A REAL Southerner Speaks Up…

My family had slaves.  There is no point in me lying about that.  Some of my family members owned other human beings.  Some were too poor to do so.  But some were dabbling on the fringes of wealth and they had enough to have some slaves.

During the Civil War, my male relatives did fight.  Including a 13-year-old boy.  And a 63-year-old man.  They both died in the same battle.  This was toward the end of the war when young boys and old men were threatened if they did not fight.  I found this record in the Georgia archives, almost by accident.  I worked at the University of Georgia Main Library while a student there.   I looked up my last name on a whim, expecting to find nothing.

The family members that were too poor were probably aspirational and wanted slaves because that was how you obtained social capital in the South.  That was how you ensured your sons and daughters could marry better.  That is how you got a say in the community and how you moved forward.  None of that makes it right.

A free labor class meant that wages were unnaturally depressed for the free poor of any color.  An element of the antebellum era that no one seems to want to address when they wax romantic over large gowns and supposedly dashing young men is that the poor were kept poor by the economic downward pressure on wages, and the wealthy had little to do with them and kept mostly to themselves.

I don’t understand why people justify the war.  I don’t know why people justify the South as it was.

I’ve had the same argument approximately 10 bajillion times.  I want to say what I want to say and for it to be final.  For once.

If you are saying, “The war was over state’s rights” – let me direct you to the various state documents specifying slavery as a cause for the existence of the war.  Let me also clue you in to the speech Alexander Stephens made in Savannah.  This is called the “Cornerstone Speech” and was given in 1861.  Wikipedia that shit.  Go ahead.

Usually what comes next is, “Well, they lived in a different time.” Well, no.  Some individuals from before and during the time of the Revolutionary War questioned and even bristled at the notions of the institution of slavery in the South.  This was a subject that was discussed then and on into the 1800’s.

After this, there is, “Slavery has been a part of history forever.”  Exactly how does that make my ancestor’s use of it valid or moral?  It doesn’t.

After this, it is, “Look at how Irish people got treated up north.”  Yes, that was awful.  I agree. But that doesn’t make what my ancestors did magically okay.

After that, I hear, “Well, Lincoln didn’t want to free the slaves and they didn’t want them up north either.”  SO?   That still doesn’t make slavery okay.  That does not erase what my ancestors participated in.

Then it’s, “The Africans sold them to us.”  That doesn’t mean that white people had a right to create demand or to take a boat across a dangerous ocean and fill it with people.

Why is it always the same?  Why these same arguments again and again and again?  Why do they need to be made, voiced, brought up, even when the issue is only tangentially related?

“That statue really could–”

“Lincoln!!”

“But I mean, I’m saying that maybe we should consider-”

“Irish people!”

“Yes, that’s true, but I’m just saying that in order to move forward and be economically viable–”

“African slave traders!”

Why?  What does this argument do for people?  Why do this dance every single damn time?

I, for one, have no problem with saying that some of my ancestors were assholes.  Assholes aspiring toward wealth and status through human ownership even as the rest of the world was moving forward toward a greater conscience in terms of their fellow man.  I don’t know why the rest of the south has a problem with saying that.  I don’t.  The people who lived in 1865 would be strangers to me.  They would have no connection with me.  They wouldn’t understand half the words I use.  The uneducated ones wouldn’t be able to function in our society now.  We live in a society that presupposes that you can read and write, and use electronic objects.  What has a dead relative that I have never met done for me?  What did he or she ever do that affected me?

Does anyone look at their family now and think they are all perfect?  Do you go around defending the shitty actions of the ones that aren’t?  I don’t.  I realized a long time ago that it was an abuse of my mind and a waste of my time to do so.   Jumping through the hoops was causing too much emotional and psychological turmoil.  I was having to gaslight myself in order to make that happen.  Shitty people are just shitty people and it is okay to say so.

I’m not the greatly ballyhooed internet Social Justice Warrior. Even though I grew up with not much, I do understand the reality of white privilege. I don’t deny its existence, and I have seen what it can do.

I just want everyone to stop explaining the South.  To stop defending the antebellum South.  Especially those who 1- don’t live here or who 2- never had family here during that era.

The South was always a mixed area.  Native Americans, Hispanics from locations south, French, English, Scots, Irish, Jewish, free blacks and slaves intermingled, and, of course, had sex and had children.  The Jewish part of the Southern heritage clashes loudly with the current Midwest Aryan wannabes, but it is a fact.  Judah Benjamin was a high-ranking confederate.  Jewish people have been here since before the Revolutionary war.  In my own town, Asian people have been a part of the tapestry since the railroad was built in the early 1800’s.

The Confederates also ran after the war, if they had money.  No one talks about that part.  After the war, the wealthy individuals that could flee, did.  They ran to Havana, Brazil, and some made their way to Europe.

The fact is, the wealthy planter class always had far more in common with other wealthy people than they ever did the poor whites around them.  That was true both before and after the war.

I’m a human being, with a real Southern story.  I’m not a kid from Ohio who came down here.  In fact, I wish you all would keep your asses at home.  If we want to take down a damn monument that you never gave a shit about before three days ago, let us take it down.

History doesn’t disappear when you move an object from one spot to another.

And while we are at it, on the topic of Free Speech:

You can say whatever you want on a street corner.  I’ve seen itinerant preachers do it.  Go ahead.  But you need to keep in mind that you don’t speak for everyone.  And for God sakes, keep your ass away from me.  Because I am a real person from the South.  My family did own slaves.  And I want nothing to do with any of your shit.  We seemed to be getting along just fine without you.

The measure of true bravery and character is if you can say what it is you wish to say without a group of people standing behind you.

Frustration and waiting

I stopped myself from voluntarily going to the office today.  To make sure that everything was okay. To make sure other people did their job.

I slept a lot all weekend.  I tend to escape, to run and hide into the sacred space of sleep.

Hiding from work, the news, life.

I’ve run before.  Run away from home. And now I live here, wondering if I’ll make it out alive.

And now I live here, wondering if I’ll make it out alive. Wondering if fate will allow it.

I live here, in the heat and greenhouse feel of the rain sweeping down to the river and the subtropical air full of pollen and weight.  I wonder if I should go somewhere cooler, warmer.  I wonder how I will if I do, the costs mounting up in my all-too-logical-head, mentally converging to add estimates.

I think of the times when moving was dangling by a thread before…  men who asked me to move for my own good, me recoiling at their lack of courage.

I think of the luxury some have, roaming from place to place, funded by wealthier backgrounds, until they determine where they really want to settle down.

I think of the yard work today, how the air felt like a sauna and left me breathless from potting plants and taming those outlandish rose vines.

They don’t bloom.  They grow endlessly.

I think of the dream I had last night about snakes in my yard, the enormous- and real- black widow in the flower pot today.  Biggest one I have seen.

I look for that magic job that doesn’t exist that will pay me enough so that I can justify leaving or save up to do so.  I think about the mortgage, the cats, the yard. The fucking impossible yard.  I see myself running against the wall.

I think about doing less.  The feeling I do too much.

I remember that we were once migratory creatures, too.

I think of things to do.  I don’t do them. Holding myself back.  For what? For what?  I ask myself again and again.  What would it hurt to try…?

I look at a bill, mysteriously increased by 10 dollars… they changed my plan without telling me.  Knowing it will require a 2-hour conversation to fix, a conversation that must be during business hours between 9 and 5 Monday through Friday when I am working.  We value our customers, they say.

I hang here in limbo. Waiting for something crucial to happen.  Something definite.  Something absolute.

I hide my doubts.  I feel my way through it.  Stare at this diploma, sitting on my mantel.  I think about becoming a teacher just so I can have summers off. I have no illusions about impressing wisdom upon young minds.

I think about becoming a teacher just so I can have summers off. I have no illusions about impressing wisdom upon young minds.

I think about how tired I still feel.  3 days of almost nothing but rest and I still feel exhausted.  Beat up.  Worn out. Physically drained from a desk job where I have allowed myself to become too reliable, too much of a fixture.

I visit job websites and company websites and look again.

I think of things I could do on the side and still don’t do them.  I don’t know where I’d find the effort.  I’m running out of effort to give.  But I keep showing up and doing what is bid of me and more because I can’t stand the half-measures others throw out there and shrug.

I think about starting all over again.  What would it do for my retirement?  I’m not 22 anymore. Think about my vacation time that I take in droplets, unable to trust others to do the job?

Think about my vacation time that I take in droplets, unable to trust others to do the job.

I give up, buy a plant, a mascara, a nail polish, a t-shirt. A toy for the cats.  Just to get out of the house and pretend involvement in the world around me.   A play that I act out for five or ten bucks.  I feel no pull toward the club, the bar, the other bar, the cool new restaurant.  I go to places the old folks go, past their prime and coolness, refusing to wait in line for a table, forever for a beer.

I hate the patterns I see. The same kinds of people, different skin, hair.  Like a movie trope repeated over and over.  I wonder if any of them are any more complex.

I look at the news and fill with rage, despair, or just disappointment that things are going about as I expected.

I might comment on an article.  I might not.  I might get trolled by someone even more bored than I am.  I might not.  If I cared, it might matter what they said.  The names, the implied superiority, and assumed yelling.

I read some article on organizing my house, avoiding these foods, bad signs you should look for in your job/relationship/friendships/family.  Skim them as if they held meaning or advice for real humans here on Earth.

I wait on the fall.  The crisp air of change.  Hoping it will bring with it something new.  Hoping for a shift.  Hoping the shift will find me, when it happens.

Single, no kids…

“What do you mean, you don’t have kids?  Why not?”  I wish I had a dime for every time a variation of this has been asked of me.

I don’t know how free people feel to ask this of men, I have never been a man.  I only know what my experience is.  When you are a woman and you don’t have kids, you are the weirdo. Everyone asks. Total strangers.  People on buses and planes and in coffee shops.

This starts with girls at a young age.  If you have kids with you and are out and about—perhaps you have a small cousin you are babysitting and you make a run to the grocery store, for example– people feel free to ask if they are yours.  Even if you are a teenager.  Even, sometimes if an older woman is near you who IS their mother.

People see having kids as a natural progression, integral to one’s being on this planet.

Anyone who has been engaged or lived with someone of the opposite sex can probably bear witness to the onset of the questions.

But us childless folk tend to have a tribe.  I have had a lot of childless friends over the years.  We tend to find one another.  I can tell you why and how many people end up without children.

A few friends married men who didn’t want children.  They were told by many of their well-meaning older relatives (always eager to get young people hitched) that the groom would “change his mind” after they got married.  And yet, the grooms didn’t. Ever.  When faced with the prospect of ending the marriage or continuing as a childless couple, they chose to stay married.

Some of them can’t have children.  Through a whim of biology and chance.  If you don’t have the funds, don’t have the latitude to take time off work for exams and appointments, and also the patience for a battery of fertility treatments and so forth, you don’t have much choice.

Some of them decided against having children for themselves.  Reasons of personal preference or

And then, there are those other of us like me.

Those of us who never wanted to have kids alone, who feared poverty, and were extra-super-careful, choosing partners and protection wisely just like your sex-ed teacher taught you. Those of us who were trying so hard to do it the right way that the opportunity, as people are ready to remind us, is disappearing day by day.

Some of us come from backgrounds where pregnancy outside of marriage is met with disdain so great as to have created the choice for us.  The choice between having a child or having contact with our parents.  The choice between falling into the pattern of “fallen, but repentant” or “old maid”, if a proposal or wedding never managed to appear.  Perhaps there were proposals, but because life happens, they never managed to come to fruition.  Because people are imperfect and imperfect, non-fairy-tale things happen all the time.

Perhaps a lot of the men we knew were losers and we had little in common with them when it came to the ideas they shared about raising children, so that co-parenting with them would have been an ongoing stressful disaster.

Perhaps they have a psychological disorder that would make life hell for children, and they do not wish to visit that upon them.

Perhaps they come from abusive backgrounds and do not have the funds to leave their immediate area, but do not wish to expose their children to their abusers.

Perhaps we, or our families, were the “weird ones” in the community.  The only Jewish person for 10,000 miles.  The only Wiccan.  The only punk.  The only goth.  The family that wasn’t “good enough” because you didn’t have brand-name clothes.  The girl who was too smart or too poor or too much in the wrong political party.  Socially speaking, nothing succeeds quite like sameness.

You are going to say, “Well, just meet someone online!”  Look, I am 41.  I still think of internet dating as scary and weird.  In 1994, I was 18.  There was no internet dating.  People dated who was around.  Available.  There.  Matches were often simply made by default, especially if you didn’t have the funds to move to another area to get to know people or drive around to date in another area. I took someone from out of my usual social circle to my senior prom.  The question everyone wanted to know, in very rude tones, mind you, was “how do you two even know each other?” Because that was not a thing that happened, certainly not in a small town.  What do the people do who live in areas that don’t have good or affordable internet service do now? I would assume it is the same thing.  

What women learn in this process is that having children is paramount in terms of how others view them.

Even if the decision to not have children was not an intentional one, but simply the way life worked out between following the AIDS-scare-era rules of safe sex, a few failed proposals, and never quite having the kind of job to make enough money to make pregnancy a reasonable option.

Women without children get portrayed as unfulfilled, cold, sometimes even sexually frigid, but above all things, selfish.

Selfish.

There are a couple ideas bound up in that.  First, there is an idea that you owe the world children.  You owe it to other people – family, friends, the universe, God—to produce children. Not adopt them, oh heavens no, that is failure.  So is having a surrogate.  They must be a production of your own.  You owe it to society to create children within yourself with the partner that your chunk of society has deemed acceptable.

The second idea that is a little further out there is that you are selfish for not sharing your home with a child that you pop out of your own body.  Not the selfishness of not sharing your home with child who is already here, oh heaves no, you are selfish for not creating something to share your life with in order to share your life with it.  As if there were babies in heaven waiting on a couple to be unselfish enough to give birth and produce them. Like a giant baby soul breeding factory in heaven, popping out baby souls waiting for homes on earth.

It doesn’t matter what else you are doing with your life.   You could be creating wells in dry areas of distressed countries.  You could be feeding the homeless.  You could be curing diseases.  The fact of your childlessness makes you selfish.  And to some, removes your worth.

We get asked who will take care of us when we get old.

I don’t have the answer for that.  However, in every generation before this, plenty of women left this earth without having children.  They managed to get by somehow.  In previous generations, the governesses and the nannies may have never had children because of the complexity of their station.  Stories like Jane Eyre talk about the way the governess is not a part of the upper class, not a part of the lower class, and is almost without a social stratum to belong to.  Religious adherents of different kinds didn’t have children.  There will always be people, no matter how lovely and bright and kind, will leave this earth without having created offspring.  That is just a reality of living life according to the multitude of social rules that we have created for ourselves over time.  When you combine that with biology and the slim chance of getting pregnant each time a person has sex, the variations in fertility among people, you are going to end up with a statistically significant portion of the population that manages to just not reproduce.

I think a few things have led to this current cultural mentality.  I could postulate on that and might at another time.  We decided at some point that being the one to not have kids was something that other people had the right—perhaps even the duty—to weigh in on.  I’ve known my pregnant friends to gnash their teeth at the latitude people seem to show over commenting on and touching their bodies.  While not the same thing, society seems to feel it is owed something from those of us, regardless of circumstance, that never checked “have kids” off the list.

The very people who will tell you that you shouldn’t have kids if you can’t afford them, will later despise you for never having those kids you couldn’t afford.  Because your life was supposed to fall into a pattern that they recognized, and you failed at making that a reality for them.

Sameness is what they want.  That is why they react badly to Halle Berry having children at 47 instead of 23.  That is why they react badly to people having more than exactly two children (not one, that will never do! You have to have two!)  The people who comment on whether you have children or not are not interested in your happiness.  They are disappointed that you didn’t choose the same path that they did.  Because people love love love sameness.

Rambling about Escapism

Is our culture too invested in escapism?

We have TV everywhere and Netflix and video games and phones.

We are connected all the time.

We can have 650 “Friends” on Facebook and never have met any of them at all in real life.

We binge watch whole seasons of shows on weekends.

We have IMAX theaters where were can fully immerse ourselves in the story.  I remember my first experience with IMAX.  I was in Texas and it was this history film somewhere near the Alamo.  I wasn’t at all sure what I thought about it.  I’m still not sure.

Are we leaving reality behind too much?  Are we escaping so much that we fail to face the blunt force trauma of our own reality?

Do we need to unplug and relish the harshness of life’s cruel bends and clearly face them and solve them, or let them beat us down if that is what Fate has determined must happen?

In all the connectivity, do we grow?  Do we grow in the ways we should grow?  Do we absorb too much the tied-up-in-a-bow tropes and predictable storylines, expecting one day, that things will just “work out” for us, without applying any elbow grease?

Do we live in a world in our head that is almost reality- but not quite, because reality can suck and we don’t want to be there?  Do we let our problems sit, unsolved, unaddressed, un-felt?

Are we stopping ourselves from accepting uncomfortable truths about the lives we live and instead zoning out into something we find pleasant in order to hide?  Do we use these things to abdicate our own responsibility for our choices?

Is it fair to ourselves to hide from a rude or harsh thing that fate has dealt us, if indeed that is the case?  It is better to fall in and embrace the darkness of that fate, rather than create for ourselves a distraction?

I’ve found myself pointlessly watching “The Golden Girls” of late.  While I do laugh occasionally, I sit and wonder to myself at the plotlines.  Am I to believe that women in this age bracket are having relationship and friendship problems that a 14-year-old could clear up for them?  Or even a person much younger?

So why keep watching?  Is there a point?

Why do we watch things just to watch them?  Just to have the noise in the house, the pretend familiarity and warmth?  The illusion of people that are ultimately always safe and who never could actually do any harm to us?

None of us knows how to live a life.  Some of us flounder around trying.  Always attempting to figure it out.  Some people really try.  Some people never seem to care much, and come into this world sitting on a stump with a motionless face and go out the same way.  TV never seems to help much.  Unless you happen to run into some situation involving a comic misunderstanding with characters who only have a few dimensions.

That is where TV also gets us:

We think of people incorrectly, and people portray themselves almost as caricatures. Only a list of qualities based on stock roles.  We lose our complexity.  We fail to see the complexity in others.  We sell ourselves short on experiences and possibilities because of what we believe is fitting for us and who we determine we are.   We define ourselves by music preference and subculture and religion (sometimes as all three at once—as I mentioned in the previous post, everyone I meet thinks that because I am white I am also Christian, Republican, and listen to country music a lot.)

Some people may only be three things.  Maybe they aren’t multi-dimensional.  But maybe it’s because they never gave themselves the chance to be, creating walls of what must be, walls that would never let them change the dial from the country music station to the college amateur DJ hour.

Some of us fools do reach up and twist the knob.

Some of us do eventually turn off the TV and listen to the quiet and cry about our lives and thank our lucky stars for the good things while wondering still why we got passed over for some, and know that living our best lives means we may not ever have everything, but we give it a damn good try as much as we can.  Some of us do hit every station in the market.  Read books on the gods of every religion, and try dancing to alien beats. Some of us grab different wine bottles every time we are in the store just to see how different they taste.  We try the funny-looking appetizers and new fusion cuisine just to give it a shot.  We go to a restaurant without anyone having recommended it to us or looking up reviews, because, if it’s awful, at least we’ll have a story to tell.

Some of us fools allow ourselves to feel out of step with our surroundings.  To feel the discomfort. To realize that some things were our fault, but some things were dumb luck and out of our control.  That trope that hurts the most—the inability to make the magic-30-minute-resolution happen because you did the right things.

At the end, we, the oddballs, drink our totally random wine, sit outside on the steps and hope that maybe somehow, we are gaining wisdom in all our folly.   That we will have enough of wisdom to really feel different one day, but perhaps, that is an illusion too.

The fictional idea I find affects me the most is the “getting it right” idea.  The idea that we will cross a finish line and not make any further bad choices, mistakes, never have a thought come out of our mouth holding the wrong words… that we will somehow one day get everything right.  Our job will never disappear and our stock picks will only go up and we won’t forget we left something in the oven ever again.   Our skin cream will be affordable and eliminate pimples and wrinkles, all our plants will bloom and we will eat a proper diet and somehow extend the daylight hours in a manner that allows us to do it all and tie each day up neat and complete.

Even though I know is absurd, it affects me.  Something about the idea managed to wriggle its way into my brain, past all the TV and movie absurdities about love and heroics and success. This is the part that got through. Getting my choices right.  Staying on top of everything.  Although I know that no one keeps all the plates in the air all the time… I still think sometimes…. That if I could… I would break through to something else.

But there is nothing else.  This is my life.  And I’m living it.  This is it.  All there is.

None of us has the faintest clue what we are doing.

The Desperation of Rightness

Some of the people out there don’t understand what it is like to grow up in an evangelical home.  I can’t say my story speaks for everyone, but I think it speaks to a common mentality found in certain areas.

The mentality is this:

We are always right.  Your parents are always right.  You may know something that we don’t, but we are right about it by being your parents and therefore being older and wiser than you.

This is why reason doesn’t win.

You can argue all day long about the overwhelming evidence of something.  It doesn’t matter.  And it won’t matter what that thing might be.

For instance:  My father has argued with me about the meaning of the word “tenure”.  I work in higher education.  I have attended 3 different colleges and universities.  I know what tenure is. I know someone who was fired who had tenure.  However, he argued with me that it meant that people could not be fired.  I told him that it did not.  The argument devolved quickly into a nasty “IT DOES, TOO!!” from him.

I was 38 years old at the time.

I gave up.  He will never see my wealth of experience and knowledge or my professional level as being ever equal to something he heard some guy say on a Fox News show or during a sermon from the right kind of preacher.

I could literally write a book on something, and someone from that world would gladly tell me I was wrong about something that I had studied for years.

This is something beyond gaslighting.

This is a systematic devaluing of the knowledge of the younger generation, regardless of what their scope of knowledge is.  Some of it is mansplaining, but I also got it from the female members of my father’s family.

This is belief based in “rightness.”   And they believe in being right about everything.  The pattern of your wallpaper or what color car you should buy, even.   And that is what makes it hard to pin down as what it is.  It isn’t that everyone must fit a certain pattern, it is that everyone must fit the pattern that has been determined by someone else with more perceived “rightness.”

It is about the belief that all other white people are also Protestant and Evangelical, and that they are also Republican and listen to Country music and want and are expected to have exactly the same lives as their parents.

It is the notion that you will marry someone most likely from your hometown even if you don’t even live there anymore.

It is the idea that you want to live in a certain area even though you have never even voiced a desire to do so.  It is the assumption that you want what they think you should want without asking you.

It is constantly saying, to younger people who know something, that some mysterious “they” have you “convinced” of something – that the Muslims you work with every day aren’t planning your doom when they ask you where the scotch tape is, that tenured professors are fire-able.

I can only imagine some dark cabal out there determining that one must sneak around and “convince” us “dumb” people who actually work in a certain field what terms in that field mean, and that these meanings are somehow different from their actual secret meaning, which is somehow known to these other people out there.  Or that entire groups of people would decide “Let’s be nice about the office supplies and conduct ourselves graciously.  That’ll be how we get ‘em!”  The ongoing fallacy is that there is some secret code between individuals, who may have never met before now, and are deciding to do this complete social con game, full-on convincing other people into believing something. The fallacy that YOU disagreeing with them on a point about global warming or Charles Darwin means that that weird blob of random strangers has done their secret handshake behind the screen and has “convinced” you.

And this “having you convinced” will be proclaimed as truth–even though the person making this proclamation about you hasn’t managed to convince you of anything since 1983.  Because you just aren’t easily convinced.

But that screws with everything in their perception of you.  They want, nay, they NEED for you to fit the mold of a dumb kid, easily convinced of things by fancy people.

If I was a brain surgeon, I’m sure that would come up too.  And I would hear how wrong I was about something dealing with the brain.  How someone had me “convinced” about the benefits of some treatment or another.  If I sold cars, I would be told that some mysterious “They” had me “convinced” that one model was better than another.  I have heard my father argue with historians on TV.  I have heard him argue with scientists about the behaviors of tigers during wildlife shows.

Right.

Right Right Right.

That is what evangelicalism has to have.  Because that’s how evangelical preachers talk to their flock.  Admonitions rather than research and theological debate.  Evangelical preachers don’t care who disagrees with them or the level of knowledge of that person.

“I KNOOOOOOOWWWWW that the Lord created Adam and Eve in six days, the scientists and the atheists are trying to convince yoouuuuu that you came from a monkey… “

There is always the desperation of rightness. There is always a verbally confrontational tone, which we see now in national politics.  The preachers I grew up hearing were all too happy to tell you that they didn’t care if they were told they were wrong, were called bigots for their views on gays, or anything else.  They didn’t care.  Because the name-calling people were going to hell anyway.

Small towns in the red states are ruled by this type of thought pattern.  It doesn’t matter, even, if that person has never been to church in their life.  The thought pattern is “I am right.  It doesn’t matter what you show me, I am right.  It doesn’t matter how many sources you list, I am right.  It doesn’t matter how many experts you have, I am right.  It doesn’t matter if you tell me you saw it yourself, I am right.”  The big kicker is that my father wasn’t always very religious, but he was always “right” about everything.  His turn toward religion more seriously has been a product of a lot of life upsets.  My not-actively-church-going relatives are also “right.”  That is why they voted for Trump and other individuals who pop up in news feeds with stories that make most of America shake its head.  He reminds them of themselves in his constant insistence of his own rightness.

“I’m Right.  I’m Right even if I’m Wrong.”  That is the core attitude that is held by current politicians and constituents in the red states that the Democrats and many moderates fail to understand.  But I know it.  I’ve lived with from birth.   Christians who are from mainline belief systems don’t understand that this certainty of rightness is exactly why Evangelicalism is so very appealing.  There is no consideration of multiple meanings or historical changes to word definitions.  There is only Rightness.

This mentality requires blinders.  You have to ignore that your cardiologists’ last name is Hussain, that the person cutting your hair is a gay man. You have to seek to actively “not get it.”  To be so inside your own head that it never dawns on you.  To actively assume your bubble is the one that everyone else is living in, too.  Or to live so externally as to be perpetually worried about what other people are going to say about you or think about you or feel about you, so much so that it supersedes the realities of your life happening all around you.  Either way, the result is a triumph of non-awareness that is impressive.

I don’t argue with my father about anything anymore.   I avoid it as much as possible and seek to avoid saying anything that betrays my real thoughts on any subject where differences lie.  Arguing is pointless.  The only thing that does work is letting him find out the hard way.

It is hard.  But there is nothing that works nearly so well as failure.  Arguing is a desired outcome.  They want you to argue.  They think it is a fun exercise to argue. They don’t want to learn anything.  They don’t want to absorb information from you.  They just want an excuse to be snide from the beginning of the argument.  The only way to win…

Is to let them think they have. To be more mature.  To avoid the problem.  Then, go do what you want anyway.  And you let them lie in the bed they made for themselves.

I can tell you the story of a teacher from my hometown.  She had a husband that was politically passionate.  Put up signs.  She would help and do and volunteer and give money, but when she went to vote, she voted for the other person, every time.  It must have been a hell of an act.

I think of that lady from time to time.  I wonder who she voted for in the last election.

 

Looking at Laura

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I’ve always had a rocky relationship with Laura Ingalls.I’ve been reading the book “Libertarians on the Prairie” by Christine Woodside.  I have also recently read “Prairie Girl,” which is a collection of Laura’s unvarnished recollections of her life

I’ve been reading the book “Libertarians on the Prairie” by Christine Woodside.  I have also recently read “Prairie Girl,” which is a collection of Laura’s unvarnished recollections of her life

Growing up, I was always sitting in front of the television, watching this perfect American invention of what a girl should be, and our house was home to the entire series of books.  She was spunky, just the right amount to be mischievous and pull cute kid stuff, but never aspired to descend into any real rebellion.  Laura never brought home a science book with Darwin’s theory in it, asking difficult questions. Indeed, she was living in an age when they were first putting age restrictions on teachers, and a teaching certificate was only for rudimentary math and literacy.   Laura never listened to metal or punk or hard rock or gansta rap.  Laura never had a Barbie doll with a disco outfit.  Laura never tried to copy Soul Train dancers in her living room.  Laura never begged for a mini skirt (the tiered one with ribbon trim in different colors on each tier) or branded sneakers or cereal that had the cartoon of the day on the front.

I was overdosed with Laura and, when possible, the Walton clan, and reruns were endlessly on play whenever they were available.  My mother bought into and remained stuck in, that era of 70’s polyester pioneers and country simplicity bordering on bumpkinism.

Laura was guided only by elders in her actual presence.  Laura on tv had hair that hung in perfect braids (which my mother may still not realize was a wig.) Book Laura was impressed easily by what modern international trade made into everyday objects.  Laura didn’t have the benefit of chewable vitamins and would never live to see Geraldine Ferraro as a possible vice president, or 80’s era feminism.  Laura didn’t have Commodore and Apple computers at her school.

Laura was the one of the most wholesome of the wholesome professions for women—a teacher.  Later, a journalist, but in the books, always a teacher, and then a mom and wife. I found out when I was dating a Muslim man several years ago that Little House on the Prairie was well liked in his country and passed the censors because it was so completely safe.

It became apparent as I grew older, that my mother was desperate to be the wise and admired mother:  The Caroline (or on The Waltons, The Olivia).   Full of uncanny good judgment on TV, full of ridiculous teenage faux-mature behavior in the books. The reason my mother had children was to have someone to be wiser than.

I was born in 1976.  The tumultuous times of Madonna and Cyndi Lauper and Boy George were time for a different kind of wisdom.

In my mother’s eyes, Laura was a perfect poppet of just the right level of mischief.

But she was also poverty porn.

My mother idealized even the difficulties of prairie life. If there had been a way for her to make me stay home and do a bunch of farm work to show me how tough life was, she probably would have.  She frequently made me (not my brother, mind) work on my uncle’s farm, but would not allow me a summer job of my own outside of the family.   Laura was an example, an example to be happy and impressed that I even had shoes from a real store.  That I was supposed to be proud of homemade clothes over store-bought, and that’s how it used to be so I should shut up.

Encroaching on this mentality was always the problem of geography.  I am from the area surrounding Augusta, Georgia.  The old antebellum South.  There was no prairie for me. No deep snows.  This was a place planted by Oglethorpe, and sexualized through the shaking and quaking of James Brown.  I would see GI’s outside the Fort Gordon area drinking copious amounts of beer in the Pizza Hut on Dean’s Bridge Road, and hear them telling loud and dirty jokes.  I would go to Chinese restaurants older than I was. This wasn’t the prairie.  The closest thing in town was the Augusta National Golf Course, complete with the held breath of class consciousness it brings.

When I was quite young, still in elementary school, we had a town centennial beauty pageant.  My mother made my dress.  It was brown calico, unflattering for my coloring, and had an off-white apron and a bonnet.

I lost.  The little girl that won had something much fancier, much more likely for the area where we lived and the time frame in question.   The older girls that won wore prom dresses that were popular at the time that sort of had a faux-antebellum vibe.

Sometimes I think about the Laura’s that I did know.  Wholesomely wholesome unquestioning individuals, absorbing parental lessons rather than looking up another source of information, who became teachers and then stay-at-home moms. Always Protestant Republicans who majored in Early Childhood Education.

But, I don’t hate Laura.

I find her sitting there in the corner of the house of the mind, a dusty book once again picked up.

Laura and Rose cranked out good stories.  American literature that falls into the right rhythm in all the right places, and you feel the wagon creaking across an empty prairie again.  It’s good writing.  I still recognize the craftsmanship of the work itself.

I wish I could go back in time and tell that skeptical little girl that her suspicions are true.  And that yes, Dorothy and Alice are so much cooler.

Your Feelings About Abortion Aren’t About a Baby

There is one abortion clinic left in all of Kentucky.  One.  This story appeared on my news feed on Friday and I felt my gut wrench.

One. In a whole state.

The idea that all abortions should cease is a minority opinion in this country, and yet, that minority opinion keeps getting louder and louder.  And the protesters get meaner and ruder and worse all the time.  Angrier and Angrier.  More full of vitriol all the time.

They hate women.

Wait.  Let me rephrase that:  They hate women that have been found as being able to be sexed by men.  It doesn’t matter if the circumstances were rape or incest.  It doesn’t matter if the woman is a confused teenager or a 37-year-old married woman.  What matters is that the woman is guilty because she has female parts and a man experienced sexual excitement in her vicinity– mattering not if that was brought on by violence and rage or affection or some deranged perversion.  That is what they are angry about.  Having a pregnancy (not a child, but a full 9-month pregnancy) is the punishment they believe women should have for the crime of having attracted, even if that attraction was completely unwanted or even unwarranted.

They hate that women are holding their head up and walking into a clinic, verifying to the world that they have, indeed, been found fuckable at some point by someone.

This comes down to the sin of being female.  The sin of being able to attract. Hatred of women as attractors.

This comes down to assuming “nice boys” from “nice families” only do bad things if a bad woman gives them a reason, confuses her intention, or fails to be chaste in every possible aspect of her being.  This comes down to the too-low shirt or the cheerleader skirt or the strapless dress when no one says anything about the shirtless pool boy.

This is punishment for having female plumbing.

“Be pregnant for 9 months.  Grow a baby.  You should not have been attractive to anyone ever.  I don’t care if that was your intent or not.  You shouldn’t have been something other people could see as fuckable. Even you, Sister Hilda from the Convent who was raped while wearing a floor-length habit.  This is your punishment for being fuckable.”

Snicker if you wish, but I guarantee you– if it is living and breathing, something out there is wanting to have sex with it, no matter what it’s wearing.

The hard truth is:

If anyone honestly gave a damn about the kids, there wouldn’t be a single child sleeping on the street.  We would have enough homeless shelters and care centers for all of them. Why aren’t these religious organizations starting more homeless shelters?

If anyone honestly gave a damn about the kids, there would be no bickering over free healthy lunch in schools, and the cafeterias would not be outsourced to a private entity, but properly maintained and monitored.  Why aren’t these individuals protesting their local or state school board’s practices?

If anyone gave an honest damn about the kids, there would be comprehensive sex education across the board in the US that contained the tools to not only discuss sex but also to discuss boundaries and appropriate behavior.   Because American parents are way too scared to discuss sex in any rational manner whatsoever, and some of them may not know a lot about real sex education either because they didn’t have in in their school.

If anyone gave a damn about the kids, we wouldn’t be letting them get their ONLY sex education on how the body actually works from cheesy and wholly unrealistic internet porn.

If anyone gave a damn about the kids, there wouldn’t be a single child who is waiting to be adopted and these same people would be spending some of this protest energy on launching protest campaigns to reduce the cost of adoptions and the time for adoption transitions.

The first thing that anyone says is, “They should give them up for adoption.” Quickly followed by, “But it’s so expeeensiiivee.  And it takes soo longggg.” No one is protesting those laws.  Why not?  Where is the outcry?  Where is the demand to change that legislation?  Where is the ever-vocal minority on that?  It doesn’t exist because they really don’t care about it.  If they did, they would be doing something about it.

No.  We get people harassing women at the only abortion provider left in an entire state.

I’ve seen our sexual culture change.  In my high school years (think about the early 1990s), sex was just a thing you maybe did or didn’t do, and many sexually active kids did have, purchase, and have access to condoms.  Many boys in my high school carried condoms in their wallet, “Just in Case”.  While some might snicker at the assumption that these teen boys would ever get lucky, the fact is, kids were having sex all the time.  Those condoms got used.  The pregnancies that happened were often because the condom broke, not because there wasn’t one.  Sexual responsibility was a part of emerging adulthood, regardless if that responsibility led to abstinence or responsible sexual behavior.

Now, it seems we are in a world where teens are almost given the culture of having sex accidentally and unprepared as being the normal situation.   There has been an emergence of an American subculture that wants the drama, the negative outcome, salivating over the punishment.   They keep setting up the perfect storm:  Lack of sex education, so that people, especially kids, can only make stupid decisions, which can be devoured later with their eyes to give some sense of smug self-satisfaction.  Giving only one path for escape, knowing most won’t follow.  All to visually feast and scream through bullhorns at those who bear the burden of failure combined with bad luck so that they can be made examples of.

Because that is what they want.  Not more babies in the world.  Satisfaction from seeing a punished, “fallen” woman.  A woman punished because her body is breasts and hips and thighs and that female-ness committed the crime of being and therefore attracting, a male.