Saturday, November 8, 2008
Clyde and I take Jeremy's Trail again, down to our favorite perch on the bluff overlooking the ocean. The tide is coming in and the sun, which rose at 8:44 a.m. and will set today at 4:54 p.m., is making its short climb above the Grewingk Glacier and the mountains across the bay. It's a high tide coming in, almost 16 feet today.
Wayne d. Thompson,Photographer
We sit by a stubborn alder on the crumbling hillside and soak up rays on this clear November day. A neighbor's dog shows up, trotting down Jeremy's Trail like she owns it and Clyde runs to greet her. She's an old dog, a white fluffy breed, and I tell her to go home, as I know her owner won't be happy she's come this far. She does and Clyde throws a short whine of complaint at me, looking at me like I just took away a favorite toy.
I tell him he doesn't need no stinkin' dogs to play with - he's got me and we wrestle a little, which makes him very happy. We keep him on a short leash for a variety of reasons (one being that dogs in Alaska who chase moose get shot) and sometimes I feel badly for him that we don't have another dog. I guiltily explain to Clyde why he can't run off to play with the three new dogs that just moved into the house across from us. Clyde just looks at me and I admit to him that it isn't fair that he doesn't have a dog of his own to play with. I promise to campaign for another dog with the other member of our pack, my husband Wayne.
Clyde says, "Good luck!" and we settle into the damp leaves on our little clump of dirt beneath the sun and above the beach. I think about the election and the world celebrating Obama's win. The sense one gets when doing a puzzle, that satisfying click of a piece finding its place, seems to have taken place; I feel a sense of myself as an American more deeply than I can remember in a long time. It's as though a part of me has come home, a part of me I didn't know was missing.
Forty years have passed since 1968 and my fourteenth birthday: June 5th, the day Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed. Forty years since Martin Luther King was assassinated. Forty years since the 1968 Civil Rights Act was signed into law. Forty years since I was a girl, facing my future.
I didn't know how much we Americans lost that year. I didn't know what lay ahead. I was a child on the brink of adulthood and I couldn't understand the world I lived in, how it would effect me to grow up in the aftermath of such loss, in the midst of the turmoil of the short years that followed. I couldn't know then how much history would play a part in the creation of my own life in the years ahead.
All around me I heard slogans like Make Love, Not War, Do Your Own Thing, Power to the People, What If They Gave A War and Nobody Came? Question Authority, Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out and even God Is Dead, an announcement attributed to the Beatles.
In 1969, I was fifteen and a man had just walked on the moon and he was an American. I was fifteen and 250,000 people had just marched on Washington to protest the Vietnam War. I was fifteen and 400,000 of my peers would soon attend a rock festival at Woodstock.
I was fifteen. I believed anything was possible. Before I would turn sixteen years old, four students would be shot dead and nine others wounded by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. .
The blows just kept on coming. Like many young people, I was swept up in the tide, a wave of millions of young people (the Babyboomers), and I, like similar teenagers and young adults, did not understand that I could not live my life as though nothing mattered and not suffer the consequences. I did not understand that I was not independent of the context in which I lived. And neither, in retrospect, I think, did many of us. With so many others of my generation, I rejected not only the Establishment, but all authority.
I came of age during the sex, drugs, and rock and roll revolution. I was a believer. But the leaders who might have made a difference, the leaders who had both the vision necessary and the wisdom to counsel a generation had been killed in the streets. Who would lead us after that?
And as I went out, at the age of fifteen, to "find myself," as I proclaimed my civil rights and that of others, as I sought the freedom to dress, act, and live as an individual in a free society, a democracy, did I, could I, understand the greater "we" - that I was a part of? Did I understand that it was not about me, but about "We the people..."?
I don't think so.
But many did and do. They are the "invisibles", the worker bees, the unsung heroes and, without them, November 4, 2008 might have never come. They were there then and they are here today. They are teachers, social workers, firefighters, welders, mechanics, factory workers, nurses, doctors, preachers; they are soldiers, miners, carpenters, electricians, orderlies, secretaries, police officers - and they are the unemployed, the underemployed, the underclass, the middle class, but they are also the elite, professionals, the wealthy, and they are in poverty. They are every race and every creed. They are first generation, and beyond, immigrants. They are gay and straight. They are Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim.
They are voters. I am one of them.
Clyde licks my ear, reminds me that I am his person and he is getting thirsty. It is time to head home. The air has gotten crisper, the sun a little lower in the sky. The tide is beginning to turn.