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Author: Delia

it’s just words – or is it?

So much of today’s political climate is just nasty – and that’s talking about nearly everyone. It’s bad enough when walking through such a minefield, but when you have direct experience in some things and not so direct experience (like a hubby, son or close friend), the words one chooses to use mean something. Mine do.

So is it just words? No, says this writer, linguist and former English teacher. Your choice of words comes with connotations – not just what something means to you today – but sometimes words have history and meaning that makes some things a no go area.

This post is much about Charlottesville as anything. I was there. I was home telling my young friends not to go downtown. My tenant explained to me why she was going and I understood but her decision could have been the wrong one – as one young woman found out the hard way.

I knew too much going in – I remembered how the Kent State shootings turned my world upside down. I was not yet 19, in college and a hippie. I had demonstrated in anti-war protests and to have people like me dying in doing just what I had already done was life changing. Complicating the situation further, my first cousin was attending Kent State. I was scared then and was scared before the rally two years ago.

Charlottesville Unite the Right Lessons

I was traumatized after Heather died. Most folks I knew were also traumatized. Charlottesville was traumatized. I went into counseling because that’s my “go to” when the world seems wrong. (I also try to process before speaking out.)

Two years later the trauma has faded, thank heavens. And I now feel able to speak out with some objectivity (notice I did not say completely objectively). Besides Heather’s murder, I also was shocked by what my friends and acquaintances were saying in response. I was shocked by the physical reactions of some who took their anger out on the city council. I was totally dismayed that the town simply quit functioning in many ways. I had loved Charlottesville til then. I am thrilled to not live there now.

The whole stupid thing was about the statues. Now, I am a southerner but I was kinda surprised to see that large (but gorgeous) statue of Robert E. Lee and Traveler when I first saw it. I am a Georgian and not a Virginian so there was history I wasn’t in tune with there, I grant you. I’m not going to go into the details of how this all came about except to say a teenager – who did not live in the city – was the start of it all. The whole thing was not handled properly with respect to her, the city council or some of the idiots who broke out the dang Confederate flag again.

I was against removing the two statues. Estimates ranged from $500,000 to a million and Charlottesville has no affordable housing. I thought it to be a poor use of the money and advocated for the idea of added historical context to both.

I was informed I was racist.

If I did not toe the line and advocate for the removal, I was a racist.

Interestingly enough, no one was interested in my reasoning, my motives – even my “best” friend from NJ who happens to be of African American descent assigned motivations to me, the senior southerner, without asking me a dang thing.

This is part of what is happening today on a larger scale in our society. Folks screaming racism at any deviance from the politically correct terminology. Angry people, who know wrong when they see it, then reach for the most recent popular (and the more acceptable politically correct) way to describe something.

This political correctness happens on all sides, all political parties, everywhere. And I’m tired of it. So let’s talk about words and their meanings.

What is racism?

“prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

Okay, what about bigotry?

“intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”

Sexism?

“prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex ” Misogyny is not synonymous but getting there.

And ageism?

“prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.”

So racism? No, I’m not black.

But my son is Hispanic and I was married to a brown man for a decade back when that kind of thing was not tolerated so well. I also was a military wife during those years and I spent plenty of time with other folks of color. I have been glared out and told I “should be ashamed of myself” and worse.

No, I’m not black but my memories of growing up in white Georgia just simply were not good. I knew something was wrong. I was raised by an Irish-Polack Catholic New Jersey father and a forward thinking southern mother. My family did not use the “n” word. In fact I never had someone use it in a conversation with me until after my son was born. But I was scared. I knew that if I followed my natural inclination and made black friends or dated black that my physical safety was at risk. I remember that fear vividly. Fear for me, my friends (black and white) and family. But I buried it. After Charlottesville, the memories hit me full force.

If I remember being afraid, I can make a guess at what it must have been like for blacks back then. I certainly did not know that at the time but had plenty of proof later in life with black friends who refused to get out of a car at a convenience store (he was younger by several decades than I) and older ones who are still scared to stay at a hotel or motel. I do have “white privilege” in that I could and can still today choose what to do without having to worry about my race. I do understand that.

But look at those other terms: bigotry, sexism and ageism.

I am well experienced with bigotry.

I experienced a lot of bigotry growing up in Georgia as I was a progressive, thinking person who did not keep quiet. I was always a minority voice in Georgia, even up til I left in 2008. As a hippie, I experienced this numerous times because I and my husband and friends had long hair and granny glasses. One specific event in 1970 comes to mind. As we were heading out to begin our married life in our ancient car, one tire started going flat. We stopped at a little hole in the road in a small community. The guy started filling up the tire for us – then filled it and filled until it blew. That was not by accident. He and friends obviously thought that was funny.

I also was alerted to the fact that it was not just blacks who were the target. In 1974 I moved to Tacoma, Washington. Along the trip and then while there, I found the treatment of Indians and Asians to be just as bad as what the blacks experienced in the South.

Sexism?

I have quite a few tales about sexism. Let’s see…I’ve been told to my face that I would not even be interviewed for a job because I was a woman. I have experienced a more subtle version of that in technology. It can be really hard to get and keep a decent job in IT — because there are mostly men there. (more about prejudice in hiring processes in a later post).

And ageism?

Starting with the Charlottesville events, I have been told over and over again that my opinions don’t count cause I’m too old. I am seeing more and more folks saying my generation didn’t fix anything – that we failed – that all of us are conservative and just too old.

The icing on the cake: prejudice?

“preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”
In other words all of the above.

So if you are going to talk about racism, I have a bit of advice.

Take care who you accuse. Take care in choosing your words.

First, obviously people can be perceived as racist based on their remarks or actions. That word is bandied around way too much, however. My first encounter was as the academic manager of a private technical school about 20 years ago. One of the classes I created and taught was about finding a job. I have a lot of experience in this area as a business owner, manager, writer and researcher. I said from my practical stance as a business owner that one should use “standard” English in a job interview. And yes, I was saying that the vernacular used by young people (and yes, black young people) is not appropriate in that situation and could hinder someone getting a job. Employers like well-spoken employees that can be understood by anyone especially in public facing jobs. (they don’t seem to care today when you call customer support.) Perhaps my students would have taken that better if I was not white. It did create quite a stir.

Then they called me racist in Charlottesville. Sorry, but I do not believe my race is superior. I am a practical person. I have a good idea of what it’s like to have darker skin. I have witnessed discrimination based on ethnicity when my own son was denied a job. And yes, that happened when I was in the room.

I have experienced prejudice, bigotry, sexism, and ageism. I’m tired of it. I don’t care who you are or where you are coming from, do not ascribe motives to me when you have never discussed said motives with me. Do not call me names. It does not matter where on the political spectrum you are, but I do see the worse offenders as those on the far ends of the spectrum in both directions.

So how does this apply in today’s political climate?

It’s all about name-calling, it’s all about not talking with the other side, it’s all about him and me and if you aren’t with me, then you are against. I don’t know if Trump is a racist – I’m sure he doesn’t think he is. I don’t know his motives (sure, I can guess). What I do know is that he is xenophobic. Proudly xenophobic.

Xenophobia is ” fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign “

Occasionally you’ll hear that said – not as often as racism – but there is no question Trump is xenophobic. I’ve seen this at work before in Georgia. I see it today here in Maine. It’s the one commonality encapsulated in Trump’s words, ” “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” You aren’t like us and shouldn’t be here because you are different. For some reason Trump and his followers are just really really really afraid of strangers and foreigners. I’m not going to dig into this any deeper. I don’t need to.

This article from the NY Times is most relevant. The historical roots of Trump’s comments have a long disgusting history in our country. He never made any attempt to disguise this, he has just shined a light on these feelings – telling folks it’s okay to be xenophobic and yes, there are quite a few of them in our country. I’ve met them. I’ve talked to them and no, they aren’t one kind of person and many don’t even see this as conflicting with how they actually live their lives.

Historically, it comes in waves.

In the 1600s, it was the religious dissidents.
In the late 1700s, it was the non-citizens.
In the 1840s and later, it was the Irish and the Catholics.
In the 1880s, it was the Chinese.
In WWWII, it was both the Germans and the Japanese. (Read George Takei’s words)
In the 1960/70s, it was the anti-war protestors.
In the 1990s , it was the Mexicans (brought into Georgia by the poultry industry to work) in Georgia. I met a guy who bragged about going to Mexico to recruit workers.
And today, read Rep. Ted Lieu’s words about being a naturalized citizen, raised in the US since the age of 3.

Today it seems to be a mishmash of all of the above – anyone not white or who was not born here (or your parents or your grandparents who were not born here).

This is just wrong, un-American, anti-American, nationalistic, xenophobic and does not represent our country. In the end it doesn’t really which words you use to describe it beyond it is just wrong. Choose your words carefully though ’cause this English teacher may quiz you on it!

I’m back…

My last post before today was nearly 2 years ago. In the meantime, I’ve been working on moving to Maine and healing from my last surgery. A year after our move, I’m working on figuring out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

I may be old but since Mom’s still alive at 98, I may get even older still. In the meantime, I still have to worry about working and making enough money to keep the roof over our heads. Full retirement will only come when I can no longer work. I’m not really happy about that but needs must.

So I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my business and my life. I’m restarting the business though the income is likely to be less due to changes in my technological niche. I’m not starting over. The first decision is now reality.

The most important decision now is what to concentrate on otherwise. I’m not riding off into the sunset or into my tiny garden and ignoring what is happening in the world today. So many things I’ve hesitated writing about because of the possibility of blow back from angry folks. The world is so different than what I faced when I was writing opinion columns back in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, in the early 2000s. At least those whose disagreed with me then weren’t able to attack me online!

There are two issues I want to work on. They are separate but not separate – seniors and disability. Of course, not all seniors are disabled just as all disabled persons are not young and in a wheelchair. So separate issues but for me, they are close to being the same.

My husband developed Rheumatoid Arthritis around 2004 and we got dumped into disability problems before either of us became “senior”. Now I also am disabled due to the effects of a long time genetic issue. So I have even more experience in this arena than I would ever wish on anyone.

Of course, senior issues themselves have been ongoing forever. Nothing new there but nowadays we are also fighting the new okay prejudice – ageism. Since I am still working and in the tech industry, I’ve had to deal with that on some levels before. Today, however, I’m now being bombarded by this messaging of 1) how my generation failed and is at fault for most things, 2) I’m too old to understand, 3) no one is listening to me due to my age.

The first time I ran into this as a major issue was following the Unite the Right rally. I lived in Charlottesville from 2008 to 2018 so I was on the front lines (and Facebook) to witness that disaster. I could see on Facebook how strong the reactions were by my young friends. They were so angry that those folks were coming. Some started saying they would lay down their lives to protect the town and our nation from such abhorrent behavior and prejudice. On the other hand, some locals were also watching what was being said on the alt-right forums and I knew the invaders were talking violence.

I warned folks not to go downtown. Not to give those folks witness. To ignore and to stay safe. You see, I remember being that age. I remember protesting. I remember Kent State where my first cousin was attending at the time. I remember waking up when young people like me started dying.

I’m also hyper-vigilant. There’s no point in rehashing old personal history now but let’s just say I understand who I am and why I am me. My being hyper-vigilant is occasionally a problem but it can make me more aware of the ramifications of events and people’s behavior. My inability to prevent the death of a vibrant young woman in Charlottesville haunts me still but counseling has put that into perspective – counseling that folks need after traumatic events and many really still need today in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville was my introduction to several types of PC. I’ve never been a fan of political correctness. I certainly don’t want to offend but after all these decades of change and all my research, I do also know that there really isn’t a “right” way or “wrong” way to speak sometimes. Most recently, this was highlighted for me in the disability arena.

A column I read spoke of this problem for the disabled population. In the end I agreed with her: I am disabled and I have multiple disabilities. There just is no politically correct way to speak about this – don’t try to tell me there is. It is not all who I am though. It’s just a label that enables me to justify speaking to these issues whether it’s in a blog post or real life. Call me what you want; just don’t try to hide me or ignore me.

For example, due to my multiple disabilities, vocational rehabilitation paid for my hearing aids. If you don’t realize it, Medicare does not pay for hearing aids. I’m still working and to say the least I’m not making enough money to enable me to spend that nearly $5000. I was very pleased when I found out I could get them from voc rehab and I’m very pleased to tell you it has made a major difference in my life, my attitude and my ability to continue working as a self-employed business person.

But getting those hearing aids took 7 months. Why, you might ask? Because several folks just simply didn’t do their jobs. What should have been only a couple of months at most turned out to be a nightmare of constantly calling to get action on procedures that simply were not followed. Obviously, the employees just didn’t care.

They didn’t care enough about their clients to do their jobs. My local legislative representative also does not seem to care about seniors or the disabled. That’s another story; however, it looks like that maybe where I can make a difference. So tune in later for that!

Other disability issues include the ideas that most folks are in wheelchairs, that young people can’t be disabled, that it’s okay for a non-disabled person to vocally attack people who have invisible disabilities, that’s it’s okay not to hire employees with disabilities, that it’s okay to ignore even obvious signs of disability.

So I’m back. And I’m writing about the issues that matter the most to me. If you don’t like what I have to say, just move along. Nothing to see here. If you like what I say – share the links.

Are Millenials Listening?

I am an angry white old person. Yep.

I’m angry at many things right now as many people are also, but one of the nastiest quiet bits of today’s political situation hasn’t been highlighted like the rest. So what am I angry about?

The administration. Need I say more? Totally disgusted at policies and behaviors. Tried to emphasize the dangers of Trump’s presidency before the election. My first presidential election? I voted for McGovern. I remember.

The rise of the right – I just moved to Maine from 10 years in Charlottesville, VA. I was there during the Unite the Right rally. I tried to warn folks not to go downtown. I remember Kent State and felt the situation in C’ville was similarly dangerous. I remembered.

The lack of progress for women. 50 years since high school. I was so angry the ERA did not get ratified yet had some young women tell me a few years ago that feminism was a dirty word. I remember how bad it was back in the 60’s and 70’s. I know how far we have left to go, better than many young women.

The understandable anger of people of color. I remember growing up in Georgia. I remember my fear – as a white person, I could feel it. I could see what was happening around me. I know what has happened since. I remember.

The attitude towards those who are different. My son’s father was hispanic. My son is third generation American on that side and doesn’t speak Spanish. I remember the prejudice I saw first hand only a few years ago when he was looking for work.

I remember.

So when millenials like Victoria Hugo-Vidal in the Kennebec Journal talks about angry old white people, I get even more angry.

Ageism is the new okay pc. It’s okay for young people to tell old people to shut up. It’s okay to brand a very large population as biased and out of date due to their age.

I remember at age 21 also thinking that 30 was dead. I get it. But it is not okay. It is wrong on just as many levels as anything else happening today.

What I have found over the past couple of years is that no one wants to hear what I have to say.

C’mon, Victoria and all you millenials. I’ll be glad to talk to you. Will you listen?

Resolution

During times of crisis I do two things, write and reflect. I dislike reacting only; therefore, after the presidential election I stopped to reexamine my beliefs once again resulting in my last post. So much of what you see is declarations of “if this is so, then this is so” as if life were only a series of directly opposing forces.

As a Buddhist, one of my mantras is moderation in all things – in other words, walk the middle path. Even as a teenager I would parse out the pros and cons and see the middle ground. So after careful consideration I was able to find one and only one important belief where I could not see my way to compromise. I’m going to use that one as an example – not as just a way to promote that belief.

That one issue is abortion. But even as I stand unbudging, there is a flip side to it. My body, my choice. I remind myself of that anytime I see someone with expensive tattoos who seems to own nothing more or who might find certain jobs closed to them because of their ink. I have always used that approach with the topic of sex. Your bedroom, your choice. Your partner, your choice and even your promiscuous (and possibly dangerous) behavior, your choice. I do still remember laws that prohibited certain types of sexual behavior in one’s own bedroom with one’s own heterosexual partner in Georgia. Never the government’s business.

My body, my choice has a corollary – your body, your choice. I simply think it’s none of my business and expect the same in return. In all of that I’m not telling you I’m pro abortion. I have no earthly idea what I would do if faced with that choice today.

That same type of dilemma has existed for me this week following the nazi invasion of Charlottesville. We are all so upset and angry, many of us lashing out at each other if one does not follow the party line. Since I don’t do political correctness very well to start with and do believe in a middle way, there have been some statements that I found that personally rankled me. One adamant statement has been that if you were against removing the statues, you are racist.

I really don’t want to get into that discussion even though I have spent countless hours over months thinking on this topic. I believe there is a continuum of thought – not absolutes here. As a 66 year old Georgia-raised southerner, I have had experiences way beyond that of a 30 or 40 year old that have deeply affected me. It does take that history of living before and after school segregation to find common ground with me and many others of my age group. Then that leads to many different points on that continuum as well.

My stance has brought me into conflict with a number of people I have liked and respected for a long time, especially since last weekend’s events. It is not an either / or dilemma. This is not a time to speak only to the entrenched extreme ends of that spectrum. Especially now. It is time to stop and reflect on where do we want to go from here. What is important for America’s future? Not just that of the South or any particular race, religion or ethic status but the future of our nation.

I have shed tears during my intense soul searching. I have written treatise after treatise in my head. I have listened (yes, I listened to you even though no one has been willing to listen to me) and I have searched my history and my soul. I had finally gotten to a place where I thought I could write a reasonable defense of my stance when my brother suggested to write it and not send it to the two people who know me best here whose opinion mattered to me.

Clarity came with hours. I suddenly knew that my heart was pure. I suddenly saw that the only place where this matters is in my heart. I know who I am; I know how I treat – have always treated – people; I know that I will continue to act according to my beliefs and conscience in the future.

If one gets that reasoned gift at any point in his or her life, then it is all worth it. I do not need to defend myself. I’m all right.

How I’m Staying Sane Right Now

I’ve seen some bits and pieces about how to manage these tempestuous times but I figure some concrete examples of how I manage my life nowadays might add something to the discussion.

I have been extremely immersed in what’s happening politically right now. I found out that Trump had won the election in the middle of the night when the nurse woke me up for fresh antibiotics while I was in rehab. I was stunned but still in such bad shape following emergency surgery to save my life that I really didn’t deal with any of it then.

After getting out of rehab, I was working on gaining strength and still didn’t have the energy to look too closely at the election. Then sometime before Christmas I started writing again. I have been doing a lot of that the past few years but mainly on genealogy and I’ve started a fiction book as well. Neither of those have been going well, perhaps because nearly dying is a life reset? I don’t know.

I was still treating Facebook as an extension of my business at that time. I didn’t want to offend anyone and lose business; I didn’t want to upset friends or family because I have always preferred to avoid face to face confrontation. But then I just couldn’t hold it in any longer. My major first step into the fray was a post on December 21 that I did not make public, beyond my Facebook friends until today. You can read my “manisfesto” here: https://www.facebook.com/Deliawl/posts/10209653356185030

Since then there have been ups and downs. I’ve not been a happy camper in general with healing wounds and worries about my future. The political climate has been discouraging and then at times encouraging (see this post) but most of all it has been wearing. For a while, I would have a nightly mini depression – then to wake up and go at it again in the morning. But I cannot sustain that.

So here are some things I’m doing to make my life better today:

  1. I reconnected with my Buddhism. Reread some passages. Reaffirmed how I want to live my life.  Discussed this with my husband some to help untangle the anger I was feeling which was not very Buddha-like! Acceptance of reality is key.
  2. I write. It’s how I relieve tension. It’s how I know I can be effective and maybe shed some light on things, maybe inspire someone to be better or stronger, maybe reach out to others who I want to talk to. I cannot march or physically protest. I don’t have a physical outlet for my anger. So I have to make the writing work for me.
  3. Letting go of the anger. I can’t stay mad and survive this.  At some point, many of us said “I cannot accept the fact that Trump won” because his presidency seems to be a denial of all important things many of us hold dear. Sorry, folks, he is the president. Maybe he won’t be around for long and maybe he will. I doubt that any of us can do anything about that. Screaming via facebook about his idiocies can help to relieve the anger but it can also hurt. Stop looking at those inflammatory headlines. Stop rehashing yesterday’s news. Don’t forget but don’t dwell. You are only hurting yourself.
  4. Research. Don’t just read a headline. Read the article. Google the same words and see where else has that appeared. Find out who reported it first. Follow those source links – I keeping finding better articles in those sources. I learn.
  5. Find your objectivity. You must have some. You got through school, right? You write papers? You had to be objective at some point before. Recall those lessons.
  6. So being objective is taking something and seeing if you can find definitive proof. Case in point, the cost of Trump’s presidency. You can easily find estimates of what a trip costs or the security at a Trump event or at the “Tower”. Doesn’t matter what you think might be happening, we really don’t know. Estimates. Not real numbers. When the average Trumper thinks Trump either, one, deserves it or, two, that he pays part of his expenses, those estimates are simply not going to convince them of anything. I had to say to my friend essentially that neither of us can prove a thing.  In the end, for now, a non-issue and really not important in the big picture. She and I came away from the discussion feeling good that we talked. That became the important thing.
  7. I still am on Facebook regularly throughout the day but I ignore things that are upsetting. I’m looking at sources first and not following thru looking at some of these websites that simply don’t deliver much in the way of news, slanted or not. I am paying more attention to other types of posts. I got irritated at the wall of art thing but it is nice now to see some more congenial things being posted. I still like the political cartoons when they make me laugh but I’m not obsessing like I was before. Then I turn it off and go do something else. Without worrying over the rest of the nation or the world.
  8. I am able to see some encouraging bits of light – something that you can’t see if you don’t research. I looked at Trump’s speech in Florida. Figured out quickly what he might have been trying to say (and failing miserably) about Sweden and where it came from. (He did actually clarify it later.) Then I read the end of his speech. I did not watch it so I don’t know what it looked like. What I do see is a bit of the unifying America theme instead of the us against them mentality. A bit of a departure for him. Now his behavior and choices may be modifying a bit. He is learning? Don’t know. Willing to allow him growth ’cause he sure needs it. (snark)
  9. And I’m reaching out to folks, trying to talk to folks. To find out what they are thinking. Sitting here and just repeating “I don’t understand why you think that way” is foolish. I believe we have to learn to talk all over again. So I try to find folks who are able to carry on some type of reasonable conversation  – no name calling or screaming about Obama or Clinton. I may not agree with anything they say but I’m now valuing civil discourse above all. I may not agree but at least I can begin to see where they are coming from and be able to talk with them without one of us getting mad and stomping off into another corner of the internet.
  10. I have to believe our nation will survive this and, folks, I am not known to be an optimist. I have realized from the start that many things and many people are going to get hurt from these policies that I don’t agree with. I know people will die if the Republicans have their way with the repeal and replace. I’m prepared for another war. It won’t be the last but maybe it won’t happen. That is, by the way, where I draw the line. You might well find me out there protesting again in that case.

I have a multi-fold mission: inspire, learn, teach and stay sane.

In the meantime, I have a life to live. It’s not easy but life isn’t easy. Things have changed for many of us. Once you accept that change, you will find life will improve.

Acceptance is key to the staying sane part.

That Serenity Prayer that I embroidered many, many years ago works. Accept what you cannot change, have courage to change the things you can and know which is which. Start thinking about about that. Start categorizing your actions and thoughts that way. You might just find it works.

The Memories Are Driving Me

One thing that folks don’t realize how memories drive us and how those form the basis for our present thinking. When we react, we react based on what we have seen before. We know where we came from and where we are today.

These are what come to mind as we weather this administration. I remember civil rights riots and beatings, I remember Nixon and those terrible years of the Vietnam War, I remember being told to love America or leave it, I remember Kent State and those National Guardsmen who killed students, I remember being mistreated because I looked like a hippie, I remember my family’s disapproval of my father, an Irish-Polack Catholic Yankee in 1950s and ’60s Georgia, I remember folks being scorned with nastiness for dating across racial lines. I remember when women had no power, when a woman could not even choose what name to have on her driver’s license.

I have historical memory of Hitler and the Nazis, McCarthyism and other witch hunts and dictators. I know way too much about that kind of history.

I hear echos of all of that today in so much of the rhetoric of our nation’s leaders. We have made great progress as a nation but now I fear for the soul of this nation.

There are many things I will not, cannot accept as normal behavior in politics and government. It is those things that are being called out into the light; it is those things people are protesting. If you ignore this, it will be you who are the victims of tomorrow.

The Enemy is…

Did you hear it? Did you hear what I heard yesterday?

Women.

On the march.

Finally.

It’s about time but it is not just about Trump.

I have spent my entire life trying to push the boundaries for women starting in 1962. We were not allowed to wear pants to school. I and Delores Robinson (wherever she may be today) wore pants to school. No one spoke to us the entire day. No one. At the end of the day, we were told either we wore a dress the next day or we did not return to school.

1969, Agnes Scott College, freshmen Economics class. I looked around the room to see that no one was even raising her head when the professor stated women should not be allowed in the field.  No one.  A male professor at a woman’s college whose president was also a male.

1972, Valdosta Daily Times, Valdosta, Georgia. The sole female reporter who had a master’s degree in journalism was told that she would never make more than the city editor who flunked out of college. 1973, I started as a reporter following her departure. 6 weeks into my job, I was called into the publisher’s office. He spoke about the health insurance plan with his eyes never raising above my chest. The next day I was informed I had to wear a bra because they were afraid I was going to be raped in the pressroom as I walked thru to the vending machines. I was always cautious to wear concealing clothes when in the community as a reporter. Fired one week later in a incredibly nasty fashion as the city editor literally shoved me out of his car. That was not for my safety.

Yeah, I guess I was pretty radical for the times.

2003, Comer, Georgia, a business that I will not name because they did the right thing. I walked thru the back room (shades of Valdosta) to hear someone say “Yep!” as they eyed my chest. My radicalism had turned into necessity: my back troubles simply made it impossible to wear a bra. The company instituted a sexual harassment policy and those involved were counseled properly. But 2003, not the 1970s.

2009, Charlottesville, Virginia, a business I cannot name because of the separation agreement I signed. I watched my coworkers treat the male boss as if he were their sugar daddy. In a flirtatious manner these well-educated women (one with a masters) batted their eyes and cozied up to him in a bizarre daughterly way when they were asking for something. One of those women told him I could not do the job in a successful effort to get me fired. He believed her tale and told me (I was a good ten years older than him by the way so no cozying could happen) he could not believe she would lie to him. She was lying because I was way more experienced than her and she felt I was a threat to her plans. I was.

2013, Charlottesville, Virginia, a meeting. I cannot even remember why we were meeting. Two young educated women with children informed me that feminism was only for radicals. I had no retort. I was too stunned to speak.

2016, women are marching.  I watched teary-eyed. Finally, they were marching.

It’s about time but it not just about Trump.

It is about a female candidate for president who was disparaged for her gender. I even had problems with her because of how I preferred a woman to act. Hilary Clinton stood by her hubby when he embarrassed the country by his actions. She plowed on towards her obvious political goals instead of telling women it was not okay for the president of the United States to behave badly.

I voted for her anyway. Not because she was a woman or a Democrat. I voted against Trump.

He is not the subject of this essay.

Women.

Complacent women, who mind their manners and do what they are told by parents, people of faith, educators, and society figures and who lead quiet, productive, complacent lives.

We still live in a country where women make substantially less than men – especially if they are women of color.

We still live in a country where a panel of nine people discussing the Women’s March on CNN included only one woman.

We still live in a country where I can attend a meeting where men are overwhelmingly the majority. One tech meeting had 65 attendees with only 3 women. Because women are not choosing technical fields still.

We still live in a country where the doctors are mostly male and the nurses mostly female. After my recent hospitalizations, I value the nurses and despair at the male surgeons’ inability to communicate which complicated my care and endangered my health. Thank you, nurses, for the incredible care you give under sometimes impossible conditions. Oh, yeah, and thanks to the head male nurse at rehab who was forced to step in and facilitate my care when staffing levels dropped to almost 0.

We still live in a country where reality TV makes humiliating and shaming someone in public for whatever reason okay, where the lines blur between reality TV and real life. Where “Women are often presented as dependent and subordinate as well as dim-witted and vain.” Where “Apart from being depicted as passive and weak, women are generally much younger and more physically attractive than their male counterparts, displaying them as sex symbols” (http://the-artifice.com/sterotyped-women-in-reality-tv/) Where it’s okay to have a reality TV star as president.

We still live in a country with a Congress populated by only 20% women. Where the numbers improve to a whopping near 25% at the state level.

We still live in a country with women who think all of the above doesn’t matter, that only radicals, deviants and abortion advocates care about these issues. Where some women think a Women’s March is only about pro-choice and not about their own rights.

We still live in a country where men think they can dictate what I do with my body even though we thought that was decided in 1972. If this line offends you, I do not apologize. I also am not saying I would choose abortion but I would choose to allow a woman to make up her own mind. It is none of my business. (and I moved this to the bottom to avoid people who would stop reading at this point – three more lines, just keep going)

Complacency is the enemy, has always been women’s enemy.

Trump is a blight. But Trump may have broken the complacency. I think he has bitten off more than he can chew.

Prove me right.

Kinhin

(Walking Meditation from Japanese Buddhism)

As I climb out of my car, a fetid wave of dog poop flows over me: I have parked next to the trash cans at the trailhead. I thank heavens for responsible pet owners who trash the poop but I walk quickly to pass by that bit of nature after I start my iPhone app to record my walk statistics.

Just a few steps brings me past the playground equipment on the right as I spot a blue fisherman’s soft-sided creel on the picnic bench. Then I hear the river; it’s loud enough to overwhelm all my senses but there’s also hints of a floral scent from hidden wildflowers that nudges me for attention. This is the closest to the river I come in my walking mile and I tend to slow down to absorb it all, the sounds, the smells, and the sight of the rushing water glinting irregular patterns of mosaic-like reflections.

This is why my daily walk takes place in this park – several miles from my safe neighborhood where walking is not just possible but easier. All my senses are engaged but there are other advantages to this path, the people and the dogs.

Immediately around the curve I meet a sweaty, panting runner. She doesn’t have the breath to speak but I nod and smile at her anyway. A few more paces and the river sounds start to fade and I can now hear the distant rumble of traffic. That noise is overlaid by the cicadas and the bird song which becomes a soothing backdrop to my walking meditation.

I reset my brain, check my pace and speed up. My tendency to linger here is not good for my total time nor my goal of building strength and stamina after my surgeries this year. I hit my stride at a solid 18 minute mile. I’m congratulating myself on my exercise ethic as the path curves and I see a delightful tableau: father, mother, a runners’ baby carriage and a dog. All jogging. My heart just sings as the running basset hound, ears a-flying, skin a-jiggling and a-wiggling, smiles at me. And I stop.

The family graciously slows to let me greet the happy dog. Later I come to realize I have no earthly idea what the humans looked like. But that loose-skinned, big-footed dog was a riot of colors, brown, white and tans. His smile is forever imprinted in my brain.

Again though, I forget to pause the exercise app so my displayed pace takes a dive. Oh, well, another unreliable set of stats but then again I’m only keeping track so that I can see my progress in total miles.

The paved path narrows and curves into a sandy area near the water. It’s reminiscent of a beach walk where the sand drifts over everything. I remember the week before when days after the rain this area was a muddy mess with no way to avoid splashes. At least the dried mud has been shoveled off the asphalt at some point but the pinkish dusty soil now is all sliding back over the path. Footsteps and bike tracks show how many folks have been drawn towards the water’s edge in this pseudo beach stretch.

Mimosa blossoms and purple wildflowers curtain glimpses of the river and the opposite shore. All of sudden my eye is drawn to an unnatural hot pink and loud green across the river. Above the grey and black rocky river edge, women runners in varying colored shirts create visual interest – I’m not fast enough to capture the scene as I enjoy the artistic composition and forget to raise my phone and use my camera app.

Exchanging morning greetings with the next fellow walkers, I feel like I’m a part of something – not alone. I get to greet another dog, a bouncy, but leashed, golden doodle who tries to stop to greet me as his owner bikes on gently dragging him past me. I frequently speak to dogs even though the owners aren’t interested in me. Since I don’t remember the humans anyway, maybe that’s appropriate!

I start looking for my turn around point. Was it that tree I reversed at last? Or that curve? Wait, there’s the dead tree that looks like a double tree rising straight up. I go on past for a few more paces to increase my distance from yesterday. Now heading back, I have to remember to keep up my pace. Even though it was mild when I started out only ten minutes ago, the heat and humidity is rising fast as this weekend may be the hottest of the summer. I don’t like sticky and my breathing gets shorter but I work at writing in my head as I walk in distraction because my brain is now in a place to do that.

But look, there’s still some blackberries left and I pause to munch a bit on the riper ones that are sweet but small. I’m reminded of my years in the country where blackberry thickets grew insanely well on the edge of our property. Dang, sure would like some over ice cream. Cook them down a bit in the microwave and it’s such an easy treat. Oh, well. Motor on.

Snatching a crushed Coors can off the path – ‘cause I can at this slow pace – I spot the parking lot in the distance – my goal is in sight. As I reach my car, I check my distance and yes, a bit further than yesterday. I exchange my purse for my walking hat in the trunk.

I sit briefly, swigging my lemon water, enjoying the relaxed muscles and the feeling of a job well-done. As I’m leaving the parking lot, I hear a voice in the car with me. Oh, rats, once again I forgot to turn off the phone app, skewing my stats even further. Still, I walked further than all the days before.

Now I’m ready to go to work, thinking my walk did me just as much good as a kinhin does at the Zen temple.  Meditation in motion but with human and dog interaction in nature. My preferred kinhin.

Jail

Much of my poetry is also visual which simply doesn’t translate to a website blog. So this one from 1969 written in the Agnes Scott dorms is an image only.

1969_jail

Back to Writing

Not that I ever stopped. In fact, I’ve spent the last two years immersed in a large project which resulted in a genealogy-based book. That really got me ready to do more writing. I’ve missed the short essays and bits and pieces I used to indulge in.

So I’ve started an autobiography which may just wait for years to be read and a fiction book based on one of the Wilsons in my genealogy.

I also joined a writers’ group for the first time. Two meetings and I’ve already learned so much. I was directed to IngramSpark for my genealogy book which you can read more about here and am enjoying the bits of wisdom being delivered in our critique sessions.

I was spurred on to dig back into my writing after our last afternoon which included a mediation period during which I found myself writing Kinhin, the next blog post.