Getting Lost to Find Home, my upcoming memoir, will reveal my childhood relationship with my father was a rocky one. We didn’t make our separate peace until I’d graduated from college. Even then, communication wasn’t easy. He was an Indiana farm boy with an 8th-grade education. I was a philosophy graduate from a liberal arts college.
I’ve written about his racial prejudice before, but I never realized how close those feelings cut to the bone until one day he admitted he saw me as a half-breed. My mother was Costa Rican and didn’t speak much English when he married her in Panama. As to her ethnic background, one side of the family hailed from the Spanish Basque country. On the other side descended from Italian wine growers.
My father viewed his wife as non-white because she spoke Spanish. When I understood the level of his ignorance, I laughed. One maternal grandmother did bequeath me a 16th of Toltec, however. I embrace that heritage with pride.
Prejudice isn’t confined to white males. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, New York Congresswoman representing the 14th district, admitted in an interview she was concerned about the ethnic difference between her and her fiancé. Her Latin and “mongrel” background, which includes African-American roots, makes her distinct from his European heritage. Happily, that concern hasn’t prevented the engagement.
A more troubling prejudice falls from South Caroline’s representative, Krystle Matthews. A Democrat running for the U. S. Senate, her disparaging remarks about white people may jeopardize her election. History may explain her feelings, but they are prejudicial.
Queen Elizabeth, who died recently, was a world leader when it came to decorum. Her son, King Charles III, said of her, I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world. I am certain he is right. The queen was the unifying symbol of a diverse Commonwealth. Her persuasions were the three graces: integrity, tolerance, and compassion. Her death reflects the passing of an era.
Absent the queen, who will serve as our role model? Donald Trump? Vladimir Putin? Ted Cruz? Those Faustian leaders would sell their souls for a dime.
Nonetheless, the crown, I fear, passes to Donald Trump. Within a scant four years, he has unleashed hatred’s fires and spawned countless lilliputians who long to walk in his footsteps. Somehow, his bile has corrupted the judiciary, formerly a respected institution. One of his appointments, Judge Reed O’Connor, is a ruthless homophobic. Under the rubric of religious freedom, he struck down a provision of the Affordable Care Act that provided medical treatment to HIV victims. When did the three graces ever conflict with religion?
Another of Trump’s acolytes, Republican Scott Jensen, a candidate to be Minnesota’s next governor, treats the public as if it suffered from dementia. In the primary, he railed against abortion. Headed into the general election, he would have us believe he accepts Minnesota’s right to an abortion to be settled law… words we have heard before.
Hypocrisy, falsehoods, and hatred aren’t new to our society. What’s new is that corrupt people publicly embrace their immorality without shame, finding dishonesty to be no setback to ambition. Sadly, they are right. But the prevailing attitude doesn’t reflect tolerance. It reflects profligacy.
Without the three graces, we can’t heal a divided nation. Nor can we find peace within ourselves. A University of Chicago study reports that happiness levels in our country are at their lowest levels since 1972. (“Finding Happiness in Your 70s,” by Lisa Fields, AARP, The Magazine, pg. 43.)
William Bennis, a pioneer in governance studies once defined leadership as the capacity to translate vision into reality. That being the case, he charged voters with a duty to elect women and men who reflect honor. Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t elected to her position, but she mirrored the three graces. Those who grew up fortified by her long shadow, regardless of the wrongs of empire, are left to wonder if her like will come again.