There's More to Life Than Knitting!

Join Suna as she stops knitting long enough to ponder her life, share her joys and concerns, and comment on the goings on in the world.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Am I Happy? Do I Know It?

I've been feeling odd. I think maybe those menopausal hormones that have left me alone for nearly 51 years are a-comin' to get me or something. For the past week or so I have often been moved to happy tears, but also easily upset (I thought I was going to vomit trying to watch The Dark Knight), and easily irritated.

Some of the Presidential inauguration things have truly moved me. Obama has posted some messages on his website that are very inspiring to me, and the concert they had today made me tear up for joy. We had a lovely church service today focusing on Odetta, the late folk singer, and it reminded me of all the really wonderful progress we have made toward civil rights. A church member of very mixed race spoke eloquently about discrimination she has dealt with in her life, and her hopes for her and her children's future. I had on my "Hope" button. Sometimes I do have hope, even though it is often a small spark. But...

The First Thing That Has Bugged Me

But some things have made me really sad and/or hormonally pissed off. I saw the following as the status message of a freshman boy, a child whose parents I have known a long time:
Well all you democrats, you're about to get what you wanted. An earth-destroying, pro-gay and abortion terrorist who'll be assassinated before the months' end.

Oh my. That manages to offend me and my personal beliefs in so many ways that mental bells rang and every personal button I have was bushed. Then another kid (one who is smart, and nice but strongly buys into everything his church says which leads him to occasional insensitivity) piped in that he agreed with everything but the killing part.

I was relieved when other students said they thought that what he said wasn't good. But I kept thinking. I realize this kid is young. But, wow, he needs to learn that there are ways to express an opinion that don't totally alienate friends and family, and that there are ways to share a thought that don't put down others or make yourself look ignorant and bigoted. The other thing the poor lad needs to know is that Facebook is not just a thing for people with ill-thought-out opinions to air them. Adults sometimes see what you write. Worse, potential employers may. At the least sharing racist, homophobic and unreasonably violent thoughts can alienate you from people you might need help from later (a favor, a recommendation, a ride to a band performance, say...). So, even though I don't usually do such things, I wrote a little note. I pointed these things out, as nicely as I could.

The second kid immediately realized I was right, said a couple of reasonable "agree to disagree" things and went away. The first kid's GIRLFRIEND thanked me (I thought that was pretty funny). In fact, I think I got the point across to everyone except the original kid, who deleted all the comments and informed us that he wasn't asking for advice.

I feel sad for this boy, who is parroting something her heard and has not thought through. I feel sad for a few others whose similar postings I have read in the past and not said anything (the son of a former friend lost a lot of friends by posting total ravings about Obama that weren't based on every close to reasonable conjecture). I'm sad mostly because I know there are a number of adults out there whose thought processes don't go much further than this high school freshman's either. When there are people who just reacting and not thinking, and lots of them, the chances for reconciliation are slim.

Sigh. I have a fair number of friends who are conservative. One who is very far to the right, even, about whom I care a great deal. But all of these people have thought carefully about why they believe what they do, and feel secure enough in their beliefs that they don't feel compelled to put me down because I think differently. We can talk about things, share our viewpoints, learn from each other. I am very glad to have these friends, because by knowing them well, I am reminded that "right-wing evangelical conservatives" or "Catholic Anti-abortionists" or "Mormons who are against gay marriage" are a great deal more than these one-dimensional stereotypes imply. They are parents, teachers, crafters, great cooks, people with great senses of humor, confused people, confident people, loving friends. They are humans with good and bad points, just like us crazy pro-choice liberals (or whatever stereotype you wish to apply to me). You just can't hate a group if you know the "human-ness" of the group's members. So no, I don't hate conservatives, self-defined rednecks, blah blah blah. I just disagree on some points.

And while I'm on a roll, here's what I wrote earlier on Facebook about something else I am hormonally jacked up about
(please go directly to the comments if you already read this; once is plenty).

If I'm Happy and I Know It, Why Can't I Clap My Hands?

Something's been bugging me for a while. It's about the recent elections. The candidate I supported won. That had not happened in a really long time. I was happy. I had reason to have a wee bit of hope for the future (bearing in mind I have lost a lot of jobs in the last few years and things aren't looking too good for my current contract turning permanent, any hope is good). The majority of US voters agreed to choose a leader who shares a lot of my views (not all, but someone with all my views would NEVER get elected!).

Then I started reading odd things. People who voted for the other candidate expressed sincere indignation that voters for the winning side were so darned happy. They had the nerve to say they were happy in emails, or on their Facebook status, or in their blogs. How dare they be so happy when there were other people who were darned unhappy?

Well. Hmm. I noticed a lot of jubilation. But very little in the way of put-downs of the other candidate (I grant that there are liberal jerks, of course--jerkiness knows no boundaries). In fact, many people respect the losing candidate greatly for his many contributions to the country, but simply disagreed with him on some important issues. I respect that man, myself, and might have chosen him over some Democrats, even. What on earth is wrong with being happy that you won, as long as you don't defame the people who lost?

Now, let's go back 8 years. The candidate I did not vote for won. I really, really, really didn't like this guy, who happened to have been the governor of my own state, so I had experienced his true disregard for "the little people" and his love for multinational corporations, oil conglomerates and the very rich. This fellow was declared the winner without winning a majority of votes and in fact, there's a lot of evidence that one state's votes were tampered with so that he'd win. Yet, I heard a great deal of gloating that this inarticulate fellow had a "mandate from the people." I did not see people who agreed with me wailing and gnashing their teeth--in fact they were pretty darned wimpy, and chalked it up to the democratic process and moved on to quietly work for peace and change in the middle of wars for made-up reasons and horrible financial decisions. We let the winners be happy that they won, in that election and the next. We kept low, since the word "liberal" had been turned into an insult, and wondered why our beliefs were suddenly "bad."

So, things changed. People got tired of the big-business first, regular people last philosophy, and voted differently. That made some of us happy enough to actually say, tentatively, "Yeah, I'm a progressive," or "I'm against that war," etc. Our candidate won. Why can't we say we are happy?

You know, only one team wins the Super Bowl. That team's city has a big parade. They make a lot of t-shirts and bumper stickers. People are proud their team won. No one suggests that they really shouldn't express their joy because it makes the team that didn't win feel bad. Everyone knows the other team played hard and did their best, and deserves respect. Everyone knows that team will go back and work hard to win next time. But, the winner gets to be happy.

So hey, let me be happy and clap my hands this week. I know plenty of bad stuff is ahead--no one can work a miracle and fix things right now. No, the only way things can get fixed is if we all work together, and with the divisive, hate-filled and ignorant things I have been reading lately, I don't have a lot of hope that we'll work together. Too many people get a thrill out of demonizing people with different faces, places of worship, political leanings or fiscal philosophies.

I don't think anyone I know is a demon intent on destroying the world. I respect people's rights to make informed decisions and realize that through their families, life experiences or choice of religion, their beliefs might differ from mine. I do, though, find it really sad when people I care about put me and people with beliefs like mine down or make wildly exaggerated conjectures about our future actions, just because we are different.

Look, I don't honestly think Bush set out to cause the financial downfall of Western society as part of some big plan to fund the Rapture. So don't tell me Obama is going to pry all your precious guns away, either. The truth is usually way closer to the middle.

I'm going to go clap my hands and be happy for a couple of days, then get back to trying to figure out ways to keep my family safe in the upcoming scary times. Me being happy and saying so doesn't mean I think you didn't fight a good fight or that your beliefs don't count, conservative friends. I respect and care for you, just like I always did, and realize that this country will always have people in it with a wide spectrum of beliefs--we'll never turn into your Utopia, nor mine. I think we're all going to have to compromise in order to get along--always.

Your mileage may, naturally, vary. I expect it will.

In Conclusion

I hope that by writing this all out and walking away from it, I'll feel marginally better. Thanks for reading, all ten of you! Comments are welcome. Even dissenting ones (respectful, of course, puh-leeze).


Lee said...

I think it was Ben Franklin who said that we have to fight for freedom in every generation. Regardless of who said it, the point remains valid. Each generation is the first to come along. Our parents were. We were. Now our kids are.

Every generation knows only its own experience, and every generation has people all along the continuum of political orientation and intellectual capacity. Ignorance and hatred are easier that actually thinking though a position, and violence is easier than persuasion.

Someone else said all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Unfortunately, doing nothing is also easier than standing up against intolerance.

We have seen this new generation, and it is us. We fought these battles and argued these points. Now it's their turn.

Let's hope they make better decisions than we did.

Sam said...

You took a wonderfully thoughtful and well-crafted post (from FB) and made even better - if that is possible. I would love to see this posted in the big sphere where more people than those of us who know you have access to it. I wonder if I may forward it to some people who would love to read it? (I absolutely would not EVER do that if you indicated you would prefer I didn't and won't until I hear from you)
Thank you for saying these very important words.

PS - Your husband is pretty darn smart and quick with the keyboard too, isn't he? Bet that is only part of his wonderful charm though. You two amaze me!

Sylvia said...

Well-said, Sue Ann. I nearly stopped using Facebook altogether because of an old high school "friend" who was posting nonsense about Obama in the days prior to the November election. I decided ultimately to unfriend her without explaining why. It was chicken, but I just don't want to read ignorant screed.

Suna said...

I got some good comments on my Facebook posting, so I am sharing ones I have permission to share.

I completely agree! I have had years worth of feeling like one of the "Bad" guys. What ever happened to the concept of the "Loyal Opposition"? We disagree but that doesn't mean that we are un-patriotic or evil. Gloating about winning is probably bad. But I can at least think of posting a really big sign in my front yard that reads "Nyah - Nyah!!!"

---From Rick Hendricks

Suna said...

another post from Facebook, with permission.

What an amazing piece Suna. Very well put thoughts! Thanks and AMEN. I had a SPAM email in my box at work today saying that Obama is afraid of being president (like it is a bad thing). I sure hope he is scared! What a gargantuan task he has ahead of him in the next four years. He needs the support and prayers of ALL AMERICANS (as does any president that takes office).

--Michelle Hendricks

Dragonfly said...

That was a wonderful read and beautifully said.

I wish more kids realized that what they post on the internet is there for life. Pictures or words, they live on. I try to tell people (especially my son, but even adults with blogs) that it is best to never post anything that you would not want your manager or grandmother to read about. As you said, it is ok to have opinions but there are better ways to share them.

I am happy that Obama won. Honestly, I have been terrible about voting in recent elections but this one, I voted without hesitation.

Parker said...

I can agree with a lot of what you had to say, and disagree with a lot.

Obviously, I'm not going to condone any part of the "assassination" stuff that's been going on. That's just stupid. The guy is going to be my president, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm going to support him, like I did George Bush. I know I'm going to get dragged out and beaten for liking Bush, but hey, I support anyone who represents my country and makes tough decisions as Bush made and Obama will make. I never was and never will be the sore loser. I don't want to be. I stand behind my rights first, country second, president third.

As for gay marriage, we've discussed this, and you've managed to change my opinion in some respects (mainly appealing to my economically conservative side :D) and as for abortion, I'm never going to be "pro-abortion" but I don't think that it's the government's right to tell what I can or can't do.

I think it was a total opinion statement to say "abortion terrorist" but I don't think it's far from the truth either. Isn't Obama a pro-gay and pro-choice guy?

(As for earth destroying, wtf? Isn't everyone??)

As for "liberal" being bad, "republican" or "conservative" is far worse. And honestly, I don't see Obama or McCain as that different. You're right. The democratic process of our country keeps everyone in the middle, as our system was designed. However, that doesn't mean I think "Americans should stand together" as almost every politician in the past years since 9/11 have said. I think that's pretty much communism right there, depending on what it's applied too. Stand behind our fellow Americans fighting overseas? Yes. All stand together and follow one economic doctrine? No. Compromise (as you said) is the best we can do.

Basically, I could have written a blog entry in response, but I agree with you. I think that, even though I'm (probably) the super right-wing conservative you talked about, we can agree. I'm happy you can celebrate, and I think I should celebrate too. Everyone calls it "the beginning of an era, the end of a tragedy" but I don't think so. I just see it as the beginning of new times. I'm glad I have the right to express my opinion either way, and proud that I can clap my hands and sing in this country. I'm super rambling now, but I'm glad we can all clap our hands as Americans .

Suna said...

Thanks, Parker. People like you are the ones I was talking about: people with whom I may disagree but who will discuss things so we can learn from each other.

Though, no, I have an even more conservative friend, whom I have known since I was your age--she commented on Facebook.

Yeah, Obama may love gays. So do I. It's hard to not love your family members, close friends, none of whom have done a thing to harm you. Still, there are plenty of people who "love gays" and have their own reasons for being against gay marriage--two different things, so that's why I objected to that slur.

And "pro-abortion" is not something anyone I have ever met in my life is. That is a horrible thing to say about anyone. The original poster did not say "pro-choice" which is something over 50% of the US population seems to be. 0% is pro-abortion. It's not a trip to CandyLand.

Anyway, I realize I hadn't spelled out what offended me, so thanks for the opportunity.

I am happy to agree to disagree with some of my favorite people in the world on some topics (like you and my other friend I mentioned, plus others). We have other topics we agree on completely (music! bad teen fashion! long-winded blog comments!)--and think of the enrichment our lives would miss if we automatically hated anyone we disagreed with on politics and social justice issues, like some of the people whose assertions I've been reading lately.

I guess I hate hate and can't tolerate intolerance. No, that's not original, I know!!!

Thanks to ALL for your comments, and feel free to keep them coming.

Lee said...

Huh! Parker, I always thought of you as just to the right of center. You certainly have never struck me as a right-wing radical. I know lots of people who are much more out there than you, just as I'm sure you've met those who are much farther to the left than either Suna or me.

Let's hear it for the middle.

Dragonfly said...

I have to say I agree. I once had a discussion with someone that was "pro-life" and eventually got him to understand that "pro-choice" is not the same as "pro-abortion". It means that I don't want the government making those decisions for me.

I overheard some women talking in a local yarn shop right before the election and one of them said something like "No matter who wins, they have a rough road ahead and will need our support". I think she stated it perfectly.