America: Home of the Freely Intolerant and Bravely Prejudiced


Fair & Balanced graphic used in 2005

Image via Wikipedia

Last week my husband turned down a work opportunity that would have relocated us to the Gulf Coast in either Texas or Louisiana. Horrorifically hot, humid weather aside, what truly renders both locales less than optimum from a residential standpoint has far more to do with politics, religion and stupidity than anything else.

Having been born and raised in the Midwest, I find the US’s deep south perplexing and more than a bit backward redneck anyway. The East/West Coasters may make fun of those of us in the “fly-over” states, but we have more common sense than the rest of the country as a whole and though we aren’t as “cosmopolitian” we also aren’t as steeped in “isms” as they think. That distinction is reserved for The South.

Neither Rob nor I care much for the weather here. It’s too cold for too long and our summers are hit and miss. A warmer climate is a powerful attraction  and has a selling point, but after the last few weeks of observing the increasingly noxious Republican primary and its pungent political fallout – there is really no question of subjecting ourselves or our impressionable young daughter to the  sexism, racism and police state mentality that is rapidly filling in the empty core of  America’s values, which were of dubious quality to begin with.

First take the GOP mud match to the nomination. We actually watched a few of the debates, which always begin with the candidates introducing themselves as if they were on a game show. In their spiels they rattled off their religious credentials, martial status and ticked off progeny like contestants at a Mister or Missus America pageant. Only Ron Paul had the grace and sense to smile self-deprecatingly as he did so, but I got the feeling that he was the only one who realized just how meaningless the whole thing was in light of what is truly at stake.

Religion increasingly has become a cornerstone on which everything rests. Despite the fact the Founders specifically tried to avoid building a new country on any specific faith tenets, the US seems committed, at this point, to becoming some sort of theocracy, which wouldn’t be such a horrifying prospect if the proponents of the idea weren’t hell bent on embracing every archaic, intolerant and prejudiced idea ever written in the Old Testament. Their ideas on women are Medieval and I won’t be at all surprised, given their new strident opposition to contraception, if they don’t soon decide that each municipality set up red tents on the outskirts and insist that menstruating women start using them. I’m not kidding. That’s about the only aspect of femaleness that Conservatives haven’t voiced a bat-shit crazy opinion on and I am sure it’s coming. After all, the use of tampons is ripe for euphemism and condemnation, don’t you think?

And the racism thing. Back during the 2008 Democratic primary, I commented that Obama’s victory over Clinton was only proof that when faced with two “evils”, Americans would go with the lessor. Clearly they were less racist than sexist and given the recent Komen debacle followed by the Catholic Bishops’ hissy fit about contraception, sexism is still in the lead, but racism is not far behind.

The irrantional attacks on the President, which are based on nothing factual, are so obviously about his being black. And it’s not like the guy doesn’t have obvious and glaring flaws – his whole-hearted endorsement of the police state thing for starters – but his “critics” insist on concentrating their ire on issues that aren’t or issues that are the result of something the last President (or even the one before him) should own.

Over the weekend, singer Whitney Houston died. Poor thing. Why is it that the most fragile and least able to cope end up rich and famous? Drowned in a hotel bathtub, according to the speculation. Xanax, booze and hot water shouldn’t be mixed. Xanax is an evil little drug that really shouldn’t be as widely prescribed as it is. Incredibly addictive. Not something a “former” cokehead should be allowed to take unsupervised in any case.

But her death provides an excellent example of my point about racism in America being very much alive and probably as stinky as it ever was. The Fox News site posted a story on Houston’s death. Just the facts, m’am and oh my god, the comments. The “N” word abounds and any racial stereotype you care to recall spews forth in comment after comment. 5000 of them.

Because she was black, and because she was a “she” and not a “he”. I am sure Michael Jackson didn’t provoke as much prejudice ire, protected a bit more by his gender.

We can’t raise Dee in a country so openly hostile to women and minorities. Nor could either of us stomach living in areas of the country that are far more open with their contempt and close-minded attitudes.

Rob remembers vividly from their time living in Kansas in the early ’90′s, the difficulty of being open-minded and not particularly religious. Texas and Louisiana are a lot farther south. Texas couldn’t be less tolerant of equality and there is no way we could allow Dee to go to school in a state that doctors non-fiction textbooks with fiction. Louisiana is even worse. The public school system might as well be scrapped entirely as under-funded as it is. Rob knows no one at the plant there who sends their children to the local public schools*. Private schools flourish down there for good reason.

And Dee isn’t the slightest bit Christian. Which is a problem if we are looking to live in areas that are mindlessly so and rabid in their quest to convert the “heathens”. While Rob and I can easily withstand the pressure and even the disdain. It would be harder for Dee, who is quite stubborn but just as sensitive.

I find it all rather sad that my native land has become a place where I can’t raise my daughter, and it’s not that Canada is without issues. People here are prejudiced too and probably more so than they are sexist (that exists simply because we are humans in a world with a long history of sexism), but it doesn’t invade the politics to the same extent. It’s also actively frowned upon whereas in the US, anymore, that’s not really the case. Being anti-female, in fact, seems almost to be a prerequisite for public office and is certainly not discouraged among the Evangelical Christian set or the conservative minded where public policy is concerned.

I was raised small town Iowa Catholic. I was taught that as a girl I had “a place” in society and in my church. That place was one of subservience and I was mostly supposed to be silent and accepting because some things just were the way they were. God willed it so.

But I never accepted that and I was increasingly less silent as I grew up. Now, I am not silent at all. Men have no business or right mucking about in aspects of femaleness that they couldn’t understand even if they cared to try. Women should actively resent and rebel against this meddling and the mindset that implies that women are dirty in some unspeakable way and that we are too dumb to be left in charge of ourselves. Because that is what it gets down to. Religion long ago, and for purposes of control/power, deemed women dirty and dumb. The politics of contraception are just another avenue of this prejudice that evolved purely to benefit men and to allow them to be dominant at the expense of everything and everyone.

Poor America. The rest of the world is waking up and catching up. Soon the only countries it will have anything in common with will be third world theocracies and dictatorships and that will be a sad day indeed.

*Although I will grant you that some of the reason that the “elite” there send their kids to private school isn’t academically driven. They want better educational settings to be sure but they also don’t want their kids going to schools where black children are half or better of the student populations.

Staying Put in Canada


I’ve mentioned before that there was a possibility we’d be heading overseas to live for a while. Rob was pursuing a position on a project that would have taken us to the UK and then Saudi Arabia. It would have been a 4 or 5 year gig that would have allowed us to move on to the retirement/second career thing in the mountains a bit sooner than later.

But the job is off. I am not at liberty to go into details, but it had nothing to do with Rob’s suitability. He is, despite his ambivalence, a sought after commodity in his line of work. This was an employment case of “it’s not you, it’s us”. Literally.

So now that we know for sure we are staying put, things that have been on hold or plans that we discussed in only the vaguest of terms are suddenly wide open dreamscapes.

One of the most pressing issues is our home. Rob has been steadily renovating the house we live in for … ever. Or least as long as he’s lived here and that’s a decade plus of years.

And the house is not done. Not even close.

One might wonder that this has been a non-issue for me since moving here going on three years ago now. And it’s not that I am oblivious to my surroundings, though I come quite close to that sort of space blindness, it’s just that I am not a Better Homes and Gardens type. I have a serviceable kitchen, a comfy bed and a place to write. What else does a person need?

Rob thinks we need an addition. One that will attach a garage to the house, add a new master bedroom with en suite and provide us with a large kitchen area. This is not a small project that upends the house a room or so at a time. This is gutting the back yard, tearing out half of the back-end of the house and ripping up a deck that consumed the summer of 2008 and the cement sidewalks that consumed last summer.

On the plus side, an attached garage. I never had one until the last house I bought with Will. I’d lived in Des Moines for 15 years, parking vehicles on the street or driveway and dealing with the weather. The whole first year of Dee’s life was coping with baby carriers and rain or snow or bitter cold or blistering heat or whatever other plagues of Egypt came our way in terms of weather. I loved the attached garage. Somedays, especially after Will was nearly blind and precariously balanced, not having to load the two of them up after somehow getting them outside was the only thing I had to be thankful for all day.

A new master bedroom would give us three bedrooms upstairs and mean that Dee could have our old room, which is twice the size of her current room. We could ditch the playroom downstairs and contain all things child in her larger bedroom space. And she would have a walk-in closet. She would be in heaven although she would have serious en suite envy. She totally believes that she should have a bathroom of her own – attached to her room. Where does she get such ideas?

Aside from hearth and home, there is also employment to consider. Staying means looking for part-time work. I put working on hold for a variety of reasons, but one of them was not being sure we’d be around long enough for me to find and settle into a place before we’d pack up and be gone. Since I didn’t need a paycheck for our survival, it seemed unfair for me to take a job knowing I wasn’t going to be in it long.

My mother’s first words upon hearing we were staying was “Well, now you’ll be able to get a job.”

I start my yoga teacher training this weekend. My current instructor indicated that she would be agreeable to my teaching at her studio, once I am trained and that would be this summer, so yoga is a real possibility as part-time work. It is not a living by any means, but it’s somewhere to start. I want to someday have a studio, somewhere. Be a business owner. I think that is my upbringing. I love to write and blog, but they don’t feed my need for tangible employment. Probably seems silly to some, but I like the idea of going into work. Actually leaving the house kind of work.

We’ve talked about trading in the tent trailer for a holiday trailer, and using it for vacations. Rob wanted to travel the SouthWest U.S., but with the border as it is, I am less keen. And though Americans don’t seem to have any sense of impending doom, the news we get looks more and more dicey. In fact, this coming summer it seems it has never been a better time to stay out of the States.

I am only a tiny bit disappointed about not moving overseas. It could have been fun and interesting in a way that most people’s lives never get to be. But it would have been work and Dee would not have been as happy about it as we would have been. Our mothers were distraught, and the older girls, though they’ve put on brave faces, would have felt abandoned to varying degrees. It is not great for Rob. He gets to continue on as a workhorse and he deserves more. Everyone takes for granted that he will be there to fix things, give advice, loan money and generally make sure the trains run. I doubt that anyone but me really worries about his needs, or wants for him, when it comes to that. Having been in that thankless position, I know how long it can make a day seem.

Although Rob doesn’t think much of the place, there are far worse little towns than The Fort to call home. It will not be home forever, I don’t think, but it is good enough for now.

Funny, I just read a blog piece about “good enough” and how that kind of settling is a bad thing. I didn’t really agree.

Friday


I am too tired to properly update on the holiday. In fact, I hadn’t any real plans to post live again until June, but a lot is going on and this usually drives me to write.

First, I have a pen name. It came to me after much thought and back/forth right before we left for the mountains. It combines a distinctly family name, which is also my dad’s middle name, with my maiden name. I will unveil it when I have my author’s website completed and up, but I am pleased with it.

The idea for a pen name for my fiction writing self has been stirring around for a while in my mind, but a speaker at the writing conference I attended finally provided me with a tangible reason to write under more than one name. Branding. When I am Ann or anniegirl, people who read are sure of what they are getting, but my fiction is dark, twisted and not particularly mainstream in a chick lit or even a straight high-brow lit kind of way. Therefore, my alias will brand my fiction. Readers will know what they are getting.

Second, we arrived home to yet another job offer for Rob. The same job he has been offered twice before – the long term project that would have taken us to Houston is now beckoning from England.

“How many times does opportunity have to knock?” Rob asked.

And I agreed. I read Paulo Coelho’s Brida and The Alchemist over holiday (along with three other books – I was tearing up the pages) and the second book deals almost entirely with following the signs the universe will show those who make their wants, needs or desires known to it. Coelho wrote an interesting fable about listening, trusting and having faith in one’s personal legend.

I don’t know that this job is Rob’s personal legend, but I have felt for a while that it is a sign and a step towards it. But more on it as it develops.

Finally, illness stalks the family once again. Rob’s younger brother was in the ICU as of Sunday night. He is chronically ill and had taken a turn. He will not live to be an old man and probably not a middle-aged one either (he is sixteen years younger than Rob) and though it isn’t a surprise, and Rob and he are estranged, it is unsettling. And it is a reminder.

On my side of the family, Nephew1 is quite ill. Deteriorating lung disease (or syndrome – it’s hard to know because my youngest sister was conveying the information and she is not bright). The doctors had been treating his breathing difficulties as asthma for a while but it turns out incorrectly.

“They told me I could die, Grandma,” is what he told my mother.

We may be making a trip to Iowa this summer after all.

Texas


Rob got the okay on his transfer. The details have yet to be ironed out but it appears that I may be a Texan by summer. Moving back is not something I much considered when I came here to by with Rob and get married even though I knew that it was a possibility given his job. Now that it is a fact, I am a little sad. I will miss it here. Rob thinks that is a bit crazy (okay, a lot crazy) because we live in the midst of an industrial cluster-fuck on the prairie. And he is right. We went into the city last night and the refineries were spewing god only knows what into the frigid air. Fouls smells and water vapor laced with chemicals. Still, the heart of the city is a forest. A real forest that surrounds the river banks and bluffs. I was noticing the shelter belt around our little town yesterday too. You can’t even see the town for the trees. There was nothing like this back home in the States.

As a midwesterner my opinion of Texas on the whole is rather negative. I turned down teaching jobs there when I was right out of college because I couldn’t imagine living in such a redneck, backward thinking place (and I grew up in a basically lily white, near exclusively Catholic blue-collar town too). Perhaps it will not be the ultra-right wing, pious on the surface only place it portrays itself to be? It doesn’t matter because I will be living there for the next couple of years and I am going to make the very best use of the time.

So, now it is time to make lists and clean and sort and purge. It is also time to think about teaching again and to that end I have a bit of work to do as well. I am thinking that I may just want to sub instead of looking for full or even part time work. But we will see what comes up.