Saturday, September 5, 2015

Logically Speaking

We have lost our ability to debate. The fine art of debate was once a sign of creative, intellectual thought. One would spend hours researching facts, and constructing the framework of a provocative debate. The formality of the setting alone set the tone for civility and decorum.

Our platform is now the pseudo anonymous world of social media. Our carefully crafted words are replaced with stinging nasty barbs formerly reserved for the likes of Maury Povich or Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle. We try to defend and justify our nastiness with one-liners ripped out of context with zero regard for the validity or accuracy of the statement. We don't check or cross-check our facts. We just launch our projectile word vomit wantonly towards our target.

I was involved with a small Internet skirmish myself recently. I saw a salacious post from a friend and figured out rather quickly there was no way in the world the contents of said post were accurate. I checked on Snopes and sure enough, it was a quote from a satirical site. The person exalted with saying some pretty toxic statements didn't actually say those things. As the on-line scuffle escalated, I decided to chime in with a friendly "check your facts, mates" and referred them to Snopes.

I had no idea this was an invitation to verbally assault me. Snopes is no longer credible because it is owned by a liberal. Who knew? I guess the Bible is no longer quotable if that logic is allowed to stand.

Logic. See what I did there? In one fell swoop, I took a rapid, ridiculous leap based on my own prejudices and opinions and made a sweeping generalisation. I am not alone. I watch this happen time and time again. In the end, neither Snopes being owned by a liberal nor my sincere belief that Jesus was indeed the first liberal have anything to do with whether or not Ben Carson was misquoted.

If Snopes is so offensive to you, then I have some suggestions.  Snopes does give the origins of the original sources when they can verify them. Check those original sources. Look at the dates of posts. Make sure that the post comes from a reliable news source, understanding my definition of reliable is probably not going to match yours. In that vein, check more than one news source. There are hundreds of satirical sites on line. Be careful. You may fall victim to a completely fabricated bit of "news". It happens.

Remember when we used to argue and banter on the playground? After all of their limited defences and come-backs are exhausted, children often resort to spewing such intellectual gems as "well, your mother dresses you funny". Social media is rife with such cerebral pearls. We are headline readers and zinger flingers to the point that we lose the very crux of the argument we are ourselves trying to make.

We have lost the art of debate. We are so convinced that our oft re-tweeted and shared post reducing our particular opponent to tatters will sway our most intractable rival to come over from the dark side and join us, that we ignore Robert's or anyone else's Rules of Order and go straight to the attack. We bypass conventional munitions  for the wordsmith's version of chemical weaponry and sit back and watch the carnage.

Black lives matter; as do red, yellow, white, green and purple. Espousing one colour without mentioning all does not eschew logic. The Kentucky Clerk of Court's  personal divorce record should  not be  in question in regards to her not issuing marriage licenses to others within the bounds of the law. To use her marriage record as a logical debate is to bypass the real issues. It is neither logical or real debate. I love my black brother in law. I love my daughter's partner who happens to be a man in blue. Logic does not enter in to the equation.

All of us collectively need to take a breath. Love the person, even if their beliefs and opinions make us cringe. My parents taught me long ago, well before the Internet was a mere twinkle in Al Gore's eye, that one should avoid talking about religion and politics with friends.  Can you imagine Facebook without a political or religious rant? I can't either. And I must go so I can post this to my wall....

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Let Your Heart Be Troubled

My Facebook page has been a story of irony and contradiction these last days. Daily adjurations to keep Christ in Christmas are posted alongside derisive rants about migrants and “those people” who need to "go home".  Incessant  proud boastings of “God’s blessings” in the form of new jobs, vacations, large homes or luxury vehicles are right there along with “THEY aren’t going to take MY jobs”, or calls to build more fences and drop more bombs.

I am a Christian. Whether or not somebody says Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas does not offend me in any way, shape or form. I believe I am no less a Christian if I choose to be inclusive in my greetings.  I am, however, highly offended that the very teachings of Christ are being twisted and manipulated in order to excuse less than Christian behaviours. I question the Christian-ness of turning our backs on our fellow human beings.

Maybe I am naive. Maybe I want to believe in world peace and love and caring for others. Throw in a verse or three of Kum Ba Yah and I am on my way. Add a candle or two and I am hooked.  I would rather be accused of treacherous naivety and heinous kindness than to be lumped in with those who seem to live by the “I got mine, you get yours” philosophy of life.

My daughter recently travelled back to the United States to begin her new life; a new beginning. She rode in down-comforted first class with its champagne and surf and turf excesses. In stark contrast, many, many women are risking their lives and the lives of their children to board flimsy, leaking rafts in the hope of starting a new life: a new beginning.  My daughter was simply going to start a new school and begin a new major. These other women are fleeing bombs, and war, and rape, and torture, and hunger.

My daughter, a non-taxpaying student there simply by birthright was welcomed with open arms. The others, mothers desperate for their children, not given refuge.

Did I miss a few chapters of the good book? Did I skim too fast to read the ending? Did I misunderstand that we are to feed and clothe and shelter those who are in need? I realise the Bible was penned in Greek originally and translated many times after, but did I miss the whole point of Matthew 25:35-40?

  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 Did I misinterpret Matthew 7:12?

 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.


I do speak southern. Maybe that is it. Is there special version that says God blesses the fortunate as evidenced by cars and the latest "it" bag and Disney vacations, but somehow doesn’t bless the poor, the hungry, the desperate; the least of these?

I am not so naive that I believe there are quick easy solutions to the human crisis we all want to sum up in fifty words or less using such demeaning and dehumanising labels as migrants, or immigrants. It is as if these folks asked to have their lives torn apart by war, and their homes obliterated in order to come and take YOUR job and keep you from enjoying that entire behemoth slice of cake at the local Cheesecake Factory without sharing.  I do agree with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s statements that we need to find a way to broker peace and to keep these crises from happening in the first place. But, Mr. Cameron, sir, if you don’t mind me pointing out, your pat platitudes don’t put food in the mouths of children and shelter over the heads of the mothers and fathers and sons and daughters right now.  Good on you for looking toward the future. Their futures look pretty bleak right now.

And to my fellow Americans, aren't we blessed  the Natives Americans didn't have fences up when our ancestors arrived with no jobs, hungry, cold and sick  to give us a chance at a better life. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"  must  just be a nice poem with an outdated message. It is apparently no longer applicable. We got ours. You get yours. Just not here.

Hit me. I am waiting for the “you are just a socialist; not a real Christian; blame it on Obama, blah blah”. Label me. If that helps you sleep at night, fine. If that helps justify living in excess while your fellow human beings are terrified, cold and hungry, go ahead.  If flinging out your pseudo-Christian pap makes you feel safe because it allows you to believe this could never happen to you but only to THEM or THOSE PEOPLE, then I only have one thing left to say.

Happy Holidays.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

For Daddy

 Four years ago,  my Daddy spent a remarkable final Father’s Day with us and died a mere three days later. In honour of  Dad,  I wanted to share some of what made him so very special. And weird. And nerdy. And all kinds of wonderful.


 Daddy actually said the words tee hee when he giggled. Daddy was a crunchy hippie before it was cool. He made wine in our bathtub, yoghurt on the counter and had a sourdough starter brewing in the fridge. He was our room mother, science fair judge and consummate piano accompanist. He taught himself to play the banjo, built his own dulcimer and got to fill in as a last minute timpanist for the choral society. He sang in the opera, acted in community theatre and starred in more than a few local commercials; most notably one where he was in a bathtub decked out in full Red Baron flying regalia.  He twirled his hair when he read. He read a lot. There was a lot of hair twirling going on. He loved science fiction and was one of the first known trekkies – he was called Mr. Spock in graduate school. He could tat lace, clog like a fiend and wiggle his ears. He rocked the pocket protector and safety glasses look. He knew everything about everything. Or so we thought. He was scary smart. He was also inventive and mischievous.  After about a hundred “but WHY Daddy” questions, he invented the SWAG, or the scientific wild ass guess. He was very proud of his SWAGS. He always told us we were beautiful, and treated us like treasures. He was the consummate gentleman. He could recite Shakespeare, Robbie Burns and Mark Twain. He also knew some pretty bawdy limericks. He hand enormous hands and twinkling eyes.  He was a constant source of comfort and wisdom and humour and kindness and unwavering faith and love.  And we miss him.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Going Home

The journey home is more than physical miles logged on a flying tin can with almost enough leg room for  a third grader. Going home is an emotional sojourn where the jaded middle aged me collides with the hopeful awkwardness of my adolescence.

I love where I live. Every single day from the windowed front of my flat, I gaze  in wonder out over the English Channel.  Amphibious behemoths shuttling people and cargo holds of stuff float by under the watchful eye of the Beachy Head lighthouse nestled where the South Downs plunge to the  sea from alabaster cliffs.

I love scones and tea and fish and chips. I love my local pub and ploughman's lunch. I love the majestic pageantry of all things royal.  I love double decker buses and red phone boxes. Wimbledon and Ascot and rowing on the Thames are quintessentially English. And even this jaded sport agnostic enjoys every Pimms and strawberries and cream filled moment.

But home is  equally spectacular. Yes, home is where I  now hang my hat, and have built a life. Home is also the place where I learned how to be me. Where I was loved and nurtured and encouraged and educated. Home is Mister Roger's Neighborhood, and Sesame Street and trips to the Nancy Carson Library. Home is Saturday morning cartoons, and Sunday School and Wednesday night suppers.

Home is gallons of sweet iced tea and warm buttery corn bread and homemade pimento cheese and crunchy  crusted chicken fried steak slathered with decadent white gravy. It is biscuits and fig preserves and Papa bread and black bean soup. Home is hand churned ice cream in peach and strawberry; ripe and cold and decadent.

Home is familiar accents and anecdotes and news about friends from long ago.  Home is y'all and yes ma'am and thank you and please. Home is where at fifty years old and more than my share of gray hair, I am reduced to deferential  young girl in the midst of my elders.

Home is hymn sings and classic rock. It is band camp  and choir retreats. Home is toilet papered trees and yards blanketed in for sale signs. It is add-a-bead necklaces, Izod shirts and all things preppy. Home is white Easter shoes  and stiff inky back to school jeans.

Home is melancholy memories and sentimental retrospection.  Home is where my Dad lived; and where he died. Home is love personified. Home is red sun baked clay and spur dotted sand. It is the heady scent of magnolia and gardenia and camellia.

I ache for the home of my childhood even as the waning sun paints its spectacular swan song over the South Downs. I yearn for my return to the Land of Hope and Glory when basking  in the warmth of a perfect summer day with the boom of thunder heralding a cooling rain shower in the country of my youth.

It is perfect here.

It is perfect there.

Is there really such thing as perfection? Even in paradise there are sand gnats and sun burn.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Pouring Gasoline on the Fire

I have a pet peeve. I actually have so many pet peeves,  I am positive if there were an award for pet peevedom  I would win lifetime achievement honours.  My pet peeve du jour is making any given negative situation worse. I would add to that particular peeve and raise it for those who employ spurious techniques for bad situation augmentation. In other words, I abhor, loathe, detest and generally find distasteful those who would lie or embellish to make something look worse.

Bad enough is bad enough. There is no need to make the bad horrible. Or worse. What comes of this sort of behaviour are those sweeping generalities I adore so much. For example, when the German Wings airplane crashed into the Alps apparently at the deliberate hand of the co-pilot, that was plenty bad enough. Horrendous, disgusting, and  abhorrent don't even begin to convey the horrors of that action and its terrible consequences. It wasn't enough for some folks. All of a sudden, mental illness was on trial. Every pilot was questioned hypothetically and judged against some superhuman expectation of perfection. The co-pilot himself was analysed and dissected and dehumanised.

Dehumanised.  When we seek to add the "and his mother dresses him funny" prevalent on my circa 1970s playground, it takes away from the issue at hand so much that we distance ourselves from the humanness of the person we attack.  And in doing so we lose the chance to learn valuable lessons about ourselves.

My other related pet peeves result from a direct contradiction to what my parents taught me as a child.  I was told a quazillion times that two wrongs don't make a right, and if so and so jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge I certainly didn't have to emulate.  Yeah, adults don't take their own advice.

Walter Scott was shot in the back running from a policeman. Horrible. Heart wrenching. And apparently somewhat justified?  Because he had a problem with paying back child support? Even if he were an absolute jerk, did he deserve to be shot? If I follow that logic, I would be without friends or family on any given day. And at least fifteen days out of every thirty, I would need to be on self-imposed house arrest for my own safety. In making the shooting somehow his fault through our anonymous armchair analysis, we dehumanise Mr. Scott.

Dehumanise. By sending me picture after picture of policemen killed in the line of duty, the senders hope to accomplish what? Human beings are human beings. The taking of one life hardly excuses the wanton murder of another. There are known risks when one endeavours to enter the world of law enforcement. Still, any death of an honourable officer of the law while serving and protecting is awful.  It seems now there are known risks for being a black man. But we excuse and justify and sanitise the awfulness.

All bad people are not 100% bad 100% of the time. All good people are not 100% good 100% of the time. And beyond the hideously obvious heinous acts of horrid, who gets to decide what is good or bad? And then there is that pesky interpretation thing getting in the way of logic and reason and general good sense. The Bible is pretty clear on its big ten of thou shalts and nots. The other two of the big three religions have their own commandments and moral code spelling out what is or isn't acceptable. Yet, pundits and professors and priests and politicians have all twisted and manipulated these commandments to suit their purposes.

I have had some push-back from my post about the Walter Scott shooting. It seems that I am against all cops, that I think all cops are bad, and that I think all black men are innocent. Funny, I don't actually think any of those things. I do believe in stating what is wrong, whether popular or not.  I do believe not enough folks are willing to confront those who discriminate, abuse, demean or disavow entire population groups in the guise of being righteous. And I think it stinks that some close to me cannot bring themselves to applaud my success with the publication of my article simply because they disagree with the content. We have become so rabidly, viciously poisonous that opposing views are simply not allowed to enter our collective psyche. How sad.

I was always  encouraged to read and learn as much as I could about any given subject. I was taught that to see the world in black or white or good or bad was shallow and uninformed. The tapestry of human life has become more intricate with time. Exotic colours and patterns we were not exposed to before the advent of globalisation now intertwine with the familiar threads of our own cultures. We can chose to marvel at its beauty instead of sneering at its eccentricity. We can become a  more considerate, civil community of caring commonality. We can remember our humanness.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Do You Know Me?

Do you know me? You know what I am willing to share. You know of me. You know little snippets carefully edited leaving shreds and shards of truth; parade confetti turned litter. You can deduce and decide and interpret based on what I present. I am all of the things you believe, and none of them.

I am strong when my strength is needed to carry another towards victory. I am weak when my demons and fears devour that fortitude. I am joyful and joyous at this exquisite world filled with beauty and light and life. I am immersed in sadness so profound it clings to me like a viscous shroud. I am angered at injustice and unfairness. I am soothed by seemingly insignificant acts of kindness.

I am a child seeing and tasting and experiencing life without the cynicism of advanced age. I am an old crone bitter and jaded. I am an eager teenager yearning for acceptance and love. I am a wise battle-worn adult holding high my mistakes and trials as hard won trophies. I am an infant needing to be swaddled and cuddled. I am a petulant prepubescent craving solitude.

I am fastidiously sloppy. I am acutely dull. I am clearly misunderstood. I am mundanely unique. I am a happy pessimist. I am hopelessly optimistic.  I am tragically amusing. I am a conservative liberal. I am an armchair activist. I am a passionate pacifist.

I am witty and wry. I am corny and silly. I am serious and studious. I am laid back and high maintenance. I am introspective and shallow. I am curious and apathetic. I am flippant and sincere. I am sarcastic and literal. I am empathetic and unfeeling.

I hurt. I ache. I curse. I needle. I sneer. I erupt. I falter. I fail. 

I giggle. I sing. I jump. I dance. I snort. I hug. I soothe. I triumph.  

I heal. I love.

I am human. I am me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Shot to the Heart

The piece that follows has been published today on line at ZNet ( zcomm.org/znet/).  The link to my piece is https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/shot-to-the-heart/.  I wrote this in response to the shooting of an unarmed black man in my home state by a white policeman. I encourage you to share my story, because it is our story. It is a story about humanity.


My brother-in-law is black. Until yesterday, the fact that his skin colour is more than a few shades darker than mine seemed insignificant. Until yesterday, my brother-in-law was simply my sister’s husband.
Until yesterday.
My brother-in-law is kind and loving and giving. He has a heart as big as his booming resonant voice. His laughter is contagious. He adores my sister and dotes on her sons. He checks on his parents and our mother daily.  He works long, brutally physical hours as a labourer. He has a strong work ethic and more times than not works overtime. He owns a home and a car. Two out of their four collective children are graduating from college this spring, and the other two begin higher education in the fall.
My brother-in-law is new to our family, having only married my sister two years ago. He came into our lives with a refreshing sincerity and exuberant joy. Sure, we were nervous and wondered how they would navigate the complexities of their interracial relationship in the Deep South. We worried they would find themselves ostracised simply because of their colour. We were concerned that small town South Carolina wasn’t quite ready for them.
My sister and now brother-in-law decided to marry. We are fortunate to belong to a truly loving and supportive church where they have been welcomed with sincere love and kindness.  They made a home. They continued to raise their children. We all allowed ourselves to forget the differences in our skin colour.
Until yesterday.
Racial discrimination and profiling are not new. We were aware and watched in horror as the events unfolded in Ferguson and New York. We discussed Trevon Martin. We tried to ignore the obviously racial slurs against our President.  We assured ourselves that this was a problem driven by ratings hungry media. We didn’t want to believe how pervasive a problem we were facing. We didn’t want to see that this could happen in our backyard.
Until yesterday.
Yesterday, I Skyped my sister for a marathon on-line catch up session. I have since moved away from South Carolina to England, and we treasure our high-tech sister time. While chatting away, my sister looked up to see that a story from not far from our hometown was being featured on the national news broadcast. I watched as she gasped, put her hand to her mouth, and started screaming “Oh My God!” Her tears were instant. Pure, raw emotion reached across the miles to grip my heart. “It could have been him (her husband),” she repeated over and over in her gut-wrenching mantra of grief.
What she saw was uncut footage of a fifty year old black man being shot eight times in the back as he ran away from a white policeman in North Charleston, South Carolina. Let me repeat. He was running away from the policeman and shot in the back. The victim had been pulled over for a non-working left brake light, and was found to have an outstanding warrant due to unpaid child support.
I could not stop shaking. I felt nauseous. My sister was devastated. She started telling me then how her husband doesn’t go out much. How he has to be careful where he goes and worries that he will be targeted simply because he is in the car with a white woman.
In my hometown.
Surely this could not happen where I was brought up. One of the articles I read while talking to my sister mentioned another case being brought to the courts from my own hometown. I simply could not believe it. Apparently on the same day the policeman in North Charleston was arrested and charged with murder, a white public safety officer of the local police department in my hometown was arrested and charged with a felony charge of discharging a firearm into a vehicle, killing the occupant. The occupant was an unarmed 68-year-old black man.
In my hometown.
Until yesterday I dealt with racial comments and slurs on social media by simply un-friending the worst of the culprits and ignoring those I felt were not as offensive. I made sure my news feed was cleared of the worst offenders.  I would not engage with those who said offensive comments in my presence choosing to nod and smile and walk away or change the subject. I did not forward posts or “cute” emails showing our President in an obviously negative racial light. I allowed others allowances for age or ignorance or “because it is the South”. I put politeness first. I gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. I excused any of my own behavior that was less than acceptable. I was part of the problem.
Until yesterday.
I bought in to the stories about Martin Luther King not being perfect as if this somehow this diminished his remarkable legacy. Those same people who dismissed King for marital infidelity, seemed to accept Jefferson, Roosevelt and more recently Mark Sanford. I stood by quietly as increasingly policemen are seen as automatic heroes simply because of their occupation. I watched as increasingly the word of the policeman is law, whether or not they follow the law itself.  I didn’t question enough. I didn’t push back enough. I didn’t scream at the top of my lungs that we need to stop this madness.
Until yesterday.
I realized yesterday the rules are different for my brother-in-law and my husband. If my husband decides to go out in public in an undershirt or unshaven, he is allowed his Wal Mart moment of indiscretion. If my brother-in-law goes out in public dressed similarly, he is a thug. If my husband misuses language or makes a grammatical error, we can chalk it up to being cute or funny. If my brother-in-law uses less than perfect English, he is ghetto. If my husband were at a gas station at 3 am, no one would give him a second look. My brother-in-law would be observed with suspicion and even fear.
Until yesterday, we didn’t give my brother-in-law’s work appearance a second thought. After yesterday we realized his hoodie or knit cap worn to keep warm on his job could pose a problem for him as a black man. We worried about him being out at 3 am or midnight. He works swing shifts. We wondered what would happen if he had car trouble in the middle of the night. Would he be safe? We forced ourselves to think about what it must be like to walk in his shoes.
Until yesterday I believed the problem was blown out of proportion. I flinched any time the “race card” was being used. I wanted so badly to believe that our country, in the year 2015, had evolved enough that men did not need to fear for their lives simply because of the colour of their skin.
I will not sit idly by anymore. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream. In his most famous speech he said, “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". It is time to stop dreaming and start doing. King asked that we  “go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed” He asked that we” not wallow in the valley of despair.”
Today it starts.

Sterotypically Sterotypical

I hate, loathe, abhor and detest stereotypes. In other words, I don't like them. I cannot tell you how many times I have been victimised by such abhorrent behaviour. You simply cannot know how difficult it is to be reduced to a demeaning, pat, one-size-fits-all sweeping generalisation.

I am a stay at home Mom. Worse still, to those who judge and mock, I am a retired stay at home Mom. I guess. My youngest child has now flown the coop, so while the Mom part is accurate, it is much less hands on at this stage in my life.

 I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked, "what do you do all day?" I know I am looked down on, but I try to ignore the whispers. I see the sideways glances and the uncomfortable silences when I enter a restaurant or store. I know I am conspicuous in my absence of the power suit on public transportation.

I have made numerous futile attempts over the years to disguise my true identity. I have eschewed yoga pants,  refused to don apparel emblazoned with the name of my kid's sports teams,  and I avoid grocery stores between 9 am and 5 pm like the plague. I have a hard case cover for my Kindle of a literary classic to hide my latest chick-lit or Candy Crush level. At dinner parties I cleverly steer conversations away from the merits of the latest Dyson vacuum or my absolutely delicious one pot recipe that you just HAVE to try.

And  still I am still judged.

I have a degree. I worked as a registered nurse for many years. But one look at my expanda-waist knit trousers and my circa 1980's haircut, albeit in a much grayer form, and I am immediately reduced to nothing. My witticisms in public do make me more palatable. I am seen as articulate, so that is a plus.  I fly under the radar and consider myself to be law abiding except for my tendency to walk when the crosswalk dude is red and not green. I still worry I will be singled out simply because I am a stay at home mom.

My issue came to a head after I travelled to Paris with my husband and his parents. I live in England, so we took the Euro Star train for our mini vacation. When one returns to England from France, one has to clear customs on the French side; for us that was accomplished at Gare du Nord.   My husband handed over his passport and was asked the usual what do you do in England, what was the purpose of your trip blah blah. Then they came to me. The border patrol agent asked me what I did. I said I was a stay at home Mom. He asked the inevitable "what do you do all day?" I hesitated,  and then with a strength and courage and boldness I did not know I possessed until that moment I responded, "I sit at home eating bon bons and watching Internet porn all day." I might need to add that just as I blurted this out, an uncanny silence fell and you could have literally heard a pin drop were it not for my outburst.

I was allowed to return to England. For that I am grateful. And because this is the interwebs and once something is out in cyberland it could destroy my chances of getting into Oxford, or Harvard or snagging that corporate dream job, I feel the need to clarify that I actually do not watch porn on line or in any other form. I do, however, sometimes find that an entire box of Jaffa Cakes or Oreos has suddenly and inexplicably emptied whilst in my possession.

I hope to bring awareness to my plight. I hope that one day we can all coexist without fear of judgement or scorn or ridicule. I hope that one day I will be free to join the commuting class in my comfy jeans with just a bit of engineering genius we all know as spandex, and not feel ostracised.

Whew. It felt good to get that off my chest.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a funny thing. Nostalgia allows one to completely cover  the past in billowy gossamer  clouds and examine  it through  a misty sepia lens. We have kodachromed and polaroided our collective pasts to the point where history and legend and fantasy collide leaving little evidence of what was real.

But history is a funny thing too. Turns out, the recollection of history  is coloured by perception and experience and culture and personality. I may have experienced the exact same history as you, but our retelling of that history may be vastly different.  One may look on the past with regret or sorrow or anger, while another wafts in the past's nostalgic glory. 

I look at nostalgia as a coping mechanism. Nostalgia can bring comfort where stark history devoid of any romanticism  can cause angst and grief. Nostalgia is the warm fuzzy blanket in the middle of  history's darkest hours. 

All of nostalgia is not bad,  as all of history is not unpleasant or worthy of Armageddon inducing adjectives. Nostalgia is cathartic and fun. History can happily coexist with nostalgia to provide balance and reason and context.  And besides, my husband has three degrees in history, so it wouldn't be appropriate for me to completely snub history. But I digress. 

Nostalgia is what makes it cool to reminisce about vintage wood side-paneled station wagons without dwelling on the absence of air conditioning or seat belts. Nostalgia allows our memories of first dances or junior high gym class to be cloaked in made for TV images from Happy Days or That '70s Show instead of the painfully real and terribly awkward realities lurking in our own mental  home movies. 

Wistful nostalgia has its place. Sometimes, though, we allow that wistful wishfulness to paint a picture that is far less than accurate. In doing so we run the risk of diminishing with a single brush stroke what was real. And true. And maybe not quite so pretty. 

I hear often those who grew up during and just after World War II talk about the good old days. And yes, much of what was iconic of the late forties and fifties was wonderful and full of hope and promise.  There was a war going on then too. And a mass relocation out of cities and into suburbs that increased inequity in housing and basic social services.

My husband's grandmother lived to be 100. She lived through two World Wars,  Korea, Vietnam, The Gulf War, The Cold War, The War on Drugs, The War on Poverty,  and the War on Terrorism. She watched as transportation morphed from horse and buggy to package delivering drones.  She saw the eradication of smallpox,  but lived long enough to see measles and whooping cough return with a vengeance. She birthed two children at a time when the maternal mortality rate was just starting to decline because of the advent of sulfa drugs and penicillin.  And yet the nostalgia continues.

I am reminded of The Merry Minuet  written by Sheldon  Harnick and made popular by the Kingston Trio. The full lyrics are widely available, but I will only post a few here.

There are days in my life when everything is dreary
I grow pessimistic, sad and world weary.
But when I'm tearful and fearfully upset
I always sing this merry little minuet:

They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain

The whole world is festering
With unhappy souls...

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

This song was written in 1950s and had its heyday in the 1960s. I must note the absence of references to sock hops, and soda shops, and clean cut teenagers mowing manicured suburban lawns.

Perhaps nostalgia provides us with the ability to time warp back to when our parents agonised over the state of the world leaving us free to ride our banana seated bicycles until our Moms and Dads were assured by Walter Cronkite  'that's the way it was', releasing them  to focus on whether it was meatloaf night or tuna noodle and could we get finished in time to watch Gunsmoke.

I remember with the absolute clarity of any typical  eight year old the day a cease fire was declared ending the Vietnam Conflict in 1973.  What I remember is every single family on our tree lined street came outside as church bells pealed in celebration. Dinner was forgotten and were allowed to run and play and frolic instead of being reprimanded for putting our elbows on the table or not eating all of our peas.  The waning light surely made it difficult for me to notice the tears streaming down the faces of my parents and their neighbours. Ah, the memories.

My Voice

I have a voice. I have a voice. I HAVE A VOICE.

This is my new mantra. It replaces several tried and true ones including, but not limited to, Put Down That Cookie and Fifty Is The New Twenty.  I have a platform through this and other blogs that I have played with, never giving much thought to the power of words. My words.  I do not dare imply that I will suddenly have an audience in the tens, waiting not so patiently for my next instalment, but I have the power to reach people. Or person, depending on how savvy I become.

I gave up my first go at Cleopatrasparachute out of sheer fatigue. It takes discipline  to sit down every day and type out a missive that is entertaining, or provocative or insightful. Some days I found my mind  filled with my own internal Charlie Brown teacher voice wah wahing out any hope of a creative nibble.  Some days all I really wanted to do was watch some mind numbing re-run on some obscure cable network.

My second blog, A Pocket Full of Wry,  was started as a way to keep my family and friends up to date on our transition to all things English. I wrote tantalizingly amusing anecdotes for the benefit of a small but loyal audience. That particular audience forgave readily my complete lack of humility and modesty. I wrote about our adventures and our trials as we schlepped across the big pond from the US to England. I wrote about homesickness and the things I miss. I quit that particular blog  abruptly after unknowingly and unwittingly upsetting an old friend. My memories did not quite match theirs. I felt deflated and defeated.

I am quite settled in England now, and have moved away from Rye, making my achingly clever blog title a bit obsolete. I am still on the south coast of England, but live closer to my husband's job. I have had plenty of time to reflect, and ponder, and mope and wonder. Even if I offended the absolute crap out of someone, I still made an impact. My words meant something. I had a voice.

I had a voice, and I stilled it out of fear of upset, and  because I am from the Deep South in America where you are taught politeness trumps EVERYTHING, and because I respect so much this particular person, and because I was afraid. I was afraid of the power of this voice. If my one seemingly insignificant post could have the power to upset the cosmic order of my very southern upbringing, then I must use this power for the good of the people. Or something a little less pageant interview question response-y.

I am not advocating starting some sort of blog coup, whereabouts I endeavour to offend or belittle or cause general mayhem and upset. Quite the contrary. I would rather try to educate, or enlighten, or elucidate.  Perhaps if all else fails,  at the very minimum I could incite a riot of laughter, or provide a natural alternative to pharmaceutical cures for insomnia.

I have a voice. I have a voice where I can speak to the injustices I see or experience or hear about. I can join my voice with other voices decrying behaviour less than human or less than loving. I can honour my past while still recognising its imperfections. I have a voice.  I have a voice. I HAVE A VOICE.