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
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
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 the 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.
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
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
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
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 port-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 parents 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!
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
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 to 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, when 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.
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
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 fences. 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
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 make 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
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
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.”
My driving odyssey begins, strangely enough, in my eighth year. Try, try , try, I could not read the blackboard in school. Next step, see an eye doctor and discover I was deeply near sighted. The one moment I vividly remember is waiting for the bus, sporting my new glasses, and looking down at my feet…oh my god, I could see individual blades of grass! (Of course that is not what I said, horrors, not in those days!) Thus began my lifetime relationship with an extra “appendage” on my nose.
Fast forward to 1954 when I was old enough to begin the road to driving. The country was coming out of a time when not all women were drivers, and those that were drove only when their husband was not in the car. There were brave outliers, or single working women (generally looking for a husband). However, the general consensus was women drivers were a danger, or comedic, or both on the highway.
If a male character had a traffic accident or fender-bender in a comedy made before 1970, a woman driver was most likely the cause. And if the mom of a pre-1970 Dom Com got behind the wheel, it was all but guaranteed she’d come home with a crumpled fender and an improbable story that completely exonerated her by shifting the blame to another driver or perhaps a tree which lunged out into the street at her.from TVTropes
Slightly before I actually applied for a learners permit, someone, I believe it was my older brother, let me try driving on a forest road in the backwoods. As I recall the car ended up nose to nose with a bush. Thus ended his desire to teach little sister to drive! The next move was visiting the DMV with my father and going through the paper work to start legally learning to drive. This included reading the eye chart with glasses perched on my sensitive teen years nose prompting my father to explain to the agent that his daughter was blind as a bat. Imagine how the feeling of denigration and unworthiness washed over my youthful self! The next nail in my desire to drive came when a female relative applied for her license and failed the test. She ultimately qualified, but the damage to my psyche was complete. No driving, and I could avoid being laughed at, feeling inadequate and altogether stupid.
So, I did not drive until my late twenties when the army let my husband go, and he spent his release money on an aged Jaguar (that we later had reason to believe had been used for smuggling pot!) He patiently worked with me on honing my driving skills, and wonder of wonders, I took my driving test in a Jaguar and passed first time!
By now women drivers were quite common and actually expected to be ferrying their kids around. Life intervened, including separation, divorce and loss of a Jaguar to drive. Instead I became a Pony Club mother/leader and purchased a mini pickup to ferry animals, kids, tack, jump poles…you get the picture! One shining moment was carrying a pick up bed full of kids up the side of Mt. Diablo to the kitchen building. There was always a line for our “taxi”, out in the open air on a mattress in the truck bed!
The real challenge was my daughters first vehicle, an old, commercial van that she purchased for $500 and promptly named Charlie. It was great for pulling her horse trailer, and she drove it beautifully. Being the only vehicle I had available while she was interning overseas was difficult, to say the least, but I overcame my anxiety and limited my driving to a bare minimum! Not to say it didn’t cause embarrassment. Charlie coughed out fumes fairly often when waking up, and one day I made the mistake of starting him in a local mall without checking the rear view mirrors. I believe the poor lady walking past our back end was a bit surprised, and not in a good way!
Ultimately that morphed into a pink pick-up truck my daughter acquired that was…barely…capable of pulling a two horse trailer. My big brother took one look and asked my daughter “what does your mother think about driving that truck?” It probably seemed impossible that his wimp of a sister could even drive such a vehicle (he had never seen the van), much less love it, as she assured him I did (it was so much easier than Charlie! Not to mention physically more comfortable!). I had become the regular hay-pick-up driver on weekends, while my daughter worked horses or repaired the barn destruction caused by said animals! That continues to this day, only now my vehicle is a bit larger, silver Dodge Ram pick-up.
I began by eschewing driving any vehicle at all. Much of the reason for that attitude stemmed from my early observations of how women drivers were viewed, how girls with glasses were teased and denigrated, and fear that I would fail the test as my relative did. Unfortunately I was not equipped with the defiant determination and bravery of the early feminists, or perhaps I lacked sufficient motivation to drive a car. There is no question that my late entry into becoming a driver impacted my confidence level to some extent, made me a bit more cautious (no, I do not dawdle, I drive the speed limit but obey signs and laws), and kept me humble enough in that respect to avoid joining the “I am such a good driver I can weave through traffic, do illegal U-turns, etc.” club.
I allowed societies view of women during that era to affect the trajectory of at least one aspect of my life. My daughters generation was fortunate to live in a different time. She was expected to drive and took Driver’s Education and Training in her school, obtaining her license at 16 and taking over our car from that moment! How the times have changed…except, of course, where they haven’t.
No, this is not a political rant, it is a statement on body mechanics, my body mechanics to be precise. It also touches on life issues, and, yes, some of what I have learned can, philosophically, be applied to the body politic.
Decades ago I was informed by a physician that one leg was shorter than it’s mate and it was amazing that I could walk so well. The solution was for every pair of foot wear to have an eighth of an inch added to the right shoe. (Note: Jackie Kennedy had the same condition and every pair of shoes had a slight lift added to one shoe). After one attempt to fulfill that prescription I gave up. What the heck, I had spent over thirty years with no clue about my “disability”. It stood to reason I could continue on in blissful denial, and so I did into my senior years.
My daughter grew up working her way into riding horses. Cleaning stalls, working on goat farms, ultimately driving a rural paper route. As I made the fast track into my fifties she maneuvered me into riding with her and learning the elements of Dressage, the thrill of jumping and the absolute peaceful, relaxation of riding on a trail through natural habitat. Full confession, my body is not a naturally, graceful dancing machine. There is a stiffness built into my gene structure that was absent in my daughter’s DNA. Regardless of what you may hear or think you know, an agile body and an agile mind are great components for becoming a comfortable and happy equestrian. My comfort level and ability grew as she molded my bodies abilities. I will not elaborate on the exasperation on one side and frustration on the other as the journey continued! But we conquered, and I became an able rider. Then came the years when we could not ride for various reasons. My body aged, I worked at a desk until my mid seventies, and suddenly there was a horse, a home and an arena. And my skills had disappeared. Back to frustration at the lack of balance…until…my daughter noticed I was always tipped to the right. It became evident even as she watched me walking that I put all my weight to the right. It became a mantra for us, “lean left mom”, or I would be in the barnyard feeling tired and think “lean left”. The feel in my body would immediately become more relaxed and energetic.
Through all of that I discovered the importance of balance in the body whether riding or walking. More importantly it made me consider balance in life. Take a teeter totter, put a 200 pound man on one side and a 30 pound kid on the other…there is no balance. The same with your daily life, too much focus on work can be detrimental to your health. Too much focus on play can bankrupt your family! You can also apply balance to your diet (moderation is king), your language, the use of social media! Extrapolate that to the political scene. Too far right and you have an authoritarian dictator, too far left and you have a government controlling the entire economic structure of the citizenry, to their detriment.
I have learned that nuance, moderation and balance are paramount. My mantra continues to be “lean left”, carry my walking stick in the left hand, bring my left shoulder down and back, keep my life balanced. Because if you lean too far in one direction , you could fall off the horse!
Remembering my fights with big brother 70+ years back I must have been a feminist before the term was invented. My feeling as a young girl held that I was, and should be, as important and respected as my big brother. Life slapped me in the face a bit over that belief as time went on, but if the “was” got a bit tattered, the “should be” remained.
In the forties and fifties young men were taught to open car doors for their dates, which involved getting out, shutting the driver side door, walking around the car and opening the passenger side, while his date waited for the door to open. As a child I had always opened doors for myself. It was a difficult task schooling myself to wait for…essentially “permission” … to disembark. Happily the young man I married seemed to feel I was healthy enough, strong enough, and capable enough to open my own doors! After eighty years of living (many of those decades on my own raising our daughter after his abandonment) I can fault him for many things, but he respected my independence, my intelligence, and treated me as an equal partner. Perhaps that gave me the groundwork for my belief system as an adult.
Which brings me to my experiences as a mature student at the University of Washington. The red nosed elderly chair of the Audiology department, who stated that women did not do well in his department, was a dinosaur, but normal among older males for the time. On the other hand, the Principal of the grade school where I student taught was a woman. Her mantra was that I needed to be in late evening meetings where I had no vote, no voice, and all I could do was sit and listen, while my young child was home alone. “We have lots of latch key children here” was her statement when I tried to get dispensation, or even leaving early. I rode a bike the few miles to the school each morning. I chose to wear trousers for obvious reasons, and was informed that was improper. This was in the mini-skirt era, and ended with my wearing a dress over the slacks, and abandoning the slacks upon entering the school. Also being very aware of bending over in the classroom!
I did think those were incidents in the past and women had finally come out of their cocoons, until I was working at UCD. My supervisor was a very nice woman who helped me immensely as a graduate student and employee, but the one conversation among all the women that has never been forgotten pertained to so called feminism. “I like having the door opened for me…I like the men to stand when I enter a room…I won’t give up the little niceties”.
To my male acquaintances, you have no need to stand when I enter your space. As an octogenarian I still open doors for people if I am in front of the pack, I would be happy to give my seat to a person of either gender if they are frail, handicapped or stressed. Equality to me means equal in responsibility to be helpful, understanding and kind, equality in legal rights, as well as equal opportunity and pay for identical job duties. Some may remember the old saw that males had to support families and therefore needed more money, women were just making extra dollars, which enabled prospective employers to offer less salary to females: married, single, or widowed with children.
The norm was supposed to be woman in the kitchen, man in the office. This is the norm that many people, both men and, unfortunately, many women, would like to see resurrected in our social structure. I believe it is an underlying (sometimes not quite understood) motive behind the vehement “pro-life” screamers and greatly injurious laws to allow rapists, who impregnate their victim, access to the subsequent child; to force preteen children to carry their abuser’s child to term, or to require invasive procedures before permitting an abortion. For many men it is a matter of control. For many of the women it goes back to that patriarchal era when women had babies and men took care of their women .
My mother was a “Rosie the riveter”. Those women contributed immensely to helping our armed forces win WWII, and were immediately discarded upon the return of our troops. Women had a baseball league during the war to fill in for male players then soldiering. That was allowed to fail as the men returned. It has been a long hard slog to emerge from the kitchen, put on shoes, have our babies when we were ready to become moms, and choose how many children we wished to raise.
We have, and are, evolving and earning our place in the working world, gaining slightly in the political and power structures, and shedding light on abusive practices toward females that have long stayed underground. Nevertheless, the forces that abhor those changes and gains are still out there, and hitting back in egregious and harmful ways whenever possible. That reaction among some men, perceiving their control diminishing, I fully understand… though it saddens me. That reaction among women, in particular white women, is both puzzling and distressing. Why do we want members of our sisterhood beaten down? Why do we want to force our religious/moral/ethical beliefs on women we do not even know? Have we discarded the idea that an individual should be able to make their own choices, decide what is right for themselves, so long as they do not intrude on their neighbors safety or comfort? If so, who are the “deciders” that will tell us how to live our lives…old white men?
The warriors in this battle for equal respect and opportunity have been the feminists, and strangely many women who have denied being “feminists”…actually are! Do you work? Do you feel you are worth as much as the man doing the exact same job? Do you own property, and believe you have the right to do so? Do you like being able to sign for your own loans without daddy or some male relative co-signing the document (I had that happen to me in 1970, not that long ago)? Do you believe women should be able to do whatever job they choose (provided they are qualified and capable) such as astronaut, pilot, etc.? Then you are a quiet feminist. Those are rights that some personages would like to revoke and move you back into the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant.
What is wrong with women who lean toward blustery, older, white men rather than a well qualified, pragmatic, strong woman? We are faced again with, not one, but multiple strong women. And guess what? An old, sometimes comic, often misspeaking, huggy
bear, white man is leading the democratic pack , along with a grouchy, old, angry, white man. A lot of this is due to women, this time both white and black women, who identify the first with President Obama and feel he is “Uncle Joe” and will take care of them. The second has created a cult like persona similar, but on the opposite end, of our president. So I ask again, why do so many women reject the idea of handing power to a highly intelligent, empathetic sister woman, and embrace misogynistic or sexist patriarchs? And why do so many women flinch from the feminist idea of equal opportunity, equal respect? Those women who were force fed and tortured trying to get all women voting rights saw a future where women were as valued and respected as men. Sadly that vision is still far in the future. A large segment of our citizenry, many of them women, still cannot accept the idea of a female in the White House and are perfectly willing to idolize as president an old man who brags about “grabbing pussy”.
So, at the age of eighty, I am still searching for the value and respect that my brother received from the day of his birth. No little girl should be regarded as less important than her brothers, or less likely to be successful at whatever she chooses to do in life. No woman should be told females “don’t do well in my” department or class, both of which were my experiences. Hopefully those women who have fought against such equality will discover their own value, join their sisters of all religions and ethnicities, and fight for the life, choices and freedoms their daughter’s deserve to inherit.