She reminds me of my mom.
Joan Egan was described in her senior college yearbook as “Gracious, Gregarious, Grand.” And she was.
She was also smart, and unsentimental. I can recall only a handful of times seeing her cry. Her pragmatism was ill suited for messy emotions. Feelings never got in the way of completing the task.
And yet she was compassionate. If you were really sick, she’d visit regularly. If you needed a meal, she’d cook you one or pick up ribs at Costco. She was a hospital volunteer for years. As a polio survivor, she knew firsthand what it was like to be disabled. Having spent half her childhood in the hospital, and raised by a single mother, she was resilient to a fault.
And she loved to laugh. If one of us had become a brain surgeon, it wouldn’t have made her as proud as raising a son as funny as my brother Tim.
My mother had no enemies because she never ran for public office. Had she, her campaign would’ve lasted a day. As soon as she was accused of devil-worship, she would have quit. “This is nonsense,” she’d say. Joan Egan was not a quitter but neither would she suffer fools, not even for the greater good.
And there lies the big difference between my mom—and the many other smart, accomplished, strong women I know—and Hillary Rodham Clinton. HRC has never lost sight of, or backed away from, the greater good.
Without going into her life before becoming the nation’s First Lady, (watch last night’s Samantha Bee for that), suffice it to say, Hillary had enemies. She would eventually deem them a “vast right wing conspiracy” but really from the beginning, they were mostly a bunch of GOP white guys threatened by her intelligence and the ways she chose to apply it. How dare she, an unelected official in 1992, attempt to overhaul our nation’s healthcare system. How dare she inadvertently throw light on and suggest that there was a critically important issue addressing the needs of nearly every American that they had neglected to tackle. Were she a man, and an elected official, they would’ve taken her outside and beaten the shit out of her. But she was a woman! And the president’s wife! How do we go about destroying her? And the digging began.
The proverbial shovel hit rock after rock after rock: Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster. She was a lesbian! She adored Satan! They creamed their jeans when Monica Lewinsky happened. “It’s done, they’re over, this is over.” Phew.
But it wasn’t. What they did successfully accomplish was creating the false narrative that Hillary was a liar. What they managed to impose on her was a need to feel secretive, defensive, and suspicious. She tightened her lips the same way my mother would when she felt attacked, or condescended to. It was hurtful to HRC but nowhere near as painful as the social justice issues she felt compelled to take on.
“Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights,” she said famously in Beijing, 1995.
She has felt the sting of being female. She has experienced what I and every woman I know has experienced — the suggestion that we are less than men. Not as smart, not as capable, not as clever, not as worthy. We choose our approach to the matter as individuals, though collectively, we have too often dealt with it by stepping aside. That’s why Hillary infuriates: she refuses to simply step aside.
What she doesn’t refuse is the moral responsibility of the Methodist church’s credo: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. I want to take to my bed just thinking about that. But not Hillary.
She is still standing despite every attempt to knock her down. None of us can quite understand how any human being could be treated as poorly and not throw in the towel—but there she is: not just smart, but insightful. Able to see many sides of an issue. Willing to listen. Capable of starting the work and untangling the mess without knowing the outcome, but certain that her motives are just. And yes, there’s ego there also. You can’t run for president without one.
I’ll offer the obligatory disclaimer: HRC is flawed. Are you not? But when was the last time you took a chance for the greater good in spite of your warts? Did you get insurance for eight million children? Did you help disabled kids have access to an equal education? Have you promoted and fought for women’s rights throughout the developing world? Have you helped people with AIDS get life-saving medication?
Emails you say? What about them? No really, what about them?
My mother was a sports fan and loved nothing more than watching a Notre Dame game on Saturdays or the NFL on Sundays and Mondays. There was sheer delight in watching her root for the Steelers (she went to college in Pittsburgh) and they came through for her many a season. So seeing the picture of Hillary rejoicing after the Cubs historic game-seven win last Wednesday night brought back memories of my mom. For me, as a woman and as Joan’s daughter, Hillary’s historic journey is personal. I’m hoping to raise my hands tonight in celebration just like Hillary did last week for her beloved Cubs. There will be sheer joy, not just for me and my family, but for every little girl, every grown woman, every American, every citizen of the world. And yes, for my mom.
Let’s do this.