Ode to (Some of) my Classmates: Have You Lost Your Minds?

After 50 years, I’m coming right out and saying what I feel.

Shredded Ideals Photo by Diane Nilan

Plans are in the hopper for my (gulp!) 50th anniversary of our high school graduation. Our Facebook page holds the details, inspiring pre-reunion recollections from eons ago.

Darkness Selfie Photo by Diane Nilan

To no surprise, we are discovering political differences among the class of ’68. Our generation witnessed unprecedented historic events and tragedies even before we walked across the stage.

My memory of my high school years is that I had significant differences, mostly unstated, with many of my classmates. My plans to enter the convent (short-lived) differed from many of your plans to grab life by the sail.

Now, with tensions over our country’s treatment of migrants on our southern border exploding, and criticism of the White House chief occupant rising, I find myself unable to respond directly to one of my classmate’s recent posts, so I’m doing it here.

She pleaded for sanity on behalf of 45. He needs to be given a chance to do his job, and he can’t do that because…

Every other President before he was elected, that took the oath of office, was left alone, wasn’t on the news 24/7, scrutinized by their every word. ALWAYS BEING PRESSURED to do this or that & never given the time to take care of the important work this country really needs. I know he is not perfect, very different than what we’ve become accustomed to but ENOUGH is ENOUGH, LEAVE THE MAN ALONE & LET HIM DO HIS JOB!!
None of the other Presidents in their times were spotless or perfect either. I want our President Donald Trump to succeed & try to make our America great again.

I groaned aloud when I read that. And fumed. And pondered. And decided to act — by writing. This.

My motivation to put my thoughts into words is not political nor to argue what I consider disputable points. For the past 3 decades I’ve worked with persons experiencing homelessness, the epitome of poverty if you will. That span of time has seen Democratic and Republican presidents who have unleashed a bipartisan attack on those in poverty.

Far from political motivations, I’m horrified at the direction of our country, especially as we’ve seen under the current administration. While some continue to extol his leadership, a growing number of pundits and ordinary people are expressing growing concerns about what may likely be a full-blown slip into 21st Century fascism. The Hitler-inspired way of doing things. Hatred. Violence.

I’m more than dismazed that many of us have forgotten our history lessons. To my classmates: we didn’t pay enough attention in Mr. Baker’s American History class.

For my part, I’ve learned plenty about civics in the decades I’ve been involved in poverty and homelessness issues, getting laws passed to help homeless kids get into school and to fend off attacks on essential assistance for those with nothing. It changed my ways of looking at my privileged life.

Plenty has been written about the current crisis of handling the influx of migrants and refugees on our south border. I’m not going to confuse these issues.

Let me share the words of another history teacher, “teacherken” who shared a desperation post, trying to jar sense into those still capable of discerning right and wrong.

What we cannot allow to continue is the incremental eroding of democracy and liberty.

We cannot afford the continuing transfer of wealth to the already wealthy and powerful and in the process severely hurting the neediest among us.

He also quoted Herbert H. Humphrey, our nation’s vice president while we were in high school. j y

It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

Classmates, you may be surprised to learn that some of the incredible religious women who taught us and formed our character back in high school would vehemently disagree with your assessment of what you purport as persecution of this current president.

I spoke with several of them recently, and the topic of our current “administration” came up. I held my breath. And was heartened to hear an across the board denunciation of the policies and practices that have shattered lives of decent humans worldwide since January 2018.

Since I didn’t take notes of the conversations, let me just summarize: They have no use for him and his cabinet secretaries and his judicial picks. They were across the board appalled.

One made an uncharacteristically brash statement when it came to a woman’s right to choose. “Oh, those Bishops!” And she went on to denounce the anti-abortion position of the Catholic Church and beyond.

Let me state that these women, in their 90s+, appear to be of sound mind (despite all the challenges we and thousands of others put them through).

Again, it’s not party politics for me. It’s political decisions that ravage millions of people (not to mention environment, health care, peace, and many other issues). What kind of decisions? Here’s just a few:

School day Photo by Diane Nilan

You may not grasp the impact government policies and priorities have on people in poverty. I’ve seen firsthand how lives are devastated when homelessness and poverty shatter the potential of children and adults. I could rant and rave about how our federal government is creating massive hardship for millions, claiming we don’t have the money to house, feed, and provide health care for vulnerable kids and adults, yet Congress passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

None of this will change the minds of those unable to get beyond the bitter rhetoric infesting our media, social and otherwise. But I could not let this opportunity to weigh in pass.

In high school and now, still a major influence in my life, Peter, Paul and Mary’s music. Their Have You Been to Jail for Justice resonates:

You law abiding citizens
Come listen to this song
Laws are made by people
And people can be wrong
Once unions were against the law
But slavery was fine
Women were denied the vote
While children worked the mine
The more you study history
The less you can deny it
A rotten law stays on the books
’til folks with guts defy it!

I’ve seen plenty of injustice in my lifetime. I’m not sitting back and letting this latest round roll over us like a tank.

Next decision — do I go to the reunion or not?

Have we lost our way? FDR Photo by Diane Nilan

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 15 yrs. on US backroads.

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