As an editor, I assign lots of stories to writers. Back in 1998 or so, the publisher of a magazine I'd just started working for suggested an article on what she called the Sandwich Generation - folks who were raising children and taking care of aging parents.
Don't remember which local writer I pegged to pen the story, but I remember being so awestruck at the story s/he told. There was an entire struggle that so many people were experiencing but I knew nothing about.
Because my mother passed away from a breast cancer metastasis about year and a half before my son was born and my father died suddenly 13 years later, the idea of figuring out eldercare arrangements while coordinating play dates and carpool schedules was a pretty foreign one to me.
But now, right in the throws of the crazy that is the US Presidential Election Campaign, I suddenly have a good idea of what the meat squished between those two pieces of bread feels like.
Newsflash - I'm far from conservative or Republican. I lean so far left that I'm almost horizontal - no joke - so, outlandish promises, dirty political commercials and the like are things I'm use to experiencing every four years when national election time rolls around.
This time, however, there is a distinctly different vibe to the whole thing.
I'm seeing and hearing xenophobic vitriol that is dripping with hate and "we don't like your kind" rhetoric and punctuated by violence against men, women, students and older Americans. Last week, a photo taken in Chicago after a cancelled rally showed a woman in a full Heil Hitler pose. A few days before that, a man was sucker punched in the face by a lunatic as he was being escorted out of the facility another rally was being held. Just before that, an Hispanic man was spit on by an angry protester and a Time magazine photographer was body-slammed to the ground by a Secret Service Agent. Yes it was all very shocking to see, but it was also very familiar - because it looked so much like the grainy black and white footage shot in the pre-civil rights era 1960s when peaceful protests for the rights denied to some in the general population turned very, very violent.
All I keep thinking each time another incident occurs is "Didn't my parents do this before? Haven't we marched this march and fought this fight already?
My son, now a senior in college and preparing to vote for the second time in his life, is soaking this all in. He is fervent about reminding people on social media and elsewhere that the rhetoric isn't cute, but cringeworthy and outright dangerous. I see him rolling up his political sleeves and prepping to put in some serious work to get the word out that the agitation is ugly and dismissive in a way that is not good for anyone.
If it were possible to roll the clock back 65 years or so, I know he'd have been seated at a lunch counter or protesting in front of fire hoses and police dogs.
That my parents were on the front lines a generation ago and my son is now doing the same is an eerie feeling, one I can't quite adequately explain - mostly because I thought we'd moved so far past this that it's totally disappointing to be here again. I feel like my generation somehow dropped the ball.
The saying goes "If you do not stand for something you'll fall for anything."
So keep standing tall, kiddo. Keep standing tall.