Socrates Was a Bad Ass

When I went on hiatus in June, I said I was going to shut up and listen, and try to figure out something positive to do.

And then everything just kept getting worse. And then it got inspiring, and then it got worse again. Now we’re all just starring in our own versions of Groundhog Day, praying for time to move faster, for leaders who can think and care about something other than themselves, for safety and relief and help for health care and other essential workers, and for a return of common human decency and compassion.

Before the pandemic, when the shouting matches were mostly about immigration, not masks, I attended a town hall meeting held by my congressional representative. There were shouting people there. Fortunately, my seventh grade social studies teacher was presiding: she has held the post of town president for years, and has lost none of her fearsome, teacherly formidability. Her stentorian call to order and threat to expel misbehavers quelled the noise.

After the meeting, I encountered one of the shouters – the female half of a husband-wife team of shouters, and I asked her, “if you came across a person dying of thirst in the middle of the road, would you ask them if they were a citizen before you gave them a drink of water?” She said no.

When I reminded her that her obviously European heritage (this was before we had the “Karen” meme, but this lady was an aged, fearful, trembling, supercharged Karen presumably of the red-hatted type) meant that her family all started here as immigrants, she could barely contain her rage, shouting “No! THEY WERE SETTLERS!”

Let’s just let that land for a minute.

I haven’t figured out how to engage in useful dialog with shouting, red hatted, mask-free types yet, but I have recognized two things I can do: I can write, and I can ask good, and possibly challenging or impertinent, questions.

Before you say this is a cop out, that I should be out there in a yellow shirt with a Wall of Moms, let me say that I mostly agree with you, but circumstances require my presence at home.

I don’t flatter myself that anything I write or any questions I ask could possibly inspire change on a grand, or even micro, scale, but they might be helpful, or cathartic, or amusing, or thought-provoking, at least.

The writing is for readers who need a laugh, or need to “feel the feels,” as many in the writing community seem to like to say.

The questions will be offered in the hope of spurring discourse, or at least reflection, for long enough to get whoever reads them to stop shouting and think – perhaps, for example, about the existence of Native Americans, Madam “settler?”

When I started this blog I promised no politics. This was about working through grief, focusing on gratitude and being generous with love and laughter. But it was also supposed to be, in part, about letting go of fear, and being courageous enough to be who I am – vulnerabilities, imperfections, impertinence and all.

In a distant other life, in law school and around the dinner table with my long-departed Dad, I was taught by the Socratic method – my law professors, or my dad, would ask a series of questions designed to lead me toward a solution to a problem, or a point of view, or a realization of a fact I hadn’t seen before.

As we’ve seen time and again, people in power don’t like to be led down paths of self-examination, and they don’t like to be asked questions that expose their weaknesses and their lies. That didn’t end well for Socrates.

But his method of teaching survived. And asking questions isn’t just for teaching – it’s also for learning. So I’m going to ask questions from time to time, here – I’ll probably write about questions I wish others had asked, perhaps at Senate hearings (yellow card! politics!) or of people who refuse to wear masks (masks are NOT politics – just basic human compassion and decency – oh, wait, we’re talking about asking people who refuse to wear masks why they won’t behave with basic human compassion and decency) or directed toward people who can magically think their way into believing that a pandemic that has sickened over 17.3 million people and killed 674,000 globally (as of ten minutes before I’m writing this, according to Google), is a hoax.

So here are my first two questions:

How is populated land “settled?”

and

Are individual rights and the common good mutually exclusive?

Discuss.

Good to be back, doing what I hope will be some small good. I remain,

Your mask-wearing, hand-washing, fretful, and nowhere near as brave as I’d like to be,

Ridiculouswoman.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Blinded by the White

Several weeks ago, I wrote some whiny drivel about how every visit to the grocery store felt life-threatening, because of COVID-19. What a thoughtless, cocooned, privileged, white thing to write.

For Black people, every damn minute of every damn day is life threatening. For Breonna Taylor, sleeping-in-her-own-bed-in-her-own-home-while-Black was fatal.

I knew that when I wrote that moronic, self-indulgent sentence about the grocery store. I just wasn’t thinking about it at the time. And that’s the problem. That’s a very big problem. That has changed. I think about that all the time. But what I think about doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do.

A blog like this written by a person like me in times like these is irrelevant and trivial. Ridiculous on a whole different plane. The only reason I’m writing this today is so that the most recent post won’t be all sunshine and lollipops, failing to acknowledge the gravity and the enormity of what is happening all over the world.

Think globally, act locally, right? Personal remorse and private outrage are useless. I’m going on hiatus, to shut up and listen, work on my behavior, and figure out something positive to do.

So far, I donated food through my church to an organization distributing food to people who lost their local grocery store to looting after otherwise peaceful and necessary protests. One tiny little thing. One small step. A journey of a thousand miles begins, etc.

With the hope and belief that the paradigm shift that will finally and permanently dismantle systematic racism has begun, I remain, your

Ridiculouswoman

Non-Toxic Love Challenge: Six Feet of Self-Control

My neighbor across the fence has held backyard gatherings two weekends in a row. First, with just four people, but Sunday, about ten, standing close together, tossing a ball back and forth, mingling.

I felt the bile rising in me, so I raced to finish planting my new trees and get inside. Five Thuja Green Giants, promised to be very vast growing, positioned to block the blazingly bright backyard floodlights he keeps on all night, every night, glaring directly into my living room. That’s odd, because my house is on a little hill, a bit higher up than his. It seems almost intentional, how those lights invade our evenings. Couldn’t they be adjusted to point down into his yard a bit more?

Monday, I put on a double-layered mask made from a t-shirt and ventured out for what I hope will be my last trip to the grocery store for several weeks. I didn’t get up in time to get there right when it opened, and it was uncomfortably crowded in the afternoon. A young man of what appeared to be about college age was striding around the store, no mask, no cart, seemingly uninterested in buying anything, just in making sure he breathed an unmasked breath in every aisle.

The bagger at checkout had a mask on, positioned below, not over, his nose.

As I was leaving, I passed a tall young woman, no mask, followed by a masked someone who appeared to be her mother. The young women laughed as she entered the store, “See? He’s not wearing one!” I held my breath and scurried past her with my overloaded cart, out to the car.

As I packed my groceries into the back seat of the Subaru, a man got out of a car one parking spot away, wearing a mask below, not over, his nose.

If there is one thing I learned from my long and challenging relationship with my late husband Mike, it is that I cannot control another person’s behavior. Noncompliance was Mike’s modus operandi, and “don’t tell me what to do” his motto and his battle cry.

Were these mask malfunctions intentional, or just misinformed? Were the backyard parties acts of defiant noncompliance, or just ignorance? Why do I care, when I can’t control any of it?

I’m disappointed in myself for pointing out to the nose exposers that the masks don’t do anyone any good if they don’t cover the nose. I’m irritated that I spent energy being  pissed off at my neighbor. There were older people there at his party, possibly parents or other relatives. I worry about them. I worry about everyone who was there. But they chose to gather, and there’s nothing I can do about that. The floodlights and the gatherings are enough for me to know that asking for accommodation would be fruitless.

I have a front patio now, and it is a very pleasant place to sit on summer evenings, so I’ve learned to pivot. We’ve altered our summer evening routine for few summers already now. I put a lot of work into that front patio garden, and it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds by design. I can work on my vegetable garden and enjoy the back deck in the early morning on the weekends, before his parties and his backyard construction project involving a loud Bobcat baby bulldozer and what appears to be a makeshift concrete mixer resume (a firepit? another patio? whatever it is it will be across the fence in the farthest corner of my yard, but I’m sure I’ll find a way to be annoyed by it anyway.)

I try to take comfort in pastoral reassurances that arrive via email or Facebook live on Sunday mornings that staying home and staying in counts as doing something. It counts as an expression of love and concern for my fellow citizens, even when they’ve made it painfully obvious they aren’t concerned about me.

I’m learning to step aside. Somewhere long ago, I read that turning away from aggression dissipates its power. Declining a fight is sometimes the most effective form of self defense, it seemed to say. If someone in the store won’t stay six feet back, I’ll go around the other way, or let them go ahead of me in the checkout line.

There are things I can control, and things I can’t. The image above has a caption, but I can’t seem to resize it properly to show the words that say, “some fruits are always in season.”

My Thuja Green Giants are evergreens. When they grow taller, I have a feeling they’ll nourish my inner orchard of patience, self-control, love and peace.

My your garden be filled with always-in-season fruit. Looking toward summer, I remain,

Your counting-to-six-and-taking-the-long-way-around-the-grocery-store-and-the-neighborhood,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by bknis from Pixabay