When Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1993, I celebrated. After a decade of republican rule I was relieved to have someone who would work for peace and justice for all. I really believed that. With all my heart, I believed that.
I put Bill and Hillary Clinton on a pedestal. They could do no wrong. I was young, in my early 30’s and naive. When I heard about Rwanda and Bosnia I wondered why he wasn’t doing something to stop the genocides. But remember, I had him on a pedestal so I didn’t question too hard or for too long. I’m ashamed of that now. When I read about NAFTA and the notion of deterrence, I didn’t question. I trusted he knew a lot more than I did. Then there was Monica Lewinsky. I felt it was “mutual” and that it was between Bill and Hillary and Monica. It was none of my business. But remember, I had him on a pedestal so I didn’t question too hard or for too long. I’m ashamed of that now. Now I see the choices that were made and I see the power differences. None of it was Ok.
Fast forward to Barack Obama. I celebrated when he won too. I put him up there on that pedestal as well. Him and his lovely wife and beautiful little daughters. After eight long years of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, I thought the wars would end. The climate would take center stage. I was wrong again, but I didn’t question too hard or for too long. Remember, I had him on a pedestal. I am ashamed of that now. Obama’s history of drone usage could match that of any war hawk president. His immigration policies were as ruthless and inhumane as any republican out there. But I didn’t question. I told myself there must be a reason. There must be something I didn’t understand. I was no longer so young. Then in my 50’s I should have known better, questioned more, spoke out. But I didn’t. Remember, I put him on a pedestal.
Well now we are in a historic time with the lowest, most immoral, corrupt, racist president in our nation’s history occupying our White House. Now I feel free to question hard and long. I speak up. But if I am to have learned from my decades of mistakes, it is clear that I need to be honest as well. I need to kick away any pedestals I may have people on and I need to look, to question, and to see. I also need to honestly reexamine what I saw and believed before. For if I don’t, I will repeat the same mistakes again.
Looking back on the mistakes of those I idolized doesn’t mean that I categorize them in the same box as the current occupier of the White House. I don’t. There is no way to put anyone in the same category as our current president. It does, however, mean that I see and acknowledge and am open to recognizing any unquestioning loyalty that I may have so it doesn’t happen again. There is not one Democrat running for president sitting up on that unquestioned pedestal. While there are positive aspects in most of them, though not all, I am forcing myself to see them honestly with all their human flaws and possible less than good intentions. History is meant to teach us, but only if we are open to its lessons. And yes, of course anyone is better than the current occupier. That’s a given.
Citizens of our country are having some very difficult conversations right now. As we should. The time demands it of us. It demands us to think critically, to question each other respectfully, and to listen. To deeply listen. We cannot allow ourselves to make the same mistakes again.
This post is dedicated to Carol Anne. Thank you Carol Anne for your years of work, for seeing, for working to ease the suffering of so many, before many of us even allowed ourselves to see it. I can only imagine the sacrifices you and your family have made for your work.