People say I don’t look my mother. Maybe not. But I see and sense a lot of her in me, and I often wonder what she’d think about our current social and political scenes.
About twenty-five years ago (a guessimate), I yielded to the entreaties of my mother to come home for a day or two because of a hurricane approaching the coast of South Carolina. Although I knew we were safe, a couple of the children and I went to Camden to ease her worries. She was sick with the C word, and chemotherapy had stolen her hair and heightened her emotions, especially those concerning her children and grandchildren. Once there, we sat in the den watching, watching, watching as a seemingly endless line of cars attempted the exodus out of Charleston, all bound for safe shelter.
We grew bored. But what to do? Someone suggested watching a movie, and we agreed this was a swell idea. This was back in the day before Netflix or Prime Video or electronic devices, so someone went to a local video store and rented a couple of movies. As we began watching one of them, Simon Burch, Mama announced in a calm but sure manner that she couldn’t/wouldn’t watch it—why we didn’t know. Everyone else liked it, and after all it was based on a novel by John Updike. There was no pornography or violence, and that little Simon was just adorable.
What could be wrong with Simon Burch? Turns out the problem was little Simon and the challenges he had. He wasn’t really a misfit, but he was different from the other kids…kind of dwarfish. And he wore thick glasses. He had a friend named Joe (Jim Carrey) who didn’t have that many friends either, and the two of them were quite a pair.
Here’s the thing I learned about my mother that evening. She couldn’t bear to see anything in which people who were different, disabled, made fun of, bullied, or suffered, and no matter how much we tried to convince her that Simon was a tough, strong character regardless of his size, it was to no avail. Honestly, I can’t remember what happened that night, whether the majority ruled and she went to her room to read or whether we watched another movie. I just remember the lesson learned: it’s never okay to make fun of others. I already knew that, of course, but that night the reminder hit home more forcefully, maybe because of the weather and maybe the fact that despite her weakened state, she could still fight for what she perceived to be right.
Lately people have been asking what I have against the president. The moment I saw DJT mimic the jerky motions of The New York Times reporter to get a reaction from the crowd (laughter), I knew the kind of man he was. Still, no one’s perfect, and everyone deserves a second chance–maybe even a third or tenth or hundredth. But he never apologized or expressed remorse. Instead the American people and people from all over the world have seen more of the same, each time getting enthusiastic kudos from his fan base. I just don’t get it, y’all. I just don’t.
I’m also remembering her reaction to Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, one of profound sorrow. Last year we traveled to the site of the massacre to honor her memory. That’s a story for another day.