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The Politics of Home

By Catherine Wayland

n this current summer month of August in the year 2006, I watch the world news each day, and I react like any human with fear, surprise, anger and opinion. I remember quitting Wall Street in the Spring of 2001 while riding the elevators of the World Trade Plaza thinking, “Someday I could die in this elevator during a fire of sorts, and I would not be happy with how I am living my life.” The truth was that at the time, I was living my father’s dream of success, and not mine. Then, September 11 occurred and I became pregnant with my first-born son, and shivered at the memory of that day in the elevator.

Because of my vision that day in the elevator, I escaped the horror of the World Trade Towers, the fires and their collapse. A few weeks after 9/11 in early October of 2001, I drove across the United States and mingled with Buffalo in Yellowstone Park. I avoided the constant media reviews of Usama Bin Laden for my want to feel something other than shock and numbness. On September 11, I had watched the first tower fall knowing the other tower would soon follow. I remembered screaming out, “Run, run, run…..,” alongside every other viewer standing on 18 th and Fifth Avenue in front of the City Bakery where I was to meet a friend that day.

A year later, I returned to my home in New York City, and my second son was born soon after at St. Luke’s on 59 th Street. I did not know if I was ignorant to return to such a place. It is possible I was defiant. I could not resolve this question. Within the year, I launched International Family Magazine, Inc. with my business partner and fellow mother-friend, Beth Yoon. For now, I have chosen to continue to live in New York City because of its wonderful internationalism. It is the one place I know of in which all neighbors are from around the world, speaking many languages and holding many ideologies. As a place to raise children, it is a place that has its pros and cons like any community, but it seems to have one valuable, common denominator - “respect for difference”.

Now today, I hear of more trouble in the Middle East and missiles out of North Korea. When I listen to reporters say things like “Is America a target?” I again question my reasons for building a home for my children in New York City. For me, the politics of home are similar to the politics of the world, they are so very personal. Because I was raised partially in the U.K, traveled extensively across Europe and lived in Spain for a time, although I feel very American, I do not feel that I think or react with only a nationalist viewpoint. When something occurs like the events of 9/11, the recent events in North Korea, and the latest explosive violence in the Middle East, I look at the situation more closely than a national perspective. I read and read and read to understand and to find logic.

What I begin to understand is that the “I” versus “you” mentality is nurtured at the very first moment of life. As a mother, I understand that my sons were either nurtured at the negation of my needs or vice versa. When my second son was born, I saw my first son’s world shatter with the rivalry for attention. I have watched both my sons compete against their father when our married friendship rekindles in the moments after my husband walks in the door. As a daughter, I competed for my parents’ love similar to that of my sons. As a young adult and even later in maturity, I made vital decisions for my life based on my assumptions, right or wrong about my parents’ love of me and their identities. My actions and reactions to my own life were very much intertwined to the fullness or voids I learned in my original childhood home. As a married woman and mother, I began to build my own home as a nest woven with those decisions and rationalizations.

I remember a day early in the winter when I was eighteen years of age. I was riding in a car with open bottles of liquor. We were stopped by a police officer on my parent’s road in an older, inexpensive car. I immediately intuited that we looked as if we didn’t belong in such a “nice” neighborhood. I jumped out of the car and approached the officer with my license showing that I lived down the street in the fancy, white house. The officer was kind and apologetic saying he saw out of state plates and thought we were lost. I escaped trouble that night and I felt powerful because of my father’s house and prosperity in that neighborhood. That power both delighted me and enraged me because it was borrowed from someone, it was not my own.

I have tried since my teen years to identify my own self and power. Before my children I worked very hard to satisfy my ego more than I would care to admit. My sons have humbled me. I try to live now without as much ego. I try to look at things objectively and measure them with more wisdom. I also try to live without so many borders so that I can be an example to my boys of kindness and compassion. In the same moment that I have thoughts based on good virtue, I know that if someone threatened my children, I would strike out homicidally.

So tonight, I shut off the television and I muse on Usama Bin Laden and Kim Jong II and now the Hezbollah terrorists. Both Bin Laden and Kim Jong II came from powerful fathers and powerful resources. There are so many stories of a shunned Bin Laden and a hurt, motherless Kim Jong. I am still digging into the stories of Hezbollah. I do not know what is gossip or fact. But I know that at some point in these men’s lives, they rationalized their actions based on their experiences. I am also confident that the first nurturing of these rationalizations began inside their childhood homes. As they left these homes, they moved their view from how they fit in their childhood homes to the homes they would create as grown men in the world. Once they placed themselves in the home of the world, they made their very personal views into their political views. We all do. It is our nature as human beings to be both rational and objective at the same time that we are utterly subjective and instinctive.

I do not have answers tonight. I will end these musings with one last memory. I sat in a restaurant with my father a few years ago. I had just stepped down from my Wall Street position and was happily talking about the shift to editorial again. My father was also happy at my decision, much to my surprise. My father admitted that he had coached my life with the map that he had drawn for himself. But his map hadn’t fit my journey and he was glad I had drawn up my own map. His trust in my map came with my trust in myself. I told him how glad I was that he felt this way and, that I had stayed in business long enough to realize how very personal and subjective it was. We laughed together as I recollected a major decision in Wall Street that I remembered was a result of a canceled meeting, and an executive’s wife and her hair appointment. I would never want to simplify the world in to such a trite analogy. But I do wonder at the possibly missed conversation between Kim II Sung and Kim Jong II before his father’s sudden heart attack. At times when I hear the news of movements of Osama Bin Laden, I think about a young Bin Laden and his America-phile father, Muhammed. And now, Hezbollah. The simple but horrific human questions bother me much more at night when I lock the doors to protect my own children, than sophisticated negotiations around warheads, air raids and CIA intelligence reports.

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