Sunday, November 30, 2008

He Died One Year Ago Today

Ah, he was our hero, we four children, the two corn farm sisters and our best childhood friends, the brothers who were sons of our parents' best friends. We heard of his exploits and to us, he always succeeded, never failed. There were no broken bones or hospital stays that WE would admit to, only daring and fabulous accomplishments, each one greater than the last, more, higher, faster, longer, bigger, better, MORE!
We played outdoors at one or the others' house on a Friday or Saturday night as our parents visited inside. We played hard, making our own adventures, standing high, walking on the side of the rolling 55 gallon drum, some probably dangerous castoff from ag chemicals, or at best, from grease or oil for powerful farm machines. We found planks to make ramps to ride bikes over, sometimes stolen from walls of the barn, probably encrusted with lock-jaw infested rusty nails. We played war, hiding behind opposing 55 gallon oil drums and dashing out to imaginary-machine-gun each other, or we lined them up in the ditch facing traffic on Highway 1, dashing out to lob imaginary grenades along with our bursts of imaginary machine gun fire. We lobbed balls over the house and ran like hell for some purpose demanded by the rules of various lobbing-balls-over-houses games which are long forgotten by my too-adult brain. There were bases and teams and 'its' and outs and we never really played quite by the rules because the rules meant the game eventually had an end and winners and losers and we just wanted to play and play and play until our parents called us in for 'lunch', that snack that can be eaten at any time of day in rural North Dakota, but most often, around 4 in the afternoon, and about 9 pm, served to guests visiting in ones home. If the visit was anticipated, there might be fresh-baked cake and pop or if the visit was a surprise, store cookies and Kool-aid. We didn't stay inside long, roaring back out the door with smeared faces and sticky fingers. We had adventures to pursue with a vengeance. And Evel Knievel was our inspiration, our role model, our big dare. It mattered not that Knievel's stunts were of a particular nature and demanded a power motorbike: We were of the mindset that he was the king of all adventure, all things daring, all things risky and potentially disapproved of by parents. That is why my sister and I never did these sorts of things in the light of day when our attentive mother might pop out into the yard at any minute to inquire as to what we were doing and comment on the safety level. No, we saved these things for when our parents were distracted, partying with their best friends. We had these adventures with our best friends, the wild boys, and often, under cover of darkness. Out there, with them, inspired by Evel, we took risks, had real or imagined adventures, worked up a sweat, ran like hell, and maybe even scared each other a bit. We were each others' best friends for many years, growing apart, as friends of opposing genders must in junior high, and especially when entering the big school in the bigger town where cool was of greater importance. One of the 'boys' is gone now, for several years. I had to choose between his funeral and that of a great aunt's sister, and well, buds is buds, even after 30 years. It was a big funeral; he had tons of friends I didn't even know, who probably shared greater adventures than Annie I Over and popping wheelies on banana bikes: Teen-age adventures and then adult adventures, and some probably even on the far side of the law. And now, Evel, our hero, is gone too, for a year now. He inspired us to play harder, run faster, scream louder, stay up later, hide harder. We thought his first name was Evil and that made the allure all the greater. Thanks, Evel. Our childhood was large because of you. Ride on, ride on.
ABC News: Iconic Daredevil Evel Knievel Dies at 69
"No king or prince has lived a better life," he said.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Big Oak Tree On My Street

It shades the roadway and sheds acorns on the shoulder and the ditch and the lawn beyond. It dropped a huge branch on the street once in a storm and the city crew picked it up but refused to trim the jagged butt that was left on the tree because it is the county's right of way and of course the county will never notice it. Squirrels scamper about its limbs and birds sing from it. It is across the street from my mailbox, so it is the thing I see as I wait for traffic to clear so I can leave my driveway. I watch the seasons unfold on this tree.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey Suicide

Was it a tom-tom-hen turkey love triangle? Was it a turkey-crow star-crossed lovers thing? Did this one finally figure out that his missing friends from previous Octobers and Novembers were not living happily on a farm in Iowa? What drove this poor turkey to take his own life in the highest limbs of a tall tree? It breaks the heart to drive this patch of 33 between Reedsburg and LaValle and see this sad carnage. Won't somebody cut him down and give him a proper resting place? A small stone slab carved simply "Tom - Called Home."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Ode to the Stonemason

My friend and neighbor in Mineral Point was working on the stone wall of the building right next to mine, so I wrote him this little thing and posted it on the window, facing out. so he would find it when he was on his scaffolding the next day:

The Ode to the Stonemason

Warm of heart and rough of hand,
He builds the walls
That grace our land.

He is one lifetime on this earth,
But his art will stand
And grow in worth.

His challenge to each to do their best
That their works too
Pass what time will test.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday Driving

You never knew where you'd end up or what you'd end up doing. Sunday drives could lead anywhere and end anywhere. They were unscripted and full of potential. Sometimes, Sunday drives were just that, driving about on a Sunday afternoon, on a circuit that took us past some of our fields so our dad could gauge some level of growth or weediness or need for fertilizer or readiness for harvest. But sometimes they were farther ranging and sometimes they included a stop. That stop might be to hike across rolling hills through pastures in the sand hills where we might find a wild tiger lily, the remnant of some long gone majestic prairie. The stop might be to walk down to the dam over the Jim River where the water rushed, powerful, surging, over the spillway and we had to talk in shouts to be heard. The stop might be at a friend or relatives house where we might get to see pigs or milk cows or a new dog or a monstrous new piece of farm machinery. We might end up invited in and offered games or coloring books to amuse us and there might be some sort of sweet snacks involved. Often the drives and the walks and the stops involved stories from my dad. He was not the kind of guy you could put on stage and say 'Tell us a story.' No, that would just elicit a joking around and never a serious story. He had to be inspired by some sight or some question or some memory. And then he would be off. Telling about how something came to be or explaining how something worked or remembering how something used to be. Those were magical moments when my dad was at his best, talking with a sincerity and seriousness that was always tinged with optimism and hope and what might be in the future. "Let's go for a ride." was an invitation to adventure and spontaneity that we never turned down. That Sunday drive could lead anywhere.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I say this every year, so apologies to those of you who will find this a repeat. But Thanksgiving pisses me off. Everyone ponders for a bit the things they are thankful for and the religious say a prayer or two to thank God for those things and then we move on. Well, what a bunch of bull hockey.
What is the point of that prayerful thankfulness. If you believe in an all-knowing God, do you think your list is anything NEW? Sure, it might be good for YOU to list those things and feel some grateful emotion and it might make you be nicer to certain people in the future. But if you MEAN it, why don't you thank the people you are actually thankful to? Thank your family for some specific things. Thank your neighbors for being neighborly. Think of the thing you most value each of your best friends for and thank them for it. Thank your kids' teachers and your co-workers and the guy who fixes your car. Thank your favorite cashier at the grocery store and the people who keep your favorite club going and anyone else you might have listed in you thank you to God. But thank them directly. Leave God out it it. Send an email. A quick note in the mail. Make a phone call. God probably doesn't care to hear it. They will.
There, I have done my annual Thanksgiving venting.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Iron Way

There’s this place in Kentucky called Via Feratta. We happened upon it by chance many years ago on our ill-hatched plan to go rock climbing outdoors during spring break. It was something the kids could do. Kids were supposed to have an adult with them when they climbed and I was absolutely terrified of heights. But it was a slow day and the kids managed to convince Mountain Mark that they were experienced rock climbers and could handle it without an adult supervising and I apparently impressed Mountain Mark as not the suing type. So they got to go. I sat bundled up on the patio watching from afar and taking an occasional picture. It never occurred to me that I’d ever do such a thing. Never. No more than that I would strap on a backpack with a tent inside and hike into the wilderness to set up my own tent and sleep there. For several days in a row. Never. Ever. Well, 2 years later, after a few days backpacking in the Daniel Boone National Wilderness, I was in a climbing harness on that wall, doing it. And . . . it was fun! Thrilling! Challenging! Exhilarating! Hard! Awesome!
You wear a climbing harness, and the route up and along is steel rods formed into a step that are glued into the rock face. Along side the route is a steel cable bolted to the wall. Your climbing harness has two sets of clips. They are clipped to the steel cable so that you are secured to the cliff wall. When you get to a bolt along the cable, you move first one of your clips to the other side of it, then the other, so that you are always secured by at least one of them.
On the Wilderness trip, we did the Via Ferrata after several days of backpacking, so I was a bit worn out already, so my family went back again on Columbus Day weekend, which is when these photo were taken. It is a truly amazing experience for someone who was formerly absolutely terrified of heights. It is not easy for me: I must pause frequently to calm the panic. But it is empowering to be able to do that and the views are amazing!
Anybody want to go back?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Blizzard Of Ninteen Seventy Something

The power went out, and with it, our oil burning furnace, because the controls were electronic. At least our artesian well had its own pressure so we had running water. And the gas stove worked. We closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house and settled in with the oven on. We played games and read books while our parents read magazines and the parts of papers they'd skipped or only skimmed days before. We listened to a battery operated radio for a little bit now and then. We ate well, because each stove burner added more warmth to the room. But we ate weird stuff. First we ate as much as we could from the non-operating fridge, then once it had been out what was deemed 'too long', we ate only canned and other non-perishable things. When it got dark, our dad went to the basement for an old oil lantern, but it was smelly and mother worried it was going to make black marks on the ceiling. And we were pretty bored anyway. So we gathered up extra quilts and blankets and layered them on our beds and nestled in for the night. In the morning, the hot breakfast that was normally a time-consuming chore before school was a welcome change from the chilly night, and was the beginning of warming the kitchen back up for another day of games and crafts and books. Days later, when the snow stopped and the wind let up, we ventured outside in layers of jackets and hats and scarves and mittens over gloves. There were amazing formations, curled drifts many feet above our dad's head by the trees and covering cars and trucks and half of the sides of buildings, with hollows carved out in curves and sweeps. One could clamber up the sloped side of a drift and jump off the cliff side into another bank, or send a sled fast down the side slopes and if you leaned just right, make it curve on the complex curls of the drifts. The highway to town was buried under double digit high snow and until the newfangled trucks with snow blowers could blast their way through over many days of work, we drove across the blown clear frozen wheat field to school. The drama of a winter storm was adventure to us before we really understood the power and danger that were in it and learned to be a little afraid of such things. We were safe in our house with our family, oblivious to the worries of our parents that perhaps the gas would run out or the pipes would freeze or we would fall victim to some medical emergency and be unable to go for help. But snuggling by a fire now, holding warm coffee or hot cocoa, with white snow making lacy patterns of the branches beyond brings back that feeling of safe refuge, of camaraderie with family, of the joy of being alive with people you love.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Act of Bad Parenting Which I Regret (Deeply)

"Defenestration: The art of throwing someone or something out of a window."

My son had a stuffed duck named Penny Nicky that was his all time favorite and when we were cleaning windows once, he wanted to see if she could fly. So we humored him and told him to go down to the yard and catch her. He positioned himself under the window and I let her go in a case of serious misjudgement of location and season. He missed in his attempt to catch her and she landed on the grass which turned out to be a thin veil between air and mud. So after her failed flying lesson she had to go for a romping swim in the tiny spa in the basement and then a tumble in the tiny wind tunnel next to it.

I do wonder if the boy has scars from any of it.


This post is a private message to my family, but if anyone else out there can benefit, so be it.
Here's the deal. I am just SICK of hearing you say "I don't dance." Come on, people, dancing is as integral to human life as smiling. Get on with it. You don't have to be GOOD at it, but really, what a silly concept. No one is 'good' or 'bad' at smiling. You just DO IT. People might say "You have a nice smile" or "You look pretty when you smile" but no one ever says "Jeeze, man, you just can't smile, can you?" Truly, outside of third grade, no one in real life ever gets teased for not being a good dancer. So get up, family members, and dance. Spouse, boys, I mean you. And you too, girlfriend with the pretty hair. All this not going to events labeled 'dance' is just silly. A dance is just another name for party. Who wants to miss a party? There will be nice people there. There will be food there. There will be music there and each and every one of us loves music, don't we? DON'T WE?!?! And yes, there will be something there called dancing. That is where you let your body move with the music. It isn't scary. If you want to appear exotic and zennish, you can just close your eyes and let your knees flex a little bit and sway just a little bit. Nothing flashy. I am not asking any of you to acquire a white shiny suit and point at the disco ball. Just go to the party even if it is called a dance. Just stand up every now and then and let your body move with the music a little. Watch what other people do and do just a tiny hint of it and work up to more. I mean it. I am seriously alarmed at what I see as a second generation of non-dancers out there. Get up off your feet. Turn up some music now and dance around whatever room you are in. No one will laugh. It will feel good. Just like there is that feedback mechanism in our brains that makes us feel happier just by the physical act of smiling, we also feel better just by dancing. Try it. Next time you are in a crappy mood, just make your face into the shape of a smile. It sends signals to your brain that you are happy and pretty soon you start to feel happy and think of happier things and pretty soon after that you ARE happier. So get up and dance. For me. Please.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Point of The House

I installed them today!
Everyone knows the real point of building or remodeling any house is to have cool kitchen cabinet knobs. In fact, that is the real reason we are building the lake house. A couple years ago, my spouse said "Let's build a lake house." and I said "Can it have those cool leaf shape cabinet knobs?" and he said "Sure, as long as they are not too expensive." which I took to mean less than a hundred dollars each, so I said "Okay, let's look for a lot to build on." and it all followed from there. They were long and narrow, with an undulating edge and a distinct center vein and they came in this amazing bronze color so dark it was almost black. Each has two points where it is attached, so techincally, it is a door 'pull', not a 'knob'.
I visited the manufacturer's website every few weeks to take a look at them and fantasize about how they would look on various style cabinets and in various types of homes, and in fact, the entire design was shaped in a major way around how it would provide a framework for the leaf cabinet pulls and show them off to their best advantage.
The house was given a timber frame, wood and bamboo floors as a background to show them off, oil rubbed bronze door hardware to match them, black granite counter tops to coordinate with them, a brown stone sink with leaves carved on the front, an area on the second floor open to the ground floor so that you could see down to them, an open floor plan so that you could see the kitchen from other rooms, a cabinet that pierced the kitchen wall with glass doors on both sides so that there could be doors with knobs in the hallway, visible from the living and dining rooms, and a deck outside series of patios doors so that you could see in to them. Every so often, I would fill up a shopping cart at the website just to carry the fantasy a bit farther toward reality, even though it was far too early to order them. Finally, when things were well on their way, I suggested to my spouse that it might be time to order them. He said it was still a bit early, but what could it hurt?
So I went gleefully to the website with my credit card propped by the screen and . . . they . . . were . . . discontinued! Oh, the horror! I lost all interest in the lake house for several weeks and sat at my chair in the kitchen and stared at the opposite wall. My family would show me the plans and the books and magaines with their pretty pictures and ask me questions to try to stimulate renewed interest and I would say "Whatever" or "I don't care" or "Anything you want will be fine." Finally, my husband convinced me I was ruining it for the rest of them and that he knew the joy was gone for me but that I should fake it for their sake and find some merely adequate leaf knobs instead of the perfect ones that the house had been designed around, and so I agreed to get back involved in the process. I even ordered some knobs that had two smaller leaves at the ends and a twisty part to hold onto to open the door or drawer. But still, I mourned the elongated undulating leaf shape pulls. I mourned them deeply.
Finally, on a visit to one of those overstock discount stores, as I was ambling pointlessly around the kitchen wares section, there, at the end of an aisle, in dusty plastic bags, were my leaf pulls! Could it be? Were they the real thing or cheap knock offs? Yes, they were the real true oxidized undulating leaf pulls. But there were only about a third enough of them. I bought them anyway, full of hope that other stores in the chain would have more. I rushed home and called. Several stores, miles away and from each other, had quantities that would total what I needed and a couple of spares. I cancelled appointments and plans and refused meals to dash to the stores to bag them before someone else discovered my treasure.
They have been in a box in the garage, awaiting the moment that they could be installed, for weeks and weeks. The cabinets were delivered in their cardboard boxes on a Friday, but the carpenters could not come from their other construction job until the next Thursday. I suggested to my spouse that I could open the boxes and find the fronts of the cabinet doors and drawers and install them. He rolled his eyes and said it was too early. When the cabinets were installed, I suggested it was time and he pointed out they would be damaged during the installation of the heavy granite counter tops. When the counter tops were installed, I suggested it was time. He said they might be in the way during appliance delivery and installation. When the appliances were in, I brought them in from the garage and removed them from the dusty bags and caressed them. He said they might be damaged when the plumbers came to hook up the sink. Or when the carpenters worked on trimming the cabinets and the windows and doors.
But that was all done last week, so today, after I did some scary painting over the part upstairs that is open to the ground floor where the guard railing is not installed yet, I rewarded myself by installing the elongated undulating oxidized leaf pulls. They are wonderful! It is everything I knew it could be!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First of Winter

It was the first real snow to me today! There was enough coming down that I was able to catch snowflakes on my tongue. It was not the usual soft fluffy stuff, but more like pellets. I even picked some off my jacket sleeve to melt in my mouth. They made sort of a sh-sh-sh sound coming down and bounced a little when they hit the ground. When there is snow you can play with, no matter how little of it there is, it certainly is really and truly winter.


Overheard at the construction site recently:
In response to a lady bug crawling in one guy's hair and creeping him out, the other guy says "They are disgusting little vermin aren't they?"
And in the next sentence he says "Are you going to use the gun or do you want to try it with the hammer?"
Huh? Against ladybugs? In my new house?
Well, the second sentence was really about the best way to attached delicate maple crown molding trim to the top edge of the cabinet, to use the power nail gun or to risk hammer marks by using the more precise manual nailing. Whew!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Camping - In The House

I have a flushing toilet. I have a stove. I have a refrigerator. I have a functioning furnace. I have lights in most rooms and outlets to plug task lights into in others.
I am sleeping on a camping air mattress, a Big Agnes multi-chamber to be specific. It is quite comfy except for the getting down and standing back up parts. My joints are older than I am and too old for that. I have a sound system that plays a flash memory card so I don't have to worry about sawdust ruining it. I have my laptop and internet service via a cable to the phone jack.
Here's the gripe: I don't have running water indoors. For a few days, I had a bucket and a water hose from the outdoor spigot on the front deck. I could wash my face and brush my teeth there and get water to drink. Now it is winter and the hose is frozen, so I have to leave the deck and walk in the mud around to the dark side of the house to get water. Not gonna happen after dark. Huh-uh. And winter not only means the hose is frozen, but it means it gets dark about mid afternoon now.
I bought angel hair pasta and meat flavor pasta sauce at Menard's today when I went for building supplies. Oh shut up, they have a nice little grocery section if you are willing to want what they have. I really wanted to cook in my almost-complete kitchen.
So I dumped ice from the refrigerator ice maker into a pot and heated it to a boil to make my pasta. It works. And I use Lysol wipes to wash my hands and face. Probably not that good for the skin, but better than intestinal woes from germs, I suspect. And not that much worse for the hands than the primer, the paint, the varnish, the construction glue, the tile-set mortar, and the tile sealer that have coated them at various times or simultaneously in the last couple weeks.
I can't wait for Thanksgiving so I can get away from all this for a few days and go sleep in a tent in the wilderness where we pump water through a filter out of streams and use cat holes for, well, you know.
I might need a vacation after my camping vacation from my working on the house vacation.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Living It

While some people were marching in marches and sitting in sit-ins and writing protest letters and working for civil rights organisations in big and obvious ways, others were doing the same thing just by living it. I know a man who was an officer in the army. He was preparing to serve in the Korean War, at a training camp in the south in some town I should know the name of, for I have heard the story a few times, but the town does not matter. He had been off the army base for some entertainment and was riding the bus back at the end of the day. The bus was full, every seat taken. A black woman got on, looking tired to him. So he did the natural thing, the right thing for a man on a recreational jaunt to do for a woman who had been working all day. He got up and offered her his seat. I bet she paused for just a fraction of a second before she gratefully took it. The bus driver saw what happened, and stopped the bus. He bellowed that she could not sit there, that she had to move to the back of the bus. The man said there were no seats back there and that she was tired and that she could have his. The bus driver said that people of her color did not sit in the front of the bus, seats or no seats, and she would have to get up and move back. He used a word I will not use even to tell the story. The man moved ahead a step or two, putting himself between the bus driver and the woman and said "You are going to have to fight me if you are going to come back here and try to make her move." The bus driver grunted and probably spat in the aisle, but he drove on.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cat and Crow

He had a pet crow with feathers black as coal that shimmered blue sheen in the sunlight. He had a pet cat, with fur dark as deepest night and soft as velvet. The crow rode about the farm on his shoulder, struggling to hold on as he did chores, flying up to perch above on the beams of the barn when he moved too much or when he brushed her off. The cat kept near his feet, just far enough to keep out of the way of boots and tools and trouble, but near enough to catch the milk he squirted in her direction at milking time.
One spring morning he missed the crow landing on his shoulder as he left the house for the bus stop, but some days she was busy hunting or riding the breezes and was there to greet him after school, so he did not worry just then. He missed her again as the bus pulled up to his home stop when she was not on the jagged branch of the oak tree on the corner. He missed the cat too at milking time. He called for them and poked around the farm, in out buildings and along fencerows, half certain they would both turn up soon from their oddly coincidentally-timed disappearances. As the number of days grew greater, he missed them a little less each day and soon summer swimming and fishing and biking into town with friends kept him distracted. It was a mystery he would occasionally ponder, and missing them would make him sad, so he would allow himself to move on to other thoughts.
Late in summer, he and his friend were tossing a ball back and forth in the farthest reach of the farmyard, where evergreens formed a border between the lawn and the cornfield beyond. He jumped for the high ball, missed, and turned to run for it. His friend came to help look, and lifted spruce branches so that he could look on the ground under for the ball. That is how he found them. Perfect skeletons of a cat and a crow, meshed together.
How did it happen? Did the natural enemies that normally coexisted peacefully for the sake of the boy give in to instinct and battle with each other? Were they after the same mouse or grasshopper and crashed by accident? Who died first? Did the crow attack first and dive at the cat and dig its claws deep into the cat’s loose coat? Did the cat turn and claw or bite some critical artery and kill the crow, whose claws remained firmly locked onto its spine? Did the cat crawl off with its horrible burden finding rest under the tree for shelter, to bleed to its own death or to slowly starve over days?
The friend held the boy’s shoulders as he threw up his lunch, then stood silently by as the boy panted to catch his breath. They found shovels in the barn. They dug a trench along side the skeletons and scraped them in. The boy and his friend buried their bones, cat and crow together, tentative friends, ultimate enemies, partners in their tragic death. They covered the white bones with black black earth.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Next President of the United States


The 'landslide' that this will be called should not be taken for granted. The popular vote was still too close for comfort. But America has a better chance now for a brilliant future. My kids and I watched this election from three separate locations and talked about it via cell phone.
To quote Jakob Dylan "Something good this way comes . . . "

Secret Codes for "I Care About You"

A father comes to the kitchen where his daughter is studying and gets himself a bowl of ice cream and brings her one with chocolate syrup without even asking. A mother gets up and makes sure her son takes a breakfast bar and hugs him before he leaves for the schoolbus even tho he is old enough to remember breakfast on his own. In a house with multiple cats, when the girl is sad or upset, the brother offers to bring her 'a kitty' to cheer her up. A son comes upstairs and plays the song he has been working on to his mother then goes back downstairs without a word. A man emails his friend old songs when he knows she is in a bad mood. A woman shovels her neighbors walk before work each time it snows. A coworker bakes cakes for his office mate. She leaves candy bars on his chair. A family buys an extra loaf of bakery bread and leaves it on the door of their neighbor. A mom pick up her daughter's dry cleaning and put it in her closet in her house. A sister leaves a book in a bag on her sister's back door knob when she finishes reading it. A teacher puts a flower in water in a vase on another teacher's desk. A woman keeps popsicles in her freezer for when the neighbor kids come by.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Two More Days

We were such a modern family, living in our new ranch house with trendy curved shelves at the end of our sleek new blond wood cabinets. One of those shelves held the black plastic radio, which is where I heard most of my news. There was morning news and noon news and late afternoon news on the radio, and the late night news might be on the black and white television, but that was past my bedtime. I would play on the kitchen floor in front of the radio or work on art projects at the end of the kitchen table while the radio played in the background. I guess that is where the first appeals to my born-liberal mind were made, because I remember thinking sympathetic things about Civil Rights workers and equal rights for black people. My values were 'Christian' values back then, formally verbalized in Sunday School class. My Jesus was a loving kind fair person, and of course, black people were people too and would not Jesus want them to have equal rights? Seemed obvious to me. Until I heard sentiments all around from grown ups, how that King was 'stirring things up' and why couldn't those marchers 'leave good enough alone'. It was my first brush with the idea that grown ups could be wrong, because I knew in my heart and soul that the fight for equality was a good one.
And it pissed me off that my friends who were boys and my cousin who was a boy were allowed to ride with their dads on tractors and in trucks while we girls stayed home and watched our mothers do laundry and make meals. It irked me that our friends who were boys had toy trains and toy tractors and toy trucks. I was apparently born not only a liberal, but a liberal feminist.
I heard the news coverage of the Vietnam War and hated it. By then we had a color TV and tame as the images were then, I hated the war, and as coverage of anti-war protesters increased, I was on their side. The liberal feminist was now also a pacifist.
So today, two days before the election of the next president of our country, I worry. On a par with the worry of when ones own child has a cold or is having trouble in a class at school.
There is one right answer for peace, for equality, for opportunity in the coming presidential election.
It is not because one candidate is 'black'. But it is partly because we see him as black. He is half. Half white. Half black. Why do we label him 'black? Why do we label him at all? Because we are still more racist than we should be. But I have hope. Many in my sons' generation do not see it the way we see it. To them, Obama is just a person, and his skin color is irrelevant. They have friends of many shades of skin color and it is irrelevant. They categorize their friends not on basis of skin color, but on basis of shared interests. They have Scouting friends and climbing friends and chess friends and music friends and those interests are the things that friendships are based on, not race lines. So they look at this race and see a man who is for the war and old ways of doing things yet claims to be a 'maverick' against the current powers. They see the hypocricy in that. They look at this race and see another man who has goals and questions and ideas much more like their own. They see a man who does not have all the concrete answers now but is intelligent and eager to gather information and ask questions and try new things. They want new answers to old questions and they want new questions to be discovered. They want the war to end before they have to fight it and they want a clean environment so they can hike and climb and camp in it and they want equal and fair access to jobs and they want our country to be respected again outside our borders, for they have studied history and know how we were once seen to the world. They see the one campaign based on ideas and looking ahead to solving problems. They see the other campaign do nothing but trash the opponent and spread fear of terrorism and fear of socialism and fear of Muslims and they don't like that negativity.
I read the polls and look at the numbers and I see the forward looking candidate ahead by 4 percentage points or 6 points or up to 7 points. I am a little sickened that so few people see the tragedy of the war and the threat to the environment. He should be far far ahead, not just a little ahead! Then I hear that in past elections, the candidate 'of color' has lost some 6 or 7 percentage points from the opinion polls to the voting polls because of their race. Because the people who declared undecided actually intended to vote for the white guy. Because people who felt they 'should' vote for the minority really did not intend to. This scares me. It scares me that this nation could still be that racist. And so, for two more days, I will worry.