The very first car I can remember being in is my father’s Volvo. I’m not sure where we were. The thing about remembering is that memories very often smoosh together when trying to recall them later.
My parents had eclectic musical tastes. My father made tapes for our drives across Europe; I remember listening to Billy Joel and Michael Jackson, Earth Wind & Fire and Cyndi Lauper. I don’t remember ever listening to the radio. Talk radio was clearly out of the picture then.
My father did not vote. He had never registered. He also never discusses politics with me unless it is about poverty and the pervasive anti-Blackness in America. He does listen to a hell of a lot of music though, and reads voraciously.
When my parents divorced, my mother invited a family friend to move in with us to help with the bills and the rent. I’ll call her M. She was a friend of my father’s, I think. M was a military vet and was working for a rental car company, and then John Deere. She was tall and funny and masculine. (She passed away in 2010, of a very aggressive form of cancer.)
M listened exclusively to talk radio on WGAC 580 AM whilst driving. She was a chauffeur for mum and me, before I got my own car, and so we heard it all. I didn’t really know how vitriolic Rush Limbaugh actually was, or how toxic his language was, but his over-the-top conservative language was entertaining, at least, and Kim Kommando’s computer show was informative. I supported Bush, I think, probably because of my constant exposure to Limbaugh and his ilk.
When M didn’t feel like listening to AM radio, we listened to NPR/PRI, but only the BBC World Service and Rick Steves. Those were my first introductions to what I felt was America’s only unbiased news source (though that has changed somewhat now).
September 11th will be its own post in future, but talk radio reached a constant, interminable beat of war-drums after the attacks. I remember I wrote in my journal that it was ‘justice’ and not ‘revenge’ that were were seeking when we sent jets to Afghanistan. I regret this entry to this day.
When I finally got my own car, I remembered NPR had the BBC and put it on. I listened to it constantly, from the time I got into my car to the time I got out of it, even putting it on in my bedroom. I am not ashamed to admit that by the time Bush wanted to invade Iraq, I had become seriously disillusioned with Limbaugh’s bombast. I was too young to vote in 2000 (and would have probably voted for Bush), but in 2004 I sent in my vote from university. It was a proudly Democratic ticket, from the president down to the most ‘liberal’ propositions that my very conservative state had to offer.
I will not pretend to know why the things I listened to in the car had so much influence on my political life. It is probably just a bit of strange synchronicity, but I will not pretend that that early exposure to talk radio did not change me. And yes, I still listen to NPR exclusively in the car. The only time I hear Limbaugh is when he’s being played on various podcasts to be lambasted and torn apart–and good riddance to him.
Until next time, then. – SDM
Photo by Marek Kocjan