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Ephemera: My Politics 201

I was looking through a bunch of what-not under our bed the other day. There’s the cardboard “Hot-Box-O’-Love” that houses our love notes from our college years (Yes, despite all the rules, a certain kind of chaste passion could still be expressed though never acted upon). I found my mother’s wedding veil. My grandma’s Christmas crocheted tablecloth. All my sterling charms from every place we vacationed growing up. My honeymoon bikinis. Shelves I don’t know where to hang.

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And a box of little memories. . . . My colorful and well-scribbled children’s New Testament. An autographed postcard from Count Scary. A set of tickets from our 1976 trip to the Magic Kingdom. A Chick Tract. A huge stack of fake money from the Indiana State Fair. My CEF devotional. A BJU First button (the badge we were told to wear to get “special” treatment our first few weeks.). A 1995 “I Voted for Pooh” button/sticker also from the Magic Kingdom. My Ten Commandments bracelet. And several Wordless Book items — the actual book, a necklace, and a bracelet. And a big stack of campaign buttons.

It’s funny to find those things in the same box. The quilting together of faith and politics right there under my bed.

Mom and Dad always said they were registered in two different political parties so that as a household they could have a say in both sides of any primary election. I do know they voted for Kennedy, “He was so optimistic. . . . His dad was a bootlegger though,” my mom remembers wistfully.

Politics must have been a regular point of conversation because I knew all about Watergate. I was not-quite four when it first happened in 1972. And in 1976 while Mom and I were making our then-favorite dessert of Watergate Cake, I asked her, “Mom!!?! What are we going to serve President Ford when he comes to our house? We can’t serve him WATERGATE Cake?!?!?!” I had written him a letter, you see, explaining my support and inviting him over for a visit. I was certain that he was due any week. My mom, without missing a beat, flatly answered, “Well, we’ll just call it pistachio cake.” Whew! Crisis averted.

I didn’t think it was fair that President Ford didn’t get a full four-year “turn” (what I heard when people said “term”). I was 8 by then, and I understood turns very well. Everyone deserved a full turn, I thought, and just because Nixon was a meanie didn’t mean ol’ Droopy Dog Ford needed to be punished. So I wanted to vote for Ford.

You see that Ford campaign button up there, right? It’s right next to my Wordless Book necklace. I wore both at the same time . . . especially at one particular meeting.

That fall my Uncle Eddie and Aunt Jean were visiting us in Tulsa on their way to get Layitril treatments in Mexico for my uncle’s colon cancer. The election was near, I remember that, and I think my parents must have informed me that my Aunt and Uncle, being the good Pollacks that they were, would probably be voting for Jimmy Carter. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! How could they? Ford needed a full “turn.” My parents also informed me, I’m sure, that my never-before-introduced relatives were not the fundamental Baptists we were.

My mission was decided then. But I would be subtle about this. I would just wear my Ford election button and my Wordless Book necklace as a conversation starter.

And, of course, it worked . . . enough. Aunt Jean saw my campaign button and said, “Oh honey, I already voted. . . . for Carter.” What? How COULD she? Ford didn’t even have a CHANCE. And she voted ALREADY??!? How?

She turned to my necklace and started to guess what each color meant, “Well, black is for night, and red if for love, right? And then white is for snow, of course, yellow is for sunshine, and green is for money.” Money? MONEY??? Filthy lucre? I was astonished. “Oh NO!” I intoned. So I sang her the little song instead:

My heart was dark with sin.
Until the Savior came in.
His precious blood I know.
Has washed it white as snow.
And in God’s Word I’m told
I’ll walk the street of gold.
To grow in Christ each day,
I read my Bible and pray.

And she patted me on the head and cooed something aunt-ish. And that was done. My mission fizzled. My first attempt at quilting my faith with my politics had crooked stitches and way too many holes.

I failed.

Ephemera: My Politics 201
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2 thoughts on “Ephemera: My Politics 201

  • September 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm
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    “My first attempt at quilting my faith with my politics had crooked stitches and way too many holes.

    I failed.”

    As most of us do.

  • September 22, 2008 at 5:05 pm
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    Not sure where you are going to go with this thread, but I suspect I am going to disagree with your political conclusions.

    That said, to the extent that you are addressing the philosophical questions about religion, politics, and American life, no one addresses these questions with more measured wisdom than Stephen Carter (with the possible exception of Judge Michael McConnell, but McConnell doesn’t write for the general public). Carter is both a true Christian and a true scholar. And in an area that is pack with both open political hacks and fake moderates, Carter is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to someone who defies political characterization.

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