Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Becoming Radical

One morning when I was about nine, I was going on errands with my father in our new 1948 Packard.  My father pushed a knob on the dashboard that soon popped out with its tip glowing red hot and touched it to his cigarette.  He turned to me in his “I’m-right-so-don’t-argue” voice:  “People like Bernice who live in public housing projects shouldn’t be allowed to vote!”
“What?” I said, “How come?”   Bernice was our “colored” cleaning woman.  I loved her.
“Because they don’t own property and so they don’t have a stake in running the country.”  He stubbed out his cigarette in the little drawer that served as an ashtray.
I knew something was wrong with my father’s logic.  I stroked the grey-beige plush seat covering with my fingers.  Bernice worked and paid taxes in our country, didn’t she?  Shouldn’t she have as many rights as anyone else?   I knew I couldn’t convince my father he was mistaken, but I resolved to study hard so when I grew up I would have a comeback.  I would be on the side of people like Bernice.  People whom my father dubbed “The Great Unwashed.”
You can see that from an early age, I didn’t believe everything I was told.  I was a radical, one who looks at the roots of things.  In middle age, I became a Unitarian Universalist, hoping to continue as a radical with like-minded people.

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