Why is it that every time we get a new President- old cynicism, abhorrence and consternation rears it fear based head and opposing sides spend wasted energy building childish defenses? It must be what my old college philosophy teacher coined the “socio-pyramid affect”; that the folks at the bottom are so busy throwing barbs at each other in blame that no one looks to the top- the highest point where problems are really begun and solved. That highest point can be many things, but one thing I know it’s not and that is hate. Hate is the virus that destroys everything. And for those that still believe ignorance, racism and sloth only still exist in the south- I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. I can point to a happy little valley in “progressive” California where those evil crumbs of hate are festering just fine.
When my mom was alive she was known and loved for her quirky humor that often included cynical jabs at a variety of folks that comprise our social make-up- but it wasn’t evil and racist- it was human. Mom always made fun of herself first and she truly did not have a mean bone in her body. She was the old school, pre-PC kind of comic who made jokes about whatever was in her line of site and then invited you in for dinner. Always, she preached to us that we were never to be mean to anyone. And if she heard that we made a racist remark or even called someone “stupid”- we would be eating that bar of Ivory soap. She struggled with finances and making ends meet on a waitress salary but she never blamed anyone. Sure, she might be mad because her guy didn’t win the election or her job got outsourced to someone who spoke a different language, but mom believed that the words you spoke out loud were very powerful and she hoped for a world that someday stood on even ground. She knew that perpetuating fear and ignorance was not the way to make this happen. She told us that we may at times take a step backwards but, always we must take two forward. Having been raised in the south in the thirties and forties, the only thing mom truly hated was ignorance and racism. I had hoped that mom was not the only light in our family.
But, the other day a member of my extended family sent me an email- one of those email blast “jokes” that always leave me feeling guilty because I don’t know if I should delete it or send it on and annoy someone else. But this one enraged me. It was a racist remark about the Obama family with respect to living in the White House- a racist joke with a slang term that was used quite rampantly in the south in the twenties and thirties. I sat there staring at my screen and beside the anger - I felt such personal disappointment. I know evolution is not automatic but for God’s sake- is it dead? I mean after thousands of years and technology can’t we just pretend like we are better people? I took a deep breath and told my partner, “it looks like my family is getting smaller.” I thought about my mom standing up on the bus to give her seat to an older black woman in Charlotte- 1943. My mom was thrown off the bus for being loving and humane. And today- over sixty years later- people hide behind their computers and hit “send” and fill the world with fear and hate in the comfort of their wall-based homes.
Enlightenment does not just walk up to your door with the pizza guy. Sometimes you have to work for it. Maybe that’s the problem- we’ve become so lazy. If it isn’t accessible with our thumbs then we can’t find it. Makes me wonder if we aren’t really less evolved because of those opposable digits. In the past year and in the months to come, this country has been and is struggling. A lot of us are out of work and the light at the end of the tunnel cannot even be found. But you have a choice if you want to be angry and lazy or positively productive. We are still better off than we were a hundred years ago. Even than we were fifty years ago. Our modern conveniences have given us more free time than ever in history- but with that comes the old adage about “idle hands”. It’s like when I was selling cars and my customers would argue for the mini-van with the captain’s chairs because they didn’t want their kids to be able to touch each other and they wanted the DVD so the kids would be “entertained”. Come on- let’s not be lazy- spend some time disciplining and talking to your kids and then- look in the mirror. If it’s not nice- keep it to yourself- and maybe we will evolve through this rough patch- like adults.