Politics didn’t exactly take a back seat on my trip to my small hometown since most of my friends and family are pretty politically minded and many of them are great activists for liberal causes, but there was a lot of talk of how the current political climate influences social and personal life. It was interesting to see how the Pew Research polls on social issues played out in the real world (I say “real world” because sometimes I feel like Seattle is an island, a liberal oasis where all of the polls are skewed) where social issues are important, but they are tied to the kitchen table issues.
There was a lot of discussion amongst my female friends about the threat to women’s reproductive choice and there is a sense of fear about how far the religious right will go to legislate their morality. Most of us have read A Handmaid’s Tale and the signs that we could soon be in real danger are disconcerting and color our thoughts of the future. We read the book as teenagers and, at the time, it seemed impossible that such atrocities could occur. Now, it doesn’t feel out of realm of possibility and that’s scary.
We also talked about raising children and how you do that on less money. It’s important to raise kids who know the value of money, who understand that working hard for the things you want will be a way of life for them, but we also don’t want them to experience the anxiety that so many of us have about simply providing for our families. We want our kids to consider college a forgone conclusion, but many of us are not sure how that will play out. Those of us who own homes will likely take out a second mortgage, those who don’t are forced to play it by ear, hoping something will come up that will make college possible and some of us are lucky enough to have money set aside. This is the reality of Bush’s economic policies, parents struggling to try and provide opportunities for our children, most of the time at the expense of our own retirement. Poverty is a very real issue in this country and so is the squeezing of the middle-class. Upward mobility used to seem possible, not so much anymore.
All and all, I get the sense that Americans are tired. Tired of working so hard to keep it all together, tired of worrying about the future and tired of feeling like things are only getting worse. There was no mention of impeachment on my trip, most of us have resigned ourselves to three more years of bad policy that will take decades to fix. There is also an underlying fear and uncertainty about the future. We have seen the Bush administration circumvent the will of the people, ignore Congressional oversight and disregard the Constitution and we’re not sure where that leaves us as a country. Are we as strong and resilient as we were raised to believe? Is our Constitution? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, we are in desperate need of some good news. Wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace?