Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Happened To That Angry Young Man?

I was surfing through Twitter early Sunday morning; I can spend hours each day exploring my way through it. I came across a link that really set me off. It was an article about a Tennessee travel executive sending out an e-mail comparing the First Lady to a chimp, he even included photographs of Michelle Obama in an awkward moment and a chimp with makeup on to prove his point. He of course has apologized and said he meant nothing racist by this and it was just a political statement. As a result some of the state’s largest tourism authorities have cut ties with him. Good.

I just exploded on Twitter. I posted probably 10 tweets on the topic of the racist conservatives and how no one is holding them to account. I was brought to a point of such anger that I had tears in my eyes by the time I said all that needed to be said in 140 space messages. When I had calmed down I realized that I had not been that emotional or angry about a political or social topic in a long time. When I say a long time I mean since my twenties.

What happened to that angry young man?

In my teens and twenties I was not only looking for the answers but I was sure I was going to find them and often I thought I had. Once I had the answers I was going to save the world. If not me who? I participated in anything that I thought would help me to help the world become a better place. I attended meetings, conferences, lectures, readings, protest marches. I blocked traffic, stood on street corners with a bull horn, carried a sandwich message board signs, pointed my finger in opponent’s faces and lectured and hectored everyone I came in contact with. I was politics and social action 24 hours a day. Wrote letters, made phone calls and knocked on doors. I campaigned as hard for school board candidates as I did for presidential nominees. I stuffed envelopes, drove people to the polls, gave speeches, gave sermons and raised money for candidates and causes. I had an array of issue pins that I wore on the lapels of my jackets that if melted down I could have rebuilt it into a minivan. I rarely ate, rarely slept and was a 6’ tall 125lbs of passions.

In my thirties I began to realize that I may not be able to change the world but I had to keep trying and the most efficient way would be to pick a few key issues and just focus on them. If I were more focused I may be able to make a dent into the problems of our world. I focused on AIDS and civil rights (in its many forms) with a side interest in defending Israel. I became less strident and found that I could win more people over with a well researched and thoughtful argument than I could with yelling at Rick Santorum through a bull horn and lying down in front of his limo. If provoked I could still revert back to my old more strident ways but now it took a great deal more effort.

In my forties I decided it was more important to save myself instead. And, I think I did.
On the Sunday before Election Day 2000 I went for a lazy lunch and shopping expedition to Manayunk with my three best friends. Walking down the street laden down with shopping bags we all stopped and watched an earnest young man speak to everyone he could about Al Gore, we all smiled and someone said “Remember when that was you? You were so cute then.” Later on as we were walking up the other side of the street the young man stopped us. He noticed we all had our Gore pins on and thanked us for our support and we thanked him for doing this for us, he walked on with a big smile. As we were going into Jakes for a cold clear Martini I looked back at him and a part of me wanted to go back and be that kid.

In 2004 my friend Bob Freeman had a general election opponent and he asked me to work a poll for him. He sent to the ward where I grew up and I had a great day reconnecting with old friends of my parents. The Republicans had a very nice retired school teacher there and we had a nice day talking more about than just politics. The Kerry campaign had some students from Yale going door to door in the neighborhood and they were told to come to me for general directions. The youngest of these bright young men decided to confront my Republican colleague about her reasons for supporting George Bush. He was rude, he was confrontational and he had all the answers. I sent him packing and apologized to my new friend. Then I thought, oh my God was that me at his age? The next day I related this story to my family and asked the same question. My parents said yes, I had all the answers and yes, I could be confrontational but I always remembered my manners and worked hard not to be rude.

So, now that I am beginning my fifties and I have saved myself is it time to try and save the world again? Is that the siren call a political campaign calling me? Stay tuned.

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