Live and Learn, Dammit

My Summaryllis is Blooming

“Say uncle, say it, say uncle and I’ll let you up.”

My cousin sat on top of me holding my wrists to the ground. I’m 5 or 6 or 7 or something. Uncle WHO?? and WHY???

“Martha Ann, it’s just a word that tells the person beating up on you you’ve had enough. That’s all.” Thank goodness my dad could explain things…

I’m so there right now.

Yesterday I wrote (and deleted) a blog post that made the point that if Offal is NOT re-elected, Biden will have a big job unifying this horrific mess in which we live. I stand by that, but…

My opening argument was that the Confederate Heroes in the nation’s capitol should be left there, that history shouldn’t be sanitized (notice how I didn’t say white washed. I’m SO getting this…). Thanks to Rebecca at Wild Sensibility, I did a little research in a direction I never had and learned that those statues were not left over from the “olden days.” I was laboring under the misapprehension that they were put up as part of the reconciliation at the end of the Civil War. I only knew who a couple of them were (Robert E. Lee), but I learned that, like many of the statues in public spaces, parks, throughout the South, they were built during Jim Crow times and were really nasty people.

Thanks to segregationist Southern state legislatures in the early 20th century, eight statues of Confederate leaders currently reside in the National Statuary Hall Collection on Capitol Hill. They include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens, and Lee, whose Charlottesville monument was the focal point of this weekend’s strife. These bronze and marble figures, standing in the center of American democracy, pay tribute to the same authoritarian forces that congressional leaders eagerly denounced.

The Atlantic

I was upset and ashamed at my own know-it-all arrogance.

When I was a little kid, we went in the 1957 Chevy from Denver to the very tip of Florida. All along the way, my dad was giving lectures to universities about using computers. In one southern city we toured the house of a slave-owner (to the best of my recollection) and I saw an attic where slaves were chained. I’ve known most of my life that these were pretty terrible people.

How could ANYONE not see that? I have always — on some level — assumed everyone could see that. Yesterday I realized that I have been wrong for the past 63 years.

Another shocking revelation about the world in which I live, something that probably every single person has seen and I haven’t. I congratulated myself a little for being so innocent and naive at this point in my life, but…


Yesterday was watering day. My next-door neighbor, Monica, whom I seldom see, has the same watering schedule and we chatted for a while. She’s fun to talk to. We both decided we’re tired. We’re tired of the virus, of the social upheaval of the past two weeks and the past 3+ years. Her son used to be the grounds keeper at the golf course. We talked about golf. We talked about how depressing and stressful the mask thing is. She said, “If you don’t wear your mask, people in masks give you the evil eye. If you do wear your mask, anti-mask people give you the evil eye.”

She’s a nurse. Her opinion is that the virus is not as horrific as we’re told it is. I said that my theory is that we don’t know how it’s going to affect this person or that. “I have to wear a mask all day,” she said. “It’s really awful. Are you staying active?” She knew about my long dog walks long before she knew me because her son used to live in the house where the kids live now.

“Yeah. I’ve been taking the dogs to the Refuge because it’s no fun walking around here right now. You can’t really talk to people.”

“I know!!!”

“I liked that, hearing peoples’ life stories.”

“It’s wonderful just to visit. Yeah, and no, we can’t now.”

“No.” Small town. Family, neighbors, neighborhood, town. It’s like the circles that spread from a stone thrown in a pond.

“Out at the Refuge it’s funny. Once in a while a car goes by and the people inside wave like…” I waved as if it I were seeing the greatest movie star.

She laughed. “I see that. It’s all ‘A human! A real human! Look! A woman with a dog! A trained, domestic dog! Wave!!! Eagles? Elk? Who cares! There’s a HUMAN BEING. Get a picture!’.”

26 thoughts on “Live and Learn, Dammit

  1. Biden’s first job as president will probably be to bring in a bulldozer to shovel offal out of the office as I suspect that piece of trash is going to be very hard to get rid of…

    • Offal’s followers are what scare me. Along with my realizations last night was that whoever is operating Offal has used Offal as a rallying point for a lot of ignorant angry people with a 150+ year old axe to grind. And they’re armed.

  2. The discussion is ongoing about our Confederate statues here in my town in the South. Decisions are to be made next month.

  3. It is amazing the things we took for granted that now seem novel – like smiling at a stranger. I hate wearing my mask because I can’t smile at anyone and when I talk to them, especially strangers at the store, they aren’t sure if I’m talking to them or not, so I mostly just silently shop now and keep my head down, not making eye contact. I truly hate it. Mostly I stay home and make do.

    • I order my groceries online and go pick them up. When the clerk brings them to my car, I make jokes so he/she knows I’m cool and glad to see them. Yesterday I took Teddy to the vet. I waited in my car. A woman came out wearing a mask and carrying a very old chihuahua. I smiled at her through the windshield and I could tell it made her happy. This is just fucked up. 😦

  4. Human connection. I know what you mean. I miss it too. The mask wearing just starts to feel so bizarre. Nobody can smile at each other anymore. It will only be years from now that we find out if all this was necessary or not.
    So I hear that now all those followers are going to be in Florida for the convention this summer – packed in together with the virus. But first they have to sign a liability release. Just when I think things are unbelievably strange….

  5. Beautiful flower!

    It takes a strong, courageous, intelligent and compassionate person to admit a mistake. You’re all of those, Martha. None of us knows it all; we each learn some bits and pieces, and by sharing those with others, we all gain greater knowledge and understanding. It takes a village.

    I love your neighbor’s comment in your last paragraph! So true! The lack of smiles, hugs, touch, closeness…who knows the long-term psychological impacts the loss of such common intimacies will have on us.

  6. Martha it takes a wise and kind soul to admit mistakes and cry “Uncle”… My mother is very concerned that if Biden wins DT (not delirium tremens but the current POTUS) may refuse to leave office. I’m just hoping that democracy doesn’t implode.
    A family friend told the story of his children’s sitter, a black woman, who would help them say their prayers at night. He came home early and overheard her, “Our Father who art in heaven. Not your father or my father but OUR father.” I think many forget that part!

  7. This is a thought-provoking post. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. The impression I had of the people of my neighbors was that they thought of the city as occupied territory. For a war, to end both sides need to accept the outcome. The Confederates never accepted defeat.

    • You’ve just answered the question that’s been bugging me for the last several days. I can’t imagine that it’s because southerners want slavery to come back. It must be something even deeper than that, maybe the whole question of state’s rights?

      • It’s about cheap labor in one form or another. The Southern city of my birth had a static class system; as a child, teachers cautioned me to ‘know your place.’ To understand the social structure of the South, one has to understand the history of the slave-owning elite of the 1800s. You may find “Reflections, Occasioned by the Late Disturbances in Charleston by Gen. Thomas Pinckney interesting. Written in 1822, Pinkney reflects on the inevitable abolition of slavery and suggests white labor as a solution. In ‘Reflections’ he notes that hiring whites for domestic and menial positions may be more difficult. They are less docile in the United States because they perceive themselves as equal.

        Pinkney compares the cost of owning a slave to paying wages and concludes that hiring a white will be as cheap as owning a slave:

        “In Charleston, the expense (of owning a slave) must be considerably
        greater, because they are, in general, clothed more expensively,
        and more daintily fed. In the above expences of country negroes, the
        provisions purchased do not usually form a charge for more than
        two-thirds of the year, because on every plantation, where a full
        market crop is planted, about one-third of the provisions is
        raised thereon : in Charleston the whole must be purchased.—
        The City tax forms an additional charge against the town slave.
        The average price of tradesmen and others, bought and sold in
        Charleston, is also considerably higher than that of field slaves,
        whereby the interest on capital is proportionably enhanced. —
        Where they have not families to keep up the stock, the main-
        tenance of two, for one efficient workman, should not be charg-
        ed against them, but the insurance on life must be substituted,
        which, it is presumed, would there be very high. Sufficient
        data are not at hand to form a precise estimate of the whole ex-
        pense of a Charleston black mechanic or house servant. But
        from the above statement, it must greatly exceed that of the field
        slaves. And when the draw-backs from his efficiency are con-
        sidered, it is probable that the labour of white men will, on the
        whole, be as cheap as that of the slave.”

        I think one of the reasons we in the United States keep spinning our wheels on the issue of racism is that we leave out the class analyses that fuels racism and perpetuates poverty.

        Racism is about class and color and the importance of everyone ‘knowing their place.’

        • You are right. We deny that we are a classed society. This is fascinating. Thank you very much, also for the link. I was thinking also of Jefferson’s confusion over the subject, his honest appraisal that freed slaves would not be welcomed by whites anywhere. He was honest about the color prejudice. Meanwhile we have migrant labor… By the way, growing up out here in the West, I never had anyone tell me to “know my place.” I don’t know if it was just not a “thing” or if it’s because there’s nothing about me — race or religion — that set me apart from other freckle-faced white kids.

          • I’ve never heard ‘know your place’ anywhere else. We are not perfect people in a perfect world, and democratic systems are still evolving. Given the inherent nature of the feudal impulse, it’s a miracle our democracy endures.

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