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, January 25, 2017

Segregation and Syrians



Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard about the movie Hidden Figures. I got to see it recently with my Red Hat Society group of ten and then the next day I had lunch with my Movie and Lunch Club of fifteen who’d just come from seeing the film. Without exception everyone absolutely loved it and I can say without reservation that it deserves every award and all the praise it gets. Here’s how IMBd sums up the storyline: “Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program's first successful space missions.” And from Popular Mechanics, “This was a group made up of mostly women who calculated by hand the complex equations that allowed space heroes like Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard, and Glenn to travel safely to space. Through sheer tenacity, force of will, and intellect, they ensured their stamp on American history—even if their story has remained obscured from public view until now.” 

The three women featured in the movie were pulled up the ladder from a pool of thirty who worked in a room labeled, ‘Colored Computers’ (humans computing figures by hand) in an era when bathrooms, lunch counters and drinking fountains were separated by race. A NASA historian quoted in the Popular Mechanics article says the hiring decision was made because they worked cheater than their male counterparts and he also says the film is pretty much on target accurate in all it depicts. That being said, my esteem for John Glenn rose even more after seeing this movie and reading the Popular Mechanics article. Isn’t it a sad statement on our society, though, that it took President Obama giving Katherine Johnson---the protagonists in the film and a real life hero---The Presidential Medal of Freedom (11/15) before most people even knew about this chapter in Black History, Woman’s History and Space History!

There’s one scene in the movie that had me and my movie companions all crying. Katherine’s boss was chewing her out for being away from her desk for twenty minutes twice a day and demanded to know where she went. Her answer? To the bathroom ten blocks away because there weren’t any ‘colored restrooms’ any closer. I won’t spoil the scene for you if you haven’t seen the movie, other than to say she really lite into him with a barrage of words and you could hear a pin drop with her co-workers and in the theater. My favorite line in the barrage was words to the effect: “I work like a DOG and I don’t even get paid enough to buy the only piece of jewelry the employee handbook says I can wear!”

It’s been an interesting week. I also went to a lecture at the senior hall billed as “Cultural Education: Radical Islam and Refugees.” A refugee is defined as someone who flees their homeland due to war, political upheaval or natural disasters with only what that they can carry. Today, there are 65 million people who are classified as refugees (one in every 100 people on earth). The speaker talked about how during the Bosnia carnage they even booby-trapped mass graves to keep people from paying their respects and how during the 90 days of genocide in Rwanda over one million people were slaughtered. Today, the largest refugee camp in the world is in Kenya a literal tent city that houses 500,000 people from Africa and the Middle East. The Kenya government wants to close the camp (Dadaab as it’s called) but repatriation and resettlement of that many people is a complex problem that will take a lot of time, international help and diplomacy.

Thus enters the humanitarian groups that help refugees relocate around the world. The speaker was from one of those groups that goes over to refugee camps to dig deep water wells, build micro-small health clinics and they distribute solar powered audio Bibles in dozens of different languages. They also sponsor refugees who come here to the States. I was surprised to learn that my city is the most prolific place in the country to sponsor Syrian and Somalian refugee families. 

During the question and answer period a woman in the audience was very aggressive about asking a line of questions that centered on the idea that maybe distributing Bibles in Muslim refugee camps was contributing to the growing resentment and unrest within the camps. “Oh, no!” the speaker replied. “We’re all about love. We don’t preach.” I’m not so sure I agree with that, given the fact that the brochure from his parent mission says they encourage forming listening groups to hear the audio Bibles. Our lecturer has been doing this kind of work for nineteen years, had traveled the world and knew missionaries who'd been taken hostage. It was a fascinating lecture that sent chills up my spine and made me feel lucky to live in a carnage-free country, despite the fact that Trump claimed the opposite in his inauguration speech. Agree with the Q&A above, or not, it does give you something to think about. ©



24 comments:

  1. I guess I live under a rock. I hadn't heard about the movie, it sounds like something I will like to see.
    Distributing Bibles to Muslims? King James version I suppose - are they nuts?

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    1. The shear number of Bibles this particular group distributes, in every language spoken on earth was mind-boggling to me. No one asked which version of the Bible but I do know they've started including flashlights on the solar powered Bibles so more people will take them.

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  2. Well. Clearly, I live under a rock, because I hadn't heard of this film, even though I follow a few NASA-and-space related people. I'll have to dig around a bit more and see what they have to say about it. In the meantime, I found this, from The Smithsonian. This is one I might be willing to carve out the time to see -- thanks for highlighting it.

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    1. I'm going to regret that rock comment. LOL

      The link you found shows an IBM and NASA was in the process of building their first one in the time frame this movie was set. The pool of 30 I mentioned knew they'd lose their jobs computing by paper and pencils when it was done so at night they taught themselves everything they'd need to be able to program them. That was a subplot of the movie. There is another subplot with a black woman who became the first engineer at NASA and she had to go to court to be allowed to take the classes she needed because they weren't taught at black colleges.

      There is a building named after the protagonist in this film. You will not be sorry for making time to see this. One of the ladies who saw it with me taught higher mathematics and read the book. She said the book, with all its math language, was hard to read but fascinating.

      I've got to learn how to make live links in comments. You're the only person I know who does it.


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    2. P.S. I just read your link! That was interesting, how the book came about!

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  3. I was just telling H the other night that I want to see Hidden Figures. The trailer looks very interesting, and I've only heard good things about it.

    That lecture sounds fascinating, too. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to be forced to flee everything you have, everything you know and everyone you know, and move to another country where you don't even know the language? How to get started again? How to connect with others?

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    1. I can't imagine how hard that would be. These people often don't have time to plan what to take or leave behind and after their homes are destroyed and their source of income gone, how to keep hope alive for years on end in refugee camps when it's impossible to got back? For any of them to come to the USA it takes a full two years of screening, longer than most other countries taking refugees. The UN is tackling this problem but, of course, our current president dismisses everything they do try to bring peace in the world.

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  4. I hadn't heard of the movie either. I'm not a movie fan so happy to wait and watch it on TV. (The storyline reminds me of "Bletchley Park", the UK TV series on a group of women secretly working on breaking German codes in WW2.)

    Am I surprised at women being looked down on by men? not really. But its human nature to think one's self to be brighter than others. My kids think they're smarter than me. But equally egregious, I realised that I reciprocate that sentiment! ~ Libby

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    1. I'm not sure it's human nature to think one's self if brighter than others. It think it's taught. In the case of women being thought of has less than men, we can blame the Bible and the Koran for that. And it's been a hard fought fight to get to where we're at today in terms of equal rights.

      Kids...I remember thinking my parents didn't know as much as I did but then I grew up and learned differently. LOL

      Never heard of Bletchley Park women. Here it was Native Americans who were code breakers during the war.

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  5. I don't remember if I left a comment this morning but I did text both my kids to tell them the next time Susan visits the three of us will go see this movie. We do this occasionally with films that have historical value. After seeing the movie we then discuss it. My age adds considerable perspective.

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    1. You didn't leave a comment that I was able to find, but seeing this movie with younger generations really would add an interesting layer.

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  6. PS I *hate* it when people use un-simple words, e.g. egregious, for awful. I didn't know the word but it was used so frequently during the campaign that I had to look up the meaning. Note to self: stick to simple language.

    Re Bible/Loran, just read on another blog re the anti-abortion legislation by white men, punishing women. Not much different from 'savages' where in a rape case, the woman is stoned/punished. Common theme: punish women (after all she is "Woe to man"). ~ Libby

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    1. I never knew what those abbreviations stood for either. I have a bad memory for remembering stuff like that so I don't use many abbrevieations...except etc.

      In Victorian Times woman were forced to marry their rapists, it was a practice done by men wanting to improve their social status, marry upward.

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  7. Wow, this film sounds very impressive. It's still amazing how people today, still treat the those who are black. I'm so happy that finally it has been shown that without these three women, the space program and John Glenn might not be where they are at today. I definitely will see this movie. Thanks Jean.
    For now, I getting excited for my cruise. I wonder how many times I've said that. You must be so tired of me saying that. Oh well, see you in 10 days my friend. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. It was an impressive movie---the story line and the acting the great and NASA itself and how they put a man up in space was fascinating.

      It's seem like you've been saying 10 days for a month of Sundays! But you're allowed to be excited. I would be too if I loved to cruise as much as you do.

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  8. I saw the movie a few weeks ago and thought it was one of the best I've ever seen. Bletchley Circle was on PBS and is now on Netflix and is an excellent show based on a true story of these secret women during WWII breaking codes.

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    1. I'd rate it that high, too. Thanks for the back up. Since two of you mentioned Bletchley Circle I need to look for it. I know I'd like the story line.

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  9. JUDY, If you're looking for your comment on the movie, you left it on TEARS AT THE CAR WASH.

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  10. Greetings from another person living under a rock! Although I, too, saw Bletchley Park when it aired here in England. It is worth watching.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I'm quite surprise that so many of you haven't heard of Hidden Figures. I see previews once a month at the theater but this movie was talked up on TV because at an award show someone mixed up two movies and called it Hidden Fences. Fences is another film with black actors. All the late night comedians joked about the mixed up.

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  11. I haven't made an effort to see any of the movies this year, but am well aware of all of these nominated ones. Movie sounds like a good one. Always feel real emotional about those times of such segregation which I was shocked by when I first encountered as a jr hi school age girl when we moved to a part of the country where it was prevalent. Then, years later in my early twenties returning to Glenn's (and my) home state encountered the more subtle version, but with a few friends we were able to combat with our black friend by circumvention.

    A couple years or so ago know of at least one, if not more, Syrian family of refugees brought to our city. Bible distribution much more expansive than i knew, but printing so much easier not surprising, i guess.

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    1. I'd never seen segregation up close until my teens when we took a vacation down south and I saw the separate drinking fountains, etc. Shortly afterward that trip Selma happened and their use of fire-hoses and dogs on peaceful protesters was shown on TV. I'm not sure I even had an opportunity to talk to a black person until my mid-twenties and then it was store clerks. This was a feel good film with a few real heroes among the white guys who helped the black women advance, who were able to judge them by their abilities, not their color.

      I've always known about the Bible distribution because there is a big printing house here where I live and that's all they do is distribute them to 3rd world countries. Growing up I had an uncle who'd come to town a couple of times a year to "stock up" for his "mission work." I did not know about the solar powered audio Bibles until this lecture but it didn't surprise me. Our local news interviewed some people here who work with placing Syrian families here and they were upset by #45's freeze. They said these people go through nearly two years of screening and they had apartments and jobs lined up for them and they were crying when they got the news that they'd have to start all over again...another two years of screening!

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  12. LOL, Count me as another sub-rock dweller. Truth is that I almost never go to the movies any more because I find the multiplex experience so unpleasant. But I will watch out for this one. Maybe my brother will have it for Saturday night viewing the next time I'm down visiting him. -Jean

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    1. This definitely a Don't Miss movie/true story.

      I would never go to the muliplex's at night or on the weekends but when we go there are so few people there we have the theaters practically to ourselves.

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