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.