Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Hillary, through a young Arkansas' girl's eyes.

I have a headache, and I can't sleep through it, which always either a) pisses me off or b) makes me reflective.

Right now I'm reflective. I'm thinking about the election, of course, and wondering why the critics of Hillary Clinton don't affect me more. Don't get me wrong, I'm bothered by the way I perceive her as mistreated and held to a different  standard, but most of the actual criticisms never really bother me, they never stick with me.

I think this because I'm 40, and I've lived all those 40 years in Arkansas. And during everyone of those 40 years that I have a memory of, Hillary has been a presence.  She's been that aunt that you bump into somewhere but don't really know well or someone like that. And, I'll admit, for most of the time I've been aware of her, she's been the subject of some controversy. As a young girl, still forming opinions and thoughts about life, I watched this with keen interest. See, Hillary was never "normal". She was never what people thought she should be. Now this part is probably an argument for nature vs. nurture, but I admired that in her. Nothing in me ever really wanted to be normal or what was expected either.

Hillary married Bill Clinton the year before I was born. But she didn't take his last name. (Dont even ask me about the fight Chris and I had over whether I'd take his last name!)  She became first lady when I was 4 or so, I think, and she didn't do normal "first lady" things. She had her own job. She tried to affect policy. She was constantly focused on how women and children were treated, and unlike I would've been, I doubt she cared exactly how the Governor's Mansion was decorated.  All this, the parts I remember at least, intrigued me. Her hair was never quite right to suit people. Her glasses were too big, and she never dressed suitably for a First Lady of Arkansas.

Then came the National Stage. Bill ran for the presidency. This was huge in Arkansas. And all those things about not fitting in that I admired in Hillary?  Boy, those were whoppers on the big scene. She had to change her hair, her last name, her clothes.... I assume she got contacts.  She didn't have a cookie recipe.... I could go on. Oh, and then the other women, Bill's other women, came out. I didn't know what to make of them. I mean, by this time I was old enough to know that sexuality was a thing, and that women were considered the weaker sex. And women could be and were often taken advantage of. So there was that. I could also see that there was advantage in women coming forward to try to harm a political figure. There was that too. But I'm not really concerned with my thoughts on Bill right now. I was still figuring him out.

Hillary though, intrigued me. How would a strong, self-sufficient woman like Hillary handle herself, her marriage,  and her young child during all this?  Well, she did it with what my conservative, Southern upbringing told me was style and grace. In a day and time when divorce was becoming normal, she hung in there. She saved her marriage.  She did the difficult thing and prioritized her daughter and marriage, and probably saved her husband's political career.  Oh, and she pissed off Tammy Wynette in the process. I remember thinking that was silly. And I remember my little feminist becoming self thinking she was probably the better half of that marriage and should've left that cheater, but there still being an ounce or so of awe that she didn't, and for the first time in my by then teen years thinking maybe there were bigger influences and considerations in marriage than being wronged. 

I'm still in my formative years at this time and can't even drive when Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992. But luckily, I had a great big brother who could drive and took me and my then boyfriend to Little Rock to see the newly elected president's acceptance speech.  I'd never been in such a throng of excited people before. I was attending and witnessing, history.  I just tried to take it all in.

So much happened in the 90's that had nothing to do with politics. My first love, my first car, high school, my first job, graduation (high school and college), my second love, getting to vote, falling in real love, buying a house, getting engaged, and getting married, my first real job, getting into law school, becoming chronically ill and watching dreams die, loving people, losing people, etc. Not necessarily all in that order.  Bill Clinton was president through it all. And Hillary, god bless her, she was Hillary through it all.

I knew there were scandals. I knew about something called Whitewater, but didn't really understand much about it. I knew there were rumors about a guy named Vince Foster.  Didn't mean that much to me or anyone I knew.  Oddly enough, now I know members of the Foster family who think that particular scandal is ludicrous.   But you know, I've learned that for some people, the Clintons can do nothing right, and are guilty by mere association of everything bad they've ever been associated with, and nothing good they've ever been associated with.   

I won't go through Hillary's Arkansas resume here, you've got Google for that.  Just like everyone "in the arena," Hillary did some great things for Arkansas, and she made mistakes.  I don't know anyone attempting to do big things that doesn't also make mistakes sometimes.   

Hillary wasn't the "normal" national First Lady, just as she hadn't been the "normal" Arkansas First Lady. She tried to change healthcare, which was an abysmal failure. Many women would've decided to just pick out the china and dresses for State Dinners after that. But not Hillary. She kept fighting for women's and children's rights everywhere she went and she still fought to affect policy.  I won't pretend I paid the most attention during these years. I was building my own life, becoming chronically ill, figuring out who I was, what marriage was about, and watching the dream of being a high powered attorney, like Hillary had been, fade away. But times were peaceful, and prosperous, and I didn't have to think about politics that much.

Then Monica Lewinsky came into the picture. I don't pretend to understand the Clinton marriage. I've known plenty of men like Bill Clinton, who love women, all of them, as often as possible.   But I've always imagined this intellectual intrigue in the Clinton marriage, and, yes, a love. But it's the matching of intellects, and passions about the same issues, that I think drive that coupling.  I mean, what do I really know?  I can't figure out some marriages that I've witnessed up close, from the beginning, so how can any of us really know much about the Clinton's marriage?  But still, the little feminist in me wondered what went through Hillary's mind?  Why did she stay?  This time, there was a lot more riding on it. I don't think a President had ever divorced in office. Chelsea, whom I adore, was older, but still Hillary has always seemed to me to be a mother before all else.
I don't know why she stayed. But I was married by now, and struggling a bit with it myself, but I understood what taking those vows meant and how though a husband could hurt you like no one else in life, he also at some point became the center of your world and he could put broken pieces together unlike anyone else too. So, still, I didn't understand why she stayed, but I was intrigued and awed by her commitment. 

Then, she became a senator. I was in awe again. This woman was battle tested, had broken all molds set before her, and now, finally, was in the spotlight for herself and her accomplishments. I was so proud of her. 

I won't pretend I didn't wish they had moved back to Arkansas and that she had run for office here. But once the Clinton Foundation began, it was obvious to me they needed to be somewhere high profile. And then I began traveling some myself, and I understood just how different the world outside of Arkansas is. Wow, it would have been a shock to the system to move from DC back to Arkansas. Don't get me wrong, I love my home state, but it's hard to travel to a fast paced city with public transportation for even a few weeks and then come back home. 

When September 11th, 2001 occurred, I was happy Hillary was the senator from NY.  That city needed a fighter, and Hillary is all fight, no quit. So when there was no money given by the Federal government specifically to help New York, Hillary fought. When 9/11 responders were getting sick with no special healthcare treatment for their sacrifice, Hillary fought. And she got results.

Before too long, we were in the thick of two wars, one terribly ill advised war with Iraq that I still believe was more about George W's daddy's issues with Saddam Hussein  than it was with 9/11, and one "just" war, going after Bin Laden, Al Queada and those who attacked us on 9/11.  Then came election time again. The 2008 election.

For full disclosure,  I didn't support Hillary, not because I hadn't always admired her or didn't find her qualified. It wasn't about her at all. I just knew about Barack Obama and found him electrifying. I knew a little about Michelle, and I was intrigued by her, too. Fired up, and ready to go. So I totally get the Bernie effect. While not young and charismatic like Obama, Bernie's new to the national scene, for those who don't pay a lot of attention to politics, anyway, and has what I call "grandpa" charisma. But this time, I wanted Hillary. I had been so impressed with how she and President Obama put their differences aside and worked together.  As Hillary said, when your President personally asks you to serve your country, you serve.

I loved how she made women's issues front and center during her term as Secretary of State. What a weenie job title for such a high powered job.  Anyway, she was scrutinized as SoS too. But here's the thing, nothing, absolutely nothing happened while she was Sec. of State that hadn't happened before. Private emails, embassy attacks, all had happened before. Just not while the Secretary's last name was Clinton.

I'll admit, Hillary wasn't immersed in good ole fashioned Southern charm like so many of us in Arkansas were.  That makes her unrelatable to many, and many people want to be able to relate to their President.  But I want a president who knows what to do and does it.  As Bill Clinton has said, Hillary is a change-maker, and he says politics is about making things better when you leave them than they were when you got there.  I have absolute faith that Hillary will do that.  It's simply who she is and what she does.

If I've learned anything in 40 years, yes literally almost 40 years of watching the Clintons, it's that they aren't ever going to be treated like other people.  I've thought long and hard about this. There have been other political power couples in history, but no one quite like the Clintons. Singularly, either of them would be a force, but together, they are unlike anything we've seen.  I think the Republicans recognized this, and decided whatever the Clintons did, it would be wrong, it would be scandalous. To be fair, Bill Clinton's private life is ripe for scandal.  And probably in response, Hillary has become more protective and guarded of her own personal life. But I've read books about Bill and Hillary, I've read about their scandals and about the Hunting of Bill and Hillary. I've met them and talked to people who've known them well, for years. And I believe the threat the Republicans saw in them was something that they thought should be destroyed, by whatever means possible.

So, in my 40 years of admiration, awe, intrigue, and, yes, wonder about Hillary Clinton,  I've watched group after group, agency after agency, special prosecutors, Republicans, Congress, and the FBI try to tear her down. And I've seen them come up empty handed, every time.  And now, In 2016, I've even seen some of those same people who tried to tear her down unsuccessfully, endorse her for President.  

So, I guess on November 8th, when this woman I've admired as she marched tirelessly forward, always raising up others as she went, wins the presidency, I'll have just about seen it all. That is, until its Chelsea's turn!  


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