by Mary Jedlicka Humston
When you read the chapter “Sex, Drugs, & Rock & Roll: What We Don’t Talk About” from our book Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, you’ll see just how little Mary and I have talked about politics in our letters throughout the years.
And, yet, Monday night in our respective Iowa towns, we both participated in our first caucuses. Mary attended as a reporter for her local newspaper, and my husband and I decided we simply must take part in this momentous 2016 political event. Having our caucus spot located only four houses away at the elementary school our three kids had attended was another impetus. While we made plans to experience this phenomenon, Mary prepared for reporting on the caucus in her area.
With plenty of time before we had to leave for the 7:00 pm start, Jim and I relaxed. However, car doors slamming and people talking outside our house made us glance at the clock. What on earth? It was only 6:30 pm. He opened our front door and looked toward the school. The line was already out the main entrance. Oh boy! This was even bigger than we’d imagined. Jim hurriedly threw on his coat to save a spot, while I scurried out of my at-home duds and finished dressing. By the time I joined him only a few minutes later, the line already snaked down the long sidewalk toward the teacher parking lot. Ready or not, we were quickly propelled into our first caucus adventure.
Mary and I chatted the next day about our experiences. As Caucus neophytes, Mary, Jim and I have to say we enjoyed the excitement that night when the Democrat and Republican Presidential hopefuls vied for winning spots in the first caucus of the nation.
When we Marys wrote Mary & Me, we had no idea that a-caucusing we would go, but go we did.
And, what an experience it was!
Note from the other Mary: There were, and are, good reasons to avoid topics such as politics and religion in our conversations, whether those conversations are in person or through the mail. Those kinds of topics have the potential to escalate into heated arguments. The fact that Mary and I avoided this topic in thousands of letters is an astounding feat.
From Mary PK in Mary & Me, page 156: “We’d agreed that politics topped the list. Even during election years we’d barely touched on it, though I had a vague idea who Mary might have voted for once or twice. The subject had never been dubbed taboo; it just wasn’t something we discussed in letters. Frankly, during the years when I had struggled just to survive, politics wasn’t on my radar at all. That was embarrassing to admit to someone like Mary, who seemed to take her voting privileges seriously. My husband had always voted, and never quite understood when I chose not to. It was a personal failing I wasn’t eager to share. Occasionally, my stance had been more of a default position. I couldn’t in good conscience vote for a candidate who supported abortion, so I wouldn’t vote at all that year. Other times I voted for an underdog candidate, knowing full well they wouldn’t win. When I did declare a party, it was Republican.”
Later in the same chapter, I declared my allegiance to Ben Carson, based solely on what I knew of him at that point of time in 2014.
From Mary JH, Mary and Me, page 159: “But politics? Hardly at all. It’s not that we’re on opposite ends. In fact, I don’t even know for certain what end she’s on. It boils down to neither of us taking time to delve into that world to convince, change, or sway viewpoints.
I am uncomfortable talking at length with anyone about politics, so it’s no surprise I wouldn’t want to squander our valuable writing time. I vote. She votes. Or does she? Who we vote for and why is personal. Just to show how rarely we talk about it, I’ll ask the question now. ‘Mary, what party do you support?’ For the record, I’m an Independent.”
To me, what is even more astounding than our avoidance of the topic for nearly 30 years is how it came up just recently when we discovered we’d each attended a caucus for the first time.
When Mary suggested writing about our mutual attendance of a caucus, I balked a little at the idea. After all, I was attending as a reporter, assigned to a Democrat caucus, while she was attending as a supporter. Of who? Which party? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Could that knowledge hurt our friendship?
For the record, it didn’t matter.
Also for the record, if I were to vote today, it would not be for Ben Carson. But if I was attending a caucus as a strong support on either end, it would be more likely I’d be on that side of the spectrum.
And that’s all I have to say on that controversial topic~