|No Escaping Politics
By Kyleen Cornell
Jul 20, 2004
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One of the reasons I fell in love with Charley was his genuine interest in helping people and connecting with the people in his life. That interest extends to his community and he is often introduced at community events as a ‘civic minded’, ‘community building’ individual. That’s why when he said he wanted to help raise money to fix the leaky roof on our Grange hall – the only indoor building big enough for folks in Garden Valley, California, (that’s where we live) to meet, hold wedding receptions, birthday parties, square dancing, marijuana legalization action meetings, etc. – I was behind him.
The fundraiser was a mock election for “Honorary Mayor of Garden Valley”. Anyone who lives in the area can run and any money they raise during the three month campaign gets split between the local community association and the charity of the candidate’s choice.
Charley, of course, chose the Grange roof fund as his charity.
He then phoned half a dozen other Grange members and suggested they consider running so that we would get closer to our goal for a new roof faster. One of the families he called was a young couple with a new baby girl.
The campaign got underway with 3 candidates running. Charley, a guy from the neighboring town who runs an after-school program called, “Kids Club,” for teens to give them something to do and hopefully stay out of trouble, and the young infant girl. The young couple that my husband had called to tell about the fundraising campaign entered their baby as a candidate for Honorary Mayor of Georgetown.
At first, this sounded like a great and fun experience – that is until the Kids Club guy dropped out without basically telling anyone. We then learned that the infant’s parents didn’t choose the Grange as their charity. Instead, they chose a national children’s foundation that creates little gift baskets for abused/neglected children to take with them when they have to go into the hospital. That made sense to me – they had a new baby and they found a charity that helps, well, babies.
I have found myself telling people that I now have two teenagers – my 13-year-old and my 46-year-old husband. That’s another reason I love Charley – he’s childlike and fun. So when we were at the local nursery, and saw the baby had a donation jar with her picture on it there, Charley playfully drew a mustache on it.
I thought it was cute. Then the maternal instinct in me said, “Gee, I hope the mother doesn’t get upset by someone drawing a mustache on her cute little baby.” But since I had witnessed the playful and non malicious spirit behind the action, I figured it would be alright.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
A series of, what should have been playful back-and-forth campaign spirited hijinks, ended up with the baby’s mother getting visibly hurt. I began to realize that my dear husband was doomed. If he engaged in the tongue-in-cheek banter that had occurred in previous mock elections, it ended with the mother practically in tears.
Then there’s Dr. Laura.
The literature provided by the baby’s parents stated that the founder of their charity was none other than Dr. Laura Schlessinger. (Schlessinger is the controversial radio host who repeatedly calls gays and lesbians “biological errors” and deviant. She is someone intent on spreading intolerance against a class of Americans.) Myself being raised by two moms and having probably half of my dearest friends and many family members who are homosexual, I was quite familiar with this person and the controversy that surrounds her. But I figured these folks were young and really didn’t have a clue about the controversy.
It ended up being Charley versus the baby.
The baby’s mother and a couple other members of the community wrote letters to the editor of the local paper accusing “some jerk” of drawing “Hitler” mustaches on an innocent baby who couldn’t defend herself. They also contended that, “it really doesn’t matter who the founder of the charity is because the charity does good things.”
The latter argument didn’t bode well with my next door neighbors – who recently were legally wed in San Francisco – and are a welcome breath of vitality, love and diversity in this small town. They felt they couldn’t in good conscience give to an organization founded by someone who has said they are immoral because of something they have no more control over than the color of their skin.
Mercifully, the election has come and gone. Charley won but it was uncomfortable and not nearly as fun an experience as I had hoped. The life lesson learned is that even in a mock election where everyone understands that it is not real and where the cause is noble, it boils down to human nature coming in and messing things up.
Politics at any level, no matter how community oriented and altruistic, will always be politics.