By Trudy Wischemann
The national news has been intertwining with my personal history over the last few weeks, snarling my thoughts. I’m hoping that by writing to you, dear readers, they’ll get a little less knotty.
Trying to sum up my father’s 92+ years on the planet, whose story is marked by a major political turn from staunch Republican to rejection of that party during the second Bush’s second term, has been interesting to say the least. Dave Wischemann fit properly in the category of “The Greatest Generation.” He deserves a 21-gun salute and the Stars and Stripes draped over the casket of his memory. He served his country during WWII while still wet behind the ears, but continued to serve in the Coast Guard Reserve for four more decades, and proudly, too. He served his local communities by voluntarily building places where people came together to work and play; he contributed his building skills to people who needed help, and, near the end, gave away the proceeds from his woodworking projects to his daughter-in-law’s church and Sebastopol’s food bank.
It is only by grace, I think, that the MAGA slogan gagged him as it gags me. Prior to his political conversion, every conversation between us was marred by the political canyon we couldn’t cross. Making America Great Again would have made sense to him BB (before Bush.) Greatness was something his generation aspired to, having fought for it and won. My generation was sent to the swamp of Vietnam, and what we fought for instead was truth, justice and greater humanity. To the extent that Nixon resigned and we finally withdrew from Saigon, however shamefully, my generation won something other than greatness: we won accountability. I wish we could have kept that ground.
Donald Trump’s base (and I know that you may count yourself among them,) seems composed of people who ache for a better time, a time that might be restored if we kill enough swamp projects and deport their promoters. Our swashbuckler-in-chief wields his verbal sword, and his base feels protected and encouraged to wield their own where before they had been fearful, suppressed. Seeking greatness, but without seeking definition of that term, we stumble on the rough turf left by the battles of my generation: equality, fairness, the power of moneyed people to make being human harder every day.
I would like to offer a different goal from our 300-year history of trying to become the greatest nation on earth: Make America Decent Again. Decency is something we’ve fought for (or at least said we’re fighting for,) in every war. Decency has been the goal of social and economic programs we’ve promoted between the wars, like the War on Poverty or rural electrification, and the Civilian Conservation Corps. These programs were designed to fight the battles inside our country between the privileged and the disempowered. Decency is a way of being human which contributes to and conditions Greatness. Without decency, at least in my eyes, greatness is just an empty dream.
Decency is what made the Greatest Generation great. It was decency combined with bravery and self-sacrifice for the common good. I don’t think there’s any way to become great without decency or without addressing the common good. So let’s work on our decency first. Greatness could follow.
Trudy Wischemann is a long-embattled word worker who is grateful for the truce with her father. You can send her your stories of decency discovered c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.