If you are a politically engaged human being, you cannot really separate your life from your politics. Your history is your point of view.
I am watching this political season for the Democrats and finally, tonight, have reached the limit of being able to intelectualize what is happening. It is feeling like a punch in the gut now, not just some bad stuff going on that is about an election.
I am a second-generation American. My grandparents came over here from Russia shortly before the revolution. They were socialists, and my parents were as well. My father enlisted in the army the day after Pearl Harbor and fought his way from Africa to Germany for almost 4 years, in the infantry. He came back and worked at unionizing. I was raised to understand what was good in the country, also what was oppressive. We were taught that you always worked to make things better, that you always had to be aware of who was being wronged and do something to help. This was emphasized more than anything else as we grew up.
In spite of the fact that we were way on the left of the Democratic party, we always voted Democratic. It seemed the party of hope, the party of social progress, the open party, warts and all, where it was not about business and privilege but about workers, immigrants, minorities. I've always had s somewhat idealized view of the Democratic party I think.
In 1968, when I was a senior in college I worked as a volunteer for the RFK campaign. He was my senator and an extraordinary man. I've written here before that he was shot on the night before my college graduation. We all sat around eating sandwiches at a local deli after the ceremony, too stunned and miserable, and hopeless to talk to each other. That and the death of King that year, and the 68 convention, made it impossible to look at the political process the same way, ever, without the sense that someone took away the only golden moment of promise I had ever known in politics.
In the early 70s, with the advent of a more active women's movement and the beginnings of a more formal environmental movement, there seemed a chance for some reasoned and positive change again. I marched joyfully in the big march in NY, and enjoyed putting into words some of the sensed inequities that marked one's life as a female. There was a lot of talk and there were some significant changes made.
As my life went on I started to focus on the issues that were most meaningful to me (everyone does). For some it becomes related to the way their family and home shapes up, or their career, or their personal relationships. Some get a political construct from feeling where they are most vulnerable as a person. Some from a communal experience. It comes from all places. What became most meaningful to me were issues of criminal justice, and environmental issues. Life matters to me above all so I have a houseful of pets, vote as green as I can and spent a lot of time horrified and frustrated by environmental degradation, and strongly oppose the death penalty. Life trumps all other issues. For some people racial inequity trumps because it comes out of their experience. For some, womens' issues. I'm not saying we can't all care about all of this, but I'm talking the dagger to the heart personal stuff.