This blog is my virtual living room. I actually do pay for the right own my little piece of the internet.
I do not allow bullies or demeaning conversation in my living room.
From now forward if you cannot comment with due respect to the others who read this blog (who may have differing views than you), your comment will be summarily deleted. To continue the living room analogy, that is my way of telling you that your behavior is out of bounds. However, I will not warn anyone. I will not discuss the offensive comment(s). They will simply be deleted.
If I find myself having to delete a second comment, you will be permanently blocked.
To be clear … I welcome all perspectives and you are free to share yours even when it differs from mine. You are not free to be mean, demeaning, rude, disrespectful or any other behavior that is unwelcome in the average living room.
Updated: If you wouldn’t make the comment on your grandmother’s blog, it will likely get deleted here.
I need to say something about this Chik-fil-a kerfuffle. I’ve been trying to stay quiet on the subject. I’ve read some pros and cons and seen how this whole discussion is painful to many on both sides of the equation.
Here’s the thing …
Chik-fil-a owner, Dan Cathy, acknowledged that it is (or has) given millions in corporate profits to an organization that was formally given the status of “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (which knows about such things).
This has actually been going on for quite some time and we in the Light Family have limited our consumption of Chik-fil-a to just about nothing for well over a year because of it. This, despite the fact there are many menu items that I love.
I recognize that as a privately held company, Mr. Cathy has the right to do whatever he wants with the profits. That’s his free speech right.
I (as an aware shopper) have the right to spend my money in establishments which are at least somewhat values neutral (as much as we can find, in any case). That’s my right to free speech.
And that is where the controversy should begin and end.
To Christians who support Mr. Cathy and Chik-fil-a … my decision about whether or not to have lunch in that establishment is decidedly NOT an infringement of Mr. Cathy’s rights in any way, shape or form. I am exercising my own rights. The same rights that Mr. Cathy exercised when he made his statement.
I think it is intellectually dishonest to stomp and scream about boycotters being bullies and trying to infringe on the rights of others. Especially when, as a community, the Christian sub-culture perfected the fine art of boycotting organizations with which they did not agree. Many times that disagreement was even based on false information (see Johnson & Johnson boycott). That false information was circulated for years, decades, and many Christians are still boycotting Johnson & Johnson … for MORAL reasons. The boycott of CFA has been undertaken for MORAL reasons. The rest of the world continues about their business. If people don’t want to purchase certain items (whether its baby shampoo or a chicken sandwich) because it goes against their standards, those people have that right. They also have the right to publicize their thoughts on the matter. Neither action makes a person a bully or a bigot.
Know this … purchasing chicken sandwiches and those incredibly yummy waffle fries is not going to establish your bona fides as a social conservative OR a Christian.
Not purchasing chicken sandwiches and those incredibly yummy waffle fries is not going to establish your bona fides as a social liberal OR a Christian.
All it says is that you got caught up in a media whirlwind over fried chicken. The question you might want to ask yourself is why does the media keep doing this? What master does it serve to have people arguing over chicken?? Or whatever else is the trivia of the day?
Way back in the dark ages before electricity, indoor plumbing, and television. Back when I was a young adult in the mid-1980’s … at least that’s how the LightChildren think of my early adulthood and childhood … snort. Anyway. Back in the day, my first apartment was a tiny studio in an old brownstone in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, DC. That’s a couple streets up behind the National Zoo off of Rock Creek Parkway for those of you who don’t know the DC neighborhoods. These days, Mt. Pleasant has been somewhat re-gentrified and somewhat claimed by the Hispanic wave of immigration. It’s still one of the more interesting neighborhoods in the District and fairly integrated.
The building I lived in was originally a brownstone rowhouse built sometime in the early 1900’s or late 1800’s and meant to be used as a single family domicile. It was part of a wave of development that hit the city during that time period after the Civil War and before WWI when times were good and people could afford fancy homes. In particular, they built those homes up the northwest side of the city starting with Embassy Row and heading towards what is now Chevy Chase Circle. When hard times came as they did in the 30’s and again in the 60’s with the riots, homes closer to the center of the city lost more value and were left for those who had less money. This was a common occurrence in cities across the country. During the 80’s and 90’s as wealth grew, it became common again to re-gentrify or rebuild these old neighborhoods. In other words, the white people brought their money back.
By the time I came along in early 1984 the building I would live in had been carved up into 6 apartments from its original single family rowhouse. There were 2 apartments on the top (or 3rd) floor, 2 on the middle (or 2nd) floor, 1 on the first floor and 1 in the basement. My apartment was on the second floor and looked out on the street. I had a bathroom, two enormous closets, a living area and a kitchen in which if I stretched out my arms I could touch the opposing walls on all sides. I had a tiny, antique refrigerator with an even tinier freezer than hung down into the refrigeration area and I had to defrost it once a month with my hair dryer. In order to create a counter top, I covered a 1 x 10 with some contact paper and put it on top of the radiator. It was a tiny kitchen, but just right for me. I was enormously proud of achieving that first apartment. I slept on two 3″ thick foam cot mattresses; sometimes I stacked them, other times I laid them side by side … on the floor. I had a table, two chairs, a rocking chair (which is still in my basement), a dresser (which LightGirl now has) and a desk. Everything was a hand-me-down. I purchased sheets to make curtains and a Garfield poster for the bathroom. I had a bicycle to ride to work each day. I took the bus to buy my groceries and to do my laundry.
There were 5 other apartments in our building and the people in them were as different as night and day. On the top floor was an apartment which seemed to have a revolving door and I never quite knew who was in it. The other apartment was inhabited by a slightly older man (in his 30’s) who rode an English motorcycle. He took me for a ride once and I was never sure if I was flirting with him or the idea of having a relationship with an older slightly dangerous man. The flirtation was fun, but it never went anywhere anyway. The basement had the largest apartment and it was occupied by a large Hispanic family who I worried about having enough space to sleep. There seemed to be many more people than there was enough space for beds, but they were always pleasant, kind, quiet and clean. The first floor had a slightly larger apartment than mine and it was occupied by a middle aged African-American couple who always seemed to have their eye on me … in a very good and inconspicuous way. I knew that if I was in trouble, they had my back. If I remember correctly, he was also the building superintendent and he did a good job of keeping things running smoothly.
I’d like to focus, though, on the family unit with which I shared the second floor. I didn’t know who they were for a long time. When I finally got to know them, it was quite a shock. But then I began to spend time with them on a regular basis … well … as regular as a young woman of 23 can manage. Living next door to me was a middle-aged (in her 50’s) African-American woman and her 7 year old son. I was particularly bothered by the fact that the lights were never on in that apartment. Never. The only light that ever escaped from under the door or that I could see when she opened the door, came from the cathode ray tube and it was on permanently. 24-7. An occasional ray of sunshine might sneak through the curtains which staunchly guarded the windows, but that and the television were the only available light.
As I got to know them, I began to spend time with the little boy. He was an absolute darling and I really enjoyed having him come to my place to hang out with me. He was fascinated by the fact that I did not have a television. I read books to him and we talked. Or he talked fairly non-stop and I listened. I’m not sure if I could ever have told you one word he said to me, but he had a lot of seven-year-old words to say. He was also fascinated by my coke-bottle-bottom glasses. Back in those days, I wore my contact lenses every waking moment, so he thought it great fun to prance around the house with my glasses on and be amazed by how funny the world looked to him. I know he went to school with some regularity and I remember seeing grocery bags filled with food that made me cringe. It made me cringe because the mom had very few teeth in her mouth and the food she chose was not helpful to her remaining teeth. I never quite knew what to do about that or if I should do anything. I was perplexed by the idea that a woman who was my mother’s age looked and acted older than both of my grandmothers and seemed to be less equipped to handle the world than I was.
As time went on, I discovered that the little boy had some older siblings. I can’t remember how many … maybe three? They were all around my age or a little younger; in their early 20’s. They lived in Maryland; Howard and PG County for the most part. All of them were independent and had jobs. I think at least one was engaged or married. There were girls and boys in some combination (2 of one and 1 of the other). Hey … it’s been almost 30 years and I did not know the siblings very well. As I got to know them, I became aware that it was a family fact that the little boy had been conceived out of necessity for the mom to remain on welfare. This information was not viewed in either a negative or a positive light, but merely as a fact of how their mom was getting through life. The older siblings seemed to have come to an understanding that they did not have any desire to receive public assistance or continue in that form of lifestyle. They were insistent that they would make it on their own. But they were not particularly embarrassed by their mom either. She did her thing and they did theirs.
Then one day I came home from work to find that the apartment next to mine had been emptied and the mom and little boy were gone.
The mom had died very suddenly in the night. To this day, I find that shocking and appalling. How does a 50-ish woman just die like that?? She had a 7 year old son to take care of. Not that she was doing a particularly good job of it, but he did love his mom and now she was gone. I know he went to live with one of his siblings. I always hoped that things worked out for all of them. That in her younger days, the mom had been able to give them enough starch to see that through. The little boy would be in his early 30’s by now. I’ve always hoped that those young people went on to have productive normal lives with problems which are dull and manageable (as a friend likes to say). That they managed to remain self-sufficient and healthy and to raise their little brother into that paradigm as well. I know the odds against them were long, but that’s what I hoped.
… Claire. If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.
That’s one of my all time favorite quotes from my all time favorite show in the universe. Law & Order. The original. You can tell by the person being spoken to, that it was an early-ish episode; season 5, episode 9, “Scoundrels”. The bad guy had been in prison for a pyramid scheme defrauding hundreds of people of their life savings. He was out on a work release program. Jack McCoy and Claire Kincade were trying to prosecute “Scoundrel” Willard Tappan for bank rolling a conspiracy to murder a lawyer who was going to reveal his continuing schemes. Willard Tappan was played by a soap veteran who had made his bones playing a slinky, slimey villain, so arrogance, greed, and ick come through the small screen with a glint in his eye and the tilt of his head. He does it well and that sentence spoken with just the right amount of hubris has always made me love it and hate it at the same time. Because it’s true, yet I want to kick over it’s traces and scream at it. Punch it in the eye and give it a bloody nose. Make it run home, crying to it’s mama. I don’t like it.
If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same. We all know that. And we’re all frustrated by it to greater and lesser degrees. I think we know the things that could be. The rightness that isn’t. The injustices we see and those we cannot, but rail against anyway.
So it was last month when a tragedy befell my community. In the wee hours of the morning there was a traffic accident. Two cars collided. One car driven by a young man who had imbibed too much the night before and was on his way to …. ? I do not know. But it was likely a day laborer job. A hard work job, sweating in the sun. The other car bore three elderly women driving from Richmond to the Benedictine Monastery. They were/are nuns. None of the people in the cars ever achieved their destination on that August morning. The young man is now in prison awaiting trial. One of the nuns has gone to her eternal home. The other two were hospitalized with grievous injuries.
The young man who was at fault in the accident had also been drinking and his blood alcohol was significantly raised. This was not the first time he had been driving while under the influence and he had had his driving privileges revoked. He should not have been driving. This is true. If things were different, they wouldn’t be the same.
The young man was also in this country without proper documentation.
I do not use the term illegal immigrant for a reason. It is inflammatory and it is wrong. It is also an oxymoron The word “illegal” implies a wrong actively done to someone else; a theft or a rape or a fraud. People who come to this country without going through the proper channels are not always doing those things. Sometimes they then also commit crimes while they are here, but so do our citizens as we see in our very obese prison system. The word immigrant implies that someone is here using the proper channels and will stay. So how can someone possibly be an illegal immigrant? Those who come here without proper documentation are undocumented aliens; strangers in a strange land.
So it is that this young man is and was an undocumented alien who was driving without a license and with several DUI’s to his name. He is still being held by the authorities as charges have been brought against him for felony murder, a charge which holds the possibility of 40 years in prison. The outrage against this young man for his undocumented status is palpable in my community. He is being charged for felony murder (rather than the lesser count of involuntary manslaughter, the usual charge given for a death while under the influence) simply because of where he was born and his lack of papers. He came here with his parents when he was NINE! It’s not as though he had a choice. He is also being charged at the higher count because of his victim, an elderly and saintly nun.
Shortly after this accident happened, a similar accident happened in my community. It was in the wee hours of the morning and two cars collided sending people to their death. Alcohol was involved. This time though, there were no undocumented aliens in one car and no nuns in the other. Simply a couple of intoxicated young (white) men in one car and a young (white) woman in the other. There was one short article commemorating the young people, a few comments and it was over. No outrage. No jacked up prosecutor. Just heartbroken families and grief. Which might be as it should be for all such cases; even those including nuns and undocumented aliens.
This is part of the September Synchroblog discussing Immigration Issues. Please also take some time to read what the following bloggers have to say …
Mike Victorino at Still A Night Owl – Being the Flag
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Together We Can Make Dreams Come True
Sonnie Swentson-Forbes at Hey Sonnie – Immigration Stories
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Is Xenophobia Ever Christlike?
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Christians and the Immigration Issue
Ellen Haroutunian – Give Me Your Tired …
Bethany Stedman – Choosing Love Instead of Fear
Pete Houston at Peter’s Progress – Of Rape and Refuge
Joshua Seek – Loving Our Immigrant Brother
Amanda MacInnis at Cheese Wearing Theology – Christians and Immigration
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – it’s alot easier to against immigration reform …
Jonathan Brink – Immigration Synchroblog
The other day I wrote about a Barna survey that will be coming out with full documentation in about a year. The posted statistics are quite provocative as I (and several other women) noted. The data have raised a lot of criticism and left many women scratching their heads, thinking, “That’s not my experience, so how can those numbers be so high?” It will be interesting to see the full report when Jim Henderson publishes his book next year.
FTR, I am still aghast that a man, without any co-authorship from a woman, is writing this book. Upon reading Pam Hogeweide’s testimony about her involvement with it, I am further dismayed. I don’t know Jim Henderson at all so I cannot comment on this. I will speak my own mind and say that to me it feels as though he is stealing our voices for himself. He has said that he is writing this because no woman has stepped forward to write it. That may be. It may also be that the time is not right for a woman to write it and therefore as a man he is taking away our right to speak for ourselves in our way, in our own time and with our own unique voice. Que sera, sera …
I stopped writing about this issue for some time. In fact, I stopped writing at all for a long time because I was and am undone by a lot of this. I am struggling to find my place in the world; struggling to understand my faith without the trappings of church. I don’t always know what is real and what is a reflection in a funhouse mirror. But then I saw this data and began to remember …
I remembered a time when I might also have answered all those questions affirmatively. Or in such a way that I might be part of the large percentage of women who were following the tail in front of them. I grew up in an egalitarian home; a home in which my mother finally decided that she would NOT learn how to use a chainsaw because then she would have to use it more frequently than she wanted to because the boundaries between women’s work and men’s work were blurred (except dishes and laundry). Everyone did everything. I took shop classes in highschool. My brothers took Home-Ec and I was jealous that my brother can still bake a better loaf of bread than I can.
Then LightHusband and I joined an EFree Church. As a new believer I remember that I wanted to be like the other women in my church. I think I wanted it mostly because that was the way to fit in and be part of the group. But it was also the key … the key to being “Godly.” In an evangelical or Bible-believing church, this is the defining characteristic of any adult … are they Godly? I have no idea what that means. What I can tell you is that people stand around looking very serious and hand out that superlative like it’s a crown. It is placed on the head of this person or that person … it was never put on my head, I’ll tell you that up front. Usually the character qualities that seem to be in common with a “Godly” person are those found in the fruits of the Spirit verses in Galatians: self-control, patience, peace, etc. They also have to be really good with their money (aka … rich). Women should be submissive to their husbands. Men should be the head of the family and make all the decisions.
I struggled to fit my round-peg into this square hole for 14 years. I now battle an most likely lifelong case of depression because I so depleted myself from this. I cannot even begin to catalogue the fallout from all of this in my life. I’ve been gone for 7 years now. I’m finally beginning to get my life and my mind back. I have held on to my faith by the barest edge; the evidence of grace and love.
I did some poking around because of a throw-away comment in my earlier post. I said that the Church is like an anorexic who looks in the mirror and sees someone who is fat and needs to lose weight, but the reality is she is wasting away and starving herself. I thought about that some more and did a little research into eating disorders. I found a little known cousin to anorexia called, orthorexia. Orthorexia is like anorexia because people (mostly women) who become trapped in its snare waste away and starve. However, the motivation for orthorexics is different. It is an eating disorder characterized by a focus on eating healthy or natural foods. The person who has become orthorexic feels better and better as they are able to purify their diet. As it becomes an obsession, the person begins to focus more and more time and attention on what they eat. I first discovered this through an on-line journal of a young woman who ultimately died as a result of her obsession with natural/healthy food. As I discovered more about this, I found this helpful Ten Signs Of Orthorexia:
Dr. Bratman suggests that you may be orthorexic, or on your way there, if you:
Spend more than three hours a day thinking about healthy food.
Plan your day’s menu more than 24 hour ahead of time.
Take more pleasure from the “virtuous” aspect of your food than from actually eating it.
Find your quality of life decreasing as the “quality” of your food increases.
Are increasingly rigid and self-critical about your eating.
Base your self-esteem on eating “healthy” foods, and have a lower opinion of people who do not.
Eat “correct” foods to the avoidance of all those that you’ve always enjoyed.
So limit what you can eat that you can dine “correctly” only at home, spending less and less time with friends and family.
Feel guilt or self-loathing when you eat “incorrect” foods.
Derive a sense of self-control from eating “properly.”
Bratman suggests that if more than four of these descriptions applies to you, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your attitude toward what you eat. If they all apply, you’re in the grip of an obsession.
Dr. Bratman suggests that you may be orthorexic, or on your way there, if you:
Bratman suggests that if more than four of these descriptions applies to you, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your attitude toward what you eat. If they all apply, you’re in the grip of an obsession.
Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve included this here. As I was reading about orthorexics and their quest for a pure diet, the parallels between seeking a pure and undefiled diet and seeking after a pure and undefiled faith became very clear to me. They may not be to you. But I began to look at the Church in terms of this obsession with pure food. I think we all exist on a spectrum here. Some believers have no issue with pure/right faith, others are obsessed with it to the point of starving themselves of any other sort of food than that which they deem pure. Think about those 10 markers in terms of the faith of believers you know or about yourself –
So what does this have to do with women in church and/or church leadership? I’m not sure yet. But I do know that in many churches today there is an unhealthy focus on being “Godly,” on having correct doctrine, and on having a pure faith. For many of those churches, this includes attitudes about women and men that are not reflective of a healthy body. Some of these attitudes run to the extreme (such as a growing trend known as Christian Domestic Discipline, or another growing trend known sometimes as Quiverfull others as “radical family planning”). Some of them are more middle of the road and merely separate men and women into different classes during Sunday School, women are not allowed to teach men either from the pulpit or in a class, etc.
No one can fault these churches or these believers because they really truly are seeking after God and seeking to find Him in the purest way they know how. They get a lot of satisfaction from being a “Bible-believing” church, or having that crown of “Godliness” bestowed upon them. And truth be told, we all get that sense of satisfaction when we’re told that we’re doing something good and pure and right. It makes us want to be part of it and work harder for that cause … whatever that cause may be … so that we’ll get some more of that praise and that sense of satisfaction that comes from a job well done. When we’re part of a group, that’s what happens in our socially-inclined brains.
But what do you do if your group is killing you? I mean that both literally (sometimes women die from trying to have their babies unassisted at home in the so-called “Quiverfull” movement) and figuratively. What if seeking after a pure faith (even walking in the middle of that road) isn’t an obsession, but just a concern … and the “food” you’ve decided is healthy, really isn’t? How would anyone know? How do you know when you’re being slowly inexhorably being poisoned and it’s gone on all your life?
Every year I wrestle with Independence Day. I don’t know why I can’t just enjoy it … the sights, sounds, camaraderie, bon hommie, brownies and, of course, fireworks. No. I must wrestle with ideas. What is this day that we celebrate each year. Are we free? What does that mean? How does our freedom here effect and affect others around the world? What have we done and what are we doing?
Of course, there is a song out there that expresses my ennui. But I’d forgotten it. Then I heard it anew this morning.
Gone by U2, from their Pop album
Listen to that. Or, just read the lyrics here …
Gotta feel so guilty
Got so much for so little …
The opening lines. And I look around at my own life; at how much I have for how little I’ve done. The good fortune I’ve had to be born into empire unaware. And I wonder at what the course we’ve taken here in this country. This nation become empire.
So what is freedom? What is this idea that we celebrate each Independence Day with such nationalistic fervor and patriotic delight?
According to princeton.edu it is “… the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints” However, can any of us ever be truly free? Well, yes. If the definition as posed here is used. If we are to use “externally imposed restraints” as our measure. It has been said that my freedom ends at your nose. This implies that I am free to act as I will as long as it does not impinge upon your freedom. Then we have a problem. So if restraints are to be applied, they must be internal. That is, I must apply them.
What if I do not? What if I choose to bumble on my merry way getting my stuff because I am free … what I thought was freedom is just greed. What happens to the people around me when I do not apply internal restraints? Or if there is no one big enough to apply external restraints? Or there is too much greed to go around?
What’s your greatest fear?
We had an (ahem) interesting day yesterday. LightGirl had a very negative reaction to some meds she’d begun taking. I won’t go into the details of it here, but we ended up in the ER just to make sure she was okay. As the meds metabolized she was alright, but we had a frightening couple of hours. She will not be taking those meds anymore. She has a pattern of strange responses to medication and I think we need to be more careful about introducing it to her system (but that’s another story).
The whole situation highlighted for me how frightening it is when I cannot take care of the people I love. I’m not one of those moms who ran around wiping every drippy nose or making the house spotless or anything like that. But it’s important to me that my peeps are happy and healthy. When there are circumstances in their lives that are beyond anyone’s control and certainly beyond my control, it really freaks me out. So … I guess I have two greatest fears; they vie for first place depending on the day, sometimes there are three.
One is that I will die before my children reach adulthood and can stand on their own. It’s important to me that I see the LightChildren through to their own two feet. I’d also like know their children.
Another is some sort of apocalyptic event that would separate us from our extended family in New England … they would die or we would die or we couldn’t get to them or something like that.
A third is that one of the LightChildren will die or become severely maimed before reaching adulthood. As I watched LightGirl in the ER yesterday and contemplated the what-ifs of her situation, I was horrified. My mind could only dance around the fringes and waltz away to hope. We were extremely fortunate that the incident indeed appears to have been caused by the meds and she was back to her normal self by evening.
So what about you, what is/are your greatest fear?
The prompt for today –
Japanese lore suggests that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, your wish will come true. What would your wish be, and what would you be willing to do 1,000 times to get it?
I remember reading about this legend when I was a young girl. I read a book about the bombing of Hiroshima. The book focused on one girl and how the nuclear blast had affected her. As I recall, it killed most of her family and left her very ill with radiation poisoning. She lived out what remained of her life in a hospital folding paper cranes in a quest to get to 1,000 because she wanted to live. She died. It was one of the most gut-wrenching books I had read up to that point in my life. War is a terrible waste.
So what wish do I have that is worth spending my life on to achieve the folding of 1,000 paper cranes? If I did one every day it would take 2 years and 9 months (approximately) to attain my goal. I guess that folding a paper crane would take about 20 minutes (averaged out over the span of 1,000) to complete. That’s 20,000 minutes, or 333.33 hours, or 14 days – 2 weeks (round the clock) to make a wish come true. If you divide 333.33 hours by 9 hours a day (to account for eating, sleeping, etc.) that’s 37 days – or just over a month to make a wish come true. Five weeks (more or less). A lot of time … time to think, meditate, and dream about a solution/resolution for my wish.
But now here I am … still pondering what I would wish for. The possibilities are endless and huge … world peace, eradicate hunger, wipe out diseases and all of the good ideas to make life better for everyone. Those are the huge ideas. But I think if I’m going to make a wish upon which to spend that amount of time, I have to recognize that changing the world ultimately begins with changing myself. So I think the question then becomes who do I want to be? And I’m left with this … I want to be more of the me I was meant to be. So my wish is that I would be able to embrace myself; the who I am becoming and the where I need to go. I suppose that’s a rather small wish, but I guess it’s enough for now.
What about you? What would you wish for if you did something 1,000 times to get there?
Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell, licensed under GNU Free Documentation License
The above photo is very familiar to me. Though it may not be to you. I was 8 during the summer of 1969 and becoming more aware of the world around me. I lived in Vermont. I had friends who were old enough to know alot about Woodstock and if they didn’t go, they had posters of the event in their bedrooms. I have cousins who may or may not have gone, but certainly lived close enough to have considered the journey. It was, rather famously, the Summer of Love. Or was it?
There’s a lot mythology that’s grown up around that famous summer in the forty years and several months since. The gathering was peaceful (and generally it was) about the rain, etc. But what I remember most about it was the ruin. I remember seeing these photos and (being a child on a farm/in farm country) wondering how that mess would ever get cleaned up. It turned out that it never did.
The young people who came in droves to that farm in Woodstock, NY for several magical days in August of 1969 left as quickly and as miraculously as they’d arrived. Coming empty handed, they left empty handed. And the fields were covered in trash and mud and clothes and shoes and excrement and waste. The once working farm was in ruins, never to be worked again.
I wonder though. Looking back it seems as if that one weekend was a snapshot of world that was to come. There was chaos. There loud music. There were some drugs. There were people getting along. There were people coming and going. There were increasing security concerns. It was the first concert where a promoter decided to try and repeat it. Above all though, the generation who staged it, held it, attended it in droves and then left that field and town in ruins showed the world their care-less attitude about … really everything but themselves. The so-called “Me” generation of the 70’s and excesses of the 80’s should have come as no surprise to anyone after seeing what these people did as young adults at Woodstock.
We really should not be surprised that now in their late 50’s and early 60’s they are very concerned about health care and retirement income for themselves … but they’re damn sure not going to give a rip about the rest of us or how we’re going to either get it or pay for it four generations into the future. You can rest assured of one thing though … someone else will come along and clean up their mess. Someone else always has. I know … because I’ve been trailing this selfish generation with a shovel and a broom my whole life.
I’ve been on FaceBook for a couple of years now. When I joined there were mostly college kids and just a few emerging church types around. For the longest time I had about 30 or so friends. I’d gain a friend or so here and there and then I had 50. And then my blogging network grew and I gained some more friends. But still it was hit or miss.
Then the floodgates opened up. Anyone could join FaceBook. And they have. O Mi Goodness. Grandmothers (as in people old enough to be my mother) are on FaceBook. And people from my long lost past have been finding me. And I’ve been finding them. It’s been a grand adventure. Some particular joys have been finding friends from college. I’ve been to a couple of high school reunions and I do hear news of those friends from home from time to time. But college friends? Well, when I left college, I was done. In the words of Jesus, I wiped the dust off my feet and got out of town. I thought I didn’t care if I never heard from anyone ever again. But it turned out that I did.
Now I have. Several in fact. And I’ve been having a ball exchanging news of families and children and lives. Not all is great news, of course, but it’s catching up with one another. So that is good. I may indeed have the courage to go to our 30th reunion in four years ;-). Who knows, through the wonders of FaceBook, alot of colleges may see a ressurgence in reunion attendance. That would be an interesting statistic to look at.
One thing I’ve noticed on many of my old/new friend’s profiles is attendance or notation of their 30th highschool reunions this year. And realized … hah! Mine should be as well. Not that it will be, because our class (rather than an alumnae association) is in charge of such things and we’re notoriously unorganized and under-unified. The class before us and after us … hyper-together. Us? Not so much.
In any case, it’s got me thinking about highschool too. I don’t remember terribly much about highschool. Most of you wouldn’t recognize my highschool experience. I went to highschool in the mid to late 70’s at a school which was designed to be both experimental and experiential. By the late 80’s it had morphed to a more traditional format, but when I was there it was fairly cutting edge in terms of educational theory.
When we didn’t have a class scheduled, we had free time and could do anything we wanted to do. Literally, anything as long as we did not disturb another class that was in session. We called our teachers by their first names (with only one or two exceptions). We had a smoking lounge for kids who smoked. We had a regular lounge to just hang out in when we had free time. We could hang out in the library. Or the science lab. Or the art workshop. Or with a teacher. Or outside on the lawn if it was a nice day.
We had great class selections too. Not your standard English classes … I remember a great class in science fiction one semester, another class in movie-making. One year for science I took a hands on earth science class wherein we disproved the standing Vermont Geological Survey’s theory on the direction that the last glacier had taken through the state. Our class’s Adamant Pebble Campaign was written up and published in Vermont Geological History. That happened when I was in ninth grade.
All of it sounds fairly idyllic. And some of the time it was. For many of the students it was as well. However, for many of my years in highschool my father was chairman of the schoolboard. For all of my years there, he was on the schoolboard. I love my dad. I think my dad is pretty wonderful. But those years were hell. Because my dad is a stickler for fiscal responsibility and is financially extremely conservative. The mid to late 70s were not years when any local community had a spare sou to rub together. So he was probably a great person to have in charge of the school’s budget during those years. But not if you asked the teachers. Add to that the fact that he was a reformed smoker and he took the teachers smoking lounge away from them. Many of the teachers were mature enough to be able to separate me, the student, from my father, the schoolboard chairman. But there were many who could not, including a few who I had once been close to.
I don’t remember talking to my parents about it. But I do remember wishing that my father would just shut up. I could not figure out what drove him. Why did he have to make such a stink? Why couldn’t he just let it be? Let the teachers have their stupid smoking lounge? Let the budget go? Didn’t he know how hard it was … how the teachers were talking (and falling silent when I came by) and looking? Even the bus drivers looked sideways at me sometimes. I think I might have asked my mom once or twice and she tried to explain. But I couldn’t verbalize what was going on at school, and as I look back on it now, I’m not sure it was really that important.
Or was it?
I learned something really important from those teachers during those years. It had nothing to do with readin’ ‘ritin’ or ‘rithmatic. Those years were my first brutal lesson that the price of belonging is silence.
I’ve had to learn it over and over again since then, to be sure. Most people prefer the status quo. They want the easy road, the way things are or the way things have “always been done,” to change. They prefer the wizard in the back pulling levers and their green spectacles, to having a full spectrum of color on their own. When you point out the wizard … you will be expelled, you may be sure.
I’ve learned with my father that sometimes you have to speak. You can’t not speak. The price of belonging may be silence. But, sometimes, that price is too high.