Just a Thought – Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant

Watching the congress questioning Michael Cohen brings back the aroma of steam and heat. A bit of bleach, a touch of starch.

I was a child in grade school during the Watergate hearings. I grew up in a family that was passionate about politics and work. As critical as it was that my mother watch every moment of the Watergate hearings, she did not sit in front of the television set. She stood in front of the ironing board, which she had set up in the living room of our small rented house in San Pedro. The television stayed where it was; she moved, arm pressing the hot iron into damp cloth. Getting out the wrinkles. Making things better.

It was summer, and I was out of school. We were recent arrivals in California, I did not have friends to hang out with, so my summer was spent reading, skateboarding the slow grade down the street, and watching the government of the United States splinter and crack.

It was daunting.

My mother was always a hard worker; her housework certainly could have won awards, if anyone gave out awards for that. Anger was often the fuel for her efforts, but it taught me that energy will do what you train it to do. The small black and white television that sat in living room was dusted and Windex’ed on regular basis. She was devoted to CBS News, probably in preference for Walter Cronkite. The hearings were on all day, every day, for weeks.

Our laundry was never so crisp.

I had not realized, until that summer, how dirty government was, how weak and dishonest. These men ( and they were all men) who were running the country were not just criminals, they were stupid criminals.

I asked a lot of questions, and I got some honest answers. My mom was not as shocked as I was, but she was far more disgusted.

More than shirts and dresses; sheets and towels went under the iron, handkerchiefs, socks. There was not a length of fabric that my family owned that escaped being pressed. Pressed hard.

I do own an iron, a fact that most people who know me think pretty funny. I do not own an ironing board. If my shirt is wrinkled, I’m much more likely to toss it in the dryer with a damp washcloth and give it three minutes to relax in the heat. But when I’m putting laundered bedding up in the back yard rather than the dryer, I remind my kids that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Superior to steam or bleach, it has properties that cannot be replicated. And I’m happy to let Mother Nature do her thing.

No matter how long you’ve been lying, you can always come clean.

Whatever happens after Cohen’s testimony – and the Mueller Report – I hope that the voters come back to valuing honesty over confirmation bias. I hope that some major changes can come about, for the sake of the country, and really, the sake of humanity.

Of course, I’m working while I’m watching the hearing. What we learn from example is what we know in our bones. Pressing as hard as needed, making things better.

Judith Martin-Straw



The Actors' Gang

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