Thursday, March 8

Completely Irrelevant

It's in the Capital Times that "George McGovern has a word for Vice President Dick Cheney: 'Resign'."

After reading the headline, memories come back. Ah, yes, McGovern, the democrat who ran against Nixon in '72. I then thought two things:

  1. He's still around, eh?
  2. Why is this important?
Not to be mean.

Of course, I wasn't around until the middle of Reagan's second term so I don't remember any of that. A few years ago, my mother was going through a box of old stuff, really old stuff, and there was a large manila envelope with "McGovern/Shriver '72" as the return address. I opened it and there was a letter and a large, signed photograph of George, himself.

With disbelief I asked her what was going on, knowing that she votes republican. Turns out, when she was in high school, she and grandma went to help out with that campaign for a day or two. Their task was to "open envelopes and collect the money that fell out". "People sent in piles and piles of envelopes."

I then said something about how successful that campaign was. She used the excuse that grandma is a democrat so she dragged her along, or something like that.

Mom and grandma have a lot of neat stories like that because my grandparents lived in Washington, D.C., or "D.C." as they call it, for most of their lives.

My mom told me about how the nuns told them to put their heads on their desks and pray for JFK when it happened in 1963. Or she'd be walking to her high school on Capitol Hill and she would see a 'young' Ted Kennedy walk by. (Seems he's as much of a Capitol fixture as the dome.) Also, she told me about how she had the Beatles' records "up until they got druggy and people stopped listening" and how high interest rates were "so high people stopped having kids" during Carter's time.

I first heard a lot of this stuff when I was in AP U.S. History in high school. I had an advantage over the other students by asking my family about recent events. In class the teacher was into modern history and I was the only student who knew who Spiro T. was, and who ran against Nixon, and who and what Mondale, Goldwater, Humphrey, and Ferraro were. Also how LBJ drove like a madman in Texas and picked up his dogs by their ears.

Grandma, born in the year the stock market crashed, is great for the random history bits. (Did you know that when it crashed it went from around 400 to around 100?) Grandma remembers when Pearl Harbor happened, and FDR's fireside chats. One thing in particular is that she told me it used to be a DC tradition to go to Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. One time she and her family were there and FDR rode by in a convertible and waved at them.

People who were around tell it like it was. None of this modern handwringing revisionism. She knows and would tell you we had to drop the bomb. Or that she was the first child in her family to be born in the U.S.; they were from Germany. And her mom refused to teach, even to speak German to them. "We're Americans now, act like it."

It's neat to hear about those random moments from people who were around, especially while they're still around.

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