CAROL SCHIFFLER (Guest Columnist) June 3, 2001 - There was always something a bit different about Ellie. While her playmates were off fully-furnishing their Barbie Dream Homes, Ellie was constructing a bird sanctuary with her Lincoln Logs. When she was asked to write an essay about what she did on her summer vacation, she flew off on a flight of fancy and came up with a viable, however fictitious, story about a little girl who whiled away June, July, and August feeding the homeless and promoting world peace. In Sunday School, she was a relentless interrogator: If God could do anything He wanted to, why didn't he just make things better? If He failed to do so, didn't that mean He just didn't want to? And if He did not want to, what in the hell did that say about His Holy Character?
Ellie's parents tried everything. They took her to Disney World. They fed her vanilla ice cream and apple pie. They even installed a white picket fence which could plainly be seen from Ellie's bedroom window. They prayed before meals, read aloud from Reader's Digest, and sang America the Beautiful on their way to the mall where they bought their recalcitrant daughter designer jeans and a lighted make-up mirror which could be adjusted to simulate natural daylight.
But it was no use. At 13, Ellie threw out all her make up when she discovered they used animals to test cosmetics. At 14, she gave all her Calvin Klein's to an abused women's shelter and refused to wear anything except battered army fatigues. By age 15, she had joined Greenpeace and taken to spending her weekends in coffee shops reading the collected works of Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas. The Norman Rockwell commemorative plates in her room came down and were replaced by a black light and a Bob Marley poster.
In desperation, Ellie's parents turned to other family members for advice. "What can we do?" they wailed. "Ellie just will not conform!"
Uncle Brad suggested therapy, while Ellie's grandparents favored exorcism. Unfortunately, some time during the family summit meeting, Ellie snuck downstairs and festooned her parents' framed and autographed picture of Ronald Reagan with an Adolph Hitler mustache and a swastika.
Eventually Ellie grew up and left home. Because she now had car payments, a job, and a credit card, her parents breathed a sigh of relief, convinced that Ellie had at last come to her senses. A grandchild would have been nice, but there was still plenty of time for that. Her letters home were delightfully banal. And the few times they saw her, she was no longer wearing army fatigues.
Then came Thanksgiving, November 2000. Ellie's mother was this year's hostess for the family event, and she had spent weeks making preparations. Everything was perfect, from the steaming platter of turkey to the table decorations, (Pilgrims and Indians cunningly fashioned from large paper doilies - thank God for Martha Stewart - and tortured into submission with a hot glue gun.)
When Ellie arrived, the house was already overflowing with relatives, luggage, canes, walkers, diaper bags, casserole dishes, and early Christmas presents. Ellie's nieces and nephews played tag way too close to Grandmother's portable oxygen tank. Her mother gave pie crust fluting lessons to the young women gathered in the kitchen. The men huddled around the television set pretending to be absorbed in a football game to avoid helping with the meal. Without being too obvious, Ellie sidled closer to the TV, hoping to hear some news about the recounts in Florida. When her mother finally began herding stray family members to the table, Ellie seized the moment to flip the station to MSNBC.
"Be there in a minute, Mom!" Ellie sang out, trying to sound like she had been just temporarily delayed by some sort of last-minute grooming crisis. Ellie's mother sighed softly to herself, hoping that her daughter would at least have the courtesy to get to the table in time to say grace. But as silence descended on the dining room, heads were bowed and hands were folded, it was not grace that Ellie said.
It was, instead, "BULLSHIT!"
And Ellie's father, perhaps without thinking of the comedic effect, immediately intoned "Amen!"
What ensued was complete chaos as young nieces and nephews snickered, drinks were upset by startled relatives, and Ellie's mother lamely attempted to start a conversation about the unseasonably warm weather, using a tone of voice that would have been more suitable for commanding Marines than it was for discussing, "a high of about 75 degrees." She rummaged feverishly around in her memory banks for diversionary tactics she had used successfully to cover up embarrassing social gaffes in the past. What HAD she done that time when her husband imbibed a little too much at the Rotary Club dinner and threw up on the Jello mould? These things used to come to her without effort.
Of course it would have been much easier if Ellie had just stopped with "bull shit." But she did not. The initial expletive was followed by, "Jim Baker is an asshole," a moment of silence, and then, "I've got your hanging chad right here, pal!" Like an expectant audience, Ellie's family waited quietly for the next act.
They did not have long to wait. Ellie's entrance into the dining room was not subtle. "Jesus! Did you see that? They are stealing an election? Stealing it! How can anyone eat at a time like this?"
Uncle Brad, who had prided himself on his political acumen ever since his successful run for president of the local school board's "Just Say No" task force, attempted to bring order to the situation.
"Ellie," he boomed from somewhere deep in his esophagus, "they counted and they recounted. Let's leave this matter to the experts and enjoy our dinner. George Bush is a fine man and he will soon have the situation under control. Stop acting like a wild-eyed hippie and eat some turkey." Uncle Brad was not used to being disobeyed, so therefore what came next was a total surprise.
For Ellie had decided that the time to come out was long overdue. She was not interested in conforming. She was interested - passionately interested - in the Truth.
"Uncle Brad," she stated, without the usual preface of an apology for upsetting everyone, "I am a liberal. I have always been a liberal and there is nothing wrong with that. It means that I think for myself, I form my own opinions, and I take responsibility for coming to my own conclusions. I would like to say that I am sorry you do not approve of what I am, but really, I am not sorry at all. This election is a farce, and that is obvious to anyone with half a brain. That is the truth and I stand by it. And by the way, I can't eat turkey. I am a vegetarian."
Almost unnoticed, at the far end of the table, Aunt Sarah looked up from her plate and murmured, "Thank God. I'm a liberal, too."
And with that, Ellie went upstairs to her old room. She opened her laptop on the small night stand under the faded, but still powerful, image of Bob Marley. And through the phone line, over the communication miracle of the internet, Ellie sent a brief, yet inspired, message to W's campaign headquarters:
You are a greedy bastard with no conscience and, should you prevail in this election, you will be opposed. There is a resistance brewing. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Ellie, Proud Liberal