I’ve been thinking a lot about the jokes people make these days now that we are living in this modern age of discord. It seems as if the Late Night bits have become like Law and Order parodies. The news is even more disturbing and repetitive. I think most of us with sane heads know that it’s time to hunker down, go to the polls and call your Congress people. Since these narratives around our current state of political affairs are so numb, empty and stinging, I am going to be writing a few articles with stories that are different. These are the rare stories in the constant media feed that have made me feel differently about 45, the end of American Empire and bubbling global tensions that leave me in fear of disaster. This first one is a story about my Nana, Elaine.
Over break, I took my Nana out to lunch to a local sandwich shop in my hometown of Marblehead, MA. She is a small woman but she has a loud voice that fills up the room. I feel I should say, as to not sound like I’m trying to depict myself as the “dotting grandson,” one of the most important reasons I like to spend time with my Nana is that she is, and has always been, an unending source of unconditional love and support to me. For me, spending time with her is like spending time with the most optimistic voice in my head—only an elegant elderly Jewish woman. All I mean to say is, I think we both get a lot out of the deal.
After talking about my study abroad experience and school plans, we started talking about the current events and the now all too familiar somberness fell over us both. My Nana often brings written questions to our lunches and asks me about things she reads and hears on the news. It was very interesting to be as confused about the future as my grandparent. On television, elders are depicted as set, unwavering and comfortable. To hear my grandmother express the same confusions and disillusionment as I have was painful and scary. I told her that I felt like there were no more adults and she nodded. I felt unsettled at her agreement, I had expected a rebuttal.
Moments like these make me think about history. I am so privileged to be able to have a person like my Nana to talk to about these historic times we live in. She grew up in the Jewish immigrant community on the North Shore of Boston, worked as a school librarian and raised a full household of children with my late Grandfather in the same town where I grew up. She has seen in her lifetime awesome war, redemption, heartache and triumph, some of the greatest in our country’s history.
We were nearing the ends of our sandwiches and she sighed.
“I just want to be able to see him out of office. That’s all I want.”
My heart broke. My grandmother has had some health difficulties in recent months. I felt guilt for my country. I felt like my grandmother was let down by the American experiment that had delivered her an admirable life. The balancing act that our country maintained for so long toward progress under Obama has spiraled out of control and leaves our lives and the world in turmoil. Despite my Grandmother’s many privileges, the fractured ground of modern American political understanding has revealed all the ways we are failing our mission as Americans even to someone like her. DACA, the wall, s***hole countries, trans lives, black lives, one moral humiliation after another in this country. I know I am selfish for saying this, but I do not know if all American people deserve better than this. Hateful and willfully ignorant elements poison the rest of this house. Most of us want justice though even if we don’t all think we know how to achieve it. While those who monger fear and division may deserve a republic like this, I have a deep clarity in my understanding of justice that my grandmother deserves better than what our nation has become.