As a child of lifetime Democrats and a devoted John F. Kennedy worshipper, I developed an early and permanent distaste for Richard Nixon. When he re-emerged onto the political scene, I vowed to friends that “I’m leaving the country if Nixon is elected.” When he did get elected in 1968, despite my threat to emigrate, I stayed in college and did what I could to get rid of Nixon. (that is me with friends at a Vietnam moratorium in Washington, DC)
The first time I could vote in a presidential election was 1972, when Nixon was running for his second term. I spent 5 months of my life volunteering for George McGovern and again, I talked about leaving the country. I didn’t know where I’d go; I just didn’t think I could survive “four more years” of Richard Nixon.
He was re-elected by a landslide, and I did move. But only from Boston to Miami, which even with a huge Cuban population, is still part of the United States. And I didn’t need to make it through four years since Nixon was gone after two years, thanks to Watergate.
Around this time, I interviewed Ronald Reagan, and I remember wondering what kind of people were out there in California who would elect a movie star? And being a governor was bad enough, but the idea of an actor as President of the United States? We’d be the laughingstock of the world; how could the country survive such a thing?
Of course Reagan’s presidency wasn’t the disaster I imagined. And the first George Bush didn’t cause such strong feelings. He didn’t inspire me; but he didn’t scare me. And by now I was actually living in California, the state that likes to elect those Republican movie stars.
I had children by the time Clinton ran for President. My daughter Alli was 8, already a devotee of presidential politics, and I remember taking her with me to vote for the first Democratic president in her lifetime.
And when I got cancer a few years later and thought I was going to die, I put on my wig and in the middle of chemotherapy I took Alli to a Democratic fundraiser, so she would have the memory of meeting President Clinton, the same way my father had taken me to see John Kennedy when I was Alli’s age.
I survived cancer. But then I had to survive George W. Bush–like we all did. And it was even worse than I expected. In 2004,though I couldn’t believe he would get re-elected, I was worried. There was the war, talk of another draft, and one day I spoke to a friend who was seriously considering a move to New Zealand if Bush won again. A few days later I saw a special discounted fare to New Zealand. I’d never been there, and I bought tickets so Daniel and I could check it out during his high school spring break. Just in case.
We loved New Zealand, but remained in the US, even though I didn’t see how the country could possibly survive a second term with the worst president we’ve ever had. He’s leaving our country a mess–at home and abroad. And even though there’s still time for him to screw up something else, pretty soon he’ll be gone.
Although I don’t feel much better about the prospect of John McCain. Not to mention my worry if McCain got elected and something happened to him–don’t get me started, I refuse to mention her name.
But I have learned a lot of lessons, after living through so many things I never signed up for. And among those lessons Is to look back and realize I survived things I thought I could not survive. Including cancer, and also including Richard Nixon and 8 years of George W. Bush. I’m still here and so is the country. Right now the United States is like someone who’s just been through cancer: beat up and weak but still standing.
So even though I think this is the most important election of my lifetime, and even though I desperately hope Barack Obama will win it, and even though I feel right now he has an excellent chance to do that, I also believe that our country will survive either way.
Although today I did check the expiration date on my passport.