The Politicization of Leslie

We’re coming to the end of another election season and, like almost everyone on the planet, I’m glad this miserable contest is almost over.  The mud-slinging, innuendo, and overall nastiness of political rhetoric have made this a loathsome campaign year and the parade of contradictory polls is exhausting me.  But I will vote on Tuesday, as I have in every election.  I can’t help it.  I was politicized long before I could read and my parents deserve the credit/blame.  That’s what happens when you’re kissed at a young age by presidents.
My mom had a button like this in her
jewelry box for decades
See, my mom was a big fan of John F. Kennedy in 1960.  YUGE fan, another candidate might say.  Well, what wasn’t there to like?  He was young, attractive, and charismatic, enough to charm any woman in her early twenties.  And my mother was never tepid about politics.  She paid fierce attention to the news and loved or hated most people in public service.  So when she heard JFK and his running mate were arriving at the Wichita Falls, Texas airport, she had to be there to greet him, along with me and Dad.
Now my Dad was always interested in current events, although he never got drawn into fandom, like my mom.  I think he would have preferred to stay away from candidates and the crowds that followed them.  But Mom insisted, saying it would be a memorable experience for all three of us.   
That’s me, a Presidential Pin-Up Girl!

Sorry to say, it wasn’t memorable to me; I was less than 18 months old at the time and nothing of that day hangs in my recollection.  But Dad said he held me on his shoulders at that windy airport and Mom said that no one could tell from Mr. Kennedy’s speech that he and Lyndon were ever political rivals.  After the speech, the candidates worked their way through the crowd and Mom said both JKF and LBJ kissed my cheek, the way they probably kissed a million kids along the campaign trail. Knowing how she felt about JFK, I’m surprised she washed my face afterward.

After that, national politics was always personal in my family. Mom wept uncontrollably when President Kennedy was assassinated but I went on to Kindergarten, secure in the belief that Lyndon’s tenure in the White House meant the eyes of Texas really were upon me. (Hey, what does a 5-year-old know!) Mom preached civil rights from her kitchen and, during Watergate, called President Nixon and his staff everything but a Child of God for their actions. Dad didn’t say as much but always knew the background on every issue and was willing to discuss them rationally.  Rational political discussions, there’s something I miss almost as much as I miss my parents.

So I will go to the polls on Tuesday, same as I have for every election for more than 30 years. It’s part of my role as a citizen, like my jury and military service were.  Even if I don’t like who is running, I can’t help participating in the process.  Like Girl Scouts and Sand Hill Plum Jelly, democracy is in my DNA.

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