Saturday, March 19, 2011

Strange Family's Reunion, and Modern-Day Perceptions of Nixon

My dad's side of the family holds a reunion, usually in a small and not terribly luxurious resort in the mountains east of Salt Lake City, every other year. I've attended my final reunion with this branch of the family. Last spring one of my dad's sisters and her husband were hired to take care of me when I was sick and injured. They didn't take care of me, resulting in a fiasco that wound up costing them custody of some of their children for several months. Part of the family blamed me for the sequence of events that caused some of this family's children to land in foster care for a time. Because I'm no longer welcome at any event my grandparents are hosting, and also because my mom is honoring my desire to never again see the aunt and uncle whose negligence almost killed me, I won't be attending future reunions with this side of the family.

The most recent reunion, as have all reunions with these particular relatives, ended with a testimony meeting. Mormons are fond of testimony meetings. One Sunday church service in each month is a testimony meeting in place of a more conventional worship service. Other church functions -- youth conferences, girls' and scout camps, and young adult retreats -- feature testimony meetings as well. It's logical enough that expecially zealous families might incorporate this feature into their reunions.

The family reunion testimony meetings most often have consisted of long-winded adults -- especially men -- attempting to outdo one another in terms of spirituality and in name-dropping of prominent Mormons. The bombastic son-in-laws of my grandparents have typically hogged most of the air time of these sessions. It somewhat caught me by surprise, then, when at the most recent reunion, in the middle of his testimony about his own righteousness and the rightness of His One True Church, one magniloquent uncle-by- marriage inexplicably began testifying to the holiness of Richard M. Nixon and how, if given the opportunity, he would vote for him again in the next election. (Thank God or whomever you wish that the American voting process has not been corrupted to the degree that we knowingly elect dead people to government offices.) Not to be outdone, the next pompous uncle-by-marriage bore his tetimony that he would go so far as to stuff a ballot box on behalf of our nation's thirty-seventh president. What had begun as a meeting with the presumed intent of allowing attendants to express love for God and family soon morphed into a lovefest for the late great Richard M. Nixon. My mom actually left the campfire area. I tried to do the same, but my dad physically prevented me from getting up and walking away. Nearly two years after the fact, I'm glad that my dad made me stay, as it wasn't something I would've wanted to miss. Grown men were crying while swearing allegiance to a dead guy who was a known crook. If I had needed further affirmation -- which I didn't -- that my dad's sisters had all married men who were bat$hit -crazy, here it was on a silver platter.

The testimony meeting always concluded with my grandfather's testimony. Grandfather did not disappoint me. He, too, spoke of the divine mission of the only- U. S. president-in-history-to ever-resign-while-in-office Richard M. Nixon. I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen my grandfather's face transformed into that if Tricky Dicky as he spoke.

Does anyone else out there have relatives who are equally reality-challenged?


  1. I don't have relatives like that, thank God! But, even at this remove (over the Atlantic) I do have a Richard Nixon story!

    My late aunt was very much a 'can do' person. She married a GI and moved to the States with him. Mississippi in the late 1940s.

    Imagine how it went down when she refused to take the place of a Black woman in the queue in a shop who was before her!

    She then found out how badly Black people were treated and became a stout defender of the rights of Black people.

    It turned out that there was something her husband had neglected to tell her when she met him in Britain, back home he was a member of a criminal gang and this, eventually, caused the marriage to founder.

    She moved to Flint, Michigan, married her second husband and became a campaigner for civil rights there!

    She wrote to Richard Nixon pointing out some of the inequalities and problems that poor people -but especially black poor people- in the 1960s were suffering and much to her surprise Richard Nixon invited her to the White House to speak with him.

    She outlined the problems, suggested some possible solutions and was poll-axed when at the end of the meeting he said: "I agree. These are serious problems, I like your ideas to fix them. I am going to arrange for xx million Dollars in funding. But I WILL make a stipulation, YOU have to be in charge of the committee to implement them. If your name isn't there, the community doesn't get the money."

    And so it happened and a large community centre and other initiatives were funded because Richard Nixon agreed with my aunt!

    As she said about Richard Nixon and Watergate: "I know what he did and I know that it was wrong. But I also know what he did for the poor of Michigan."

    Interestingly although she was white (and British!) she was often called upon to sing solo gospel songs at the funerals of black people, this was apparently a very rare privilege. She was just glad to do serve the Lord. She was a very humble woman. And a noermo, thank God!

  2. I really like your aunt!

    I guess your aunt's experience with r.M.N. shows that people are multi-faceted. my relatives who supported nixon, however, had no access to information such as what you have shared about the 37th U. s. President. their support of him would have been primarily for any crime against the democrats that he either organized, okayed, or to which he turned a blind eye, depending upon whose story one believes.

  3. If they'd known Nixon gave money to a crazy British woman to fund stuff for black people, they might not have liked him so well! ;o))