Welcome to Thunderdome
October 1, 2008

My introduction to world politics was ... intense. I know adults who have not paid this much attention to a single international event in their lives - ever.

My elementary school years were marked by major event after major event. Kindergarten was, of course, the beginning of school. I had looked forward to school for well over a year and was majorly irritated that I could not go at age four, almost five; but had to wait until five, almost six. I was further irritated when Stephen was bumped from kindergarten to grade two and I was only bumped from kindergarten to grade one. Along with pretty much everyone else.

Second grade was moving from the about to be integrated public school to a Catholic private school. Supposedly better than public school - but that's because no one asked me. I actually asked to see the principal within the first few months.

Third grade saw me go back to my public school ... and then move from my beloved Austin to the much-hated Arlington. Fourth grade was pretty much a blur.

Fifth grade was a nightmare.

For starters, I can recall my homeroom teacher, Charlotte Christopher. The absolute only reason I recall her first name is because Ashley Wylie and Vickie Furr used to call her "Miss Charlotte" in a very fake Eastern seaboard Southern drawl instead of our Texas-speak. I knew it bothered the hell out of me, but it wasn't until years later that I realized it wasn't just because they used her first name ... they were playing (whether they realized it at the time or not) the race card. Because Miss Christopher was the only black teacher I'd ever seen in the entire elementary school.

It was also the year that I was put into second-high language arts instead of high language arts. The reason was I did not do well at the spelling test at the beginning of the year - because the teacher who uttered the spelling words had a very thick East Texas accent. It was the year I lost the friends I'd managed to acquire at my new school. It was the year that I dangled from the soccer goal in a vague effort to fit in with some group of kids - any group - the boy playing goalie pushed me from behind ... and I broke my left arm.

I remember little of recess until the very end of the school year, when Shannon Heizer befriended me after I'd spent most of the year struggling.

But before I really made friends with Shannon ... it was October 22, 1979 ... the Shah of Iran came to the U.S. to be treated for his cancer. My sister turned seven the same day. And then it was November 4, 1979 ... Iranians seized 52 Americans hostage and I turned 11.

I was suddenly immersed in world politics.

I began watching the evening news in my own semi-obsessive way, hungry for information about the hostages. I began dreaming about them, the hostages. Strange dreams, unbelievably realistic and haunting - mostly involving 52 people ... and yellow ribbons.

For the next four hundred and forty-four days, I was as obsessed as a pre-internet 11 year old could be.

My mother didn't particularly approve of my "sudden" interest in the news, regardless of the reason.

The day after I was born, Richard Nixon was elected President.
November 7, 1972 (just weeks after my sister was born), Richard Nixon was re-elected.
November 2, 1976, Jimmy Carter defeats Gerald Ford.
November 4, 1980, I turn 12 as Ronald Reagan is elected president of the U.S. Despite the fact that I wanted Ford to win over Carter in the previous election, by 1980, I was forming my own political bent rather than parroting my parents'. In 1980, I was crushed and depressed that Reagan was elected instead of re-electing Jimmy Carter - a regret I carry to this day.
November 6, 1984, Reagan is re-elected. Again, I'm not best pleased.
November 8, 1988, George Sr is elected. By this point, I'm resigned, but not happy. I'm particularly irritated that the man I voted for in the primaries neither won my state nor the country.
November 3, 1992, Bill Clinton is elected.
November 5, 1996, apparently when the election falls one day to the left or right of my birthday ... my candidate wins.
November 7, 2000 - the dark reign begins in earnest as The Shrub is elected amidst much controversy.
November 9, 2004, the shrub is re-elected. Depression, in many senses of the word, sets in.

November 4, 2008 - I turn 40.

I beg you, United States, give me a birthday gift I will cherish.

The first time I was old enough to vote, I could not vote ... I threw up all day instead. Not one of my better birthdays. That spring, I was happy to vote in my first primary ... and to the chagrin of my mother, I voted for someone most Texans did not vote for: Jesse Jackson. I liked him in 1988. I liked what he stood for. I don't regret casting that vote even though he was not chosen as the Democratic candidate, even though my mother thought I had voted poorly.

This year is the first time since 1980 that election day falls on my birthday. I wish, to be honest, that it did not fall on my birthday this year. I would rather be selfish on my 40th birthday. I would rather the day be about me.

All of my friends are politically active. They all know that my 40th is also the decision between Obama and McCain.

When I think of 1980, I recall sixth grade ....

... the year that Reagan became president.
... the year that Miss Bailey taught me that teachers are most decidedly NOT perfect.
... the year that I screwed up a friendship and hurt Susan Stetson's feelings on advice of a trusted adult.
... the year that I dreamed of a month of yellow ribbons.
... the year that I began to look outside of myself and think of others (inasmuch as I'm capable).

... the year that I began to realize that the U.S. was not headed down the best path and that there was little to nothing I could do to stop that.

Next I plan to talk about what did happen that year, eventful as it was for me.

Posted by Red Monkey at October 1, 2008 10:30 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Tara R. said:

Amazing legacy you've got going. I hope this year turns out better for you. ;)

October 2, 2008 2:40 PM


PandoraWilde said:

I moved around a lot as a kid too--we didn't plant anywhere until I was in sixth grade, and strangely enough, after be-bopping around a bit more as an adult, here I am again. Here, where high school was a nightmare and I found out that my political outlook (based more on fact than that of those around me due to my being on the Varsity Debate team) was likely to set off a fuse I wasn't aware existed til I'd hit it a few times.

Since then I haven't been inclined to discuss politics--but I read a short "overheard at the nail salon" article that makes me wonder if it isn't time to try aiming for that fuse again. I can give you the URL for the article--just email. I might write something up over at the Anthill but I'm not sure just yet.

October 2, 2008 4:39 PM
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