by Nick Taylor
My mom Clare Taylor taught me that decency and fairness matter. She grew up in the Midwest, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor with a degree in journalism.
Her part of Upper Michigan went red in the last election, but if she were alive today, she’d be appalled by Donald Trump. His campaign of taunts, his flirtation with white nationalists and anti-Semites, his abuse of Mexicans and Muslims and immigrants in general offend everything she believed. His constant lies, his insults, his attacks on journalism and free speech would have sent her to her to desk to tap out indignant letters to the editor on her Royal portable.
Right out of college she got a job with the Rising Sun, a Muslim newspaper, and moved to Chicago. She learned how to write objectively and cover stories about a new culture. Her own culture was mixed.
Her father, Isaac Solomon Unger, was Jewish; her mother Mary Parent, a Protestant Christian. After her dad died, the family moved to Detroit and all mention of their Jewishness seem to disappear. Anti-Semitism was always a feature of American life, thanks to figures like Henry Ford, Father Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh, but Hitler and the Nazis made it worse.
My mother married my dad, an Englishman, and soon moved to North Carolina. Back in Michigan, apparently afraid to face prejudice, her family buried their Jewish background deep.
My parents raised me in the Episcopal Church. But years later, they both rejoiced at my choice of my Jewish wife and Mom seemed grateful for the opportunity to reclaim her Jewish heritage.
They were Lincoln Republicans and voted that way until the sixties. They supported the Civil Rights Movement and that wasn’t a stretch for them at all. When we lived in Waynesville, North Carolina, the Mt. Olive Baptist Church served Sunday dinners and we were regulars. I learned early that skin color shouldn’t separate people.
In Fort Myers, Florida, where we moved, my mom worked for the Fort Myers News-Press as the islands correspondent. She had the best job on the paper, even if it paid the least. She visited the marinas and yachts and tourist courts to find interesting stories about people different from her and the other locals.
Religion, race and nationality didn’t frighten her. She saw these interviews, these conversations and the subsequent stories as an opportunity to introduce new people, new ideas to her community.
When she retired from the News-Press, she volunteered to teach English to Mexican children whose parents did day labor on the farms outside of town. She loved those children and took pride in their accomplishments.
It didn’t surprise me when my parents decided to retire to Mexico, or when she began to tutor children in English in the town where they settled.
Everything about my mom’s life showed deep concern for simple human decency.
So I can imagine her letters to the editor on Trump. She would tell him to stop it, to grow up. She would ask, “Don’t you care about anybody but yourself?” I’m afraid she would be disappointed by the answers, but no less concerned for what is right.
So today, on Mother’s Day, I share her belief that we should all look past our differences to find the things we share. Thanks, Mom, for giving me that gift.