Microaggression

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April 2, 2019-

The other night, whilst visiting one of my best friends, I watched and listened to a speech by the conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro.  Among the social phenomena he noted was the trend towards condemning “microaggression”.  The term is used to describe remarks or gestures that trigger unpleasant feelings, discomfort or fear in people who are experiencing , or whose forebears have suffered, oppression.

I was treated, in junior high school, primarily, but also when in the Army, stateside, to a modest amount of bullying and verbal taunting, due to my autism.  I sometimes pondered what society would be like, were it to be rendered illegal to ridicule or belittle another person.  I came to the conclusion that, while it would a fine thing if people were to choose freely, as a society, to rise above such behaviours, to codify criticism as an offense, with criminal penalties, would only drive negativity underground.

To be sure, there are words and phrases that don’t belong in an enlightened society’s discourse.  Racial, ethnic and gender-based slurs are things I banished from my own vocabulary, when I was about 17, to the extent I ever used them at all.  Getting to know people on an individual basis, without pre-conceived notions, has been the only way I have achieved any personal growth, in my own right.

Last October, I found myself, mercifully only for a short time, in a veritable microaggression bootcamp, where every single word, behaviour or gesture that came from me was analyzed, castigated, sliced and diced, to the point I was leery of even taking a breath sideways.  The individual doing this determined that I was beyond redemption, and I was dismissed from her presence.   Mind you, I went through this at the behest of a friend, who was likewise deemed irredeemable.

None of us walks on water.  No matter how loving one’s heart is, and how consistently one shows that love, there will always be someone, somewhere, to whom one is a bete-noire.  It’s helped me, to be more present and aware of the deepest feelings and insecurities of others.  It has also helped me to have grown a thick skin, over the past many years.  “Microaggressions”, it seems to me, are best rooted out through calm, but firm, dialogue and education.  Shrillness and stridency, as Mr. Shapiro pointed out, only drive unkempt behaviour and rhetoric underground, into the maw of the Dark Web or the shadier places in the legitimate Internet.

 

Four Days’ Reflections

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December 29, 2015, Phoenix- The period just passed, from Christmas  until Transit Day (yesterday), saw either sporadic WiFi connection, or time when being on the Internet would have been just plain rude.  As it was, my non-technological mother saw any time spent on the computer as an imposition, even when I was sharing what I found with the group.

Few are in a place of honour, when among those who knew them when.  I was delighted to have felt welcome, when I visited with a couple of friends from my late teen/young adult years, and the three of us were actually having intelligent, respectful conversation- free of the oneupmanship that seemed so prevalent back then.  Now, we are all mid-sexagenarians and have a grander view.

Mom was not feeling all that great, but kept a game face the whole time I was in Saugus.  I know better, though, and I also know that her current aches and pains will subside.  Andrew Wyeth remarked, on his own father’s passing, “It took a freight train to kill N.C. Wyeth!”.  It’ll take a lot more than that to bring down my mother.

The siblings will always be my treasured core group.  I spent time as the bete-noire, in my twenties, and it was largely deserved.  Now, each of us has our niche and when we get together, we have genuine nuggets to share.  This was my sister’s year to break out- to see the Mountain Northwest: Montana and Wyoming.  Her list of travel goals is also growing, and I hope she gets to a few more, in the years immediately ahead.

One of my seatmates, on the plane back, recommended a book entitled “The Third Target”, by Joel C. Rosenberg.  She was looking at the piece as if it were non-fiction, much the way some of us interpreted Tom Clancy novels, in the ’90’s.  Indeed, many fictional works are vehicles for disseminating information that would otherwise be “classified”.

I got a lot read of “The Witches:  Salem, 1692”, that is a nonfictional study of the events, and backdrop, of the Salem Witch Trials.  Kids were unruly back then, also, and, wonder of wonders, because they were roundly ignored by parents who were pre-occupied with the day-to-day grind of an oppressive life.  That teenaged girls and young women would react to being treated as chattel, by staging near-psychotic flash mob attacks on the reputations of their elders, somehow comes as no surprise.  Children have been my life, for nearly forty years.  The more neglected they have seemed, in their larger lives, the more I have sought to understand them and be of value.

Now, I am back in what has come to be Home Base.  My coming to Arizona, initially, was rather random and happenstance.  As with any such move by a rootless youth, it morphed into a place of growth.  I am still growing, and my octogenarian mother is till lucid enough to tell me that I’ve seen nothing yet.  The “Greatest Generation” will never concede to their Baby Boomer children, or anyone else, the place of the pioneer.

I look forward to the rest of this decade, and to my seventies, eighties and whatever else the Good Lord deigns to offer.  As the great Dick Van Dyke writes: “Keep Moving”. (I’m reading that book now, also).

 

 

 

 

 

The Road to 65, Mile 257: Desert Wildfire, Day 3

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August 12, 2015, Mohave Valley-  Wherever there are unicorns, there are also dragons.  Where there is joy, sorrow and rage are not far away. Light is accompanied by shadow. I prefer, I insist, that the former will outlast the latter, because that’s how life goes on.

The fire has been reduced to hot spots, which are being monitored, 24/7, by a very capable local fire department.  As always happens in a community that prides itself on independence, there is gratitude towards the local first responders, and grumbling towards the Federal presence, in this case, the Bureau of Land Management.  A government that seems distant, both physically and ideologically, is an easy target, and so it has been here.  The perception, among many who have come by for food, clothing and comfort is that the Feds didn’t seem to care about them, or about their property.  The Gold King mine mishap is thrown in, for good measure, as “eventually, that stuff will find its way down here, en route to the Gulf of California.”

It’s hard for people who are themselves overwhelmed, to see the situations of others- no matter which rung of the ladder we occupy.  I was fortunate to have been raised by parents who instilled the viewing of the situation of the other, in me.  Being the oldest of five made it more urgent.

Having to deal with the local bete noire, yesterday, put this whole concept to the test.  I went through six months, last winter and spring, of being patient and forbearing with someone whom nobody else seemed to want.  These folks are sent to us by a Creator Who desires only to see our full potentials realized.  This, I understand; it was just that, at the end of a long day in the heat, I had trouble waiting for a well-rested, fastidious case worker to complete the process with a needy, isolated and very edgy outcast.  I went back to the truck, turned on the A/C, and saved myself, while keeping the window cracked open enough to hear what was going on.  She completed the matter, thirty minutes later, and the four of us left the man, who felt more accepted, and headed home.  I guess this is one of the lessons that Christ meant to impart, when He worked on Lazarus, and on Mary Magdalene.

There are issues in any community, on any given street, and within any household which has more than one occupant.  In the Fire This Time, we, as a team, did well by the town of Mohave Valley.  After a day largely spent cleaning the gym floor of the temporarily closed Mohave Valley Elementary School, three of us volunteers headed home.  As we left town, a swirl of burned-out desert dust rose high in the air, causing our Team Lead to call in a “possible re-sparked fire”.  It turned out to be just a dust devil, with burned material, almost giving us a farewell, of sorts.

We stopped up the road apiece, at Westside Lilo’s, a homey, relaxed German restaurant, in Seligman, and decompressed with some fine sandwiches, served by an engaging and spirited young woman.  I always enjoy a good bratwurst, and a pretty smile.  The rain, which our driver had feared, seems to have preceded us, and it was an easy drive back to Prescott.

Goodnight, and it looks like tomorrow will be a bit of a respite, before the next big thing.