I filed income taxes when I was thirteen. Really. The summer of 1974 was the year I made the leap from only earning money via yard work and babysitting to also punching a time-clock in a part-time job. I have a long history of work, mainly retail but also as a public school teacher, and in most of my work settings discussing politics was or is completely inappropriate.
Oh, if a like minded customer would bring up politics first I would agree with my politically attuned customer but nowhere in my job description is there a mandate to challenge customers’ personal beliefs. And yet, in August of 2019, I did just that. In fact, I told a customer to shut up.
Though I have strong recollections of 1968’s Nixon versus Humphrey presidential race I wasn’t old enough to vote until Ronald Reagan defeated James Earl Carter in Jimmy’s re-election campaign. I’d turned 18 in 1979 and before graduating from Montgomery County Maryland’s Sherwood High I had registered to vote.
Voter registration was facilitated by a school drive aimed at high school seniors, a fantastic program that encouraged the youth vote. The only difficult part of my first voter registration was choosing a political party. Maryland, like seven of the eight states in which I have lived since reaching voting age, had a Closed Primary, meaning that only registered Republicans could vote on the Republican primary ballot while only Democrats could vote on the Democrat one so choosing “D” or “R” had consequences beyond perceived personal preference. Primaries matter and in Closed Primary states being an “I” gives one less voting power than declaring Donkey or Elephant.
I remained a registered Republican up through the 2016 general election. My Republican tendencies were more RINO than fundamental but one thing remained, I just couldn’t embrace many of the economic policies of the Democrat party. As the primary race commenced my preferred Republican candidate was John Kasich, who dropped out of the race before Florida’s primary election and, as a never Trumper, I chose to vote Rubio.
Once the primaries were through and the parties had determined a Trump versus Clinton general election I became a vociferous “Vote Hillary!” kinda guy. Clinton’s view for America differed wildly from my own but I held my nose, stashed my ego and voted H.C.
P.S. Hillary lost the electoral vote and Trump became Commander In Chief of the USA.
Since Trump’s Presidency I believe the country has become more divided than it has been at any other time since my birth in 1961. While the turbulent sixties were more openly violent, Trump’s reign has fostered greater discord and disharmony over the Presidency per-say, bar none. Knowing this background it may surprise you that it was an ardent fellow Never Trumper who I called out, who I literally told to shut up.
Gavrilo and I met in the beginning of 2018 and I have assisted him many times in the ensuing months. We tend to stick to business but knowing his penchant for regular pedicures we’ve bonded over silly things like me showing him pictures of my glitter painted toenails following my second in eight years paw pampering.
In need of a quick bit of mechanical assistance I rolled Gavrilo’s bike back to the service department as I walked with him. It was in the semi-seclusion of the service department where Gavrilo finished his diatribe concerning Trump’s MAGAtrocity du jour with, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but what we really need is a good assassin.”
Flabbergasted I said, “Shut up right there. Violence begets violence and the last thing the US needs is fuel for our simmering pot. You need to never say that again. You want to say, ‘I go to bed every night hoping Trump dies peacefully in his sleep,’ then I’m 100% with you. Every morning when I check the news I hope the banner headline will be just that but violence is not the answer.”
Contrite and mollified Gavrilo said, “I know, I know. But what if I don’t want him to die peacefully in his sleep?”
“Then say it anyway. I am a huge believer in non-violence and I believe my wish for him to die peacefully passes the Quaker test.”
“Yes, yes. You’re right,” he acknowledged, “I’ll try.”
“It’s vital that we don’t become his darkness. We must be our light,” I replied.
“Well,” Gavrilo answered, “perhaps he will die peacefully in his sleep tonight.”
“From your lips to God’s ear,” I agreed, ushering Gavrilo and his ready to ride bicycle to the cash-register.
These are trying times and we can create the world we want or we can accept Trump’s divide and conquer world of pitting class against class, race against race, and brother against sister. We can win through love or we can lose through hate. I know which path I will try to follow and I hope and pray all of you do the same. We must be the light we need, not the darkness that surrounds.