Thursday, July 30, 2015

Go Set A Watchman and Racist Loved Ones

So, SPOILERS - okay?  Spoilers.  Stop now if that is an issue.

Go Set A Watchman arrived in the mail so I figured I had to read it even though I had already heard enough to make me dread the dismantling of the sacred American father figure.

Dismantled he was. 

I had read some accounts that took issue with the writing of this work of Harper Lee, but I did not find the book to be poorly written until the end when Scout so disappointed me.  Until then, I was very engaged.  I think it was a writing issue at the end as well as a hurt feelings one, since it got rather didactic, but my issue was definitely also one of hurt feelings at that point. I knew Atticus was going to disappoint before I read it but I didn't know that Scout would too.

Scout disappointed me not because she kept loving and admiring and kept in relation to her father.  I could understand that in a way that I am going to discuss.  She disappointed me because she decided his viewpoint was as valuable as hers - a necessary foil to make change happen sustainably or some fool notion of that sort.

There was just no excuse for that.

For the rest - well. 

Let me say this:  if you are a white person living in the American South (and I would guess probably in America anywhere, but definitely down here), you are going to have some racist relatives if you have relatives. I was just a child when I wrote my first tortured poem about loving my racist relatives.  Because I do.  I love them all.  Also, I love a lot of other people who are totally racist.  

God help me, I even admire many of them greatly.   Not for their racism, for goodness sake.  (I am no Scout.)  But people, all people, are complicated.

Parents love their children even when their children are murderers.  Children love their abusers when their abusers are parents.  People love the friends of their youth even when they develop hateful philosophies.  Every one of us has things about us that are utterly unworthy of love and respect, and bigotry has got to be at the top of the list of despicable things that one finds in the complexity of human souls... but it is there.  And, usually, so are lots of good things.  People are complex.

Do I expect people of color who have been systematically oppressed by racism to appreciate the complexity and extraneous good points that are found in the hearts of their racist oppressors?  Of course not.  Some great leaders have, but that is a hell of a lot to ask.  It is not the burden of the oppressed to have to love their oppressors on top of everything else.  It is my responsibility, though. I am not directly victimized by the racism of other white people but I am called upon to remain in relation to those who perpetrate it and to show that there are other ways.  I am called upon to be there, loving the people around me even when they are hateful, and to show them that I will not be complicit in their behavior - even I who love them - I will not be part of it.  I am part of their life, but not their hate.  I hope that is how people can learn - from those who love them best.

It is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but I think it is important to talk about it, as long as we don't turn into Scout and start seeing the racism around us as part of some greater plan.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bigotry Against Children and Families

The recent news story about the restaurant owner who yelled at a crying toddler in her restaurant has unleashed another sad storm of internet bigotry against children and families.  My newsfeeds have been inundated by people applauding the unacceptable and abusive behavior of this so-called businesswoman and suggesting things like restaurants that do not allow children.

It pains me that society is still so bigoted against children.

It pains me that so many people seem to think it is their "right" not to have to "have their evening ruined" by the normal behavior of the young members of our society who cannot consistently behave like adults and should not have to do so.  

There is the side of it that devolves into parent-bashing, of course - the people who gripe that if parents "would parent" their kids and teach them to "behave", it would be different, but this is ridiculous.  One public interaction tells you pretty much nothing about a family dynamic and parents who succumb to public pressure to make compliance the sort of parenting emphasis that it must be to prevent all public outbursts on the part of a child who is not really at a developmental stage to be that self-regulated are actually usually harming their children's normal psychological development...and usually end up with teenagers who do some pretty awful things when they are not being watched. 
Parents who decide that they can't emotionally abuse their child enough to keep their every squawk in check and must check out of public life and stay at home until their children are old enough to be perfectly quiet in public also harm their children and themselves by denying them the experiences they need to develop the skills of navigating and participating in the world.  These are not acceptable answers to bigots not wanting to have to hear a normal child learning how to navigate their emotions out in the world.

It is not just parent-bashing, though - it really goes deeper.  We live in a country that acknowledges, however badly in practice, that you are not supposed to discriminate against people of different genders, different races, people with disabilities or the elderly.  People do it all the time, unfortunately, but they are aware that the behavior, when overt, is considered morally unacceptable (when not overt, people still make all sorts of horrible excuses to themselves).  People are totally fine discriminating against children, though.  Our culture has no trouble at all with the idea of segregating them and failing to accommodate for their involvement in public life at every turn. 

It is shameful and horrible for the old tropes are definitely true - the children are our future and it does take a village.  When the village wants to lock you out instead of include you, the future looks pretty grim.

Wednesdays with The Subversive Children's Book Club: The Jane Addams Children's Book Awards

Welcome back to Wednesdays with the Subversive Children's Book Club!  This installment shares the 2015 winners of the Jane Addams Children's Book Awards, as it occurs to me that readers of this feature should know about these awards, as they include many, many books you will want to read to your children.  Since 1953, the Jane Addams Peace Association has given awards to excellent children's books published in the previous year that promote peace, social justice, world community and the equality of the sexes and all races.  You are going to want to read these!

2015 Books for Younger Readers Winner:

Separate is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and her family's fight for desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

2015 Young Readers Honor Books:

Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
Shooting at The Stars:  The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix

2015 Books for Older Children Winner:

The Girl From The Tar Paper School:  Barbara Rose John and the advent of The Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield

2015 Honor Books for Older Children

Revolution by Deborah Wiles
Silver People:  Voices from the Panama Canal by Margarita Engle.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Boy Scouts Vote To End Ban on Gay Leaders

Now that this has happened, I suppose I can think more kindly on parents being willing to put their kids in Boy Scouts, something I found pretty awful prior to it.  

The vote to end the ban on gay leaders is huge progress for the Boy Scouts, but they remain a culture that has lagged behind in appreciating diversity.  Boy Scout troops in the South were not fully desegregated until 1974, while Girl Scouts elected their first African American President of the Girl Scouts USA (Go, Dr. Scott!) in 1975.  Girl Scouts have long honored diversity and it shows in their organizational culture, while my little brother once brought home a Confederate flag "southern pride" patch from Jamboree.

I am truly glad at the progress the Boy Scouts USA is making towards honoring diversity but would caution parents to be aware that organizational cultures change slowly and it is important to monitor the attitudes your child is exposed to if you want him to grow up respecting people of all races, creeds, gender identities and sexual orientations.

Monday, July 27, 2015

We Need Gun Reform Laws

Instead Texas passed a slew of recent laws that make us even less safe.  How many more lives?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Protect Justice

Whatever her cause of death, there was no cause for Sandra Bland to be treated the way she was treated in a routine traffic stop.  The Constitution does not stop at a police officer's irritation.  

Or it shouldn't.   

I have worked with countless amazing police officers and have no doubt that the vast majority of officers are just that amazing and deserve way more credit than they get for the hard job they do every day, but many also share a professional culture that shields wrongdoers and there is far too much racial profiling going on all over this country.  There need to be body cameras on all patrolling police officers, independent reviews of all incidents of alleged excessive force and civil rights violations and real consequences for police officers who abuse their positions. These are concrete steps that can be taken and that are needed.

I understand the need to band together and protect each other in dangerous, difficult, under-appreciated professions.  It is understandable that officers feel the need to do that for each other.  It is not acceptable, however,  when it results in racial profiling, excessive force and the two-tiered justice system that we have in the United States. 

I pray for peace and justice.

Happy Birthday, Americans With Disabilities Act!

Twenty-five years ago today, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law.  The ADA was hailed by some as one of the most far-reaching civil rights laws that had ever been passed in our nation.  Like most good fights, it took a long time to get the ADA passed. Advocates struggled for years to end discrimination and provide access to education, employment and public services for people with disabilities.  

One dramatic protest in March of 1990 might have been the tipping point in the passage of the landmark legislation.  The Capital Crawl was when hundreds of people with disabilities met at the steps to our nation's capital.  Many got out of their wheelchairs and crawled to the top of the capital steps to show the obstacles they faced without comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in place.  

Today, we should honor those activists as the heroes they are and remember not to give up the pursuit of equality for all.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Corpus Christi Boil Water Advisory Lifted

Personally, I would like to know what caused the contamination in the first place.

Also, I don't think the City should be allowed to expand any further (in its southward creep of real estate dreams) until it is providing adequate City services to the existing neighborhoods.

The Long Dark Teatime of The Soul

This has been an inexplicably difficult summer for me.  Little has happened that is extremely out of the ordinary, but the combination of things have weighed more heavily than they usually do somehow.   Sometimes things are like that, for no really good reason.

I have had to step up to take on additional responsibilities at work due to temporary vacancies which has meant that the fun summer stuff we might usually get to do more of has not gotten done and the less fun summer stuff like doctor and dentist appointments have been harder to handle.

I have upset the Lone Star Baby pretty terribly by insisting on keeping her in her hippy school, despite some real reservations, for the sixth grade when she wanted to go ahead and switch to Baker, the big neighborhood middle school this year. She is very young for sixth grade - just turned 11 in June and will be 11 all the school year - and the school bus will not bring her home to our house because we are two-tenths of a mile too close although walking home would mean crossing a major city artery and a neighborhood where muggers have increasingly targeted school kids in the last year.  There is no after school program there, while there is after-care at the school she is at.  The principal at the big middle school had a major nasty defensive meltdown at me when I mentioned some concerns I had because of the bullying that occurred at the school when my older daughter attended.  The timing, basically, is just not right for the switch, although there are definite pros and cons.  But I hate to disappoint the Lone Star Baby so much.

As the Lone Star Girl grows up into an adult, supporting her increasing independence while still providing guidance as needed is hard, and I worry about her whenever she is unhappy, and I get mad and hurt when I get so much push back yet still so much responsibility, even though I am terribly conscious that there is probably no more important role for me to have and that I am really glad she talks to me even when it stresses me out.

The Lone Star Girl had a mysterious health event that seems fine now.  I have mysterious dramatic coming and going hives that hopefully will be fine.  The Lone Star Baby is in the midst of dental and orthodontic work.  I need to get some significant dental work.  We still all have several doctor/dentist appointments pending, and I don't know how I'm going to fit it all in.

We got a new-to-us car so the Lone Star Girl can take her dad's old car back to college, a plan I have extremely mixed feelings about, meaning that we have two car payments now.  The summer is just generally expensive what with the dental stuff and all.

I can't find a good contractor who will continue to return calls about fixing our (only) bathroom.  We are under a boil water alert and my sink is full of dishes. A million important things have happened in Texas and the world that I would normally be blogging about, but I just haven't had the energy.  As for that, the poetry and other more creative writer energy in me is sort of dried up entirely at present and that kind of spell is never a great time for me.

Really we have a wonderful life filled with wonderful things and the majority of these little difficulties would not usually throw me much, but sometimes there comes a long dark teatime of the soul when even the mundane can send one to live in the little walk-up apartment upstairs of Whelm.  It's kind of tiring north of Whelm, and we have to be kind to ourselves when we get there.  Drink lots of (boiled) water and try take walks and get a lot of sunshine unless excessive doses of Vitamin D may be giving you horrible hives, as seems to be the case with me (maybe).  Listen to good music.  Read good books. Watch silly television.  Eat vegetables.  Let go of perfection (hopefully forever).  Like most busy mothers, I know what to do in these times.  Finding time and energy to do is always the tricky part, but find it one eventually must.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Dilley Detention Center For Mothers & Children

Say a prayer for the 250 refugee children to whom La Migra gave adult doses of the Hep A vaccine rather than the appropriate pediatric dose.  They are being monitored but are reported by La Migra to be doing well so far.

Little Free Libraries

I think Little Free Libraries are another great act of Community.  I recently found out that a local homeless shelter installed several around town since so many people who are homeless do like to read.  I am making it a regular practice to go add books to them.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

First Day School: Community

Today we had Meeting and in First Day School, the Lone Star Baby and I continued our study of the Testimonies.  Today we started on Community.  We discussed the Testimony of Community and what it means and we read and discussed Beatrice's Goat, and Four Feet, Two Sandals. When we got home, we ordered a flock of ducks through Heifer International to try to spread some community to a family in need.

One Nation Under Drones

We caught the park-and-ride bus at City Hall last night and went and watched fireworks on the seawall.  It was lovely but there were three drones that I saw buzzing around the festivities like tiny lit-up airplanes.  What in the world is that about?  I do not like our celebrations of freedom being under surveillance.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

On this fourth of July, let us remember that issues of social injustice are not, as the Lone Star Girl eloquently put it in a recent conversation, like natural disasters or illnesses.  People create injustice and people can fix it.  We have the freedom to make the world a better place.  As adults, we are not here to just chase our amusements or even to just take care of our individual responsibilities - we are our society and we are responsible for fixing the problems of our society. So let's do it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wednesdays with The Subversive Children's Book Club: LBGT Families

 In honor of the Supreme Court's landmark decision on the civil rights of gay families, this edition of The Subversive Children's Book Club features books about LBGTQ youth and families. Enjoy! 
  • The Family Book by Todd Parr
  • Alice on The Outside and Alice Alone by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Luna by Julie Anne Peters
  • Happy Families by Tanita Davis.

Plumbing Dental Orthodontic Summer

Fun times.