Chapter 94: Better Dead Than Red

I grew up during the Cold War, so I can remember when the worst thing one could be called was a “communist.”  And the term was used freely to discredit those one did not agree with…

I will always remember when my sister was born.  My Mother suddenly discovered “Dr. Spock’s Baby Book” and it became second in importance to her to the Bible.  She walked around constantly with her dog-eared, worn paperback copy and quoted it constantly.  No matter what the subject, she had to go to the index and see what Dr. Spock recommended.

This made my father crazy.  It was always “Dr. Spock” this and “Dr. Spock” that.  One day, he grabbed her copy of the book and threw it in the diaper pail.  He said: “Goddamit, Lou, Dr Spock is a Communist.”

That shut her up and she never quoted him again.  To her, and most people of that era, there was nothing worse than being a communist. She never quoted Dr. Spock again.

As a sidebar, the diaper pail was where the kept my sister’s soiled all cotton dirty diapers.  This was before Pampers.  A service would come around periodically and take them away and leave clean ones.  It was kind of like a human litter box.

And,I might add, my sister’s subsequent fashion choices later proved one could not learn an appreciation for natural fibers through osmosis.

Now, I question how we have reached the point where people are not outraged by Trump and his cohorts openly consorting with Communists like Putin and Communists interfering in our elections.  It’s a different world….and how did we get here?

When I was born, my father made my Mother go right back to work at her receptionist job and I was left with my Grandmother and Aunt Goldie to spend most of the first few years of my life in the Mill Village.  I’ve always been grateful for that.  I was never one of them, but I knew them well.

This gave me an exposure to uneducated, working people who I would have missed had this not happened. I may have gone to an expensive College and be an over-educated liberal now, but I spent a lot of time growing up with poorer, less educated people.  And I later worked with more of them in the warehouse of my Father’s company when I was in my teens and in the mill myself during my college summers..  I’m not a silver spoon Progressive.

And I wonder what these people and the people in my family would think of the world today if they were still here…

How did we get here?  The idea that Trump and his cohorts associated with Communists who possibly interfered with our elections would be enough to make most of these people disavow him right away.

But then, this was before Brietbart and Fox News….

And before “Conservatism” became a middle-class ideal.

My parents rode the post-war wave to prosperity.  They moved from the Mill Village to a nice ranch house on the other side of town.  They did very well financially.  For a while…

You see, you have to have a somewhat firm financial position to have the luxury of embracing Conservatism.  My parents were the first Republicans in our family.

But my father always lived to take advantage of every Veterans Administration program he could qualify for….and this became particularly important when he was ravaged, physically and financially, by cancer in his 50’s.  He lived for and by government programs then. We were caught by the safety net.  This all changed by the time my Mother had Alzheimer’s,  but that is another post….

But what would these people say today?

My great Aunt, Big Mary, with her pictures of JFK and FDR on the wall…

My Granny, who was the one of the few people I have ever known who did not see Class or Race, but only saw people.  Period.  Who walked from the hills of West Virginia to Danville to find a better life in the Mill….who knew we were all in this mess called life together. And thought we had to try to take care of each other and lift each other up.

My other Grandmother, who was crushed by changing times, broken dreams and financial failures to the point she spent most of her later life in a state funded mental institution.

My Uncle Wiseman, who was agorophobic and didn’t leave the house for 30 years.  Even he was too fond of channel surfing, by hand on the TV,  not to just stay on Fox News….

My Aunt Goldie, who always referred to former Charlotte Mayor and former Republican Congresswoman Sue Myrick as “that bitch.”  Well, I know what she would say….

But these people all knew the government had a role in making life better.  And they knew that manners and common decency was important.  And they feared the “reds”.

But they are gone.  And I don’t think they would recognize their children and grandchildren today….



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2 Responses to Chapter 94: Better Dead Than Red

  1. Steve says:

    I,too grew up there in that time, with those values. I can identify with this well.
    I am now the conservative you speak of, but the times have changed me in a lot of respects. I support the marriage of my gay friends. My 85 year old father doesn’t. I believe that cold wars don’t help.
    We must find enough of the old caring in us to make society respect others opinions. My 80 year old mother believes this also.
    I enjoy reading this blog because it reminds me of the time I spent growing up with the same type people you describe.
    Well written.

  2. D says:

    Well, as a young person who grew up in NC, and in MD, I can only say there are several forces at work. The first which crosses party lines, is….communism became such a red herring(as Tim Curry says in Clue). On the left there are tons of people who respect the theory of concept and abhor the practice throughout repressive regimes as communism morphed into fascism that merely justified capitalism hidden behind the powerful’s doors. Regardless of affliation or feelings, plenty of people are aware of how often communism was employed as a tactic to justify silencing American leftists, people of color, etc. And for those whom that does not bother, the truth is, ethnocentrism transcends all those things. Russia has a long history of failing to protect non-whites, anti-semitism, and their own unique brand of neo-nazism to the point non-whites at Russian universities are warned to not leave their dorms on the birthdays of well known white supremacists even if they were anti-Russian because they’ve been painted as “saving” whiteness. And because of how much of the both liberal and conservative America has responded to POC asserting out autonomy and opinions, that aspect of Russia isn’t as controversial.

    The long standing racial fears of America’s white supremacist system were realized in the nation’s first black president, a bi-racial man born of a white mother and African father, who attended the most well known Ivy league in the country. That man was an ideological threat to an assumed hierarchy, and the notion that he and his black family were that accomplished evokes the same misunderstood fear people feel in regards to Affirmative Action. They don’t care to understand it any more than they care to understand what affirmative action is. It interrupts resource hoarding, and to them on even the most unconscious level feels like stealing, especially when virtually any people of color are seen as doing well during times of economic hardship, and when you have a group that says “Yes, they are! Think about the good ol days, ignore that in the good ol’ days you would have still been poor as dirt” Trump and his cronies being acceptable is the result. It’s not overt racism in most cases, but the profound fear that the hierarchy is being disrupted, and for those who voted for President Obama and saw no change to their economic situation, they were perfectly fine ignoring not just open hatred, but ties to former enemies because that has nothing to do with them.

    Russia also has state with documented oppression of liberalism, and plenty of people are more comfortable with that than they’d rather admit. And the sad truth is millions of Americans didn’t hate communism because communism…they were told to. That’s it. Plenty of Americans were communists before WWII as were many Europeans that’s why their left is so different. Communists became the enemy because of post war politics. Within America the enemy has transferred to anyone in a marginalized population who refuses to stay silent about their politcs/feelings/experiences. This shift began with myths of welfare queens and the crack epidemic. It’s about who are “we” and who are “them”, and communism can’t remain them. Simultaneously Them has returned to ethnocentric dynamics.

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