Monday, March 28, 2016

My Sister Hillary

"I watched the Revolution on my TV
Watching Walter Cronkite at my daddy's knee"

-- "(Why Does) Dan Rather (Want to Be My Friend?)" by Mike Plaisted

I grew up in the 1960s.  Born in '55, I was ages 5 to 15 during the Great Decade, in which America grew up; often hard and horrible, but also in awesome, joyful transcendent ways.

I remember the nuns coming into the 3rd grade classroom to tell us about JFK's awful (yes) still-unsolved assassination and then coming home from church the following Sunday to hear one of my sisters telling about how she just saw the (yes) all-too-convenient assassination of (yes) pasty Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. (All I could think of is "damn, I missed it.  Why did I have to go to church?")

I saw the images of the Vietnam war and the body counts on TV every night.  I saw the Watts riots and wondered -- far from the action in podunk New Holstein --  what it was like to live in Milwaukee as the crowds of the disaffected hit the streets in 1967. I was entranced by the police riots outside the Democratic Convention in 1968, watching the long-hairs get beat upside the head by helmeted cops for the mere sin (I assumed) of being long-hairs.

I remember news networks breaking into prime-time television in April 1968 announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.; and waking up that morning in June to the horrible news on the Today Show of Bobby Kennedy's assassination.  One thing I have always thought then and since -- the Forces of Darkness got the right guys.  The world would be a better and different place if JFK, MLK and RFK (and Malcolm) had been allowed to complete their righteous life missions. And they knew it.

I also watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and the Summer of Love as told by the news anchors of Squareville.  I watched the Woodstock movie in rapture of whatever was going on there in that glossy Hollywood version of a mediocre rock concert staged in a disaster area.

Yep, I bought it.  I bought the Dream.

But if TV and my father's newspapers were all there was, I wouldn't know much of anything.  It was my sisters who brought the Revolution home to me.

My three older sisters were born within three years of each other -- the product of Mom and Dad's personal, post-war Baby Boom.  All three graduated from a small town high school at various times in the mid-60's, innocently enough, I'm sure.  They went off to college and suddenly the music of the time -- Four Tops, Temptations, Stones, Four Seasons, Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, and lots more -- filled the house.  As their generation spread its wings and as they all found their own selves through the prism of new discovery, they brought it home.  There were arguments around the dinner table with our Nixon Republican father -- often heated, crying, stomping off to the bedroom mad.  But Dad encouraged it, I think.  My sisters gave as good as they got and won more than lost, whether Dad thought so or not.  I tried to pipe up once in a while, with lamely hilarious results.

Now, fifty years later, my sisters are all, in some way or other, a product of their g-g-generation, their times, their private revolutions.  Now, they are all in places they would never have been without it.  None of them were all that radical, even back in the day.  But they took the unique notion from the '60s of reinventing what their nation should and shouldn't be, what it meant to be a human -- especially what it meant to be a woman -- and grew it gracefully, effortlessly into their own beautiful lives.  All have loving, awesome life partners who grew up in the same times and share the same values.  All produced terrific kids with hearts just as big, who are carrying it all forward.

Throughout their careers, they were committed to some kind of public service and moving the ideals forged in the '60s forward; as a teacher, a nurse, a physical therapist, among other things.  They made their marks as sisters, wives, mothers, friends, homemakers. They don't preach or judge others.  They live the Revolution quietly, in their hearts and minds

Which brings me to Hillary Clinton.

At 68, Hillary Clinton is right in the middle of where my older sisters are now, ranging from 67 to 70. She also grew up in the Midwest, also the daughter of a conservative father.   She was certainly more classically political, better connected -- privileged, even. But she also had her own private revolution. In 1965, she was with the Young Republicans -- by '68, she was a supporter of Eugene McCarthy.  At least none of my older sisters were ever Republicans...not that I know of, anyway.

Where my sisters stayed in-state -- Marquette and Oshkosh, later UW -- Hillary went to Wellesley, a highfalutin women's college out East. There she got connected; Yale Law, more connected; met Bill, more know the rest.  My sisters found themselves in other ways -- working, exploring, building families and community.  One break here or there, perhaps a little more of the hard-driving ambition that the Clintons shared, and it could be my one of my sisters out there subjecting herself to the destructive lies and sexist insinuations of Republicans who tear down because they cannot build on their own.

What my sisters and Hillary share is not only the revolution, but a life committed to making the world a better place.  Most Boomers have done so in personal, small, quiet ways.  And when Hillary and Bill Clinton had the chance to make a bigger difference -- because of their positions in great colleges and law schools, their ability to squeeze themselves into political organizations and campaigns, dumb luck and, importantly, each other -- they grabbed it and did it.  There has not been any other couple that emerged from the generation that grew up in the '60s that took those values to a higher level.

Was it how we imagined the '60s generation would govern?  Not hardly.  No Department of Peace, no tie-dyed T-shirts at the inauguration -- heck, not even long hair on the President.  Those were all the cartoon version of what the revolution was all about anyway.  In the end, Bill and Hillary governed -- and will govern -- in a practical manner, accepting the sludge they inherit from the past and moving the nation forward ever so slightly, as much as they can, inch by inch.

That's what all the Boomers I know have done or try to do. Far from some brief flirtations with communes and street protests, they all grew up.  They blended into the communities they were in or found, not in the subversive way some might have imagined, but in positive constructive ways.   They didn't Fight the Power -- they became the power, for the benefit of all.

So, my sisters and Hillary aren't that different, really.  They all have succeeded in affecting the very real world in very real ways.  The first woman president may very well have been named Patricia, Barbara or Donna. Instead -- by the luck of the draw, twists of fate and hard work -- it will be Hillary Clinton.  Yes -- just-like-my sister, Hillary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a well written piece.