I have to say I’ve been a little bit upset lately. The current round of pre-presidential-election-nominations, and the consequential politicking have been making me sick to my stomach. When I was young I was very proud of this nation.
I wish I was still as proud as I used to be.
The one thing travel has done for me is to show me that there are multiple ways of living which are equally valid. They are not the SAME as ours, but they are certainly capable of sustaining high levels of civilization for longer periods than we have even been a nation. And what gives us the right to impose our arrogance on them — other than a national greed that seems to know no bounds. And as we ramp up for yet another election where our best choice is not the best choice, but rather the lesser of two evils I find myself wondering whether there is any hope for an end to hatred and bigotry.
So let me take a different tack today. Maybe not so much about RV’ing today and more about the nature of friendship. Friendship is something RV’ers know a lot about.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat,
worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that
if we try to understand each other, we may
even become friends.”
– Maya Angelou
It’s funny how a “thing” can be right in front of a person’s eyes and remain invisible. Like the possibility of friendship. Of course one has to be open to possibilities; and I’m not sure a lot of politicians are — but that’s another blog for another day. Yet and all, I like this quote from Maya Angelou. I’ve been holding on to it for a couple years because I haven’t been sure what I dared to say about the quote or about travel as a mediator, or about how easy it is to blind oneself to possibility.
I’m from a happy family, a healthy family, a family that loved each other and bent over backwards to help each other. Let me tell you a story about them. My parents got engaged on Pearl Harbor Day. They married on Christmas of 1941. There was a lapse in time before they could take a honeymoon. By the time that was possible gas and rubber rationing had already been implemented and they could not afford to drive a car to Mount Rushmore as they had planned. In order to take their honeymoon they borrowed a car from one sister, borrowed spare tires from a couple brothers (tires weren’t nearly as reliable then), and received the gas ration cards from pretty much the entire family so that they could make the trip. We are still that same kind of family, just a little bit smaller now.
I have already mentioned that Kathryn was here recently for another Meet-Up. Making an effort to meet up in spite of distance is part of the reason we’re still close. We don’t take each other for granted and we’ve never broken the bond of trust — which, once broken is nearly impossible to put back to what it had been. And we hold a mutual respect for each other. We hold out possibilities as equal to reality; we move heaven and earth to make possibilities come true.
I think Leo Tolstoy was right when writing Anna Karenina:
“All happy families are alike;
each unhappy family is
unhappy in its own way.”
There may be only one way to win a game, but there are many ways to lose it. I think families are a great deal like sports in that regard. When I was growing up I knew nothing of fighting and feuding. I thought my parents were quiet people. But that was not always the case.
My dad, too, was a conscientious objector. He was called up in the Army (as were so many, many, men) and assigned duties as a non-combatant. As things worked out he was assigned to Coastal Defense and spent WW-II stationed along the West Coast manning diesel generator installations at lighthouses and radar stations. My mom who was not about to be left behind followed him up and down the Coast from LA to Port Angeles, WA. He lived on base, she lived wherever she could get a flat, or apartment, and a job — and they saw each other whenever the Army decided in it’s infinite wisdom that it was OK.
I remember my mom telling a story about shortly after getting married having an argument with my father (I wouldn’t come along for another 8 years). Dad went storming out of the house and into the backyard. There was an apple tree in that back yard, and in his anger my dad picked up an apple, hefted it in his hands a few moments and then threw it with all his might at a shed in the back yard. The apple went S-P-L-A-T!
After witnessing my dad’a anger, mom told me she said to herself, “If he can do that to an apple, I don’t want to see what would happen if he got that angry with me.”
When I was young I thought that a strange statement for her to tell me. I never saw any indication of that anger in my entire life. And I never saw any indication that there was any aspect of fear in their relationship. By the time I came around — 8 years into their marriage, I don’t think there was.
I tell this story after the Tolstoy quotation because I think my mom had the sense to realize that she was on an unhappy course; by being willing to change direction she discovered that someone else changed direction too: dad. I have come to believe that the reason the “apple event” held such an memorable place in her mind was that it was the fulcrum around which she changed her behavior towards him and ultimately he changed his behavior towards her. Because they both were willing to change, what began as physical attraction grew into a deep love and they spent the 54 years together in every way they possibly could manage.
We get the life we deserve (both collectively and individually as a nation). We get the life our decisions give us. Good choices, good results. Poor choices, poor or even catastrophic results. Each and every experience I have with strangers reinforces the fact that other people will behave towards me as I behave towards them. Not always instantaneously— sometimes I have to work at it a little. Or a lot. But if I stay the course, almost always they will come around a bit and neither of us will be quite the person wearing a social mask that we pretended to be when we met.
The thing about change is that there needs to be a reason for change in order for it to really happen. And if not a ‘reason’ then at least a willingness to consider change. It seems today there isn’t much willingness to consider change on anyone’s part in the political arena. With the rancor about the Confederate Flag, the continuing hatred expressed towards our President, the on-going mass shootings, and the spate of Blacks killed by police it seems as if we are locked racial hatred as real as any in the history of the world and I thought this country could be better than it is.
I often hear people (women especially) speak of “THEIR” children. I wonder if they ever consider how dangerous that sense of possession can be? In listening to women talk about ‘their’ children I have also noticed how often the wife assumes the children were ‘hers’ as if the husband didn’t have any skin in the game at all, or even any claim to them. It’s something that has always bothered me. Those little moments, insignificant moments when we speak what’s in our heart not realizing others can actually hear what we are saying. Those kids belong to me!
I know this isn’t the most apropos time to be quoting Middle Eastern philosophers, with what seems like rampant hatred of everything Muslim but I’m a firm believer in not throwing out the baby with the bath water. On that note, Khalil Gibran hit the nail on the head (IMHO):
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
The idea that we possess things has gotten humans into a lot of trouble over the years. Whether it’s possession of our children; possession of land; possession of ‘rights’ and ‘privileges’ — the idea that things belong to us is a dangerous concept.
The micro dysfunction we see when parents can’t let go of their children isn’t all the different from the macro problems we see when the human race thinks it can do anything it wants to Mother Earth.
A parent doing a great job of parenting can make a huge impact on the life of the child. And truly, some of the problems we are having in this country today are the results of poor parenting. But that’s not the end of the story. At some point the ‘kid’ bears the responsibility for their own actions and decisions. I feel terrible about stories of blacks shot or beaten by police — but I do know that I have too often witnessed both blacks and whites who approach cops with an attitude of confrontation. And if you are out in the middle of the night being confrontational with Law Enforcement that’s simply not a very smart decision. Or you have the poor child who drowned here at the park. That’s heart breaking, but a nine year old child isn’t able to take care of themselves and his parents owed him better care than he got. It’s a two way street. Parents and child both have responsibilities.
Similarly we have been arrogant about our stewardship of this earth. Millennia of our forebears have passed on an earth that was serviceable and healthy. We can argue all we want about whether Global Warming exists but there is no argument about the many species of plant and animal that have ceased to exist, there is no argument about the pollution we have caused, there is no argument about the fact that we build cities on top of seismic faults and take no thought about moving our activities OFF of those locations, and we build cities on the edge of the water assuming that the water level will continue as we have always known it — whether or not it has always been at that level. With all our knowledge we will know so little about how this planet functions and yet we arrogantly continue on our self-determined course even though we see warning signs around us.
Of course part of the reason we do so is we are a Capitalist society. We worship (as a nation) the almighty $$$$$$. We really should give up any thoughts about living in a democracy, or a republic. It’s about time we realize that we have collectively sold the store. There is nothing that is not for sale in this country, including politicians. We are reaping the harvest of Capitalism.
In such a world there’s not much incentive to look for friendship on a national scale. There’s not much incentive for politicians to look for compromise. In a Capitalist world all that matters is the next quarter’s profit & loss statement. Even philanthropy is subject to the bottom line.
I promise not to rant tomorrow. But once a year or so I think it’s good to let go of what’s brewing. Thanks for being patient with me, and I’ll talk with you again tomorrow.