Years ago, when we were traveling from New England to Florida on a family vacation, I finally gave in to two impulses that had been tamped down by my mom years before. She had been the “keeper of the budget” and if there were no funds budgeted already for some impromptu experience noticed while on the road but not planned for, there was no impromptu experience if it had a cost.
I learned quickly that those things that are marketed (See Rock City! Wall Drug Store! South of the Border!) were bypassed for experiences that yes, over time, have proven to be more significant. For example, on a visit to yet one more boring State Capitol building, we met former Governor Orval Faubus, the significant bigot of the day in the school desegregation episode in Little Rock.
So, it was with delight, as an adult, that I stopped at South of the Border, a tourist trap that teased me on multiple trips to Florida as a child. And I learned, that yes, it just was full of cheap junk, and other than being a useful potty break, there was no other value to the place.
But it is Smith’s that came to mind today when the publisher of a new “newspaper” in our county responded to my comment that his writing did not even meet the standards set by my high school journalism class. He proudly said, “Made you look.”
On that drive to Florida, I was traveling with my husband, now deceased, whose family name was Smith. So, sure, giving into newly excited impulses, we stopped at a place that was marketed through maybe 200 miles of highway billboards, “Smith’s”. When I mentioned our name to the guy who took our money for the gas purchase, his response was “If every family whose name is Smith stopped once, I would be a millionaire.”
So, Mr. New Newspaper Publisher, take note: Mr. Smith had his store on I-95, a major north-south highway with lots and lots and lots of traffic. He paid for billboards that attracted the patronymic affiliation to drop in. You, in contrast, are located in a county with a considerably smaller potential for consumer absorption. But your attitude is about the same. You really are not trying to aim for quality merchandise to attract and maintain some level of public appreciation.
Mr. Smith recognized that he would probably never see us again, but that was okay. He didn’t expect anything more than what had happened: a short interaction.
Contrast your situation, living among us. Not only will you NEVER attract the huge volume of business Mr. Smith enjoyed, but you will also learn that many of us will not waste any more time with your tourist trap fodder.
My personal beef is not your content, although there is plenty of room for critique there. My first impression remains the one I will share: You are not writing newspaper journalism. Basic rules of ethical journalism are broken just about each and every sentence.
You will have a limited readership. There will be some who admire your ability to make noise. The rest of us are just more discerning and ask for clarity and more precision, especially when we do make an effort to read content from the side of the situation we do not support. Many of us DO read across the spectrum, but this week has been long enough to not bother with yours any longer.
By the way, THIS is not a news article. THIS is an opinion statement. So are your efforts.
Today, as Graham and I celebrate our 14th anniversary, I ponder the pathways of my relationships. I happily acknowledge that some in my age range are well into 40 or more years of marriage. While I have never experienced this kind of “growing old together” relationship, I have learned a few things.
A lasting relationship is based on respect. I once was married to a man who said things like “There are two kinds of people: math and science people and English and history people. Math and science people are smarter.” and ten minutes later, “Will you please help me write my report?” And ten minutes later, “I hate to write complete sentences. That is so dumb!” I can laugh now, but you who live with someone like this are not laughing. You know.
A lasting relationship is based on some overlap of interests. I learned to cook from my mom and, as soon as they could sit steadily, I positioned my babies on my kitchen counter to participate. Being married to another person who enjoys cooking has given us a common area to explore. If we have a dinner party, we split the workload. If we want to have a fun project, we explore a cuisine we have never attempted before. And, in a day-in-day-out lifestyle, it means the humdrum duty of the family’s meal prep can be shared with no one person burdened day after day to come up with appetizing temptation for all. That sharing of duties, in itself, can save a marriage. And while your partner may not fully understand you, having common interests and activities build other pathways to closeness.
A lasting relationship is based on the knowledge that lust is not the same as love. We crave intimacy. We need touch. We sometimes confuse a satisfactory “itch-scratching session” with another person as a deep emotional bond. Sometimes we rinse and repeat for years before we might swear off sex because it has failed to be THE way to know who to trust. That’s also not a way to find love. It was the long distance of 350 miles that required me to build intimacy with Graham by sharing thoughts, hopes, and dreams; physical touch was of course not possible. It seems to me that most relationships build with talk until we get comfortable enough to move to physical intimacy, but many never take the time to build that emotional intimacy further.
A lasting relationship is based on giving each other space and allowance to improve personal goals. I once was married to an abuser. The short leash was one of the issues that burned hot and made me very aware that the man was an unhealthy partner. I became aware of how important it was to have my own time and space to work on my own interests. A healthy relationship is one where the desire to share time together is balanced with personal time.
A lasting relationship is based on the understanding that each person will always try to bring positives to the relationship. In the human condition, it is reasonable to expect some days don’t go so well. The way each person deals with stressful issues can affect relationships even when the partner has nothing to do with the problem. When one person flows into an emotional whirlwind and only emotes anger or silence, the relationship is in trouble. The other person is buffeted by a storm of emotion and yet, any offer of an ear and an effort to listen tends to diminish over time when that emotional assault is not balanced. Learning to communicate calmly in a time of high emotion is almost impossible. Know when to call for a personal time out and expect your partner to respect that, but get back to the issue. Something swept under the rug and never discussed ends up becoming a mountain that you will trip on again and again.
A lasting relationship is based on wanting a lasting relationship. Bring the best YOU to the relationship. Know what you need and know what you can provide. Talk about that. After failed marriages, I asked Graham “What kind of husband will you be? What kinds of responsibilities will you assume? What kind of time will you give me to nurture our relationship? And then, I asked him what he expected his wife to do and be. He was surprised but then he realized that in failing to think this way before, he also had not discussed with that prior partner what the hopes and expectations were. He understood that while the pathway may not be smooth, at least a basic agreement of roles and responsibilities helps sets some kind of guidelines.
A lasting relationship is based on recognizing that your partner is flawed. No one, even me myself and I, is perfect. After my first two marriages, I recognized I had to do better identifying and analyzing those personality traits of my partner that might irritate me. Sure enough, it does not eliminate my feeling of annoyance, but it does wake me up to the realization that I had recognized and analyzed it and decided it was not “too big a deal.” So, it is not fair for me to pitch a fit at this late date. There are ways to present a way to help reduce any irritant, of course. Knowing how to talk calmly about sensitive issues is so helpful.
So, here we are at FOURTEEN. For me, I am close to my 17 with a prior husband, but there it was 7 good years and 10 dying with cancer years, so in a way, I am “ahead” at this point. I like to also think I am “ahead” with the way Graham and I have learned to talk about uncomfortable things and while there will always be “something”, I do have high confidence that we will continue to walk together in a lasting relationship.
We are all guilty. Right now it is so easy for me to look at YOUR behavior, your opinions, and know how you need to change your ways. I suspect you have the same thoughts about me.
I read articles bashing Trump and the people who followed him. And the ones who STILL are supporting him. There are two things here.
NUMBER ONE: I know I was not the only person who had observed Trump’s behavior as a real estate developer and reported he is a flawed business person very early in the 2016 campaign process. If one reason people were going to support him was that he flashed a lot of gold and said he was successful, lots of other people pointed out the bankruptcies and sleazy practices of not paying subcontractors, causing small businesses to fail. The choices made during site selections in his business gave a view to how he feels unconcerned about people and how his actions affect them. We knew Trump without even studying him deeply. We warned you. You had already stopped listening…and analyzing. You made excuses. They didn’t make sense then (My favorite is “They were business bankruptcies, not personal ones.”) You chose this. You own it. You now are dealing with it in ways I can’t even imagine.
NUMBER TWO: As long as we see that arrested white demonstrators and rioters are treated significantly differently from demonstrators in BLM actions last summer, we understand there is a long road ahead of us. We are beginning to hear words of apology and something else. I don’t know, it may be my ears as well as their words, but the message is just not contrition. Claiming to have been conned will, at best, provide the grounds to recognize these people are not capable of analytical thought and should be removed from ANY and ALL leadership positions. Special educational sessions, call them civics, call them therapy, seem to be needed.
In other places and times, including now and here on Earth, there are camps that have been set up to “retrain” people who “need” retraining. These are prisons. Not what I am talking about.
We have lost our sense of community. I hate saying Mom may have been right when she moaned in the 1970s “This ‘Do Your Own Thing’ movement is going to bite us someday” but Mom, I’m ready to concede that one to you. We broke some of the social conventions in the 1960s and we still have many more to free, but what has resulted is a cacophony to many.
Instead of hearing all the beautiful individual voices of any given group, many hear the overstimulation of too much choice. Their longing for the “good old days” simply means that recognition of so much new stuff to learn is hard and they are being stubborn. (Sorry. Just think back to how many hours kids would be able to play if they did not fight the concept of getting homework done first and you’ll get the point.)
Back in the days when I was walking grocery store aisles, it was often fun to see someone staring at the shelves, trying to decide which of the many options was the exact right one to provide that perfect taste note for them. My wicked side usually would offer a wide arm sweep as a suggestion, but choice, as delightful as it can be, is really really hard for some people. Just the act of CHOSING results in stress.
So, to make that one choice, many people lock down hard. And refuse to go back to the grocery store to try another brand when they find a sour taste in their mouth. Oh, they often forget to read the label, too, to check for ingredients that may not sit well in their gut.
Since the political turmoil ratcheted up during Obama’s tenure as President, I have often wondered how we would function if all political parties were disbanded. All of our voter registrations become “unaffiliated”. Campaigning is limited to a period of time of 6 weeks before each election day. Primaries are coordinated to be held one day nationally. Campaign spending is limited to $10,000 for localities, $50,000 for state races and $5 million for national races. That’s it. Chose your marketing carefully.
Let them tell us who they are in 6 weeks. Clearly. Answering questions until those questions stop because people feel they finally heard what they needed to. Include fact-checkers that have been accepted by all BEFORE it all begins. If someone is found to be lying, they get a warning. The second time, they lose 10 percentage points in the voting. Hahaha, I doubt that can happen, but it will be what hurts them, isn’t it? What do you think? Convince me: yes or no?
We are seeing posturing in Congress to protect re-election options. Those people are not serving their constituents. They are serving themselves. I have mixed feelings about term limits because some serving do seem capable of staying on their message long-term. Bernie is one example. West Virginia loved their Byrd. Understanding that there are certain benefits to congressional reps building relationships with other people across the country or, ever hopefully, across the aisle, we need to permit them some bit of time more than the minimum of two years. Why not a two-term limit for each house? Convince me: yes or no?
We ALL believe we understand what this nation needs.
We ALL are fools.
Since when have YOU fixed a problem that even began to approach this magnitude? You know that uncle at your Thanksgiving table you can’t talk with? If you can’t talk to him, you think you can talk to soemone even more adamant they are right?
And it’s not HIS fault. It is HIS fault. It is also YOUR fault. And it’s also not YOUR fault.
It is ALL of OUR failures.
“When they go low, we go high.” Nope, that didn’t work.
“Just say no.” Nope, that didn’t work.
Your C is high school biology (what? you never even took biology but you think you understand DNA?) does NOT provide you with any expertise to correct anyone else’s understanding.
Your medical degree from the school of hard knocks does not qualify you to tell me public health experts are wrong.
There has been a lot on us. Eight years of an African-American President was enough for some people. Four years of an orange-toned President was also enough for some people. A highly infectious new illness that is still confusing doctors was also more than enough for millions of people. We are not the same as we used to be.
ALL of us.
If you think you are fine, trust me on this: you’re not and please go to the front of the line to get help.
My best advice is to go home, listen. Read. Turn the channel! Read another aspect. Think. Calm yourself.
Let the people who need to act out with high energy to destroy, rip apart, tear down get it out of their system.
Then, if you can demonstrate behavior control and a calm tone of voice, we can start to work. Ready? Don’t come and join the workers until you are ready to roll up your sleeves. This will take all of us.
I have a friend, let’s call her Mary. She’s a tad older than I am so she enjoys all the aspects of an older person in retired life.
Mary fills her day by playing with her dog, watching her shows, offering rides to friends without cars for shopping and doctor’s appointments. Mary has had a number of medical misadventures and moves around poorly, using a walker or electric cart most of the time.
Despite her less than excellent health, Mary is as active as possible. Not only does she offer her intimate volunteerism, but Mary also has been a long-term volunteer at the McMinnville Cooperative Ministries’ Saturday morning breakfast. If you ate eggs, Mary cracked it!
Mary has lived this kind of life of service for DECADES and does not self-promote on social media.
I’m having trouble writing in a calm tone today…there are just so many things going on that are hollering for something better.
The son of a friend, a chef in his 30s with a young son and loving wife, in good health, died suddenly at home this week.
The niece of a friend, together with 2 other high school friends, went for a ride together and all are now dead, thrown from the vehicle despite seatbelts.
The President is taken to Walter Reed Hospital because of a positive COVID infection and now, a few days later, says he is feeling better and planning to return to the White House. No one has said he is testing negative, of course. Everyone understands that this is way too early in the illness for him to be “better” but no one is adult enough to contradict him and order him back to bed. It’s gotten to a point that nothing that is announced from the White House can be considered truthful and reliable.
The desire for making a personal choice the highest rule of the land seems to stop people from noticing the strong correlation between unmasked events and infection outbreaks. Can you say Spring Break? How about Sturgis? And one recent superspreader event, the Rose Garden announcement? Can you notice people not thinking?
A candidate in a local election against an incumbent who has provided good service has been identified as an enforcer for compliance with rules of the Church of Scientology. Can she even serve equitably when so few are in agreement with her church policies? What is her real reason for running?
Another candidate for public office campaigned really hard to fight for a DEQ air quality sensor here in our city because perhaps someday there might be a reason to expand to automobile emission testing. So, during our wildfire season we have no way to know our local air quality, but must extrapolate the data from sensors 25-40 miles away. This man is proud of the way he “protected” us from maybe fees in the future and sees no reason why anyone needs to know if the air is unsafe.
Some people on various Facebook pages dedicated to food processing don’t even read any recipes when they start putting food into jars. The questions indicate a complete lack of any understanding about the food safety requirements.
A lot of people on freeze-drying Facebook group pages are thrilled about the candy they are processing, saying they eat it as fast as they preserve it because it tastes so good.
I can’t help but notice on trash day that my neighbors have a lot of take-out boxes and piles of plastic overflowing their large bin. I wish I could help them reduce their monthly bill to Recology by teaching them how to sort their trash at the very least and then to refuse all the single-use plastic next.
Recent surveys of the US population reveal that about a third of people are tuned into Qanon and hoping that yes, we will be rescued by aliens and all will be announced in October, no, wait, now the big reveal is in March. Stay tuned, obviously.
Other surveys of the American population disclose that about half are now drinking or drugging daily. As personal ownership of weapons rises, most new gunowners are not taking any safety instructions, and assaults at home are rising.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering why we are even trying to maintain a “normal” educational curriculum right now. This is the time to introduce Life 101 to include lessons on growing food, cooking and preserving; on sewing and ironing and doing laundry; on car maintenance; on household maintenance; on general small electrical repairs; on art and music and dance. This is the time for those of us close to the coast to teach about tides and sealife, including time for beach cleanup and plastic trash collection. Others can do to nearby rivers and streams and learn about the difference in those ecosystems. This is the time for matching older teenagers with adults who are working in a field that the youngster has expressed interest.
This is also the time for a huge survey of homes here in our town to identify which are not fully occupied. Those homes occupied by one or two elderly people who no longer can easily do the maintenance required may benefit from a match with a younger person or couple who can rent a room and provide some younger energy for daily life. Those homes that are sitting vacant may be able to be added to a housing program for people who currently can not afford to pay for indoor housing.
This is also the time for neighbors to join together to plan their 2021 gardens, so participating families can grow different foods to share with all in their circle. This is the time to arrange for seeds and jars and lids before the seasonal requirements run the stores empty.
We can’t sit in the doldrums. We have too much good work to do to help raise everyone.
Dewey grew up in Appalachia, in the southwestern area of Virginia. His father was an itinerant farmer and he worked on farms near the towns of Fries (pronounced “freeze”) and Galax before moving the family to Lynchburg. Dewey quit school in the 8th grade to join the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. That was a program that President Franklin Roosevelt started to give work to young men while sending half their wages back to their families. It was the Great Depression and families were starving. Dewey worked building some of the park facilities we now enjoy along the Blue Ridge Parkway before heading to a munitions job in Virginia Beach.
And then he decided to enlist, even though he was underaged and had a finger that never had grown fully. He was trained as military police and served World War II in a detainment center for US GIs who had broken laws and also gone AWOL. When the war was over, he decided to stay in Tennessee and took a position with the Air National Guard in charge of the motor pool. As such, he was called up to serve in Korea. He never talked much about his experience except to say the “mamasans did a great job with the laundry for next to no money”.
He finally got his high school diploma and so, continued on his way. He never dreamed, just worked hard each morning before he headed to his job. He had 10 acres for a while and grew large amounts of food. He served as a helper for a local auction house on the weekends. He stayed very busy all the time. He didn’t play much, but he nurtured a flock of white doves and encouraged his boys to play the guitar and sing. He went on assignments with the Air National Guard. They ended up in Paris one year on July 14th and he said he headed right back to the airport because there was too much fuss going on. It was Bastile Day and he did not understand the cultural celebration.
Dewey was my father-in-law and when I got to know him, he already was in his 60s. I was the interloper, a Yankee married into his Southern family. I was pretty sure he did not like me but I knew he fiercely loved me because his son has chosen me. Dewey and I often did not see eye-to-eye but his actions were always easy to understand.
First point: Things were good because they had been done a certain way before and they should always be done that way. The fact that something or someone did not work well did not matter. Something was rated “good” because it had been done before. So, no need to drive on the new interstate highways when the old highway, you know the one with all the traffic lights, is right there. Also no need to go to college because there are jobs that don’t require that.
Second point: Those people who are bothered by things that don’t work well don’t really matter. They may be nonwhite, or nonmale. Probably also nonChristian. The acceptable people, the people who matter, are white Christian men…and maybe their womenfolk…maybe.
So, Dewey had some beliefs throughout his life that were based on lessons he had in the impoverished rural Appalachian culture of his youth and held strong his lack of opportunity or desire to learn other lessons from other places and times. And so, he was stuck in a rut that often caused family discord.
We all know people like that. They are so set in their way, so sure about their information, that no one can sway them off their mark. They can get downright ugly in their stubborn way.
The big difference between my pigheaded uneducated father-in-law and the people who remind me of his curmudgeon side is that Dewey was honest. Always. He also did nice things for other people. Always. And he never ever tooted his own horn. Never. And he was always polite with his words. Always. He also was a classic white southern male who grabbed a handful of female butt as he tried to french kiss what had been an attempted kiss on the cheek. Yup..that kind of good old boy.
Despite all the stubbornness, that fact that Dewey was honest, that I always knew his “WORD” was good, made me proud to be his daughter-in-law. I learned things from this unhappy man. And yes, one was to avoid his hands.
The history of the Jewish people includes how we have been the focus of hatred by many. Historic reasons, tribal reasons, hatred, and bigotry against anyone who has a different belief system all have been part of our 5000+ year history. And yes, I was carefully taught to KNOW my history while being careful not to let HATE enter my life in my feelings with people. I have caught myself thinking comments of generalization as this teaching rose up and I could say THIS person is a problem, not the whole group of however that person identified.
When I was in 6th grade I had my first in-my-face experience with bigotry. It was a “dirty Jew” comment over something pretty inconsequential but disappointing to that person. I immediately went to sarcasm and told her I took a daily shower, but it stung and I carried that all the way from the mid-1960s to my 40th high school reunion planning when I was asked to pick out names I remembered to make contacts and urge attendance. One name I very much recognized and told my friend, the organizer, why I would not call. He challenged me to TRY to clear the air, if ONLY for myself.
I had to think about it but realized I had taken more difficult steps in my life. What happened next was a case of redemption. She did not remember it. Of course not, it was not impactful to her as it was to me. We tend to remember things that make huge impressions. It was just a regular school day for her, which indicates the way she had been raised. However, here it was, essentially 45+ years AFTER the incident and her immediate words were the key: “I am SO sorry. Believe me, please, I am no longer that way.” Wow…..what a wonderful feeling something horrible dissolving inside me.
I have had other issues being a Jew in a nonJewish world. I’ve been asked “Where are your horns?” which many people do not even know is based on the Michelangelo statue of Moses. Turns out it is a Bible translation error once again…and so, based on a choice by someone in the Middle Ages, we have a concept that is ridiculously believed by some.
I was the only white person who sat and ate lunch with two African-American women in one workplace. We were the same age and it was good to hear their stories and learn more about life there. It was fun; they even corn-rowed my hair once. When I told them I am Jewish, they got very still, frowned, and said “But you’re so nice.” I told them they were also and they immediately recognized their bigotry had just been cracked a bit. They also had been “carefully taught”.
There’s more but all my stories have not included an element of being afraid for my life. That’s a key component that our society has been imposing on all people of color here. Yes. They FEAR for their lives. And rightly so. We EARNED their anger.
There are bigotry and even hatred of people who are different. WHY? Most of the perceived issues are very superficial: skin color is obvious. And yet, even many people who say they are not bigoted have no close friends that look “different”. I started asking people who argued with me that I was exaggerating the issues “Do you ever invite them to your home to break bread?” Here’s the answer most of the time.
I irritated my mother when I made friends with the parents of a kid in my oldest son’s kindergarten class. His dad called himself a Persian. He was here in the US attending university when the Shah was disposed and his family told him not to come home. He applied for refugee status and later achieved citizenship. He cooked for us, we cooked for him, and the world felt better, less scary. I had broken one of my “carefully taught” issues of being very watchful around “Arabs”.
My mom also had concerns when I seized the opportunity to spend six months in Germany on business. I arrived, flying from JFK, an hour or so before my coworkers arrived on their flight from Atlanta, so I sat in the Frankfort airport people-watching and became very aware that they “look just like me.” Then, we boarded a train at the airport to travel south about an hour…and I couldn’t help but think “here I am, a Jew on a train in Germany.” The next morning we reported to the American army post located on a kasern built for WWII. There were swastikas carved into the architecture. I had to spend the first few days overcoming my “carefully taught lesson” by repeating “I am here. He is not.” I think the most horrible part of my trip is that I had to work and delving into travel exploration was restricted to weekends. It was overall a good experience with a lot of teaching and a lot of learning.
I had heard that after the war, the new government in Germany wanted to make sure they would never again fall into such horrible sheep again, disconnected from moral decision making. First, the American army made locals who swore, despite the odor in the air, that they did not know what was happening, to clean up the camps. Then the German government outlawed the symbols of Nazism. This was a “heritage” that was not to be honored ever again by people. We visited Dachau and watched the students act like typical unruly teenagers as the information film started, turn into open-mouth silent beings. They could understand what I call the Hitler rants. And they did not admire it at all.
Why am I sharing this? My personal story is minor compared to so many of the people of color who live as our neighbors but, too often, not as our friends. I wanted to remind you that the world is full of hate, even here. We can not fix the world. All we can each do is fix ourselves and help heal this nation.
A song was shared in the We Are Here: A Celebration of Resilience, Resistance, and Hope twice……that’s how good an anthem it is. The ‘Partisans’ Song’ – Zog Nit Kein Molwas written by Hirsch Glik, 22, in the Vilna Ghetto in 1943. It is one of the most powerful songs of resistance and defiance ever written when you consider that Hitler boasted that his Reich would endure for a thousand years, and it is the Jewish people who resisted the forces of hatred and have endured, not the Third Reich, which lasted twelve years.
Let’s get to work and realize that indeed to prove all lives matter we must pay attention NOW to fixing things so BLACK LIVES MATTER also and don’t stop there….we have a lot to do to raise all people. And please remember that YOUR status is not diminished in any way as we raise all who need to be.
I think ALL of us can agree on one thing: our American society is sick right now. So much finger pointing is going on about the causes, but there are some truths that can’t be ignored.
One is on male anger: our young boys are taught to “man up”, to suppress their natural dismay and fear and unhappiness and learn to be stoic. And the hurts build up until it festers. Some people turn inward and we have a lot of teen depression and anxiety. Others, unfortunately, turn outwards and access a way to strike out. Such are mass murderers nurtured…..and it is all of us who parented that one. Because we are part of the society that encourages this way of raising boys. Today there was another shooting in Texas with 5 dead and 21 injured..and it was a young white male who is the (now dead) suspected perp.
The other is white male privilege. I read an opinion piece I urge you to read. It’s long and you might want to close it down. I urge you, instead, to read it in bits. Take it in. Share it. It may not resonate with you but when I read it, I had a few insights of enlightenment. Perhaps you can, too.
It is apparent to anyone who is not a white male that the white guys have access to many things that people of color and women generally have to work harder to achieve. And we know pay scales are different. We know perception of why people act the way they do is different based on color and gender. This article develops the historic reasons why.
The ONLY time I ever was close to a position that the white males of the USA enjoy was the summer of 1972 when I went to Israel. It took a few weeks there when it hit me: most people around me were Jewish. It was the first time in my life that I was in the majority. I was no longer an “other”.
While I had entered the identifiable group, I was only on the fringe because I did not have the language nor a lot of the modern cultural knowledge, but, once learned, I would be there. I propose to you to consider the experience you had when you visited the country where your family’s heritage is based. You may not been able to speak (fluently) in that language and you would not know the day-to-day societal norms, but you could learn them if you immersed. If you have never gone to the “old country” nor ever really learned any ethic cooking, dances, or stories, if your family has lost its cultural heritage and you just “know” you are part Irish, for example, you probably will not be able to access this point of insight. It is NOT the feeling you get when you are on your 5th green beer on St. Patrick’s Day and just looovveeee everyone in the bar.
That feeling of “belonging” to a group that is in the majority and has a strong voice in the society gave me a sense of calm……and I had not recognized prior that I was otherwise anxious. That anxiety increased greatly when I lived in the Bible Belt and was very definitely an “other” much more than when I grew up in the ethically and culturally diverse New York metropolitan area.
So, without even going into the God-given rights as discussed in Christianity and the Cult of Trump, I could see that white men subconsciously feel safe. Since they have been the predominate group, they have the power. And when I felt for the experience I had, the feeling of being IN the group in Israel, I could finally grasp just what white male privilege is.
Part of the pushback by angry white men MIGHT be because it sounds like they are being considered “inferior” because of skin color and that is an impossibly hard concept to swallow (and yes, ironic as hell). No, it’s not your skin color……it is your attitude. But your skin color gave you access and so your attitude is that everyone has equal access, which is not true. Once you wake up to the difference, we can begin the job of healing this society.
The second insight I received reading this article was related to religion. As you know, I am Jewish but married to a Christian. For twelve years I have been attending church with him, learning about the stories and practices of this faith. And what I have learned has taught me that Jesus was all about teaching love by actions. He tried to simplify things, since people then like people now seem to have issues with reading long and deep. He acknowledged the Ten Commandments but basically said it comes down to treating others the way you want to be treated. That really should be simple enough for people to understand….but it is not.
I told my husband I would go to church with him but only as long as people respected me. His answer, “If they don’t, we’re in the wrong place.” So I was embraced by people at Ascension & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Pueblo, Colorado for my introduction. The people at Huntington, West Virginia’s St. John’s Episcopal Church asked especially for me to participate in study groups because my point of view would be different and would lead to more interesting discussion. Now in McMinnville, Oregon at McMinnville Cooperative Ministry, a blended Lutheran-Methodist church, I am participating in actions to help the community and even though I am not baptized, I am recognized as a full member of the congregation.
Simply, the exposure I have had to Christianity has lead me to understand that we are all imperfect but should be striving to BE LIKE JESUS.
In contrast, the Christianity I saw on full display living in the Bible Belt was, for the most part, significantly different. When I first moved to Nashville in 1975 I was greeted “Hello! Welcome to Nashville! What church do you belong to?” in one continuous breath. Sunday mornings were the best time to go grocery shopping (except the beer was inaccessible until noon, not a big problem for me.) because people either were in church or sleeping in; basically not going out in public if not at church so not to be identified as “one of those”. It also was when I learned not to expect to schedule anything on Wednesday night, as many had midweek church suppers at the very least.
So, if they were so tuned into church life, why was there so much anger towards “others”?
I worked for 18 months (way too long) in an office in Vanderbilt Medical Center where the electronic medical equipment was repaired and kept running at peak efficiency. The assistant director was a guy in his late 30s who proudly told me he was an elder in his church. He also told me that all the other people who thought they were Christian were not. He belonged to the XYZ Christian Church and others went to Southern Baptist or Church of Christ or some other denomination without “Christian” in their name. Ergo, they were not Christian. He said all this with a straight face.
This same guy stumbled into work bleary-eyed one morning shortly after his second child had been born. I asked if the baby had kept him up. No, it was another problem. At his church. Apparently, one of the Sunday School teacher positions had to be filled and the congregation had been asked for volunteers. Two men had offered but they just could not be considered. Why? He was hesitant to speak it….I wondered if he knew his indoctrination was not quite right and that caused him distress? He finally said that the two guys were “a couple.” I responded with “What’s the problem?” He was shocked I didn’t automatically “get it” and asked “Would you want one of THEM teaching your kids?” I kept calm and asked him if the Sunday School has a curriculum that the teachers use to teach the religious training they want the kids to get. Yes. I asked if any of the curriculum included getting naked and touching each other. NO!!! “Well, then,” I repeated, “what’s the problem?” He stomped away in frustration. (I seriously hated using that argument because it feeds the convoluted concept that homosexuals are pedophiles even as we hear at LEAST once a month about some ordained Christian minister being caught in incest or some other inappropriate act with a minor. And THAT gets no discussion so it really is a GREAT example of white male privilege.)
The next morning the boss stumbled in again and I played coy and again asked if the baby was ok. Yes,….it was “the other thing.” Turned out, after kids were asleep and his wife also and he was just drifting off he clearly heard a deep resonant voice (James Earl Jones?) “Love your brother!” And a few seconds later, it was repeated, “Love your brother!” I asked him if God had ever talked to him before and he slowly said ” noooo”. So then I told him the message was pretty clear…..and was he going to approve hiring the two volunteers for the teaching spot. He didn’t want to. So, I pushed a bit, “But God told you to LOVE YOUR BROTHER and I think God would be okay if you just let him teach the class.”
I have no idea what eventually happened there. I would prefer to think that those guys found a better church family, one that could respect and love them as Christ taught. (Is it considered teaching if teh lesson is not learned?) But this was only one of many many incidents related to the need to make everyone believe the same that I experienced and for many, I was the one they were trying to change.
These experiences, when compared to the ones I have had at the churches where I attended, have been significantly different and when Miguel A. De La Torre wrote in his essay Christianity and the Cult of Trump, he mentioned that Christianity as practiced in the South IS different from Christianity practiced elsewhere in the USA.
I want to interject that I know there are “liberal” churches in the South, just as there are “conservative” churches throughout the country. In the 21 years that I lived in Tennessee I had five active Christian friends who walked the walk and loved me as I am with no “need” to fix me. And I have also met others in other areas of the country who very much want to “save” me.
The point Mr.De La Torre wrote and I sensed is that when a culture has a majority population with a similar mindset, it influences the mores of the area. So, with a pervasive attitude in the Bible Belt that the fundamentalist spin is the ONLY right way to Christ, it makes everyone else an “other”. That means the unchurched, the nonChristians, and so many others need to be fixed or made to leave.
I very much felt like an “Other” in the South and there are a few people around me that may try also. Because white men essentially run this nation and the conservative Christian church has learned how to make their voice heard, we are all immersed in this struggle. The first step is to stop denying it.
Seven years ago, about a year before we planned to move from West Virginia to Oregon, I got deeply involved in helping establish The Wild Ramp, an indoor year-round local food market. Among other things, I visited the farms and other food producers basically to get their stories to tell consumers, but also to verify that they were raising or producing the yummies they brought to sell at the store.
For a person who grew up in the paved part of the Garden State and one who earned a degree in urban planning, finding myself knee deep in mud was one of my earliest experiences and I immediately bought muck boots for later farm visits. I am a quick learner…at least in some issues.
I believe the first farmer’s patience with me and my questions helped establish my process: I spent an hour asking questions sitting usually at the kitchen table, and only then did we walk the farm and I got to see and take photos.
Because I knew next to NOTHING about farming (other than going with my grandpa into his chicken coop when I was 3-years-old was a terrifying experience which he sure could have made easier!) I asked tons of questions. I may not know a lot but I am curious.
“What’s the issue about corn fed versus grass fed” was a question. “What kind of cows are these?” was another. (The answer to that was also enlightening: “Well, ” the farmer slowly answered, “they’re black. Angus are black, so I guess we can say they are Angus.” And my response: “So ARE they Angus, or are you riding a marketing message?” was answered with a smile.
So I learned something there and I later learned that perhaps it is not always just the breed but also the diet that helps make some meat tastier than others.
The point is, I was not afraid to appear that I did not “KNOW”. In other words, it was okay for them to figure I was ignorant and it was their job to teach me. And almost all of the 70 farmers and food producers I visited were happy to give me the two precious hours of their work day. The later sales jump after the blog was written and read by the consumers was worth the work interruption.
So last night I again watched the debates. And I will watch the 2nd debate with the rest of the Democratic candidates tonight. WHY?
Because I am not going to rely on what news organizations chose to tell me. I am not going to read my Facebook friends’ comments as a basis for my own decision-making. I do find comments by people I know and even people I have no idea what their background basis is for their comment. This is our reality: people have various levels of evaluation tools and their decision making may or may not be similar to mine.
When I read restaurant reviews when I am searching for a place to eat in a location I have not fully explored, I have no idea if those reviewers’ taste buds are similar to mine. I have no idea if they value food without additives, as I do. Same kind of issue when I hear how people love or pan a movie. How can I know if any person making a comment is aligned with my values on what entertains me?
Even more important is the much more rigorous and important evaluation for the next President of the United States. A crummy meal or movie may, at worse, provide a wasted couple of hours or a tummy ache, but typically not more than that. Playing passive on the evaluation of candidates can provide for poor leadership that will affect me…and you…and the world.
So, it’s all theater. I made a comment on Facebook as the debate started that the narrator sounded like he was introducing a sport event. But this is NOT the time we chose one winner and all the rest are losers.
Source: Apple Podcasts
Each person standing on that podium last night had something that was important to be heard. Each one. How would you know if you don’t put your own mind to work?
Do I think they are all equivalently experienced for the job of President. Hell no! But they have their viewpoint and it may overlap someone else’s, including your own.
Let’s be careful not to throw support to one candidate so early that we don’t listen. Let’s be careful to listen and evaluate how we feel about the various solutions to issues posed.
And let’s remember that the way the government is working now will not change much without some huge changes that are, unfortunately, needed to be made by the people who currently would not want them changed. For example, we have clearly seen the damage to the election process that the Supreme Court decision about Citizens United caused. By permitting money to be equivalent to free speech, and corporations defined as “people”, we have seen that our government is now being controlled by megawealthy corporations and people. Very few people. And the rest of us, working (or not) to make the changes have a tough uphill battle. How can that be changed to give the governing of this nation back to the people? Listen to how the candidates suggest changes and see if they align with you.
Source: UMass Dartmouth
Above all, quit sitting back and only using your voice to armchair quarterback. Get out there. Locally, you can have some huge influence in the way your city or county runs. On the national level, if you like a candidate, get involved. Give an hour a week…..that certainly is not too much of a drain when you think of what gets decided that will affect you.