I had coffee with Lila yesterday. It was too cold to sit out on her porch so we sat in her living room, a cozy room with a modest chrysanthemum-print couch, a couple narrow arms chairs, and one glider rocker with a matching footrest. This rocker is where Lila sat. Behind her, in the archway between her living room and her dining room, stood a small baby grand piano with framed photographs arranged on the top.
“Do you see that photograph on the right, the one with the plain black frame?” Lila began. “That’s my great grandson. I’ve been thinking about him today and how he never met George McGovern, though I think Tom would have liked McGovern. Why would that be? I don’t rightly know, but that’s the feeling I had. Anyhow, I heard on the radio this morning that young people just aren’t interested in politics these days. Don’t that beat all?”
I admitted that it did.
“I took Tom’s mother campaigning for McGovern. Those were heady days, do you know what I mean by that? We just felt that anything was possible, that the world’s wounds could be healed. That nothing was beyond us.
“Do you think that’s why young people today don’t get involved in politics? Maybe they don’t feel that way, they don’t feel the righteousness that we felt. Of course I wasn’t young then, when McGovern ran for president, but I remember thinking then that everywhere I looked, there was a young person. Someone with a gleam in their eye. Idealists. People who believed that if you stuffed enough envelopes, knocked on enough doors, marched down main street enough times, well then things would change.
“Today I don’t even feel that. Here’s what I was thinking when I was studying Tom’s photograph. If I’ve given up, if I’ve decided there’s no damn use, then why should Tom there stand up and speak out? He’s handsome isn’t he? And he does have a gleam in his eye, I’ll say that for him.
“Did you see that almost two billion dollars have been spent on this campaign? There. That’s why I’ve given up. There’s no you or me in that two billion dollars. Our mailman, he’s a nice enough fellow, stops sometimes to chat when I’m outside, well he can’t even name our Senate candidate. When I asked him why he didn’t know he just said he didn’t care, he didn’t see what the difference was. Money was buying the government anyway.
“And money, is it conservative or liberal?
“So what would it take to get my Tom to stuff envelopes, that’s what I want to know.”