Tampax, Tunnel Vision, and Tangibles

My son was five when, unbeknownst to me, he retrieved used Tampax applicators from the bathroom trash, put four or five together like a long, white telescope, and went on a back yard adventure. A giant yard of big, old trees, sand box with trucks and buckets, a two-story playhouse, and a swing set, but all he could see through his invention were a few oak leaves, the wheel of a Tonka in the sand, the yellow seat of a glider. Yet he was intent on his narrow scope of exploration.

I kept watching him out the back door—focused, looking for treasure, a mind full of pretend. I kept asking myself, “What in the world is he looking through?”

I think he was smart to invent an instrument for viewing his surrounds, but I don’t think those white cardboard applicators joined together gave him a complete view of the world around him. Looking through that long narrow tube, my little boy could only see what that little round hole at the end of the applicators showed. He had tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is extreme narrowness of viewpoint resulting from concentration on a single idea or opinion, to the exclusion of others.

I can’t help but notice that there are many adults in this world now walking around looking through Tampax applicators. They see one idea or one object at the end of the tube and pick on it, scratch it raw, and then beat on it until it bleeds. They have no peripheral vision, none whatsoever, and concentrate to a fault on one grain of sand out of all the world’s beaches—one tiny inanimate object over all of humanity. I keep shaking my head and saying, “What is wrong with them, and why can’t they see more?”

We live in a time of tunnel vision and tangibles. People like tangibles—real things, palpable, things you can see, touch, even hear, pick up and hold or easily wrap your mind around. Simple and familiar tangibles attached to one meaning and experience include: a football, a tuba, trumpet, drum, cymbal, banner or flag.

People just can’t see beyond the viewfinder of the Tampax applicators; they can’t see intangibles or abstract things. They attach to the material item single-mindedly and focus on its color, sound, texture, and what they personally think about it. They build anger and hostility as they look to hammer and hurt everyone else who doesn’t see the item like they do. There’s no understanding or empathy outside that one object, even though there’s an infinite world of possibilities. I keep shaking my head. “Why can’t they see the big picture?”

I remember the movie Patch Adams. My other son (the one who was given a real Fisher-Price Adventure Tool Set after it was discovered what his brother used for exploration) was in that movie. I think of the scene in which Arthur Mendelson, an elderly, eccentric, intellectual patient ran up wildly to Patch and held up four fingers. “How many do you see?” The staff thought the old man was crazy, but Patch pursued his question. Mendelson told Patch to look beyond the fingers, to look at him, and by gazing through, Patch saw the fingers double. By looking at the four fingers, Mendelson said, “You are focusing on the problem. If you focus on the problem, you can’t see the solution.” This was a charge to see more, to look at the whole, to see what no one else sees, to see an answer. “See what everyone chooses not to see … out of fear, conformity, or laziness.”

My friend, writer Chance Chambers says, “I will not hold flags and ceremony (tangible items) in higher regard than human lives. A song doesn’t mean more to me than freedom and the right to live without fear.”

I don’t have a lot of hope that a lot of people can embrace this. Most are very content with their Tampax applicators, and we’ve just got to let them play, pretend, and cry in their own little, narrow worlds.

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The Know Nothings

Are you a Know Nothing? I’ve been called a Know-It-All, but this is different. It was a political party a hundred sixty years ago. Ever heard of it? Read on.

“Its origins lay in a succession of anti-foreigner and anti-Catholic secret societies, culminating in the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, and finally in the Know-Nothing, or  American, Party.” (John D. Hicks, A Short History of American Democracy, 1946)

The effects of that party are still felt today.

The “Know Nothing” movement was a nativist political party that operated nationally in the mid-1850s. Nativism is a policy that favors native inhabitants as opposed to immigrants. It was a secret society, and there were rules about joining—initiation rites, hand signs, and passwords. Members had a pureblooded pedigree of Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock, and they vowed to reject all Catholics. They weren’t supposed to talk to outsiders about the secret society. If asked, they responded with, “I know nothing.”

This secret society rose to prominence in 1853 and included more than one hundred elected congressmen, eight governors, a controlling share of half a dozen state legislatures, and thousands of local politicians. Party members supported:

  • Deportation of foreign beggars and criminals
  • A 21-year naturalization period for immigrants
  • Elimination of all Catholics from public office
  • Mandatory Bible reading in schools

Their aim was to restore their vision of what America should look like with Protestantism, temperance, self-reliance, and American nationality and work ethic enshrined as the nation’s highest values.

In the early 1800s, immigrants trickled into the country, but in the decade following 1845, 2.9 million immigrants poured into the United States, and many of them were of the Catholic faith. All of a sudden, more than half the residents of New York City were foreign-born, and Irish immigrants made up 70 percent of charity recipients.

The cultures clashed, fear spread like fallout riding a wind current, and conspiracies abounded. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “All Catholics and all persons who favor the Catholic Church are . . . vile imposters, liars, villains, and cowardly cutthroats.” One author claimed to have gone undercover in a convent and published a book spewing conspiracies, such as priests were raping nuns and strangling any resulting babies. She was proved to be a fraud, yet her book sold hundreds of thousands of copies. People want to believe conspiracies. As a result, churches were burned, and Know Nothing gangs spread to cities around the country, from New York to Cincinnati to Louisville to New Orleans to San Francisco.

“The Know Nothings came out of what seemed to be a vacuum,” according to Christopher Phillips, professor of history at the University of Cincinnati. “It’s the failing Whig party and the faltering Democratic party and their inability to articulate . . . answers to the problems that were associated with everyday life.” (Does this sound like today, or what?)

The Know Nothings, according to Phillips, displayed three patterns common to nativist movements:

  • The embrace of nationalism (exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture: PUT AMERICA FIRST)
  • Religious discrimination (Protestants against Catholics, instead of current-day Christians against Muslims or Jews)
  • Working class identity exerting itself in conjunction with the rhetoric of upper-class political leaders (LOCK HER UP, PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE, BUILD THAT WALL, BOMB THE SHIT OUT OF THEM, GET THAT SON OF A BITCH OFF THE FIELD, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN)

I’m not going to apologize for the use of bad language because these are words used by the President of the United States, and they should be good enough for all and appropriate for use at political rallies, in the media, and in our schools and churches.

“One can’t possibly make sense of [current events] unless you know something about nativism,” Christopher Phillips concludes. “That requires you to go back in time to the Know Nothings. You have to realize the context is different, but the themes are consistent.”

It’s interesting what you can find in your mama’s college history book from 1946 if you go looking.

 


Nashville Women’s March: Peace, Unity, Love

I held one end of an American flag banner against the rail of a viewing porch on the Pedestrian Bridge high above the Cumberland River. That’s how I met Alma Sanford. She and her daughter brought the banner with them and displayed it throughout the Women’s March at Cumberland Park, the walk downtown on Second Avenue, and in Public Square Park. I passed the flag corner to my friend Susie to hold as we both shared in this historic event. Twenty thousand people gathered in Nashville to stand for “right” in America.

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Alma Sanford is a retired attorney and political consultant. After she stopped practicing Law, she has worked in the areas of government service, political campaign management, event planning, and member of many boards, such as the Nashville State Community College Foundation to raise funds for student scholarships. I got this information from LinkedIn; she told us to look her up. She worked on current Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s campaign. She told me this.

Alma is also a founding board member of the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, Inc. According to LinkedIn, she:

“Prepared all initial legal documents for incorporation, application for non-profit status and planned first fundraiser. Participated in the selection of the sculptor Alan LeQuire, who was commissioned to create the monument to the Tennessee women suffragists who successfully gained the state of Tennessee’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. The monument includes 5 women that are 9 feet tall that will stand on a base of 3 feet…in Centennial Park in Nashville…”

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The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920, the year before my mother was born. In other words, my grandmothers in their early years did not have the right to vote in the United States of America. Thank God for strong, bold women who stood up and spoke out! After 1920 white women could vote. In the late 1940s when my mother, a white woman, moved to Mississippi, she had to take a civics test and pay a poll tax to vote.

That was to keep black people from voting. Thank God for bold and strong African-Americans who stood up and spoke out for their rights in the 1960s! I lived it and watched it in the Mississippi Delta in my young years. My public school was segregated until 1965. In the 1970s I watched – yes, saw with my own eyes – black people getting off the sidewalk of an old Mississippi town when white people approached, lower their heads, and shuffle. It was a way of life there. My God! In the 1980s I sat in the public library of a small Mississippi Delta town looking at books with my children and watched the librarian refuse a book to a little girl of color and tell her, “You know you can’t check out a book here. Go’on now.” My God! My first act of activism was calling the main library director and reporting that incident. It was handled appropriately. Silence would have done nothing. We’ve always needed protestors in this country.

Sometimes it takes a strong, loud, collective voice to make the government more responsible and responsive to its citizens.

As reported, the “Women’s March Is The Biggest Protest In US History As An Estimated 2.9 Million March.”

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In Nashville, twenty thousand marched. There were almost as many men as women. There were babies and children and dogs, and I heard there was one goat. I came to tears when I saw walking in front of me a woman who had to be in her 80s. Another touching moment was seeing a little girl all dressed in pink, sitting and resting on a pink poster. Another touching moment was seeing three Mexican workers, maybe facing deportation, in a downtown building stop their construction activity and stand in windows videoing the marchers. There was one woman in a wheelchair, worried about pre-existing conditions removed from health care.

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We didn’t all agree on the same issues. We marched for our own reasons. Why did I march?

  1. For my granddaughter. I have twin grandchildren—a girl and a boy. I want her to grow up with the same rights and standing and pay as he will have. We’ve come a long way there, but we’ve still got a way to go. I know. My husband died. I am single. I try to live in this world, where many men still look down on women, and where many women still believe their place is in the home cooking for their men and look down on other women who work and who are dealt a different hand in life.
  2. Against bullying. I don’t want my granddaughter bullied by little boys on the playground, who may think they have a right to now, because our new president does this on a daily basis. I refuse to ever be bullied by a man again. Yes, it happened, and apparently they figured I was a strong woman because seven of them came to take me down. I was right, and they knew it, but they also knew they could bully me into shutting up.
  3. Against sexual assault. Our current president has a history of sexual assault, which he has bragged about. He believes he has the right to do what he wants to women because he has power and wealth.
  4. For facts over fiction. Because this is my writing life: seeing truth, dealing with the facts, not making anything up, speaking in my voice. I know Fake News when I see it.
  5. For education and the arts and humanities. Because this is my life. I’m a teacher by degree and experience. I’m a writer and editor and exist in the literary community. We stand to lose a lot here with the incoming administration.
  6. For health care and a women’s choice for her own body. I am against abortion. But I am for birth control, for a hysterectomy if a woman needs one, and for abortion in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother, which I might add that my Baptist denomination was always for, too. We have some nutcases in the incoming administration, and I don’t trust giving them the rights to make these decisions, as we in Tennessee did with our lawmakers.
  7. For the environment. We have scientific documentation, and we know the chemicals that harm us. We need to be careful here. We stand to go back fifty years.

I stood up yesterday for and against these things. It was a wonderful, inspirational, peaceful, happy, accepting, unified, respectful gathering. As Susie said, we stood for peace, fairness, and respect for every human.

And today, hate came. Someone told me, “You are very sadly misrepresented by the celebrities you allow to speak for you…There are unspeakable injustices in this world and millions and millions of women would take our injustices in a heartbeat. The celebrities who were speaking to this movement were hate-filled and vulgar. You are lumped under that umbrella in the media…” This came out of the clear blue. It was fabricated, made up, a misrepresentation of me and my mission. I heard no celebrities talking about this. I think for myself.

And so what is that. Bullying. It’s a form of bullying. It’s what I marched against.

We need more Almas in our America. We need people in cities all over the world standing up for our now backward-and-downward-sliding America. We need yesterday’s good, strong, peaceful, determined, bold, collective voice continuing to speak out against the wrongs America is sliding into.

We don’t need the hate and division caused by fear of something outside the box or fake and negative-slanted news or radical misguided religion. I am so saddened and hurt to see it come to this.

But I will rise up, shake it off, and continue to stand for what I marched for.


Silence Is Acceptance

I shared this on Facebook because I thought it was powerful. This is someone else’s story – not mine – but in 7th grade, I would have never spoken up at all. Would you have? Would you now?

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“A few of us choked out some words . . . but were immediately squashed.”

Silenced.

Everybody I know has basically told me to shut up. Some of them hate what is happening in our country and are hurting and disturbed, too. Some are loving it. Some just plain have no clue and are happy to have a new Savior that can heal everything from a headache to lack of a job. Some just vote for the R Party no matter who’s running.

I keep telling them that I can’t be quiet and I can’t not say anything if I see something distressing. Something wrong. Something completely against the Bible I grew up with and the teachings of my parents and church and school. Something that makes a mockery of the way I raised my children and the stands I took as a classroom teacher.

I believe SILENCE IS ACCEPTANCE.

One little thing happens. One lie is told. You sit back and let it go. Another lie, another ill-meant action, and you turn your head and pretend not to see. Another and another. It becomes easy to slide into a pattern of silence, of closing your eyes, of ignoring wrongs, of taking the position, “It doesn’t do any good to say anything.” It becomes easy to just smile and sit back and let your character melt at your feet.

I read Anne Frank’s diary several times in junior high and high school. Every time I read it, I thought: How could people let this happen? How could they hate this one group known as Jews? How could the rantings of one madman lead to so much destruction and death, when there are so many good people out there?

Now I know.

I also thought: This kind of thing could never happen in my country.

Now it is.

SILENCE IS ACCEPTANCE.

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that what you see with your own eyes isn’t happening.”

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I’ve climbed those narrow steps behind the swinging bookcase up to the secret annex in Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam. I looked out the window at a tall church steeple nearby. I refuse to go back again to a place created by hate, fear, and silence, so near to God.


Chaotic Mangling of the English Language

As a teacher of ninth-grade English, I never had to deal with the incoherent, inarticulate rambling in written papers as found in the following New York Times interview transcript. After all, I was teaching children who were fourteen and fifteen years old – children who soaked in world and national issues and were eager to understand and discuss, children that were quite capable.

The interview question had to do with mixing personal business with the role of President. And here is the answer:

trump“As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka.”

Now, honestly, as a former teacher, if I had had five classes of thirty students each and 150 essays like this one to grade, I think I would have pulled my hair out and then closed the grammar book and started over on a first grade level, teaching how to think…how to focus in on one pertinent nugget of information that satisfies the answer…how to work through a thought process in a logical manner…how to write thoughts in a clear, concise way, staying on track and avoiding repetition. I can’t imagine passing a student on to the tenth grade with no better command of the English language than in this answer. Moreover, I cannot imagine students entering the workforce with no ability to communicate…except by stringing unrelated words and clauses together in meaningless chaotic rambling, like you know, you know, that wouldn’t be good, no it just wouldn’t be good, because I just couldn’t, you know, I’d need red, I’d need a lot of red, just a whole lot of red, or maybe crayons, and maybe wide, bigly wide what do you call those things–margins, yes, you know, margins, so I could write in and I’d run out of red, yes, on the page there on the paper, there wouldn’t be enough, so I’d run out of ink, and I would never see my family again.

And just think…the writer of the passage above in quotes will be on a world stage in front of world leaders and informed people and intellectuals, and he will have to speak in front of the whole world, and he will be sitting in private talks with rulers of other countries, talking about his bottom line and our bottom line, running his businesses and our business, and making decisions that will affect him and his businesses and us and our way of life for the rest of our lives.

 

(Copied from dailykos.com story on a New York Times interview transcript with President-elect Donald Trump.)


I’ve Felt This Way, Too

From Bill Peach, Franklin, TN:

“I don’t know how much of the 2012 presidential election campaign you have watched. It started way too early and will last way too long. I have come to realize that everything I learned in school and Sunday school, everything I have ever read, and everything I have ever thought have no relevance to the Republican primary debate.  I watch with masochistic agony and cling to every word, every nuance of speech, every emotive image, every mundane reference, and then I realize they are not talking to me.  I am not one of their people.  They don’t know or care that I am watching and listening. They are speaking to an audience with a political ideology that has no meaning for me. I cannot ignore them because that audience will still be there in November, when one of those candidates, as a diametric of his appeal to that audience, will make me appreciate the admonitions of my grandmother, and my roots in a one-room church and one-room school, and my seven-decade college education, and my love for my wife and daughters and grandchildren, for my years of work for public education and teachers, intellectual freedom, my fifty-two years of main street economics, the Christian ethic, human rights, and democracy. “


Something and Nothing

Most companies offer three days off for grief.

[The Tennessean. Oct. 26, 2011] “Bill Would Give Grieving Parents Unpaid Leave.” Some people deserve the right to stay home and grieve. Those who have lost children need time off work, up to 12 weeks, without the fear of losing their jobs. About two percent of US annual deaths involve babies, children, and teens. In 2007, that number was 53,000.

Yes, I agree that these people need time to process reality and loss, to plod through shock and into a new normal without that loved one. I’ve heard losing a child is the most anguishing experience one will ever bear. It’s kind and considerate when these parents are provided with a safety net so they can begin to heal from crippling loss, because in loss, one cannot focus, one cannot think, one cannot remember what happened a minute ago.

Our lawmakers are now giving of their time and energy to consider a bill that would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow grieving parents of children eighteen and younger to take unpaid leave for twelve weeks without having to worry about losing their jobs. They are doing this for SOME AMERICANS. Not all.

It only applies to people who work for a company that has fifty or more employees.

What about all those who have jobs with smaller firms? They are S-O-L. I trust you know what that means.

I learned about this a few years ago. I worked with my husband in a small company he owned. He died, the income was gone instantly, the office rent was due in two days, the home mortgage was due in five, and there were a hundred small businesses depending on him to keep their computer networks up and running. With his death, I lost my job and there was no time to grieve, not even the standard three days. Before his funeral I was taking care of customers and interviewing companies to merge our business with. Then I cleaned and moved out of the office within four weeks, all the while looking for another job. I went to work six weeks after his death.

I went to work for a company that had twenty employees. So one year later when my mother was ill and I needed time off desperately to go take care of her, I didn’t have it because my company didn’t fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act. I was told I could use all my sick days and vacation days and then I wouldn’t get paid and if too many days went by, well, then, they might have to bring someone else in to do my job, but they would try to give me something when I came back. I was a single wage-earner in my household. So I delayed going to my mother and had to put her in a nursing home that pushed enough morphine into her to kill an elephant, though I didn’t realize it at the time, and in less than a month she was at the point of death. My sister and I took her home and stayed with her and I used up all my days off at work. I drove the six hours home after her funeral and went to work the next day.

I wonder how many other Americans are in this category.

The government does things that are good sometimes, but they don’t always benefit all Americans. Just some. My heart goes out to all those Americans who don’t work for companies of fifty employees or more because I know a little bit of what you’ll go through when it happens to you, and it is an anguishing experience and one you never get over.