Someone asked me how I got to be such a liberal coming from Jonesboro, Arkansas. I have pondered that question as I didn’t at first have a good answer.
I was raised in a home with three servants, a cook, housekeeper, and gardener. On Sunday mornings my father would pick up the housekeeper and bring her to our house. Perhaps the bus didn’t run on Sunday? My mother didn’t choose to make beds, nor did she teach me to help around the house.
I remember my mother correcting me when I referred to the person who did the ironing as a lady, telling me not to ever call a black (referred to as “colored” in those days) woman a lady.
Spot (his full name was Leonard Taylor, but he was a very small man whom I had always only known him by his nickname) was our cook, and he had a drinking problem. My father would sometimes go to the basement and have a yelling fit at him because of something – anything to hurt him in my father’s need to vent his anger. Spot was a wonderful human being and probably one of the kindest men I have ever known. His wife ”Sugar” was my nurse and died when I was five.
As I felt the underlying tension in our very dysfunctional household, in my heart I knew I was no better than anyone else. I vowed to myself that when I grew up I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.
My parents lived next door to us when the children were young. One morning Spot came to my kitchen door, probably sent by my very controlling mother to check on us. I was at the sink and Spot asked what I was doing. I responded that I was making a stew. His answer was ”you shouldn’t ’oughtta’ have to do that, Miss Mary Lee.”
I was a very spoiled only child, although thankfully I was able to develop a sense of love and admiration for those less fortunate. I have always believed that by opening our eyes and ears we embrace those different from ourselves. I believe each of us is a unique human being and worthy of being loved. A very snobbish man told me once that I always had an affinity for those who couldn’t do for themselves. At the time the remark was made, I was helping a young paraplegic with the lift on his van. He heard what was meant to be a disparaging remark about me and internalized it against himself. I tried not to cry when I saw the tears in his eyes. I have been reminded of that day often during Trump’s rallies as he mocks people.
Boundaries are necessary when caring for and about others. A physician told me I was the type of person who would see a stranger in an airport bidding goodbye to someone, and wish to cry for them.
The years of Trump’s presidency have affirmed my view that empathy and honesty are all important. No one is perfect but we can live striving to be better. I cannot understand why anyone would support a man who said in an interview, on video, that he had never had to ask forgiveness because he hadn’t done anything wrong.
I want to be available to share my experience, but I have never walked another’s path, and I refuse to give unsolicited advice or to reproach anyone. There is only one judge. Does that make me a liberal? I hope it makes me a compassionate woman who believes in loving and accepting one another as we would want to be loved and accepted. I hope to be willing to respect those with opinions and behavior different from mine and always to be open to progressive concepts.