I miss my Dad’s brand of Republican.
(A guest post from Margaret Lewis, friend of Forward Kentucky – Editor)
He was an Ike man, through and through. He did vote for that red-headed Kennedy. He liked him. Thought about his service during the war, and loved that he was an Irish Catholic…like a huge portion of our family. He identified with Kennedy on some level.
Other than JFK, Dad was a dyed-in-the-wool boot-strap Republican. His brand of Republicanism was much different than today’s. As a matter of fact, if you were to chart him out today, he’d have far more in common with centrist Democrats, although he would chaff at such a label.
You see, he believed deeply in what FDR did, but he knew it had to be managed sharply. He saw how all those projects brought electricity and bridges and better rail travel to the nation. He didn’t like the military industrial complex. He believed the only time you went to war was when you were attacked. He supported the Marshal Plan, forgave the German people, feared the Russians, and worried mightily about a nuclear war.
He thought women were smarter than men, men were physically stronger than women, and sex wasn’t just good, but something holy between two people…private and nobody’s business. Same was true about medical conditions and contraception. Between the woman, her doctor, and her God, none of his business.
We didn’t talk about ProLife or ProChoice. “It’s up to you and God.” he’d say. And I understood what he meant completely.
He didn’t like Nixon, although he did vote for him. I remember when Nixon left office, he was not surprised. “He’s a crook and a little bit nuts.” he said.
He detested the Vietnam war, but he never said a word against it. The look on his face was all that was necessary. He didn’t like that I openly opposed the war, but other than tease me about being a pinko commie…sort of a joke between us, he mostly left that alone as well as my budding feminist leanings.
You see, he believed in leaving folks alone. It was not necessary for him to dominate the political leanings one way or the other. He respected freedom of thought, critical thinking, and logical analysis. It did not frighten him if I held a differing opinion, I just had to be good at articulating that opinion if I wished to state it. “It better have legs,” he’d say.
I wasn’t damned to hell, although he might disinherit me, which he did 8 times, but that was because he could and he always took it back. One time, I told him, it meant nothing to me and that if he wanted to take my portion and donate it to the Hopi Indians I’d be okay with that. He just laughed at me. He knew I’d become as contrary as he was.
He believed in things being fair and square. He was racist, that is true, but he also believed that “separate but equal” was a lie and had to stop. A man of his times, conflicted more than anything else, and in the south, that would make him a liberal in some people’s eyes.
He believed not in preaching ideas into one’s head, but showing by example. The doing of a thing meant more to him than fancy words or heated rhetoric. It’s the fire, not the smoke that matters.
He was independent, but he understood the importance of interdependence. He knew, especially in a farming community, you had to work together to raise a barn, to build a house, to bring in the hay before the rain. He knew sometimes folks lost a crop, had an equipment failure that could lose them their farm if folks didn’t pitch in.
Honesty, integrity, honor, and duty were not just ideas, they were how you lived. And if you didn’t you were shirking your responsibility to your community, your family, and to yourself. It was your duty to be your brother’s keeper and to give him a hand up if you could. It was your honor to give the best of yourself to that which you love whether it was your country, your kin, or the mate of your life. And both were done with honesty and an authentic sense of self…integrity.
Yes, my Dad was that kind of Republican… and I miss it so.