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“That Giant Sucking Sound…”

August 1, 2017

It was the spring of 1992. I was having lunch with my mother and my brother in Westchester County. I have no idea why.

I had served as the Executor of my father’s will, managed the sale of his stamp and coin collection, helped my mother sell the family house, help her create a revived one. The were a lot of reasons, but my wife was home in Connecticut with our babies.

As usual there were gaps in the conversation, and at one point I piped up “Isn’t that Perot weird?”

A fevered look came across both faces, it was a time that Ross Perot had ascended to 25% as a third party candidate in the presidential polls for the coming election. Perot had surfed many interviews on The Larry King Show, banging on the piñata of George HW Bush. The courtly WASP president was uncomfy being a pol, but had crushed Irag when it swiped Kuwait, outraged others by raising taxes, and was a World Order patrician, buying into the the Great State of America leading the world thru the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bush was elected in 1988, according to an employee of mine, to simply be the third term of Ronald Reagan. That is why my mother voted for him (and Dukakis was a vole-ish presence). I do not think my brother ever voted.

So I was more than surprised as they both blurted, loudly, in the Hilton Inn in Tarrytown, New York “We Love Perot!” The uninimity was not surprising. They had always talked. And drank. And smoked – late into the night upon my brother’s visits from Buffalo, especially since his estrangement from his first wife.

“Oh” I profoundly retorted. They launched into how lame HW was, how Clinton was a fake mess, how Ross hated NAFTA, how we should have stayed in Iraq (even tho Ross was against the Kuwait war) and how he, he – he “really understood how much this place is screwed up!”

No logical, measured defense of the prez or even the explication was offered by me of how Perot was a freak, offering progressive views of social things and yet isolationism in a time when the rest of the planet had the Steaming Soviet Carcass to deal with – yet he wanted a huge tax on capital gains and the rich and putting tariffs on imports demonizing the federal deficit.

At one time there was a poll that said 39% of America was in favor of Ross Perot. Just like Trump now. There are now any number of times the “Oh” argument has been presented by me to rabid “Make America First” enthusiasm and outrage.

Perot lost steam after getting a temporary bounce from the debates, ultimately getting 19% of the 1992 election. An oft-cited analysis cites that it was not a factor in HW’s loss – but it’s clear he drew moderate support, and new voters, and I have always thought that his candidacy was a cherry on the cake of a “No New Taxes!” Dessert to his four years.

But now my mother is almost 20 years passed, my brother became my sister 15 years ago, and 39% of America supports Donald J. Trump. My mother had been a fan girl rabid supporter of Wendell Wilkie, I do not think my brother had ever voted before. But next presidential race Ross ran again, got half the votes despite declaring that black helicopters from the Deep State wrecked his daughter’s wedding. I did not ask, and do not know if they voted for him again.

Families and politics are inscrutable. Both mother and sibling loved and love the Episcopal Church, deeply – as I do, so that bullet was dodged. But the most soothing balm to the irritation of salvation prescriptions is our astrangement. My support of mother was kept at a distance until her death, because, well, her marriage always trumped any dealing with the trauma of our childhoods.

And I have not spoken with my now sister in over a decade: despite scores of mailings and some early invitations: all unresponded to. My “Oh” response was for almost everything in my relationship with my family’s revealed distinction from my understanding, let alone support and embrace.

I did all the Good Son Duties through my mother’s death, but I never offered argument, contrast, or insight – my view was always to keep the rest of the world away from our fragile, broken family life – a life 20 years ended by the time my mother died.

Like families, the politics of the moment change. I know, first hand, the anger of many I love, most in a rage at the insanity of the Game Show, others at the obvious essential change to the disruption of the wrecking of America.

That does not means that I do not wince, now, when I hear again the 25 year old love of my Mom and brother for Perot in my memory…

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