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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Today would have been Jim's seventieth birthday.

That's Jim, on the right. He was my father-in-law. There are things I learned from Jim, and from his family that confirmed much of what I learned in my life before I came here.

I think they are important lessons. They are important to me and I wanted to share them lest I be accused of keeping too much good stuff a secret!

Jim, and the many millions of Americans who shared his values, represent the electorate that we have to reach. His values were family, home, security and work. Jim was a proud American, a man, like so many, who served his country in his military life, his professional life and his personal life.

My father-in-law was born and raised in Oklahoma. He graduated High School in Tulsa and lived most of his adult life in a small town just south of that city. He married a local girl and between them they raised three daughters. Mrs Twigg is the middle one.

They lived in the same small town for about forty years, and all three girls graduated from the local High School around the late eighties.

He was successful in his professional life, rising to CFO of the town's largest employer. In his spare time he coached the local girls softball team. The "Smith girls" were well known and well liked, as was their Dad.

Jim retired early due to ill health. Sadly, at age sixty seven he succumbed to the cumulative effects of various ailments, and the world grew a little dimmer.

I relate this brief, potted history simply  that you might understand where this man was coming from, and how typical he is of those voters who we struggle most to entice to our side.

Jim was an Oklahoman, a father and husband. A man who was socially fairly liberal, fiscally conservative with a quiet demeanour that masked a fierce pride in his family and country. Jim had views that I would never have agreed with, because he was that generation, from the south. Jim's mother-in-law is still alive. She lives in the same small town and she well remembers when the town was segregated. These folk did not see Brown v. Board of Education as progress, yet many are more prejudiced than racist. What racism there is is not the pointed "nigga" kind .... just a birth condition that is only slowly being erased. Yes, the other type exists here too, but not in Jim, and not in many like him. He would occasionally make a comment that grated on my wife, but I generally gave him a pass. We are all products of our upbringing.

It is probably fair to observe that Jim didn't understand me at all. I am English, so I talk funny. I hold views on society and politics that would have been an anathema to him. Partly because he would have disagreed, but also because the people here don't actually think about politics all the time, so their actual understanding of what is being said and done in Washington is, at best, sketchy. They just know that they don't agree with liberals. It's almost a genetic condition. Ask them about individual policies and they will frequently agree. Typical would be Social Security and Medicare. The GI Bill that so many of them took advantage of. Point out that any of the policies they agree with are Liberal, or Democratic policies, and they will vote for the other guy. It is what they do. It is what Jim did.

For Jim I represented a problem. I would not have been his first choice of husband for his daughter. Yet she was clearly happy and that mattered more to him than anything, so I got a pass. He loved NASCAR yet he developed an interest in Formula One, because I watched it .... and partly because any car going very fast was completely irresistible to him.

Here though, is the crux of this matter. Jim was a Republican voter in the way so many are Democratic voters. It's in the blood. What is remarkable though is that what Jim wanted, his hopes and ambitions were the same as everyone else's. The same as the proud Democrat living in Chicago, the same too as my father and grandfather living many thousands of miles away, in another land.

The desire to provide for one's family. A secure home, a decent income and a comfortable retirement. Not wanting to worry about our golden years, so tragically cut short in his case. The ability for a sick child, or spouse, or neighbor to be cured of sickness. Getting the kids through High School, then College whether they wanted it or not. The time and disposable income to enjoy a meal out, or an occasional vacation. Finally, a desire that our children will do a bit better than we managed, and maybe we can leave them a little something to help them on their way when we are gone.

These were Jim's values. They are not Republican values, or Democratic. They are not the ambition of Americans, or Brits, Germans ... the French for gawds sake! No, these are simple human values.

Where every we hail from, whatever the shade of our politics or the colour of our skin these are the things we all want for ourselves ... and we want our friends and neighbors to have this for their own families.

In America, they are the hopes and aspirations of ninety nine percent of the population. I say ninety nine percent but really have little way of knowing whether that figure is off by a few percentage points. Actually it is one hundred percent of all of the people I know, and I rather suspect it is the same proportion of all the people you know too.

What I am saying here is that for virtually everyone in the world our neighbors are ourselves. They may prefer Ford over Chevvy, indeed some may prefer to walk to work. Others are simply thankful they have a job, and the ones that do have gainful employment are quite keen that everyone else has that same opportunity.

Our neighbors may vote Republican, or Green, or not at all. They may be Atheist, Buddhist or Jain. Some might attend the local Baptist Church, and some like the quiet afforded them in Lowes or Homedepot, because everyone else is at the local Baptist .... You get the drift.

It would be reasonable to suppose that the vast majority could sit around a table, hammer out our differences and get to work simply governing, for all the people, by the people. That we apparently cannot is nothing to do with your Republican uncle, or cousin, and everything to do with the tiny minority who possess more than they need, and more than their share. They didn't build that, we did. Yet they are free to use it to set me against my kin and my community. They are able to make the white guy suspect that all of his problems are caused by the black guy. That my marriage is threatened by a couple of girls kissing in a bar, and their desire to have what I have.

In short, they are free to use the wealth we created, and that they possess, to slice and dice a homogenous community of people with identical aspirations, into a seething mass of hate and division. One that is almost completely incapable of recognising that the Emperor is stark-bollock naked and laughing at us ... All the way to the bank ... The bank that stole that re-possessed home next door to yours.

I don't know how much pain we have to suffer before we help everyone to see the wood for the trees. How many more will die through lack of healthcare. How many more will lose their homes, their jobs, their hope. At what point we will, if only gradually and haltingly come to realise that we are being enslaved by a sociopathic subset of humanity .... Indeed, the only subset of humanity that does not share our values.

Jim voted straight ticket Republican in the way that Jodie, his daughter and my wife votes straight ticket Democratic. The only difference between them is that Jodie became an informed voter, and switched her affiliation as her depth of knowledge increased.

I miss Jim, but watching the development of his daughter into a thinking, caring voter has been inspirational. Jodie made a transition, a road her sisters have yet to travel and the only difference between them is knowledge.

I strive to remember that Republican voters are an obstacle, but they are not our enemy.

That is reserved for the tiny few who manipulate us into believeing that we are different from each other.

-

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nicely done. Thanks. (8+ / 0-)

    So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

    by illinifan17 on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:48:44 PM PDT

  •  Good points. (7+ / 0-)

    Very nice diary. I like your distinction between prejudiced and racist. And I believe, like you do, that (a) most people don't think very much about politics and really don't want to, and so are easily led; and (b) that most people's hopes and ambitions are the same. Our battle isn't with our neighbors and co-workers, it's with the ones who dupe them.

    It's not about the hundred people whose minds you can't change. It's about the two people you empower. ~ Beth Ditto

    by dejavu on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 08:58:32 PM PDT

  •  The majority of Republicans are not my enemy (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, Powell, wxorknot

    They have been misled and manipulated by powers beyond their control. They are in a state of ignorance and delusion that I hope we can break, so that they too can see, like we do.

  •  This is the only way it is going to get better. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, Chi, Powell, Just Bob

    And this is the task we must all engage in to bring social cohesion (not conformity) back to our nation. For too long we have let the powerful pit us against one another.

    "We have created a Star Wars civilization, with Stone Age emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology."-Edward O. Wilson, in "The Social Conquest of Earth"

    by sparkysgal on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:00:55 PM PDT

  •  Interesting..... (5+ / 0-)

    I might have agreed before hearing about the 4 hr meeting on the night President Obama was inaugurated & Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Newt Gingrich & 11 other prominent Republicans vowed to destroy his Presidency.  Love of country?

    We all bleed, & your FIL sounds like a good person, but I'm still suspicious of Republicans....one & all.

    •  There is no need to be suspicious (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Powell, Just Bob

      Most of them will vote Republican, because that is what they do ... You don't have to like it.

      It simply helps me to understand why they vote against their own best interests.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:15:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ah, but those politicians (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      twigg, SoCalSal

      have nothing whatsoever in common with Jim and the kind of Republican voters described in this diary.

      This describes those politicians:

      That is reserved for the tiny few who manipulate us into believeing that we are different from each other.
      And I agree with the diarist: they really are our enemies.
  •  Beautifully written (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, Powell, Just Bob

    It's an important reminder when it's so easy to see all Republicans as soulless as Romney/Ryan/Rove & co.

    "Well, the problem here is that you're out of candy. You're gonna need more candy." Rachel Maddow on the Big Bailout

    by cishart on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:10:17 PM PDT

  •  The problem with my Oklahoma in-laws is that (7+ / 0-)

    they are content with the knowledge they have. They seem to enjoy the rancor and anger that is stoked by the information they get from talk radio - which is really big - and Fox.

    My husband and I tried once to convince his nephew who was in his late 50s at the time, that we invaded Iraq. That we were not invited to attack. Strangest conversation I have ever had. I love them all dearly, but don't think I like them all an awful lot.

    "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:12:47 PM PDT

    •  I believe they live in (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Powell, Susan from 29, Just Bob, elmo

      Broken Arrow, if I remember correctly.

      In Broken Arrow they do not count the GOP vote, they weigh it :)

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:17:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, Ed was born in Butler. His folks lived (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        twigg, Just Bob

        Thomas and Clinton. The remaining nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews etal are in the Yukon area, west of OKC, home of Garth Brooks.

        Although he did have a couple of cousins who lived up Tulsa way, near Claremore. We visited the Will Rogers Museum when we went to see them in 82 or 83. Today it is hard to believe that Oklahoma could have produced a man like Will Rogers.

        Although, if you can avoid politics, they are some of the nicest, friendliest, most welcoming people you ever want to meet.

        "I cannot live without books" -- Thomas Jefferson, 1815

        by Susan Grigsby on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 11:42:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Garth Brooks lives about four miles (0+ / 0-)

          from our house. We can actually see his house from our back yard because it sits close to the top of a hill.

          My wife is pretty close to one of his daughters and we had fun at her graduation party recently.

          Never seen him in concert though.

          I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
          but I fear we will remain Democrats.

          by twigg on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 11:45:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is a nice diary (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, Powell, HoundDog, Melanie in IA, elmo

    But ... I think it is more complicated than being about knowledge. A lot of it is about a comfort level with where the world is going. I have a family member with a PhD who has become more conservative as he has gotten older and it's not because of lack of knowledge. I suspect a lot of it has to do with nostalgia and wishing we were back in a time when white men were the unquestioned leaders of everything. When we all knew our place and society was more ordered with them on top.

  •  Yes and no. Our kin, friends and neighbors are (4+ / 0-)

    not our enemy like Rove, Ryan, etc. however, that portion of them that are generally intelligent people that continue to vote against not only their interests, but mine and America's as a whole, are doing something that can hurt me and, more infuriating, my daughter.

    My Mom and many other family members are Republican, including my BIL whose home I currently reside in - he is one of the smart ones who voted Obama in 2008, though his brothers and Mom are straight Repub tkt.  If it is clear that they have been presented with the facts yet they vote in a manner that would increase my taxes, wipe out my medicare, privatize my social security, allow our environment to be polluted, wipe out the safety net, and on and on, I cannot consider them my ally.

    We cannot pick our family, and I will always love them, however I have lost a level of respect for them.  I can't help but do that for anyone who acts the fool.

    "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

    by MRA NY on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:26:52 PM PDT

    •  You will have learned by now (10+ / 0-)

      that you cannot win by logical argument. It doesn't work because for it to work they have to be prepared to believe that they might have been wrong.

      I have lost count of the times I have pointed out the lies to be told "Both sides do it".

      Well both sides don't do it, but the propoganda runs very deep.

      As a people we are more than the politics that divide us. We have far more in common than our differences. Indeed, we have almost everything in common but Identity Politics is a very tough nut to crack.

      Fortunately, time and demographics are on our side, but it is not going to be an easy path and I also believe that it will be harder for regular folk who vote Republican, than it will be for us.

      I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
      but I fear we will remain Democrats.

      by twigg on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 09:34:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An excellent and valuable post that may give us a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, Just Bob

    working model of better ways of reaching some of the voters we will need but have remained beyond our reach, so far.  

    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sun Sep 02, 2012 at 10:02:05 PM PDT

  •  "Oh, we don't talk about politics" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BlueStateRedhead, twigg

    They had the street shut down in front of our house last Tuesday for the Presidential motorcade, and a bunch of us were standing there waiting for Obama to pass by. A local rightwinger was complaining, and came up with the line "Government doesn't create jobs". I mentioned schoolteachers, the Post Office, park rangers. What I should have hit him with was the Federal Interstate Highway System. (And I'm not just talking about road building jobs). NASA!

    "We don't talk about politics"? Fuck that. Politics is all I'm talking about to rightwingers, right through election day.

    GOP: Bankers, billionaires, suckers, and dupes.

    by gzodik on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 03:17:08 AM PDT

  •  Keep the people fighting one another. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg

    Instill hate through lies and nnuendo.

    It is interesting to say the least that I too have had the very same thoughts you have written. Wondering, is it really possible? I have even contemplated writing of it as you have.
    The chasm has taken on the depth of the Grand Canyon in the last couple of decades and I stop cold at the prospect of even attempting to bridge that gap.

    My inner good self says that it is possible to reach across to our fellow American brethren like Jim. More often than not it does seem that we have so much in common, yet are torn apart and separated by the lies and innuendo.
    You know the drill. Liberals are communists. America haters. Baby killers. Socialist Marxists, tax and spend…blah, blah, blah…

    Their abject hatred of liberals (Democrats) is palpable and we hear a never ending stream of it daily by the likes Limbaugh et al.
    Republican voters have been indoctrinated into hating anything remotely liberal, to the point we have become pariahs within our own country.

    They will not debate honestly, reject science fact, and view us as something that needs to be eradicated like some disease. How does one even begin when many view us as better off dead?

    It is not just policy differences or how best to solve an issue. They have their own reality and make up what they view to be the truth when it does not fit their world view.
    The Republicans in Congress have gone out of their way to make sure Democrats are silenced in the government. It is their way or no way.

    In their undying quest for power the Republicans have found it easier to have us Americans (the 99%) fighting one another over the very same things that should bring us together. Social Security, Medical costs and care, jobs, family etc.

    Twigg I hear you and would opt for reasonable discourse because of what we hold in common. However, the reality on the ground says they have no desire to even talk with us let alone begin to try and solve or common ills through mutual consensus.

    They hate us.

    The messaging factory of the Republican party is to blame, and short of silencing it, I don't know if we will ever be able to have a meeting of the minds.

    "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

    by wxorknot on Mon Sep 03, 2012 at 04:43:19 AM PDT

  •  I suspect (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    northsylvania, twigg

    if Obama had time to read your diary, he would agree very much with what you've written, and give you a rec and a tip.

  •  tipped and reccd for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    twigg, SoCalSal
    I strive to remember that Republican voters are an obstacle, but they are not our enemy.

    That is reserved for the tiny few who manipulate us into believeing that we are different from each other.

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