I was having lunch today with a college friend who, like me, is a relocated New Yorker now working at a university in the Boston area. She and I started college during the Johnson administration. We were talking about this and that when I was reminded, not by any comment she made, but by something I said that triggered a recollection. The event was in my memory bank, but it had just been a while since I retrieved it. And I have been thinking about this post lunch because it was something that in my grandfather's parlance would be referred to as "not so extra" or if he was speaking Yiddish "a shonda"--an embarrassment.
Sometimes I wonder when I write these blogs if it may seem to readers as if I feel that I have the answers down pat. I do not have the answers down pat. And I am startled every once in a while by a recollection of something that I did which is not necessarily egregious, but not quite right. I think for the most part I live within the confines of my conscience. And I imagine that the reason this event is bugging me now is because I am conscious of that conscience.
So, it is 1970 sometime before the end of the semester at the end of my junior year. I intend to stay in school for the summer to make up some credits I need to graduate on time the following May. I know I will need a job for the summer and I don't have one.
A buddy of mine is a member of the Young Republicans and he tells me that there are some jobs available working on the New York State Thruway as a toll collector. I can get one of these jobs as long as I shake a hand or two among some Republican lawmakers in Albany and work on the campaign of a local Republican candidate.
I was not a Young Republican and am not now an old Republican. I have never been a Republican although at times I have voted for a Republican candidate, though those instances are certainly aberrations. Not only was I not a Republican, but in my family, and in my neighborhood I did not even know any Republicans. My next door neighbor didn't have a picture of her daughters on the wall when you walked in. It was a picture of FDR. Republicans were, to my experience, misguided and not for the common person.
Still as I was musing today about this incident, I do not recall flinching once, when my buddy suggested that I could get a good paying job by posing as a Republican.
Now this is not a hanging offense, but still, there were a number of things that were really not so extra about this. As mentioned, I was not a Republican. Second, if the jobs were granted only to Republicans then there was something illegitimate about the operation. I don't think this was a to the victors belong the spoils situation, though it might have been. There was a Republican governor at the time in New York, but this was a summer job that I think, ostensibly, anyone could apply for. Third, I spent several nights driving around Albany with a bullhorn encouraging people to vote for this Republican candidate.
As it turns out the fellow who I campaigned for was a decent guy. He really was, but I did not know that when I signed on. He could have been Dracula as far as I knew when I accepted the job. And the damage was insignificant, my man lost--(I should have worked harder on my bull horn technique) And certainly you can trot out the argument that "everyone does this kind of thing." Yet, hey we were idealistic college students protesting the unconscionable behavior in southeast Asia, deriding Nixon at every chance. crooning Phil Ochs anti-establishment protest songs. And there I was with a bullhorn and shaking hands with Republican lawmakers at the capital building.
So, it was not so extra. Again, not beating myself up about it forty years later, but it is a good thing to recall for humility purposes.
I find myself today upset with Dwight Howard for, if the allegations are correct, forcing the Orlando Magic to fire coach Stan Van Gundy. Always a healthy thing to look yourself in the mirror before questioning the ethics of someone else and consider things one might have done that are not so extra.,