I spent most of my life in academia. I went to college at the ripe old age of 17, graduated with a useless degree – unless I wanted to teach, which would have required grad school, and since I had been told all my life I was going to be a teacher just like my oldest sister, there was no way in Hell I was going that. I had grown up in a working class family with fairly middle of the road values, I wouldn’t have called my parents either liberal or conservative, they were just people who did the best they could for their family, their friends and their community. To this day I have no idea how they voted.
But I was a child of the 60’s, growing up near Woodstock, NY and fully embracing liberal values of free love, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Stuff your labels, I’m a person, treat me like an equal and not someone lesser (or better) because of my skin color or my sex. We HATED labels. College solidified these ideas for me, and working in a factory didn’t change them. I wanted the women in that sewing mill to unionize, rise up, fight against the men who held them down at home and at work. I wanted them to fight – never thinking that they had mouths to feed and bills to pay and couldn’t afford to lose their jobs for an ideal. Never mind that they most likely didn’t have the energy.
My second and third degrees solidified my isolation from the “real world.” Don’t think for a second that academia is not an isolated island in the midst of reality. As a professor, I can pretty easily tell which of my colleagues went straight into teaching and which ones worked in any other field.
Then I met the Bear. He was working at Harley Davidson, introduced me to his friends and watched as my head reeled from the culture shock. I’ve written about that before, and it’s relevant because I learned a lot from talking and listening to a group of people whose experience of life was so far different from mine.
I would hear them say, “Did you hear Rush today?” quite often. I had heard OF Rush Limbaugh, but never actually listened to his show. In my world, he was a far right nut case, someone to be derided and ignored except when he was saying something that might actually be considered dangerous to my world view.
I admit that I investigated this man only because I don’t like not knowing what people around me are talking about. I hate to feel uneducated or in the dark. So on one of my random rides around the area, because I was still trying to find my way around – and I didn’t have a GPS in those days so it was interesting at times, but that’s another story – I turned on talk radio. I listened with an open mind, as much as I could, because hey, this was Rush, the guy who had DittoHeads as fans and seriously? But I tried. And after a week or so, the strangest thing happened. The guy started making sense.
I didn’t always agree with him. His “feminazis” comments would set my teeth on edge, but there was something there. He had facts to back up his statements. He actually answered questions. And I started to respect him.
I learned today that he passed away. He was beloved by Conservatives and hated by Liberals. I expect the twitter-verse to be filled with glee at his passing, because the party of unity and all.
That’s the saddest part of all