I’ve been more than pondering of late that perhaps I am indeed witnessing the crumbling of the age old classically American pastimes: dinner and a movie and Monday night football.
Revelations continue of just how many women kept quiet about Harvey Weinstein for the sake of stardom, reflecting the true character of Hollywood and a movie industry rife not only with amoral men, but women as well. This cover-up ensured that Weinstein was able to prey over the years on countless other unsuspecting women.
Boycotts of football games and the purchase of sports gear continue to fill the news. The NFL seems determined to demonstrate to the majority of its fan base just how little they care about the country that provided the opportunity for football to become the mega industry and favorite pastime for millions of Americans.
It is, however, interesting to me that this year, people seem to actually realize that a culture has been crafted and foisted on them by these bright shiny “stars” which does not reflect their beliefs and values, and perhaps it is time to pay attention. I think I might just be witnessing the end of the tail wagging the dog. I also hope, as recent evidence suggests, that I am witnessing the larger emergence of women as participants in the political process. Women make up 53 percent of the electorate nationwide.
For years, during election season, Jeff and I have held an event at our home to give local citizens an opportunity to meet conservative candidates and I normally send around 400 invitations. Half of those invitees have never come, but I just keep sending to the entire list year after year. I am hoping one day to interest folks in the people who have a major impact on their daily lives, their elected representatives.
Sometimes when I see people in the grocery store or church they will stop me and say, “The invitation was lovely, but you know we are just not political.” The last time, someone said this to me in church, I answered that perhaps they might consider if some of us were not political, there may come a day when they arrive at church and find the door chained so that they can have “freedom from religion” instead of freedom of religion. Not such a far fetched concept, considering the battle that has taken place in these our United States. In our public schools, great lengths must be found to make sure we don’t offend non-believers, with special circumstances created to be able to pray at all, and of course we must not call God by name.
All during the year, as I meet new people, I add them to my event list and this time 500 families were invited to Red Barn View on October 14th. When the invitations had been in the mail only about three days, my phone began to ring. To my surprise, the RSVPs just kept coming and from first time guests. Many of them felt a need a tell me just why they were coming and I heard over and over again:
I am sick of Hollywood and the influence they have over Americans. It’s time to push back. We have to do something. These people do not represent the things I hold dear. I don’t want my son to think it’s cool to kneel during our National Anthem. I will never take my child where the flag is not respected. What has happened to our country?”
The amazing thing: Most of these calls and comments were from women.
While I don’t want to diminish or take anything away from hard working conservative gentleman, the time has come for our community of women to stay strong and focused. If we turn out the women’s vote in the real numbers I believe exist here in Virginia, it will be enough to give our Republican candidates the percentage they need to win on November 7.
I come from a long line and community of strong women who were the essence of the term, “Steel Magnolia,” and whose mantra was personal responsibility. My grandmother, born in 1910, was given away at the age of six, after her mother died, to a well-to-do but older and abusive stepmother, who sought to break her keen and vibrant spirit. Grandmother harbored a secret, however, and that secret was a desire to go to college and become a nurse. She entered Medical College of Virginia at age seventeen. There she was a brilliant student excelling in her studies, sports, and the theater. At the close of her senior year, she ran away to marry my grandfather and never returned to her abusive home. She later served as Executive Director of the local Red Cross, helped run a newspaper, and then for many years was our local clerk/treasurer in a one woman office that essentially ran the day to day operations of our town. My first lessons at her knee were that a woman could do anything she wanted — go to college, run a business, or run a town.
My second lesson at her knee was what a special God-given gift it was to be a woman, and she told me this often. While she worked outside the home at a time when few women did, she loved a beautifully set table and a wonderfully cooked meal. In her kitchen, I learned to make fabulous meals for our family, and in her home I learned to celebrate the feminine arts and crafts of another time — sewing, embroidery, and crocheting. She impressed on me how lucky we were to be womenfolks, and how blessed and privileged we were to be the caretakers of our family. Women brought home paychecks, but they also loved on and cherished their families in countless big and little ways. Women were given awesome gifts and with it awesome responsibilities, but were more than up to the task.
Another privilege of womanhood was children, and the lesson she taught here was one which could never be forgotten because the lesson had a name, and his name was Calvin. My grandmother’s first child had been born during the Depression when she was living in Pennsylvania and where my grandfather had sought work with the railroad. Running away with a man from an old Virginia family, but not a “pot to pee in,” was a new and tough chapter in her life.
Money was a sparse commodity, and as a nurse she knew she wasn’t eating properly. She had been swollen and ill for some time, when just shy of her seventh month of pregnancy, she collapsed in full blown toxemia on the stairs leading to their little apartment. My grandfather watched helplessly, telling the ambulance driver, “This baby isn’t due yet.” When he was born, she called him Calvin after his father, but they told her he would only live a short time. He was minus his fingernails and had a misshapen head, but despite the doctors predictions, Calvin clung stubbornly to life.
When he was three weeks old, she took him home to the little apartment with the words of the doctor echoing loudly in her head, “He’ll only live a few months.” Relying heavily on her nursing skills, grandmother worked on her son round the clock. and the baby started to improve. After gaining weight for three months, Calvin caught the croup and started again to decline. Desperate, she gathered him up on a hot August day and walked ten blocks to a new doctor she had been told about who was, of all things, a woman. By the time she got there she was in tears. “Stop crying, Mrs Thornton,” the doctor told her abruptly after examining Calvin. “Your baby is going to live, but I want you to do exactly as I say.” The new therapy in this year of 1931 consisted of adding real mashed fruit to the baby’s diet starting with bananas. She and my grandfather took turns during the night making sure they followed doctors orders. The baby began to thrive.
Calvin lived on to become my favorite Uncle, and while challenged in many everyday things that we take for granted, graduated from high school and held a job until retirement. Along the way, there were those who thought he should be shut away in a home, but my grandmother never considered it. He was her child, and the thought of him never having been born or giving up on him in those early years, because others thought he was less than perfect, was unthinkable. So well had my grandmother surrounded us with love, that I was a young adult before I realized Calvin was what was referred to then as mentally retarded, and who we now thankfully call “special needs.” To me he was indeed magically special, a cherished member of our family, who always had time for me, and a true gift from God.
My grandmother’s second and last child was the bright spitfire who was my mother, born in 1935. If she had been born just a few decades later, Mother would have been the CEO of a large company. Wicked member of the debate team, Honor Society girl, and Head Cheerleader, she left Mary Washington College after two years to marry my Dad and follow him around the world everywhere his career in military intelligence took our family.
Mom always worked even when she did not have to, and she would look for the most interesting job which she thought could round out her education. She was a music teacher, a veterinary assistant, a secretary to more than one General, and a cable company operator. When we returned to Virginia she became our town’s first business manager.
My love of politics comes from her, and on my 18th birthday she took me to the registrar’s office to register to vote for the very first time. When I was a child, she was an avowed Democrat and then a huge proponent of the Civil Rights movement. In a closed minded little southern town, it was she who took the first integrated 4-H group to camp in the late 1960s, and she and my Dad hosted the first integrated scout troop in our back yard. With her tremendous sense of fun and creativity, she founded the first integrated theater group which raised thousands of dollars for charity.
Young men coming out of the closet whose families were reluctant to accept them found a home in her basement and a willing ear. She told them all the same thing, “Okay, you’re different so your task is to take those talents which are part of that difference and make them work for you.” She was a true activist and was instrumental in founding our Chamber of Commerce here in Caroline County. She loved any new technology and introduced computers to our town government and was one of the first to have a PC in her home, teaching me to use it to do my writing. By the time she died in 2001, she touched every part of our community.
The strong, forward thinking attitudes of my mother and grandmother were a natural draw for other like-minded females who held positions of respect and authority in our region. Judges, Attorneys, Post Mistresses, Newspaper Editors, Town Council women, and business owners were their friends. These womenfolks, too, served as role models for a young mind.
I proudly carry the legacy and the history of all these “Steel Magnolias,” but the irony is that, except for my mother, I haven’t a clue what party most of them belonged to. What I do know is that they would have had a profound objection to the new Democratic message of the 21st century which reduces us to a pair of ovaries only concerned with free birth control and free abortion. This message that we are to pay attention only to things that concern reproductive rights insults the sacrifice and the brilliance of all women who paved the way for us to be anything we chose to be.
Recently my friend, Tina Freitas, reposted an article which is noteworthy called Pardon Me If I Rebel, where she points out that all issues are women’s issues. Freitas, who is the wife of Culpepper Delegate Nick Freitas, is right on the money. The Democrat’s message of today is not only a poor one, but a lost message for real, everyday thinking women. It is certainly a message of uniformity, almost androgynous, that tells me to turn my head because everything that happens is okay as long as I get free birth control. This message of uniformity teaches that, by happenstance, we women are simply incubators with the ability to turn the switch on and off.
I cannot honor the legacy and respect for life of my community of women by getting on board with this message. Everything is not okay with our national debt, terrorism, and the erasing of, instead of teaching, history. Disrespecting our service men and women may not be illegal, but it is not okay. The trampling of our constitutional rights and forcing private business to provide services they don’t believe in is not okay. Sanctuary cities where certain people are exempt from the rule of law while others are not, is not okay.
The Democratic Party has come full circle while marketing themselves as the party of a wide vision. They are, in fact the party of the narrowest vision in the history of our country. Furthermore, if you don’t conform, they will address the issue with a new law that ensures you do. This narrow view that demands we come to heel while assuring us that any behavior is just fine is not one we can turn a deaf ear to, because this is where we will find the real war against women.
The true gifts of womanhood are multifaceted from our bodies, magically and divinely designed as temples of life, to our deep and vast abilities to protect and nurture our families, to the limitless and soaring fineness of our God-given brains. The same brains which, since time began, have produced literature, art, philosophy, and yes, those Chief Operating Officers of Corporations, large and small.
Mothers, Daughters, Grandmothers, Aunts, Nieces, and Sisters, I’m not asking you to join a local committee or pay dues to anything. I am not asking for a major interruption of your life.
I am asking you to consider if your great-granddaughters will know how to celebrate and cherish the blessings of what it means to be a women?
I am asking that in these last days before the election you open the conversation in your community of women, in your churches, at school functions, or anywhere you happen to be.
I am asking you to think about how you were raised and what you want for your children, sons and daughters, and what you envision for the women of the future.
I ask you to remember who you are.