Lessons from mom resonate today

I find myself in a unique position politically. I was raised by Democrats in the Berkeley, California area (which means they were in the nomenclature of the time, “hippies”) during the transitional and inflammatory period of the 1960s and 1970s.

My entire extended family was of like and left mind both in word and often by deed. Being raised with liberal views dominating discussions around the dinner table and on the street, I of course subscribed to those views that resonated strongly in my young mind.

Firstly, and most palpable, was the self evident; injustice and distaste of racism. I was quite proud (and still am to this day), of my mother, who as a single parent and art director for a local newspaper ran a full page add with a wonderful illustration she did of an African American woman and the simple but well known phrase “Black is Beautiful” and the name of the advertising client, a large grocery store.

My mother’s boss told her the store owner dictated that any advertising art depicting people had to show solely those of Caucasian ethnicity. He explained the store owner refused to accept the fact that his store was made prosperous by the local African Americans and not a white clientele.

My mother (who was around 26 at the time), knew full well that publishing the illustration would cost us her job and would leave our small family in economic extremis. She ran the add and the response and moral support she received from our African American friends was helpful, buoying her spirits as she indeed was dismissed. Times were difficult for us.

I learned from her to bravely stand up to wrongs that you personally can struggle against. Other lessons learned from her and my grandmother, aunt, uncles and my father were the importance of protecting the environment. These tenets of the liberal viewpoint are still some of my main social and global concerns.

When I graduated from high school I was completely unprepared for college and I struggled, working a graveyard shift to pay for rent, school, food, etc.

At one point I was unable to keep up with studies and pay my bills and became homeless, living in an apartment building’s laundry room. At this point I was forced to make a drastic decision. As the progeny of “hippies,” I joined the US Navy. I learned to navigate ships and finished my naval career in Special Forces.

I served in the Northern Persian Gulf at the tail end of the Iraqi-Irani War as a navigator of a Special Forces patrol boat conducting classified missions. During these missions, my comrades and I survived many life threatening situations. We fully expected the high danger a commando in a war zone should expect.

Luckily, I was never forced to take the life of another human, even if the human being was our enemy, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (the IRG). The IRG had been attacking any ship from any country who entered the Persian Gulf to (surprise), keep the world’s oil flow going. The IRG attacked innocent civilian sailors from such countries,

It was our job to stop the killing and we saved many hundreds of lives. I still feel good about our work and the men I worked with.

That was nearly 30 years ago. Some of our band of brothers got together during the Memorial Day weekend. We met just outside the Death Valley National Park for a camp out and target shooting event. Along with my old buddies were their extended families. About 33 people including moms and children. During the evenings as the kids roasted marshmallows, conversation turned to politics.

I had been prepared to bight my tongue if I heard any hateful speech from people I had just met. I was prepared to hear some unvarnished and coarse, if not racially charged words. I thought of the bravery of my mother (now in her 70s).

During my nearly 30 years living on Kauai I have similar strongly held liberal views as our overwhelmingly Democrat population. I am always puzzled by the amount of pure hate toward the Republicans that my friends display venomously … and often.

I was taught that the Democrats should try to promote peace and love and acceptance. I am always befuddled just how hate filled some of our left-leaning women and men are. Talking about physical violence toward the right is unsettling.

So…as some marshmallows were toasted perfectly and others flamed like sugary meteors, I was braced to hear more anger and more hate than my liberal Kauai friends and acquaintances voice. Surely the “racist, gun-toting, fascists” would spat the hate and narrow vision when the subject of Democrats and liberals in general were tabled as the target of discussion. I was completely floored by any and all omissions of negative speech.

I heard not one racial epithet or slur. I heard only politically correct references, like…”My African American Amigo, Tony just restored his 1966 Mustang.”

I heard discussions concerning global warming. Some of the group very worried at its evident existence, others who weren’t convinced listened openly to the proponent’s views.

Once the actual Democratic Party became the subject, I was unable to discern the hate and anger I was prepared to hear mirrored from my liberal friends. I heard only befuddlement. No anger, only confusion why the left was so angry (reference even before Donald J. Trump’s election).

Surprisingly, I heard a view that resonated with some of my Democrat friends …”Our system is so polarized and frozen and will remain so, until a third party wins the presidency.

I came away from the weekend realizing that we should all accept new friends for their wit, depth of character and kindness. If this person happens to have beliefs that are different from our own … revel in the difference. We can educate them and they can educate us and together positive change can happen.

Armfuls of aloha,

•••

Capt. Christopher W. Best, USMM, (ex-NavSpecWar) is a resident of Kalaheo.

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