The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

GRANDMA VOTED FOR IKE

It’s been awhile since I talked about my grandmother.  Those of you who are not dog lovers might find this silly, but with the recent departure of my three Golden Retriever guests my thoughts have been drawn to her.  Both these wonderful puppies and my grandmother showed me nothing but their complete love.  I miss all four of them.

When I began this blog my very early entries revolved around the life lessons that she taught me.  For those of you who missed it, she came from Czechoslovakia at the age of nine without any knowledge of English.  She began as a scullery maid and taught herself a new language with the aid of her aunt and a dictionary.  She never had any real formal education – but in my view, was one of the wisest women who ever walked on Earth.

She married, raised two children on her own after my grandfather’s death.  Became a gourmet cook and totally doted on me.  Many years after her death I am still benefiting from the example she set for me and for all she met.

One of the responsibilities that she took most seriously was expressing her voice at the ballot box.  She would read the papers to inform herself on all the political races and would decide which candidates most represented her viewpoint.  I remember her telling me that she had voted (twice) for President Eisenhower.  (Grandma had a far better record of voting for winners than I have been able to establish).

I remember asking her why she had voted for Ike.  As I asked this, grandma began crying.  She was about to reveal something that she must have felt I was previously too young to know.  She went over to the beautiful desk that was in the hallway and reached into a secret compartment that the cabinetmaker had built into the burled walnut.  Inside that compartment there was a letter, quite worn and yellowed with age.

The letter had been written by a man who worked with my great uncle in the resistance to the Nazis in Czechoslovakia.  Great Uncle Frantisek had been captured together with his wife and seven and nine year old children.  My great uncle was apparently one of the local resistance leaders near grandma’s home town of Kutna Hora.

Three of the SS men who captured them raped  his wife in front of my great uncle and then shot her.  Then they brought his two children in the room bound with rope, poured gasoline over them and lit them on fire.  Then they mercifully put a bullet through my great uncle’s head.

They released his lieutenant who wrote the letter and had witnessed these events with the intent of trying to demoralize those who would oppose their terror and tyranny.  That’s why grandma had voted for Ike.  She viewed him as the liberator of her place of birth and she was grateful to him.

After hearing this story I learned that one of the most fundamental responsibilities of being an American citizen is exercising our right to vote – preferably in an informed manner.  It is a lesson I have never forgotten.

It’s amazing to me that as I think back about how my uneducated grandmother took this responsibility so seriously, so many of us who have had the benefit of receiving so much from our nation take this responsibility as a minor inconvenience – if they bother with it at all.  Perhaps the Great American Tragedy has finally been written.

Comments on: "GRANDMA VOTED FOR IKE" (20)

  1. Some of my family also were tortured and killed by the Nazi bastards. That reality is part of my fabric, and I understand completely your grandmother’s motivation and loyalty. I cringed when I read about your great uncle, and I can’t begin to imagine experiencing terror to that degree.
    This piece slammed into me like a 2×4. I love your grandmother.

    • I cannot imagine nor understand the mind that could conceive, let alone carry out that sort of brutality. If grandma were alive, I know she would welcome you over as a guest and friend at dinner, Mike.

  2. My wife’s parents had to flee from Hungary toward the end of the war and have some tragic stories to tell too. I don’t know why it’s believed graduation from a school is an education? That’s only the beginning! Education is the sum total of what we have learned throughout life, and most of that does not come from a textbook.

    • War is the ultimate result of our failure to reason and behave ethically. The details may be more or less horrible – but they are always tragic. I cannot help but think of the contrast between the gratitude my grandmother felt coming to this land of opportunity and the challenges which she gratefully embraced – learning a new language for one – compared to those of us who have so much and feel that we have so little. Her life was based on the acquisition and application of something so simple – common sense. It’s a pity that we can’t teach that in schools.

  3. Well made point, Juwanna.

    An unfortunate and glaring irony that occurs to me, especially as I consider unfathomable horrors such as your ancestors were subjected, is that these are precisely the types of evils that history repeatedly warns can arise when people disengage from their civic responsibilities including, often especially, the simple yet crucially important act of informed voting.

    • Yes, Alan history teaches – but do we heed it’s lessons? We all need to take an immersion course not only in the Third Reich and Stalinist Russia to remind us of the perils which can befall us, but a second course on Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to remind us that we can positively impact the world.

  4. […] puppies and my grandmother showed me nothing but their complete love.  I miss all four of them Click here to continue reading  Rate this: Share this:Share on TumblrDiggEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  5. Thank you for your story. It demonstrates the need not only to exercise our civic duty to vote, but also how as part of that duty, we need to make an educated, informed vote. So many today vote based on looks, or some other reason without actually looking into the candidates records or actually listening to what they are saying. If at the minimum they would do that, how much better quality candidates could we have?

    • Thank you for your comment, Melissa. I couldn’t agree with you more. It seems only logical to be concerned about the caliber of the people for whom we vote. After all, they enact laws and make rules that affect each of us. That is, in my mind, slightly more important than checking out the latest sale at the mall. But that’s just me, I guess. Thanks again for visiting.

  6. Dear God Almighty — I’m sobered, horrified, and speechless.

    Your grandmother’s strength and wisdom are unsurmountable

    I’ll be sure to enjoy this gorgeous summerlike day with gratitude for my special place the planet now.

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting, Jim.

      Gratitude is something which we all need to remember. We are so blessed to have so much – but sadly so many appreciate that fact so little. Grandma was a simple person – and I always remember the old Shaker hymn, ” ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,” when I think of her.

  7. Dousing the children with gasoline and setting them alight…my God! These are civilised people?

    It took much strength for you to recount this and I admire you. I can fully understand why your grandmother voted for Eisenhower.

    You are right about immersion courses in the Third Reich and Stalinist USSR. Let us also not forget to include Mao’s China > as many or more people perished under him as under Stalin…

  8. There seems no end to the butchery that we humans can perpetrate on each other. The “lower animals” kill – but for food. I don’t know what we can possibly use to excuse our behavior. To re-use the Rachael Carson quote I cited in a recent post, “We cannot have peace among men whose hearts find delight in killing any living creature.”

  9. The Great American Tragedy are not those who don’t bother to vote but that the system as been intentionally structured so that there are only two choices of immoral conduct that one can vote for.

  10. This was so hard to read – it hurt so much. I had a professor from Hungary. One day, he told a story about how he had escaped Hungary. It was during an election & he had been bugging us in every class about voting, but I guess we weren’t listening. We listened that day because the story was horrific. I swear, we have no idea here in this country, just how bad it can get. We bitch & moan, but we don’t treat voting as the vital act that it is. This story about your grandmother is incredible motivation for remembering the power we have in our hands, if only we will use it.

    I wish I knew your grandmother. It’s enriching my life just reading about her.

  11. Although we’ve only met through cyberspace, SB I am sure that grandma would have invited you regularly over for dinner. She had no higher compliment to pay anyone.

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