Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Laughter, Politics, War and Race


LAUGHTER: Monday morning I had brunch with my Red Hat Society sisters before we went to the multiplex movie theater near-by. I hadn’t been to an I-Hop in over a decade so I was looking forward to it. Where else can you get an enormous sugar high before noon and we should do it more often. We were being old, honest women opening up about our changing bodies and our sense of humors were operating on all their cylinders. Yup, I had a great time. After the movie we stopped for ice cream at one of those places where you build your own sundae and pay for it by the pound. I was relieved that my sundae wasn’t the heaviest one in the group. It was a pig-out-day, and I paid the piper with a pair of tighter pants. Next time I’ll remember to wear an elastic-waisted model.

POLITICS: The movie we saw was The Woman in Gold. What a good film! It was based on the true story of an elderly Jewish refugee who fought the Austrian government in the courts to recover artwork she believed---and eventually proved---belonged to her family. The Woman in Gold was valued at 135 million dollars and it was considered to be the crown jewel in the Austrian art world and they didn’t want to let it go. Sounds boring, doesn’t it, but it’s not by any means. There’s a lot of flashbacks to when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany and the topic was kept from getting too dark by the interplay between the main characters, octogenarian (Helen Mirren) and her young lawyer (Ryan Reynolds) which was often laugh-out-loud funny. If you like story-lines that are ripped from the pages of the history books, don’t miss this movie.  

WAR: The next day I went to a lecture titled Mr. Lincoln’s War given by a Fulbright Scholar and history professor from a near-by college. He was born and raised in Texas, still had a southern drawl and he had a gift for making history relevant to modern times. He was also great at interjecting humor into his presentation and that kept it from being dry and boring. As I sat listening to him describe the ‘Velvet Glove’ approach to war as opposed to the ‘Iron Fist’ approach I finally got it---got why people join Civil War Round Tables. When he talked about how the Confiscation Acts helped to humanize the slaves that had been confiscated when found doing work for the Confederate military, I was fascinated. He made you want to hear more. Especially when he touched on how the war fed into West Michigan (where I live) becoming---at one point in history---the most segregated state in the union. 

When the lecture was over a woman came up to the microphone and she asked any women in the audience having ancestors who served in Civil War to come up front to see her. I did, along with seven or eight others. We were invited to join the Daughters of the Civil War. I asked what they do at their monthly meetings and she talked about their projects around the community. When she calls with more information, I just might give the group a try. If nothing else, she offered to take me to my ancestor’s grave at the Veteran’s Home. Her group actually plants flowers on his plot! 

RACE: Honestly, it gets increasingly hard to keep a blog and not write about current events. It feels weird sometimes to be writing about milk toast when the media is serving up chili pepper pie. However, I probably won’t shock anyone if I write about growing up in a white bread community where the only black people I ever saw were the bathroom attendants in the department stores downtown. It might, however, surprise people to know that here it is sixty years later and the only black people I see day-to-day are on TV. I thought about all this a few weeks ago when there was a panel discussion on a local news segment on how businessmen here in West Michigan are concerned about the lack of diversity in the community. Headhunters, they said, are having a hard time recruiting specialists, scientists, doctors, chemists, engineers, etc., to move here to work in our growing medical research facilities and their supporting industries. Surprise, surprise people of color want to live in a more diverse environment. The recruiters, it should be noted, are recruiting from all over the world. It seems we’re not producing enough professionals here in the States to fill our growing needs.... 

….And yet too many politicians want to bleed the schools dry, demoralize teachers by chipping away at their benefits and not invest in higher education. Does that make sense, especially in places where there’s so much civil unrest, due in no small part, to the fact that industrial bases have disappeared drying up all the middle class jobs? When I hear fans of FOX TV pundits parrot: "Baltimore is all the President’s fault” I can’t help wondering how it feels to live in such a simple-minded world where everything is Obama's fault, where history has no relevance to current events, and where white America never, ever has to accept an iota of blame for any chaos that goes on around the world. Please don't misconstrue that to mean I'm giving a free pass to those creating the violence and destruction in Baltimore. I'm not giving a pass to anyone; what's going down there is wrong, plain and simple. I'm just saying it's far more complicated than a catchy, baseless bullet point from FOX pundits and tweets from the likes of Donald Trump. We didn't blame Bush for the 1992 LA riots after the beating of Rodney King and to blame Obama, now, for Baltimore's disenfranchised is race baiting in its most insidious form. And it bugs me, can you tell?

Note: I'll go back to serving up milk toast in my weekend post. Maybe sweet, savory milk toast with a clown face gracing the top. ©

15 comments:

  1. Good Morning! I would like to add one comment to the Obama race part. I think he had the golden opportunity to bring the races together being bi-racial but he didn't. He says he is black and I don't think he has helped one bit. And I think that is very sad because we need to come together desperately. Unite as one American race, not hyphenated things. Sorry to rant on your blog honey! I just want it to be better in our world.

    Hugs, Bee
    oxox

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    1. Thanks for the common, Bee. Rant all you want. I knew that would happen when I wrote this.

      I don't agree with your point, though, in that It's unfair (in my opinion) to think one person in just eight years can undo hundreds of years of racism. If dozens of previous white presidents couldn't "unite us as one American race" then why should we consider it a wasted opportunity or a failure when a black president can't do it? For that unite to happen the changes have to come from BOTH sides, not just changes in in the black community.

      A hundred years from now, Obama will be judged in history much higher and more effective than he is being judged in our time here on earth. Like so many other important accomplishments that have moved civilization forward, like Lincoln's for example, they came with passionate push-back and hatred from those who didn't want the status quo to change.

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  2. I'll pass on commenting on this. You won't want to read it and it's not worth my effort. I believe what I believe and you believe what you believe. It's what makes the world go around, and I don't want to be accused of being simple minded.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. I knew I shouldn't have used the term, "simple-minded world"! When will I learn to trust my instincts?

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  3. Well, simple minded as I am, and that's okay with me. I dislike race baiters and I think Mr. Obama is.

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    1. I know your definition of race baiting because I've seen several of your posts touching on the topic. I agree with what Wiklionary says race baiting is: "The act of using racially derisive language, actions, or other forms of communication in order to anger or intimidate or coerce." I respectfully submit that just because something President Obama says annoys or angers a person that doesn't mean that what he said rises to the level of race baiting.

      "Simple-minded world" was a poor choice of words. I apologize for that. I should have said something like "a world with no nuances" as in everything is black and white, where everything is accepted on face value with no nod to history or any extenuating circumstances. And I probably just dug myself a deeper hole. LOL

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  4. I agree that most people have a too-simplistic understanding of race in America, because our culture emphasizes individual explanations for problems and individual solutions. This makes it hard for us to see racism as built into institutions and systems rather than as just a matter of individual attitudes. I have a book to recommend: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Alexander is a legal scholar, so the book is somewhat heavy sledding and is chock-full of footnotes, but it is written for a lay audience. I have read it twice in the past few months: once in late August, as Ferguson was unfolding, and then again this month when my retirees lunch group chose it for discussion. Alexander's argument, in brief, is that the United States has always had a system in place that keeps blacks separate and unequal. The first system was slavery. When that was ended, the system of Jim Crow segregation replaced it. The system that has grown up to replace Jim Crow after the Civil Rights movement is based in the criminal justice system and the mass incarceration of black men. I found the argument compelling, and it helps to make sense of how we can have so many horrific incidents in different places in such a short time. This isn't about individual bad apples in police departments; it's about institutionalized systems that shape how we perceive and behave toward black men. Events like the recent killings of young black men by police are not new; what's new is that whites are aware that they are happening and are paying attention -- and that's a hopeful sign. -Jean

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    1. You articulated this topic so much better than I did or ever could. Thank you! I will definitely put that book on my want list. I heard a panel discussion on TV that touched on the mass incarceration issue and possible solutions. It made sense and lines up with what you have written. I believe that as bad as the riots and protests look/are, there is still more to be hopeful for than to be discouraged about. Progress never comes easy when social values conflict and have for so many years.

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    2. Amen, Stepintofuture! And to you Jean. I can barely keep it together when every systemic problem is blamed on Barack Obama! Ridiculous.

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    3. Didn't the other Jean (Stepintofuture) knock it out of the park with the above reply!

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  5. Unfortunately, it seems like the white police brutality towards young black men are the incidents that are getting all the media. Without the background information. While I do think there is still a LOT of racism, it seems to get more hype than help.

    And I think it is great that you can blog and accept the responses! Talking things through it what it is all about. I will probably not convince you to change ... and vice versa. I am so in favor of agreeing to disagree!

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    1. Agree to disagree is certainly the only way to end some debates and disagreements. But exchanges are important because we should all at least try to understand other people's point of view...no matter what the topic.

      It was easier before the age of cell phone cameras everywhere for the media and the general population not to know or care about what goes on regarding the disparity between the way blacks are treated by some in the police force than the whites are treated..

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    2. Hi Awkward Widow, I agree that it is critical to put these incidents in a larger context, and what I loved about Alexander's book is that her analysis helps to provide that larger context. It helps to explain, for example, how a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy (gun) in a Cleveland park could be mistaken by police for a 20-year-old with a weapon and killed.

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  6. I live in an area in Northern New York that is not diverse and it is also a place that does not attract professionals. There is a doctor shortage and although recruiting and incentives are being used, it is difficult to create a more diverse population. I think it is mostly due to the weather...most sane people don't want to live somewhere where the winter extends almost into May!

    And as a former employee of a state correctional facility, it is no surprise to most employees and inmates of these facilities that racism is part of the culture of this country and sadly, has been for a long time. What is most noticeable in the facilities, is the groups who are incarcerated and those who are not (just as an example, if you see a white guy in prison, you assume he has done something really horrific and/or he is a white supremisist.)
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I never thought about weather as being one of the difficulties in recruiting professionals. That might apply here, too, only to a lesser extent. Interesting.

      I saw a discussion on TV talking about the cost of prisons compared to the cost of having programs set up that would help mentor teens and keep them away from drugs and petty crimes. Jeez, it would save the tax payer a ton of money. We supposedly spend more on prisons than most other countries in the world.

      Racism is such a complicated issue with no quick fixes.

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