An Imperfect Patriot

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

As I write this, my neighbors land is dotted with flags of every size.  Red, white and blue sparklers and banners are waving in the faint breeze.  The stars and stripes even grace tents they’ve erected for shade.  They are about to hold a large party.  There will be laughing, loud music, drinking, and fireworks.

On my property there are no flags.  There will be no loud celebrations.  The Fourth of July is a day like any other, save that it’s advent may have us looking up more history and revisiting parts of The Constitution that seem pertinent to the current time.

At a glance, our neighbors appear far more ‘patriotic’.  But is that the right measure of a patriot?

The word ‘patriot’ has a very interesting history, with the meaning being very narrow at times, and almost contradictory to our understanding at others.  The original ‘patriote’ simply meant ‘fellow countryman’ – for which we use ‘compatriot’ today.  Under that meaning, all of us living in the United States would be ‘patriotes’.  The rest of the history has both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ meanings for ‘patriot’ – at least by our modern standard.  The dictionary claims that the latest meaning is “one who loves his or her country.”  Yet, I disagree that the word is being used in this way, any more.  Instead it is used as a bludgeon with which to berate our ‘enemies’ who happen to be compatriots.

You see it all of the time on social media.  Share this meme of the flag if you are a patriot!  Show your support for our troops … police … monuments … etc. … if you love this country! The implication is always that if you don’t wave the flag at every opportunity, you are somehow not a patriot.

I know so many people who put a lot of energy into the exhibition of patriotism, yet do little of the effort of patriotism.  I have conversed with many of these ‘bumper sticker patriots’ who know little of the history of this country.  They understand little of the workings of the government – the separate but equal branches and their roles.  They ‘support The Constitution’ but know little of its actual contents.  I have no doubt that they ‘love our country’ – but is that actually enough to be called a ‘patriot’?

Setting country aside, for a moment, when we talk of ‘love’ it is typically ‘for better or for worse’, as typical wedding vows often state.  Love is not denial of imperfections, but the ability to acknowledge that imperfections exist.  Love is not as easy as a catch phrase – it is hard work to keep connections in tact during periods of difficulty.

The history of this country has certainly been ‘better’ for some and ‘worse’ for others.  Yet, along the way even those for whom this country has done it’s worst have expressed love and belief in it.  The cause for that is the ideal upon which this country was founded – however flawed a founding that counted out nearly all of its residents as citizens with rights.  I do not know the full number, but if you add up all of the slaves, Native Americans, and women who resided here at the time, I’m going to bet that it was better than 75% of the residents whose rights were non-existent.

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The fight for women’s rights has been long, difficult, and is not yet over

Yet, they and all of the immigrants who joined us later, who underwent horrific treatment at many periods, persisted.  And, today we are a better, more diverse country than ever.  Have we overcome all of our past ‘evils’?  Absolutely not!  This year we mark the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote – yet much of our country still cannot envision a woman as president.  We have not even had a woman as vice president!  I speak only of my disappointment and frustration at the progress of my ‘group’, knowing that many others have their list of grievances at their groups’ treatment and slow progress to full remedy.

 

Yet, most of us who still have frustration and grievance do not hate or even dislike this country.  We love it as much, if not even more, than the flag waving crowd.  Not for exactly what it is today, but for the hope of what it can yet become.  However flawed our founding fathers, many believed in the country as an experiment that would evolve as the citizenry evolved.  Those who have learned our history, and read our founding documents, generally hold the view that this was never meant to be a static state.

Yet, that is exactly what the flag wavers want.  Many of them want to return to a time that never was.  A time that lives in fantasy and flawed memory.  A time that was good for that small minority that is the straight white male.  “Make America Great Again!”  America has always been great as a concept, but rarely has America been great for all of its citizens.  We have ebbed and flowed in our success in that direction – we are in another of our reckoning points right now.  We will likely come out better, though still not perfect, on the other side.

I have experienced the view of this country from the outside, even if for only a time.  I have seen the ‘ugly American’ tourist in action.  For a time I lived in Hungary while it was still under Soviet rule.  People I met were anxious to ask questions about what they saw of America (some through a Soviet filter, but many who had covert access to outside news from the rest of Europe).  It was sobering to a twenty-something to get such a perspective.  I came away seeing far more of my country’s flaws, and the negative effects we’d had on others.  World War II would never be the same fable to me.

Yet, I also came back with more appreciation for the freedom and quality of life our country offered.  My mother and I had just made our way out of poverty by the time I went to Hungary (my trip, paid for by friends, was part of a farmers exchange program that recruited at our university), yet we had far more than many people I met within  Soviet controlled Hungary.  As I said, we still have a long way to go to achieve the equality imagined in our founding documents – yet I would suggest that those who feel oppressed by this country today should visit a far more oppressed place for some perspective.  We should always strive for more – but also recognize just what we do have.

I have no doubt that our neighbors love this country.  But I would argue that what they love is a myth.  Next to all of the flags and banners is this yard sign:

TrumpYardSign

I could say something political, about this administration’s overt efforts to destroy faith in our institutions, but I’m less concerned about the outright politics of this sign.  It is the sentiment “Keep America Great!” that belies their patriotism.  It is a denial of the challenges our country is currently facing, and the inequities that it must rectify.  It is an avowal of support for a view of America where the smallest majority of straight white males enjoy all that is great in this country, while the rest of us are expected to keep our place.

I am an imperfect patriot.  I love what is good about this country, while acknowledging what needs fixing.  I can admire what our founding fathers accomplished, against all odds, while acknowledging that they were flawed men.  I can support the constitution while also stating that it has to evolve as we evolve to understand each other’s needs.  I love this country “for better or worse” and do what I can to make it “better” for more people.  I love a flawed country, not a fantasy.

I recently heard a report that patriotism is becoming unpopular in this country.  That saddens me, as I think we should love our country – warts and all.  But if it means that people are rejecting the ‘bumper sticker patriotism’ then I’m for that.  Perhaps it is time for ‘patriot’ to get another variation on its meaning.

 

 

Our Soldiers, Our Country

I am now waiting for all those persons sending posts to face book  “supporting” our armed forces, insinuating that only their beloved president and his followers supported our troops adequately, to jump in and ask for further intelligence on the allegations that Russia has placed a bounty on our soldiers heads. I imagine it will be a long wait. Do we

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

really believe that a question this momentous belongs only to the Republican legislators for discussion? Are we really so divided that we will not, in unison, stand up for our military men and women? Is Trump so important to some people that he could sell this country out, and still be sent by God?

Of course it might just be a hoax, like Russian interference in our election was…NOT! Whether it can be traced back to Putin or not, the interference was real. Even if just a coterie of Russians decided to interfere for giggles (which I do not believe), it was nevertheless Russian interference. Just as, even if it is a Russian oligarch that decided to place the bounty on our military, it is still Russia trying to hurt our country! This is no longer in question, our intelligence has followed the money.  Members of the Taliban have confirmed the payments made.

Their are a plethora of CIA, Russian experts and on the ground journalists who agree that Putin hates, or at best dislikes, our country and would like nothing better than to  watch it disintegrate. He has shown open amusement at our presidents childish bumbling and hero worship of murdering autocrats. Putin is living his wish, and we are the loser as Russia and China vie to dominate the world.

All of that world politics aside, dangerous and important as it may be, at the moment our service members lives are on the line and the Republican legislative body meets by

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

themselves to discuss how to spin it. This is not normal when our intelligence finds a threat to our countries safety, which would include danger to our service members. In that scenario it is important  that both parties in the legislative body are briefed, together, on the intel. Together, so they come out of the briefing with the same information and can work on the problem together.

Is this truly what Trump voters wanted? A country that turns it’s back on those young people on the front lines? Well, they are seemingly not concerned for the 120,000+ who have lost their lives in a totally mishandled pandemic, so should I be surprised that Trump and company are unconcerned that Russian entities, whoever they may be, are bank rolling the head hunting of our soldiers? So, where are these troop supporters?

My mind rebels at the thought that bounty hunters are collecting money on the death of our military personnel.  In my imagination our flag is darkening and shedding tears at pio5LrKBTthe state of the nation. What happened to the main job of the presidency, keeping our people, and especially our military, safe? What ever happened to “the buck stops here” (thank you President Truman)? Whatever happened to accountability, compromise, and, yes, “love thy neighbor as thyself”?

In the end all I can do is write my sadness and shed my tears that Trump is so important to a swath of our citizenry that we can sacrifice our troops to Putin’s hate and Republican indifference. To Quote my Republican friends, “support our troops”!

Whatever God, Gods, Goddesses or Nature you might pray to, pray  for our troops, and pray that our country stands behind them every day, all the way.

Take a Deep Breath

It has occurred to me that this blog should have been started as “My Backward Diary”. Everything I do, think and believe is predicated on the life I have lived. I move on and view life through the prism of my past, which then reflects on my future path. And so I begin the march toward the end.

After hearing pundits bewail the adversities of staying home for this pandemic,  and warning listeners  that people need to be more self sufficient (bring your own toilet paper) when they start going to parks, beaches, campgrounds and the like, I was transported 70 or so years into the past.

My family ended up in a small town in eastern Washington for a few years of my childhood. Kennewick was one of what we called then the Tri-Cities. We would walk across a bridge to Pasco in  order to spend some hours in a public swimming pool, and

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Ye old swimming pool

walk all the miles back with the hot sun blistering our bodies. We walked to school through empty fields of snow in the winter. My grade school classes were conducted in old wooden army  buildings scattered over the school grounds. Forget about air conditioning as the spring heated up, and the space heaters were woefully inadequate in the winter. In order to ride my horse I would walk uphill for miles and often ride her bareback since there was no way I could carry a saddle!

My family held a parcel of land on a small, hidden lake near Seattle, acquired before our move to eastern Washington.  Land only, no building, no amenities. Our bathroom was whatever log was hidden and convenient. The first thing that got built was an outhouse back in the woods that was in use for all of my childhood and teen years. We spent vacations for many summers living in sleeping bags and cooking over camp fires while working on a small cabin about as big as a large walk in closet.  One year we piled my

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Lake Crabapple, “Baby” and me

horse into an old, wooden, roofless one horse trailer and drove across Washington, over mountains and rivers to reach our lake property. The highway of the time consisted of  two lane roads through miles of nothing but fields, hills that occasionally held a few grazing cattle, and trees by the side of the road that were our only bathrooms for much of that long journey.

That kind of background undoubtedly prepared me for later years. There was the month or two when my husband and I moved to California. No money, no place to stay. We spent most of those nights in a mountain campground, cooking burgers over open fires and sleeping in the car with two dogs. Days were spent in town looking for work and a room or apartment in which to live. We found both, and moved forward with our lives.

Some years later, as a new mother, I was destined to fly across the ocean to Okinawa to be with my then soldier husband. I believe there were three of us with babies, crammed into a packed, propeller driven, old carrier plane. The plane had its problems from the start and had an unscheduled landing in the Philippines. To kill time until boarding we took a cab drive, in the heat, around the island. Back on the plane the air conditioning blew and the babies were burning up, and understandably crying. After an interminable flight the pilot informed us to be prepared for landing.  I looked out and saw nothing

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Finally in Okinawa making new friends

but beautiful, blue, clear water…we were landing on the small coral atoll that appeared as we dropped further down. It turned out to be Wake Island! Another unscheduled landing in an excessively hot, cramped, uncomfortable plane. All the passengers were upbeat, welcomed the care our Island soldiers gave us, and dealt with the lack of amenities for our overnight stay. We just hoped the repairs the plane needed would get us safely on the final leg of our journey!

Four or five years down the road I was left alone with a small daughter to raise by myself. For a few miserable weeks we ended up in a cheap hotel inhabited by winos and addicts. Door constantly locked, sandals in the communal shower. We survived, and walked into a government subsidized apartment that was clean, airy and warm. As time rolled by and she grew a bit older we got involved with horses. She joined Pony Club, and we ended up at rallies and schooling shows. Where to go when nature calls? The nearest rallyccwicki77port-a-potty. Those small, smelly cubicles were also used by young riders as dressing rooms to do quick changes. Most of those kids didn’t flinch at the prospect, but looked toward their goal and were grateful for what they had. We managed to afford the lowest rungs of this society by cleaning stalls and grooming horses…both of us. It taught her the value along with the privilege of working for, and earning, what you desired. It taught me how tired one could get after working all day at a job and spending my down time mucking stalls!

Years later, when we both had office jobs, we were amazed by the attitudes of some workers. One lady insisted on going home for lunch, even though the drive ate up most of the hour, because she could not, would not use public bathrooms. As the horse world changed around us we began to see young people who had never even groomed their horse. They had grooms at their show barns who did all the maintenance and preparation for the riders, and sometimes the trainer even warmed the horse up for their client .

In today’s world we have seen people fighting over toilet paper. We see people assaulted for wearing a face mask, or not wearing a face mask. Children have been brought up by Webparents who hover so tightly they have earned the title “helicopter parents”. Rich parents are bailing their kids out of trouble and buying their way into Universities that would otherwise not grant them admission. My daughter has seen young employees, just hired, asking how they can take the next step up and how soon, without spending time proving their worth. We have heard individuals extolling their own value while not completing their projects adequately. What happened to the hard working, self reliant, pragmatic and practical citizenry that got us through WWII, to the moon and conquered Polio?

To be fair, there are many young people who are galvanized at this moment to fight for mother earth, equality, and against police brutality. Sadly many of our new agitators come to activism through experiencing trauma, as in the school shootings, or watching actual murder of handcuffed prisoners on their computer. Lets hope that by encouraging all of us to raise our voices for a healthy planet and human justice, this new generation, with our help, makes an impact towards progress and sanity. Not to mention the ability to survive without toilet paper (remember the old Sears Roebuck catalog?). Perhaps parents should allow their children to run free, fall down, and rise to run again! That was how many in my generation were raised. Maybe young riders could groom and saddle their own mounts. And it might be possible for your son or daughter to go to college, albeit a less well known institution, without your buying their way in. Self reliance comes from experiencing failure and learning how to rebound and use what you have learned.

The first time my young daughter came off the lesson horse she was riding my gut reaction was : first, check and make sure she was not injured. Second, look at that face screwed up ready to cry, and cheerfully, with a chuckle, say, “well you fell off! I guess now you will have to get back on and try again! ” The threat of tears magically melted into a tentative smile, she managed to ” take a deep breath, pick herself up, dust herself off, and start all over again!”  It is how we learn, how we thrive, and how we got to the moon.

Live, love, laugh and stay safe…and bring your own toilet paper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Want?

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Malcolm Gladwell on CBS This Morning, June 17, 2020 (screen capture)

I was watching an interview with Malcolm Gladwell this morning, in which the morning show host asked him whether he thought that ‘defunding the police’ was the right path to reforming law enforcement in this country.  Mr. Gladwell responded that he was asking the wrong question.  He went on to explain that you have to first decide what you want, before knowing whether it will cost more or less.  “The right question is ‘How do we fix it?’  And then once we’ve answered that question, let’s deal with the question of money.”  Hearing him talk was akin to being in a foreign land and finally hearing someone speak your language.

This post is not about the current political upheavals in my country – although I agree with Mr. Gladwell that the right question for all of them really is “What do you want?”  When that question is asked, all too rarely from what I’ve seen, the answers are vague (An end to racism!), too high level (Defund the police!), or challenging (You need to learn for yourself!).  But this post is not about those very worthy causes.  It is about what I, and a few friends, have noticed in our culture over all – which is the lack of being able to answer the question, “What do you want?”

Of course, most of us can answer that question on a personal level.  I want a big house.  I want to get married.  I want a good job.  I could go on with the things people say that they want.  Often people, within their means, have a plan for how they want to achieve those things.  If I want a good job, I might have a plan that starts with finishing high school, going to college, looking for an entry level position in my chosen field, etc.  Or, it might be entering a trade school, or the family business.  Even if you cannot define a ‘good job’, odds are that you have set a path of obvious steps that you will need to take.

Unfortunately, in this rapidly changing world driven by technology, there seems to be a pattern of reaction setting in – rather than the previously admired path of setting a goal and determining the steps needed to achieve it.  Too often a student goes off to college because it’s a step in a long pattern of socially accepted behaviors, without knowing where they are trying to go on the other side.   Having grown up around higher education, and spending most of my career there, I have seen the problems that result from that approach.

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

A friend and I have similar approaches to our road trips.  We like to pick a general direction, maybe with a specific end point, analyze our possible paths to get there – then just hit the road.  Drive on a given day until you feel like stopping.  Take an occasional side road, knowing how you get back to the main road.  If you know the end destination, and the general path to get there, you can be flexible with what occurs in between.  The journey may look different from your plan – the end destination may even be slightly different – but you’ve made it to the beach, or the snow, or whatever target you were after.

He and I use this metaphor all the time when talking about our jobs.  Over the past decade, or so, we’ve watched as everything around us becomes reactionary.  Leaders tell us to start working on a project.  When questions are asked about the project, the answers are vague and clearly indicate there is no specific destination – no vision for what we are trying to accomplish.  A vague gap was simply identified, and we are like a horse given conflicting signals – desperately trying everything we can, hoping that something we do will finally stop the barrage of kicks, pokes, and jabs we’re feeling.

Any journey needs to begin with an idea of where you want to end up.  That may be as specific as a certain hotel in Seattle; or as vague as ‘the beach’.  Without the destination, you cannot even know what direction to start in.  We may be on the verge of all having driverless cars – but even those will need you to pick a destination.  Without some vision, you will drive around aimlessly – and that quickly gets expensive.  There are some who can live their lives that way, but society certainly cannot function or thrive on aimlessness.

I am the last person to tout making goals.  I’ve never believed much in the “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” questions in interviews.  Life takes many turns – predictability is not in the cards for most of us.  On an individual it can certainly work fine to ‘go with the flow’ and not make too many plans.  But when you start to talk collective action, it pays to have a vision, and to make sure everyone shares the same vision – at least they all agree that they want ‘the beach’ and not ‘the snow’.  I struggle with that at work, where vision has been in short supply in recent years.  Everyone is rowing very hard, yet it feels like we’re going in a circle – or worse, going nowhere at all.

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Photo by Bianca on Pexels.com

I see a similar thing in the ‘defund the police’ movement.  Many people say what it means – yet they all have a different vision.  Some say it does not mean getting rid of the police – but some say that it does.  The easy work is always the catch phrase or the problem statement.  The harder work is to come up with a vision that resonates.  A destination that is clear enough so the steps needed to get there can begin to be defined.  The hard work is also in being flexible enough that if you find that a detour is required, you can take it without losing direction to your end goals.  But also flexible enough to say that if you end up in Pacific Grove instead of Monterey, the views are just as beautiful and you still get plenty of beach!

The Color Blue

Once upon a time there was a little girl not lost. Taking a bus back to grandma’s house in Seattle, she went into her typical daydream, scatterbrained persona and missed the stop. Arriving finally at the bus station, the child knew it was just a matter of getting on the next bus to 65th street and back tracking to the correct stop. Unfortunately the step down was blocked by the bus driver, who was apparently concerned for a child that seemed lost. ” But I know what to do. I will just get on a bus going back. I just missed my stop!” No pleading moved his bulk, which was eventually replaced by a blue uniform that was determined to see the child to her rightful destination! Oh, the embarrassment.  I spent the entire trip hunched down in the back seat, hoping no one would see me!  I rode those buses every Thursday to and from my acting job at a local radio station,  and was humiliated that the two men would not believe me and let me solve my own problem. This was my first encounter with our force in blue, and while he was kind and trying hard to be helpful, he was also very professional, and to a small child intimidating.

The next encounter happened around fifteen years later, when my (then) husband and I moved to Redding, California. We stopped at a gas station to feed our elderly jalopy when two cops walked over and asked us for the car’s registration. Apparently our vehicle looked like a stolen car they were attempting to locate. It was a “puzzlement”! Who in the world would steal an aging, shabby car like ours? After they checked our registration and noted our place of origin we were free to go, laughing about the whole incident.

Our most humorous interaction with our “boys in blue” happened in Monterey, where we had become regulars shooting arrows at targets tucked into niches along a mountainside trail. We had become quite friendly with the cop who occasionally came

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Our police friend beating it away from the hills!

by the archery range to check on things. This particular morning he welcomed us, began a conversation, and …looking at my balloon belly…said ” aren’t you due pretty soon?” I laughed, and replied “today, actually”. Suddenly he had the look of a startled deer, glanced at his police car, and said “I’m getting a call.” Two seconds later he was in the vehicle and rolling out to the road!

When my husband returned from his stint in the Army we located a small cottage on a hill in Redding, California. One night, shortly after we moved in, driving home we were stopped by a sheriff. It turned out he did not recognize our car (at that point a restored Jaguar), and was just checking on our business in that area so late at night.  Upon our explanation we were welcomed and sent on our way.

Many years later I had a lady cop pull me over after I negotiated a turn. It happened Policewomento be in front of my daughter’s office, lucky me! I turned to the officer and..again, scatterbrained…”Didn’t I stop at the sign? I thought I did?” She, with reason, had a nice chuckle at that and stated “you stopped just fine, but your registration is past date.” That was merely a matter of digging in the glove compartment and pulling out the sticker we had neglected to attach to the license plate. She very nicely requested that I attach it while she watched! I still remember the long pigtail down her back and her kindness, good cop.

It sort of deteriorated from there to some extent. There was the cop that was called one evening when we were returning from a very heavy day and were dead tired. Attempting to leave the parking lot in a small shopping center, we had the temerity to honk at a car that had been sitting in front of us, blocking all passage, for at least 5 minutes. Suddenly the driver came running to our window shaking his fist, beating on our hood, and shouting incoherently. When the cop arrived he questioned the driver, then gave us a lecture on how we had to have patience, the poor man was really tired, he had been working all day, had to pick his wife up at the airport, had to stop at the store, and all he wanted to do was to get home. Apparently that made it okay to do what I thought was illegal, blocking traffic, instead of parking in a space. Never mind that we had been all day in the hot sun at a horse show, and were also tired, also wanting to get home. But one man out weighs two women every time.

Then there was the cop who stopped us for speeding after another car had zipped past at high speed and then cruised in front, pulling over as the cop also stopped him. After a short discussion he  was allowed to leave while the highway patrolman came back to us in order to write a ticket. Two witnesses could attest we were going the speed limit. No matter, ticket given. Again, a car full of women!

Then came our sad loss of a friend, but a victory over a potential bully…good cop, bad cop. A young friend we had known for years left her dysfunctional family to stay with us when she was 16. We were working on getting her legally independent from her family, Two policemenwhen she was picked up by the police while visiting some friends. Two cops brought her to our door and demanded to come into the apartment in a rather preemptively and bullish tone. We were prepared…I simply asked quietly, do you have a warrant? Of course they didn’t, and I denied them entry. The cop who had made the demand looked a bit taken aback, was turned around by the other cop, and as they walked away we could hear cop #1 asking cop #2 “Can they do that?” and the reply, “yes, they can”. When cop #2 brought the young lady back, asking if she could get her coat, of course we said yes. After she came in he asked, very politely, if I minded if he also came in.   We had made our point, and there was no reason to keep him out, so of course he could come in and watch us say goodbye to our friend. That experience was a precursor, in my mind, of what could happen if you have inexperienced, poorly trained or bully types on the police force.

Our last meeting with a police person was years later after we came home to a broken door, its window shattered, and our small home in shambles.  Our first concern was for our two dogs who lived in my bedroom in our absence. That room was still closed, and the interior untouched, probably because the dogs who were obviously upset when we let them out. We lost all of my mothers vintage costume jewelry, my teen age costume jewelry, and the costume jewelry my daughter was given by her paternal grandmother.  Hardly a fortune, but memories of loved ones long gone. The policewoman was kind, but honest about the improbability of ever retrieving any of the items, or discovering who was responsible.  It was left for us to board up our broken door and move to a motel that night, with our two dogs, to digest the trauma and loss.

Cops come in every size, shape, ethnicity, color, gender, and, unfortunately, attitude. Yes, I am “white”. In other words my background blends Germanic, British and who knows what else…so far in the past it little matters. Would the outcomes have been different  if I had been black, brown or any other color, given I reacted to them in the exact, same way? In some instances, probably. However my impression of the child protector was: he wanted to keep children safe.  I cannot picture either of the ladies being any different. For one, the first lady cop found far too much amusement in my reaction. Cop #1 would have been fine, he was intent on following the law in a University town making it’s own attempts toward diversity.  Cop #2, however, had all the signs of a bully personality, and it would not surprise me if he used his power against any vulnerable person given the opportunity.  The police personalities who favor a man’s story, however weak, over women who are trying to follow the law, are problematic to say the least. Again, vulnerable citizens can be targets.

Most of my experiences occurred many decades ago, when cops actually did wear blue uniforms, identity badges, and generally kept their guns holstered unless absolutely necessary. Cops were trained to be part of the community, at least in most of the places I inhabited. It has been obvious to myself and my daughter that police training has deteriorated, and the fear factor (cops afraid of “us”, the citizenry) has risen exponentially.  A friend recently relayed a story in which she called to an officer standing beside his car.  He turned on this white woman, clad in business attire, gun at the ready.  All she had done was call, “Officer!  Officer!”  Such fear of an ordinary citizen trying to get their attention shows a systemic problem that only requires some bias to create the horrific outcomes we’ve been witnessing all too often.

The irony is that, according to the last stats I have seen, police work is not even in the top twenty most dangerous jobs. It is a given that police work can be hard, discouraging, and occasionally dangerous (the same can be said for many other jobs, especially at this moment). I truly appreciate an empathetic, kind, knowledgeable, professional police person. I do not appreciate police unions that protect and deny culpability of those who abuse the power our citizenry has granted them. My hope is that our country will see the light, have really good, standardized training across the states, and the ability, written into the contracts, to let anyone go who abuses their position. Power corrupts, unless it is held to a higher purpose by a greater power…in this case, the citizens of our troubled country.  The decision to take a life is the ultimate power, and a badge should not equal a license to kill.

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Diversity is part of the answer, training and community relationship complete it

Stay safe, keep your mask on and wash your hands!

 

 

 

My Country, ‘Tis of “Me”?

What is it about the human condition that makes so many of us unwilling to share? It shows up in small ways, “I don’t want to pay taxes so old people can stay healthy”, “I don’t want to pay more for my health insurance (pennies) so women can have birth control medication”, or “I refuse to use public transportation like my grandparents did, even to save the planet.” Throughout history, in almost every country, it has evinced itself in wars, revolts, genocide, slavery, or a combination of the above.

My childhood helped frame my views on life as I fell in love with history, devoured books, and happily took as many history/political science classes as possible. As I have listened to recent views on this country, read tropes that keep turning up on line, and most recently listened to my daughter read from an article that put it all in a nutshell…this country was built by slaves, beautified by latinos, and over the backs of indigenous people. Most of our history concerning native Americans is egregious, from introducing illnesses (perhaps unknowingly) to deliberate annihilation of entire villages for the specific purpose of taking over the land they had traversed and lived on for

Native Americans in Colonial America national grographic.org
Native Americans in Colonial America nationalgeographical.org

centuries.  I have no answer for what should have been done to create an amicable land sharing future, but we are where we are and need to go on from there while honoring and assisting our Indigenous population. On to the rest of that stated premise, slavery enriched the south and arguably the east coast. However, many Northern citizens, following the revolution, saw slavery as oppression similar to British oppression and were anti slavery, if not outright abolitionists. Northern agriculture was not dependent on slavery, although during colonial years indentured servants (often poor people from the slums of Europe in hope of a better life) were utilized, and , yes, brutalized.

This country is far more massive than the east coast and southern states. Even as the population moved across this abundant land mass, sharing was not on their agenda.  It was not just the displacement of Native Americans, cattle ranchers burned out and killed sheep ranchers. Farmers were harassed and their land trampled because they built Sheep_Raid_Colorado_1877fences. Sharing the fruitful land was anathema to those who got there “first” and felt they should have access to the entire area. Throughout history much of mankind has embraced the mantra “might makes right”, and power rarely shares willingly.

As  per Latino’s beautifying the country, it was  already steeped in beautiful mountains, rivers, waterfalls and meadows. Oh, you mean they worked on peoples gardens? That is a job, like building houses, or perhaps building railroads under horrendous conditions as

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Chinese and Irish immigrants, among others, were recruited to build the transcontinental railroad

our Chinese and Irish immigrants were forced to do to survive…or sometimes not.  That would be the railway that helped to open up the west and made greater travel possible for everyone.

Discrimination was rampant in this country throughout it’s history. No Polish allowed, or Italians, or Jews. Those signs were everywhere during the mid eighteen hundreds, following any big wave of immigrants trying to escape poverty or oppression. Each of these immigrants contributed to the culture and tone of our country as they grew in strength and “assimilated”. And don’t get me started on the plight of women!

Of course there was the lesson of WWII, where our Japanese Americans, some who had been here for generations, were incarcerated and stripped of the homes and lives for which they had worked so hard. Yet they emerged from such mistreatment and put their mark on the country as Chefs, gardeners, writers, journalists, actors and so much more.   Following the war, (in which all peoples took part albeit not in an equal or appreciated way), the great interstate system envisioned by FDR, and created under Eisenhower, was

Interstate 80 construction sierracollege.edu
Working on the Interstate sierracollege.edu

accomplished by workers in every state, which meant they were undoubtedly a mix of ethnicity and cultural backgrounds.

 

The point is, everyone who has been born in this country, everyone who has immigrated to this country, has been a part of our development and growth as a nation for better or worse. It is, of course, necessary for some groups to remind the country of their presence and contributions toward the whole. We need to be aware, unfortunately, of a large portion of the populace that would prefer not to share the bounty of our land, or the hope of our forefathers. But, as the saying goes, words matter. Don’t claim you built the nation. It is bigger than one group, one ethnicity, or one religion. We have a rich history that includes a wide variety of contributors – the good, the bad and the ugly! State your antecedents contributions, by all means. But make it a shared statement: we contributed to the growth of this (once) great country, and have a right to share in its success. (Assuming, of course, that the country survives the present division tearing us apart, because too many citizens are reluctant to open their hearts, their minds, their souls to sharing, and therefore prospering in more ways than just “filthy lucre”.)

I love all of the disparate cultural influences, all the puzzle pieces, that have been a part of our journey as a country – from the dark underworld to the wonderful points of light along the way. I have felt the influence of many cultures in my life. I have read volumes regarding our rich, multicolored, nuanced history – from the deep depths of past inhumanity (true of almost every nation), to the movement and progress toward better futures for all that we keep striving to achieve. Everyone has contributed, everyone must keep contributing. As you go on, insist on fairness, equality and justice. Just remember – we are all in this ship of state, we have all contributed, and words truly do matter. Live, love, laugh and use your speech freely, while keeping in mind that words are important, and how you say something influences how people hear it.

 

 

 

Hey, Old Folks!

I was listening to NPR Forum one morning with great attention, they were having a conversation on ageism. The author/guest asserted that we live in a culture that ingrains ageism (who knew?). I itched to call in and rant on this very accurate view of the subject! Unfortunately 81 year old me was busy in our barn cleaning stalls and unloading bales of bedding from our pick-up.  Fortunately for my psyche there was a ninety year old who called in with a list of the committees, oversight groups, etc. that he had been involved in over the twenty years since he retired, stating “I think I still have some value” to the community.

Ageism has not always been so prevalent.  At least in our neck of the woods, as children, we were required to show respect, and, yes, give up our seat to the older and infirm.  Whether that was true throughout the country I have no knowledge, but the lesson stuck with me. Now, it seems, I have outlived the age of respect and been launched into an era of disdain and contempt for anyone not of “our tribe”, and not only disrespect of our older citizens, but with the onset of this pandemic a willingness to toss them out of the lifeboat.

Hey, time goes by and our bodies, everyone’s bodies, wear and tear just like our machines do. It’s true I bruise more easily, my skin is paper thin and suffers bleeding cuts from mere pricks. I have asthma and my joints ache with arthritis. That being said, I will share a short history of my senior years: My daughter and I managed to purchase a 2.5 acre property around my sixtieth birthday. Partially in order to protect that investment I worked as an Office Manager (thus paying taxes) into my mid seventies. During that period there were two office assistants who made no secret of the fact that they were waiting for me to retire (or expire) so they could move up! Very nice and efficient ladies, but obviously felt I was too old for the job I had actually created 10 years before there was even an assistant position available.

I am not a competitive equestrienne, but love to ride.  One day I was having a pleasant morning atop my old, reliable Dutch Warmblood.  We were trotting around a corner when suddenly I woke up in the ICU ward.  I only know what my daughter told me.

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Java in retirement after my fall, probably a sudden pain caused him to react

Coming off after the second buck, I fell under his belly and  was dragged 20 feet.  They held me overnight, and apparently scanned for any broken parts or a destroyed  brain (had my helmet on)!  The next morning the discharge doctor, with his trail of followers,  told me: “Never get on another horse”.  Cue  laughter. “You are joking, of course!”  “Absolutely not, this is not funny, I am doing my job to protect you”. I get ready to leave and another medical person comes up and states: “you need to get a bone scan for osteoporosis”. I point to the hoof print on my arm and mentioned if 1200 pounds of horse could not break my arm ….!

My mind was  thinking do you tell a 20 year old skier with a broken leg don’t ever ski again? What about football players who endure concussions and are right back on the playing field? Oh yes, and Olympic athletes who run, skate, jump on injured limbs. Oh that’s  right, they are young and vibrant! Old ladies should stay in their rocking chairs.

I occasionally check into a group, online, of ladies over fifty who continue to ride.  A few even in their nineties. Some seventy and eighty year olds are still barrel racing or jumping! No thanks, not that good, and admittedly a bit more fragile than I used to be. But kudos to them all!

machnik1
Kris Machnik ice climbing image from mensjournal.com

Then there is climbing. Kris Machnick began her life in the sport at age 64, two years following retirement.  As of January, 2020, she was still climbing with other women, some in their sixties. President George H. W. Bush chose to sky dive for his ninetieth birthday. I am positive there are hundreds more examples of senior citizens continuing…or learning how…to participate in activities that validate there life, and could end it at any time.

George H.W. Bush Skydiving at 90 WFMY
G.H.W. Bush on his 90th (image by USA Today)

Everyone participating in a dangerous sport or pastime, and there are many seniors doing so, is aware that injury or death is always in the shadows. We once knew an equestrian in his fifties who was jumping a fence in a horse show, fell off on the other side dead of a heart attack. Not a bad way to go! Then there was a man in his eighties showing his Hackney at Madison Square Gardens, had a heart attack in the middle of the show ring, and was gone. Again, quick, doing what he loved, and among the people who appreciated his dedication to the sport. Death comes to us all sooner or later.  (By the time you are my age it is already later!) What better way to reach the end then doing what you enjoy, helping others, contributing to society, or continuing to work at what you do best.

Old age does not mean you are useless, bored or dead. It doesn’t mean you are expendable in order for the stock market to thrive.  In this century there are many grandparents, for whatever reason, taking on the burden of caring for their grandchildren.  One can see retirees volunteering to work  with groups like the Senior Gleaners to get food to the disadvantaged. Many of our leaders are aged, yet they are dealing with policies, problems, and international issues. (Admittedly some are doing so incompetently and disastrously, but there are others quite up to the challenge). There are young fools and young geniuses, lets give the senior citizens the same individuality: some are fools, some geniuses, and everything in between. Some seniors have, unfortunately, been hampered by health issues. Even so, having worked as a taxpayer and voter for around fifty years, they deserve not only care for their health and comfort but the same respect that you give others.

Native American tribes have a different attitude toward their elders:

A beautiful elderly woman in native dress Pinterest
A beautiful woman in Native clothing (image by Pinterest)

Each tribe has its own unique culture, language, beliefs and customs. Despite these differences, there is general  agreement that Native Indian elders are honored and respected by their families and communities, and they are considered to be the keepers of their tribes’ language and heritage.

New York Connects column by Cynthia Printup-Harms, the Director of Native American Independent Living Services (NAILS).

There have been other cultures that honored old age, including some Asian countries who, traditionally, revere their elders. Sadly, some of that is being lost as they copy the materialism and me first attitude that seems prevalent in today’s social norms. My hope is that we wake up to the kind of civility I saw as a child, minus the egregious racial/gender inequality and abuse that permeated the forties and fifties.

Old age is like climbing a mountain.You climb from ledge to ledge. The higher you get, the more tired and breathless you become, but your views become more extensive.

Ingrid Bergman

To the young and not quite so young: meet your old age when it comes with purpose, motivation and peace. In the meantime, please treat your older friends, relatives and passing strangers with respect, kindness and consideration. We all live on the same planet, we all find suffering and joy in our life journey, and we all grow old if we live to reach that mountain. Treat those who have “made it through the woods” as you would like to be treated at that stage of your life.  Have a generous heart, be aware of the hazards in life, but embrace an adventurous spirit, maintain your curiosity and  continue to seek new knowledge until “whatever Gods may be” call you home.

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The love of my life, Coffee, in a perfect partnership

 

Me Too

A family member recently was, as she put it, “disappointed” that I was not horrified by the allegations against Joe Biden. I understand why she felt that way, considering the fact that I am what the media calls “a survivor”. It was long ago and far away during my early childhood, and was curtailed around eleven or twelve. Obviously when the Me Too movement began I cheered for the ladies (and gentlemen) who were out there trying to right a centuries old wrong. The idea of adding my voice to the movement was in the back of my mind for quite awhile, until Al Franken was forced out of the Senate because once, as a comedian, he created a crass, juvenile joke picture that, rightly, offended the lady involved. I said offended. It was not rape, physical abuse, or an act of pedophilia. There is not a man over 50 who has not said something or done something, at some point in their lives, that offended, bothered or hurt a female. That statement is made based on the fact that our culture not only allowed it, but often blamed the woman, joked about her, or dismissed the recipient as an object for males to target. Perspective is a necessity in this day and age of #MeToo.

Many years ago my daughter, a young woman at that time, participated in an equestrian clinic with a well admired clinician from Sweden. He was a lovely, elderly man who was knowledgeable, kind and empathetic. He had a habit of putting his arm around the ladies shoulders as he was talking to them. His wife was present, and it was in full view of the class. One of the participants complained to some of the group about this habit, and how uneasy it made her feel. I remember my very astute daughter, also a recipient of this gesture, telling me that it did not disturb her because he was old, Swedish ( was a former member of the Swedish military), and it did not bother his wife. Raised in a different time, a particular culture, and not clandestine…truly if you feel imposed upon just quietly say “I’m sorry, I have personal space issues and prefer not to be touched”.  I have known women who automatically put an arm around friends’ shoulders, professors who 110514429.thbmake a like gesture to a student they are counseling, even police and healthcare workers when someone is in a moment of stress.

That is not to say that some persons, both men and women, might use such a gesture as an intro to further encroachment. It is up to the recipient to judge for themselves and react in the way that serves their purpose without diminishing the other person, because you could be wrong in your judgement of intent! The point is, an arm around your shoulder is not harassment in and of itself. A silly picture where the subject is more than fully clothed, asleep, and he is not touching her, a crew of male workers whistling as you walk by, or even a simple  “wow, you look beautiful today,”  may be annoying, but are not life changing, personality crashing, horrific events.

Enter Joe Biden.  He is an old man who grew out of a culture that was greatly paternalistic toward women. One way to show a protective spirit toward the female was to put one’s arm around them. Yuck, maybe, but life changing?  Think about being a victim of pedophilia and compare the two.  Ask survivors of violent rape, intoxicated rape with fraternity brothers watching, or even someone subtly forced into “servicing” a boss who has the power to promote or fire. Those are life changing and traumatizing events.

Okay, sniffing the hair is creepy, but does it really affect your life? The other side of the

biden
Joe Biden

Joe coin is this: he will pick good people around him, and listen to them. He has promised to choose a female running mate. He understands how important our allies are.  He believes in science. He understands the climate is changing for the worse (except at the moment, the virus seems to be cleaning up parts of mother earth)!

Of course the elephant in the room is the one complaint of actual physical encroachment. First, compare that to “the Donald’s” twenty plus women, ranging from minor incidents to actual rape. Second, regardless of the “MeToo” movement one must consider the source. Journalists have researched the lady quite heavily: she has made accusations against other men along the way, she has changed her story multiple times, she was praising Biden up until he started his run for the presidency, and in the cesspool of Washington D.C…where rumor and leaking are rampant…no one could find so much as a hint that such an event had occurred. This, in spite of her claim to have issued a formal complaint against him, which she now says did not mention the sexual harassment…she thinks…she would need to see it again to remember what she actually said.

Joe Biden was not my choice for president.   We had a chance to elect the most qualified person ever to run, and the electoral college blew it. We had an opportunity

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President Trump (Photo by Michael Reynolds for EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.)

this time to choose a female candidate from among multiple entrants, and instead chose an elderly, white, paternalistic male to run against an elderly, white (orange?) misogynistic, narcissistic male who refuses to pay vendors and is willing to watch people in “blue” states die rather than send aid. (By the way, there are many Republicans in those states.) So many opined the choices they had in 2016, seeing it as between a reality show host with a checkered background (but popular…could have a beer with!) and a highly qualified, but “unlikable”, woman…who now gets standing ovations wherever she goes! Now we are down to reality TV, “grab a pussy” person against grandpa…my choice would have to be grandpa.

While reading an article from The Washington Post I was struck by a quote gleaned from a guest column that Alyssa Milano –  actress, #MeToo activist, and Biden supporter – did for Deadline, which covers Hollywood and entertainment.

“How do progressive women choose between the p—y grabber in chief who has done so much damage to our country and a man who has allegations made against him?” Milano wrote .

She added, “Believing women was never about ‘Believe all women no matter what they say,’ it was about changing the culture of NOT believing women by default.”

Hear hear, there is a woman who gets it!

 

I Have Been Told…

I have been told not to reply to Face Book streams

I have been told my passion is bad…for me                            Flag

I have been told with love, and concern for my health

I have been told to distance myself from the cesspool of politics

I have been told not read the comments that denigrate our country,

Spread falsehoods without checking, and find it acceptable to sacrifice the old and vulnerable

How can I not answer the under educated, the lies, the misinformation?

How can I bury my passion and ignore what is happening?

To the country?

To the world?

To us?

What happens if voices of sanity fall silent and the cacophony of chaos is allowed to roam unfettered?

I direct my passion, state my status, and politely ask for reason

I then go quietly about my life with horses, dogs, birds and flowers

To wait for the next lie, the next outrage, that must be answered

Answered, and left warming the table, while I move on

Tell me I do not need passion

Tell me I do not need truth

tell me it is time for my voice to be silenced, and that I should vanish without a trace

And I will quietly, politely answer “when hell freezes over”

 

Perspective

wp-15858870037262431013976874269743.jpgWhere my neighbor sees unkempt weeds, I see a meadow that provides shelter and food for the many wild things that share our property.

Where a friend sees a messy floor, I see happy dogs playing and chewing up bags and boxes that cost me nothing.

Where someone else sees a dead tree, I see a snag that provides perches for birds who want a clear view of their surroundings.

Where my neighbor sees a pile of composting horse manure, I see rich nutrients for the garden that feeds me, as well as a ‘diner’ for birds, and a playground for my dog.

Where some horse people see wasted years in a six year old gelding who has not yet been ridden, I see a journey with a challenging horse that has resulted in a bond that those critics will likely never experience.

In this challenging time, it is important to keep things in perspective.  Perhaps this is a time to actually reassess our own perspectives on everything.  Life is messy.  My place, by many people’s standards, is messy.  Yet, where others see problems, I see joy.  Joy in the birds that sing all around me.  Joy in the puppies that play at my feet.  Joy in the horse who trots up to greet me, and now happily joins me in our ‘work’ together.

Short of a tragedy, if something makes you unhappy, annoyed, or generally displeased – it is not really about that thing, but about your perspective.  Try changing your perspective, and perhaps you too will find joy in the messiness of life!

Stay well!

Lia