in my humble opinion

What would Barbara Fox say?

By JONATHAN CHARLES FOX
Posted 10/21/20

For those of you who’ve read my column before, you’re probably aware that I write about my mother a lot. And for those who’ve turned the page until now? Fair warning: I write about …

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in my humble opinion

What would Barbara Fox say?

Posted

For those of you who’ve read my column before, you’re probably aware that I write about my mother a lot. And for those who’ve turned the page until now? Fair warning: I write about my mother a lot. She wasn’t always right, but she wasn’t always wrong either. While we often disagreed, she taught me to look at “both sides of the coin” before making any decisions. “That’s what makes the world go ‘round,” she’d say when I complained about anyone who did not agree with my point of view, and while her commentary was often on point, I occasionally had difficulty backing down. “It’s better to be wrong then have no opinion at all,” she’d suggest, which would then result in a lively debate.

 “Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” Mom would say when discussing politics. “Be open-minded,” she cautioned, “But not so open-minded that your brains fall out.” Pithy comments like that made me believe that my mother was not only brilliant but bitingly funny, as well. Years later, I discovered that it was Groucho Marx who originally said those brilliant and funny words. To be fair, she never claimed to have coined the phrase at the time, but she didn’t credit Groucho either. Hmmm.

 Apathy was not tolerated in our house, and both parents made it clear that my sister and I were expected to be informed, educated and have a sense of responsibility concerning civic duty. There were no excuses for not being knowledgeable and we were encouraged to participate in the electoral process. My first foray into politics was in 1976. Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia was running against incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford from Michigan, and 22-year-old me volunteered to work for Carter’s campaign. I honestly thought Ford was a buffoon. That doesn’t mean I was right, but it doesn’t mean I was wrong, either. “He’s so full of crap his eyes are brown,” my mother said to a friend who was voting for Ford. “His eyes are blue!” her Republican friend protested. “Makes no never-mind” Barbara Fox said, momentarily sounding like a cowgirl. “Politicians and diapers should be changed often,” she continued, “and for the same reason.”

Years later, I discovered it was the brilliant and funny Mark Twain who said those words and while mom didn’t acknowledge it, she never claimed them as her original thought either. Hmmm.

I can’t imagine not voting and have no patience for those who don’t. American author and drama critic George Jean Nathan (not my mother) once said that “bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who do not vote.” I’m sure that if Barbara Fox were alive today, she’d have plenty to say (her own words or appropriated from others) about our current hotly debated political climate. Truth be told, some part of me is happy that she isn’t around to witness the debacle (IMHO) that is playing out before our eyes.

“Always vote for principle,” Mom said before the ‘76 election. “Though you may vote alone, you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” Honestly, that one didn’t really sound like Mom at all. Years later, I discovered that it was President John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) who spoke those words originally, not Barbara Fox. Hmmm.

 As for me, I’ve already voted; at a secure polling station sanctioned by the U.S. government. To those of you who claim to be “not interested in politics,” I would respond with these words. “Anyone who says they are not interested in politics is like a drowning man who insists he is not interested in water.” And no, it wasn’t Barbara Fox who said it. It was Mahatma Gandhi.

Final thought: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” — John F. Kennedy

To find out where to vote, see who’s on the ballot and contact your election officials, visit www.vote.org.

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