asked me the usual time-place-orientation questions that MCI patients always are asked about the date, what city we are in, and the names of our Governor and President. I got them all right. But then I warned her that I would not be able to bring myself to answer “Trump” when I saw her in 2017 even if he wins the election.

    More seriously, I would make the observation that I haven’t seen any reports of any candidate for any office, state or federal, who has even mentioned an issue that probably is important to all of us. Even for those of us (sadly, not me) who had the funds and foresight to purchase long term care insurance, the cost of institutional care for AD usually is devastating. At least when my Mom passed in 2010, there were no state or federal programs to help pay for that care. The list of societal problems that are worthy of spending tax dollars is long, even if we can’t all agree what should be on the list. However, helping out the families forced to underwrite the end care of a loved one whose only crime is to live long enough to get dementia should at least be enough of an issue to be discussed at election time – although I’m clearly self interested in saying so. Baby boomers, arise!

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    1. Thanks for your usual insightful addition to the conversation. I do think I remember Alzheimer’s being mentioned in at least one speech at the Democratic convention, but there were so many that I could not tell you who brought it up. You are right that long term care coverage is a huge issue. We were very lucky. Because my mother lived with us and I saw the value of even her limited insurance, I made sure Ralph and I bought coverage early on, locking into a low rate. The insurance we got is no longer available. And the need for late life care is about to explode.

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  2. Dad lost interest in politics (not long after he learned Tony Blair had lied about weapons of mass destruction) but he did perk up for the Independence referendum in Scotland, for which he had been a lifelong supporter. It was one of the hardest things to tell him that Independence was not going to happen. He was devastated – and it was the only time I blessed his memory loss.
    I don’t usually comment on other countries’ politics but I’ve been watching more about American politics recently than ever before. Watching The Donald is like when you drive past a terrible car crash and can’t help but take another look.

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    1. Mary, have I ever mentioned that Ralph’s son makes his living making kilts and is a serious bagpiper. Ralph and I spent much of our one trip to Scotland looking for some hard to find accessory for him. And yes, re car crash analogy, only from here it is worse. I feel as if I am standing around the crash site wondering if there’s anything I can do but mostly counting bodies….

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      1. No, you didn’t tell me about Ralph’s son being a kiltmaker and piper. I hope you were able to enjoy your trip to Scotland in between tracking down the elusive accessory.

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      2. Oh yes, especially my sighting of Nessie–driving at dusk along the lake after a lovely pub dinner, two out of six of us in the car saw the curve rise and slither down below the surface. I was designated driver so absolutely sober I promise. Actually that whole trip is a wonderful family memory I haven’t thought of for a while. Thanks for putting a smile on my face. (And the food was terrific too.)

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  3. Oh, this hits home! Such a talk-worthy political season, and J cannot hold any of the details, either. I so miss her succint commentary and thoughtful perspective – especially in this unusual year. Breaks my heart.
    Thanks for writing.

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