Some Days V

It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of these “some days” posts, and this one might better be titled “some weeks”. I’m not sure I can even put my thoughts and feelings into words. I’m just going to start writing and see where it goes.

I’m so, so tired of being angry. All. The. Time. The news has been an unending onslaught of new revelations of the total and complete corruption – moral, financial, ethical – of this administration and everyone associated with it. There is just no bottom too low for those people. It feels as if they’ve broken the entire country.

At work this week, another of our patients was diagnosed with lung cancer, and the prognosis is not good. One of our doctors is dealing with his wife’s cancer, and they’re now out of treatment options. She’s been trying to make sure he’ll keep working after she’s gone, because she’s worried about what he’ll do without the focus and distraction work provides.

This past week, I’ve also been dealing with the realization that someone I haven’t seen in a very long time died several years ago. Although I hadn’t expected we’d ever have contact again, just knowing it’s now not even a possibility has cast a different light over things.

I don’t think I’d realized how much everything was weighing on me. This happens. You absorb these day-to-day things, like one stone at a time being added to a backpack on your shoulders so that you don’t realize how heavy it’s becoming. Until that last stone is added.

For me, the last stone was reading last night about the fires in Oregon and learning about the 13-year-old boy who died with his dog in his lap, as they took shelter inside a car. They’re only two of dozens who have lost their lives, but for some reason, I was suddenly unable to stop crying. I still can’t.

I know it’s not just the boy and dog. I know it’s not just any one of these things. And I also know it won’t stop until it’s ready to stop. But damn.

I’m so grateful to have my wife, our dogs, our home. Our family and friends are all safe. We’ll donate and do what we can for those who have lost everything, but…

Some days, it just feels too much.

Let the Light In

A few nights ago, we were watching “Little Voice” on Apple TV (a great show, by the way), and one of the characters said, “Everybody’s broken. That’s how the light gets in.” They attributed it to Hemingway, but when I tried to verify that, I found references to similar quotes by Hemingway, the Persian poet Rumi, and songwriter Leonard Cohen, all with slight variations. Whoever said it, I love the sentiment.

source: inclusion.com

It has felt dark. For some of us, the darkness fell on 9 November 2016, and it hasn’t let up since. The disastrous effects of that election will reverberate long after chump has left office — by whatever means that happens.

But the darkness has spread well beyond him and the election. I always knew there was a certain segment of our society that was racist and xenophobic and bigoted in so many other ways, but I was not aware of just how deeply ingrained that ugliness is until it felt emboldened to rear its head.

All around the world, there’s been a rise, a resurgence of far-right, fascist sentiment. In some places, it’s taking root more strongly than in others. Throughout history, any time fascism has reared its ugly head, only horrific things have followed.

Not to be forgotten are other issues like the climate crisis or the ongoing wars in Yemen and Syria and Afghanistan. And then, let’s throw a pandemic on top of everything else.

There are times when it all feels just… too much.

The fear of getting sick, or mourning the loss of family and friends to covid-19. The loss of jobs and health insurance; food insecurity; not being able to see and hug family and friends; not being able to travel.

source: spinningpots.com

Potters will tell you that there are often hidden defects in a pot — air bubbles, impurities in the clay, thin places in the walls — any number of stressors will cause the pot to crack. If it’s heated or cooled too quickly, it will crack. No matter how perfect it looks on the outside, those hidden stresses will rise to the surface.

Each new social and political upheaval — crack! Each news report about the virus surging in a new area — crack! Each new attack on our norms and our society — crack! Each story of a person of color dying unnecessarily from disease or violence — crack! Each new worry — crack!

I feel like a broken pot some days, and then I know I have to turn it over.

“So I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. And whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong, as happens with the clay handled by potters, he would start afresh and work it into another vessel. Then this word of Yahweh was addressed to me, ‘Yes, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine.’” Jeremiah 18: 2-6

But, is a crack necessarily a defect? Is being broken a reason to throw something away? Or is it an opportunity for light to find its way through?

What if, instead of trying to hide or repair the cracks, we celebrate them? The Japanese have made an art of that. They call it kintsugi — the art of precious scars, using lacquer mixed with gold or silver to fill the gaps and make them part of the beauty rather than trying to conceal them.

source: Lifegate.com

When I think about everything happening around us now, everything we’re facing in the next several months, I believe new cracks are likely to appear in me. As much as I’d like to cover them up, hide them, I think that may only tend to make them crack open even wider — and I can bet it will happen just when it’s least wanted.

Instead, maybe we all need to embrace those times of feeling broken. Acknowledge them. Reach out to those we trust to hold our fragile selves, and remember to let the light in. It may not erase the cracks, but oh, we’re all the more beautiful for the fragility.

Pax

Bring Back the Wolves

“There are two wolves, and they’re always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other light and hope. Which wolf wins? The wolf we feed.”  (from the movie “Tomorrowland”)

Actually, the wolves never went away. The fight has been ongoing since 9 November 2016. Even before that, during the last nasty campaign. But it has been going especially hard since the last presidential election and its disastrous outcome.

I blogged HERE and HERE about how we need to feed the right wolf, because that’s the only way to make sure it wins. And we’ve been trying, though I think we’ve all experienced moments of wondering if the feeding and the fighting were having any effect.

We wondered from those first initial moments of chump’s Muslim travel ban, through the caging of children and separation of immigrant families, and then with his attacks on environmental regulation. Oh, and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and then his attacks on NATO, and then initiating our withdrawal from the WHO. Let’s see, there was the call to Ukraine’s president that got him impeached, and the blatant corruption and retaliation since the Senate shamefully refused to convict him. He and his cronies like William Barr don’t even try to hide it any longer. All the while, as Nancy Pelosi said, “All roads lead to Putin.” There are so many more assaults on our institutions and alliances that I can’t even begin to enumerate them all.

Now, we’re living through the disastrous consequences of a total and absolute abdication of any kind of leadership from this administration during a pandemic and its concomitant economic collapse.

All while we tumble toward what will be the most consequential election of our lifetimes. There are some important things we all need to do NOW.

First, make sure you’re registered to vote. Go to usa.gov/ to register or to check your registration. BUT also check it to make sure your address and name are accurate. Remember, hackers don’t need to actually manipulate our votes. All they have to do is change a house number or street spelling or a couple of letters in our names. In a state with a voter ID law, if the info in the voter rolls doesn’t match your ID, you won’t be allowed to vote. On my page, it also gives me the option of asking for a mail-in ballot, but that may vary by state.

Second, if your state allows vote by mail, but doesn’t automatically send mail-in ballots, request yours EARLY and return it EARLY! We got our requests for mail-in ballots in today’s mail.

We’ve all seen how the new Postmaster General is doing everything he can to slow down mail delivery, so don’t take chances. And double-check whether your ballot requires postage or extra postage! Some people have noted that their ballots require more than one stamp (another ploy to invalidate some, I suppose). The old USPS policy was to deliver presidential election ballots, even if they lacked sufficient, or any, postage, but we can’t count on that policy under this administration.

Here in Virginia, early voting begins 21 September. We plan to go to our registrar’s office where we can turn in our request for an absentee ballot on the spot, and get our ballot right then. Then we can scan it into the machine, so no chance of ours getting lost in the mail. If that’s an option for you, think about it. There will only be a few of the voting office workers there, so any potential virus exposure should be minimal. Way less than the usual polling places on Election Day.

If you live in a state that has ballot drop boxes, USE THEM!!! Again, anything we can do to get our ballots in and counted early will help. The last thing we need is chump stealing the election because late ballots didn’t get counted.

When I hear people say they didn’t vote in the 2016 election, it makes my blood boil! Remember, not voting is a vote for four more years of this garbage! I honestly don’t know if the U.S. can survive another four years of this level of incompetence and mismanagement. We’ve already sustained so much damage, it’ll take us decades to undo all the damage done in these last four years.

Enough for now. Stay safe, stay healthy. Let’s all feed the right wolf!

What is Normal Now?

This year is only a little over half-over, and it is already one that will go down in history. There are times when it feels as if this is just a “phase” we’ll get through, because, hey!, we can all remember when just a few months ago, we were going to restaurants and ball games and concerts and conferences. I’ve been reminiscing about GCLS conferences from past years.

Crazy friends at GCLS 2018

And then I watch the news, with the coverage of the spikes of covid cases in states where people behaved as if the coronavirus isn’t real, and it becomes clear that we won’t be doing any of those things for a very long time. At least, we shouldn’t if we’re serious about getting the viral spread under control.

Me, Danielle, and Jae in New Orleans 2015

Work life is another thing that may never return to the pre-pandemic status quo, large numbers of employees working together in office complexes. What will school look like? And how do parents work from home long-term if their kids aren’t able to be back in school?

For the last several years, I’ve done a spring fundraiser for my local food bank (The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank), donating my royalties for the month of May to help them as they try to meet the increased summer demand. Even though we think of summer a time of seasonal produce, farm markets, picking strawberries and tomatoes fresh from the garden, there are so many low-income families who depended on schools to give free or reduced breakfasts and lunches.

But this year, with so many folks out of work, with schools having been out since March, demand for food bank assistance has exploded. We’ve been donating to our food bank regularly.

We’re blessed to be in good shape financially, and we’ve stayed healthy, thank goodness.

I don’t know what life will look like a year or three or ten from now. I hope we’ll find a vaccine soon, and we’ll be able to gather with friends again – in person and not just virtually. But I am grateful for the tech that has allowed us to stay in touch with friends and family (even if they have to give us tutorials on how to use it 🙂 ).

While we adjust to whatever normal will become, I’ll hang onto the things that bring me peace of mind: my spouse and our dogs, my work, our friends, my writing and reading, my music.

I wish for each of you is peace of mind and spirit, wherever you can find it, whatever brings it.

Pax

Shifting Winds

A few bits of news are in the offing today. For starters, I would like to unveil the cover and blurb of my upcoming release, Face the Wind. It’s a sequel to When the Stars Sang, a chance to revisit Little Sister Island and her people.

Here’s the blurb:

Kathleen Halloran has never been happier. She and Molly Cooper have built a life together, living in her grandmother’s cottage. The family drama of the past has calmed down. She and Molly will soon be aunts. Life on Little Sister Island is everything Kathleen could wish for… until the island begins to send ominous signals that change is in the wind.

Living beside a different ocean, Meredith Turner tries to make sense of her dreams—dreams of an island she’s never seen but can’t forget. After an ancestry test throws her family into chaos, the tempest that follows blows Meredith and her parents clear across the country, to the island of her dreams.

For Louisa Woodhouse, it feels the end is near. With no one to follow after her, she’s the last of her line on Little Sister, and her secrets will go with her. Soon, the Woodhouse name will join the others that now exist only in the island’s genealogy records.

But Little Sister Island has its own magic—rhythms and seasons and tides and currents that even the best-laid human plans can’t fight. And in that magic is a warning—a storm is coming.

And, as has happened globally, the Golden Crown Literary Conference in Albuquerque had to be canceled due to the pandemic. They are putting on a more limited selection of virtual panels and, for the first time, they will be virtually presenting the Goldie Awards on Saturday, 11 July at 4:00 pm EST. There is no cost for registering to attend via Zoom. You can find the links HERE.

I am honored to have two books in the finals this year. A Bittersweet Garden is a finalist in the Paranormal/Horror/Occult category. And Invisible, as Music is a finalist in the Historical Fiction category. Best of luck to all the finalists!

I did a reading from Invisible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdDi5zlPKc0

Best of luck to all the finalists!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and take care, everyone.

Pax, Caren

Pondering

Today, I turn 60. Sixty. How in the world did that happen? As I told a (much) younger friend yesterday, every cliché about time sneaking up on you is true. Your brain settles at a certain age and doesn’t really change. I think mine is 32. Life settled into a good place for me at 32, and I am content to stay there. Alas, time is not stagnant.

Bailey

In my work as a physical therapist, I am always looking at my patients’ numbers: blood pressure, blood glucose, range of motion, and yes, age. I’ve learned I cannot automatically lump people into any category by age. I’ve known some people in their early sixties who were in horrible condition, and I’ve known folks in their 90s who could probably give me a run for my money – mentally, if not physically.

Connor and Finnegan

But certain milestones do feel different. Retirement is now visible on the horizon (and some days that horizon is closer than others!). My spouse is already retired and loving it, but we’re seeing friends and family move out of the homes they’ve been in for decades to places that are smaller and require less maintenance. I can’t help but wonder if we’ll do the same at some point.

Seamus and Hermione

If you’ve read my books, or this blog, you know that I’m adopted. Although I don’t dwell on this in any dramatic kind of way, I do wonder if the woman who gave birth to me thinks of this day. She would be in her mid-eighties now, if she’s still alive. I do have a note she wrote, telling my parents how I liked my bottle and how I preferred to sleep under a fan (still do). That note is a comfort to me. She gave me two incredible gifts – she gave me life and then gave me my best chance for a good life.

Maxwell and Hermione

As you can see, this blog has been a bit of a wander. In thinking about the past, it also got me remembering all of our dogs. They have brightened our lives immeasurably, but being without the ones who’ve passed is still hard.

For a real trip down memory lane, I can’t forget my first shepherd, Sunny. She was my best friend when I was a teen. No making fun of the hair. Or the sheep on the sweater. It was the 70s.

Sunny and me

Anyway, I will soon be sharing the cover and blurb of my next novel, so stay tuned. And thanks for sharing this blog journey with me. (Norway, whoever you are, seeing how many times you read my posts makes me smile!)

Take care. Stay safe.

Pax, Caren

George Washington didn’t sleep here. Or here.

Back in 2013, I wrote a POST about history and, more specifically, the history of my part of Virginia. A sixteen-year-old George Washington got his start as a surveyor here in what was then the western frontier. It’s really cool to take a look at the history of where you live, to ponder the lives of those who settled it, built it into what it is today.

Washington’s Headquarters (he probably did sleep here)

With the coming of the pandemic, we’ve all been looking back a hundred years at the closest thing we have for comparison – the 1918 flu pandemic – to see what we can realistically expect.

But one of the things about this pandemic that catches me by surprise at unexpected moments, is how quickly our lives have been changed by it. Some days, it seems we’ve been living like this for ages – not leaving the house unnecessarily, masks and gloves while shopping, no restaurants or theaters or bookstores. But then I look at a calendar and realize it’s only been about ten weeks since we went into lockdown mode. Ten weeks in which life changed for all us, maybe forever.

The building behind those men in 1940
That same building now a cafe

Our clinic was recently redecorated with tons of photos, many of them military in theme, but mostly local scenes. Some are landscapes and views from local state parks, but there is a series of these photos, taken in 1940. As I stand looking into these images, I’m struck by the realization that, for the people captured in these photos, their lives were going to be completely upended by a world war in a little over a year.

1940

This street is now blocked from traffic and set up as a pedestrian mall. The signage has all changed, but many of these buildings are unaltered architecturally.

Today

When I walk around down there now, I wonder about those people. How many of the men enlisted and never came home? How many businesses were shut down because of rationing? What was this street like in the middle of the war?

It’s been interesting to walk along, trying to find the present-day sites captured in those photos. So many stories, so many lives.

Union Bank in 1940
That same building is now the Union Jack Pub, one of our favorites

I think maybe one of the reasons all of this has been on my mind lately is the realization of how quickly life can change, and it may not ever be the same. World War II had to have done that for everyone. The wars fought in my lifetime have been more isolated, and they haven’t touched me personally.

This pandemic, though, is touching all of us. We miss gathering with friends, being able to go shopping without worrying about what we might come in contact with. At our clinic, we’re looking forward to being able to see patients face to face again. We can do a lot over the phone or video, but there is no substitute for laying eyes on someone. For me, as a physical therapist, manual work is a critical piece of my treatments, and I miss being able to do it. We have no idea what school will look like in the fall.

So many questions we don’t have answers to yet.

What we can take from the past is a sense of continuity. Things change, but they go on. They may look different, but they’re still there.

Stay safe. Wear masks. Social distance. Take care of one another. We will get through this.

Pax

Turning Again

People often want to know how much of herself an author embeds in a story: “was that character based on you?” or “did that really happen?”

The truth for me, and I suspect most fiction authors, is that every novel contains bits of me, little gems of things that really happened, or characteristics of real people. I know some of my stories have been more autobiographical than others—though I’m not going to say which ones.

But as I have been working to re-release Turning for Home, reading that story again for the first time in years, I’d forgotten how much of my childhood was tucked into those pages.

TURNING FOR HOME eBook cover

 

When I was nine, we really did live near a dump. My best friend, Randy, and I really did find a trove of army gear there, and we hauled it all home. I recently found the rucksack down in my basement, stuffed with an old football, baseball mitt, slingshot and BBs. The helmet and canteen disappeared decades ago, but I still have that rucksack. I cannot believe that I have had that thing for over fifty years!

Rucksack

 

Randy and I did sell Christmas cards together and, no, we didn’t win a pony—to my chagrin. Just walkie-talkies, like Jules and Hobie.

Sometimes, when I’m writing, one single inspiration can trigger an entire story, but that wasn’t the case in Turning for Home.

I wrote in the acknowledgements about one major source for this novel—a note someone slipped to me under the door of a bathroom stall when we were traveling through North Carolina. That anecdote figures prominently in this story.

The other big inspiration for this novel was my model for the character of Jules.

It’s risky to write a character who is flawed and not always likeable. The funny thing is, Jules is actually based on a woman I knew, though we haven’t had any contact for a number of years. My friend was charismatic, attractive, funny, generous with her time. She was someone who drew people to her, including romantic partners. But we watched her burn through four relationships, and we never really knew why they ended. The surprising thing is, neither did her exes. We were friends with all of them, and they were heartbroken but clueless as to what had happened.

And that got me thinking about what could make someone who, on the surface is so likeable, throw up such a wall, such a barrier to emotional intimacy.

It’s kind of strange to be “releasing” a book that has been out for five years. It has a history with readers, and this is a novel that gets mixed reactions from them. Some really understand how torn Jules is, the way she tends to live half in the past, with those memories constantly tugging at her. For others, the flashbacks drive them nuts.

This isn’t a happy or light story (though it has some light moments), but, as I read this story again to edit it, I couldn’t have written it any other way. Jules is a character who is anchored by her past, and it won’t let her go. And that’s something I understand.

I have no evidence to back this up, but my guess is that the readers who “get” Jules are people who know what it’s like to live with a painful childhood or past, and how hard it is to let those things go.

When an author writes for a living, she has to write what she knows—or at least expects—will sell. For a lot of authors, that means writing to a formula. I see it in many of Nora Roberts’s trilogies. I see it in several of the more prolific lesfic authors. And it’s understandable. Readers expect a certain type of story from them.

Since I don’t depend on my writing for my living, I can take risks. Turning for Home is one of them. I appreciated Ylva Publishing taking a chance on this book in 2015, and I’m happy to re-release it now under my imprint. If you’ve previously read this book, the only major change is the addition of a short story, “Just a Normal Christmas” which serves as an epilogue, especially for the characters of Kelli and Donna.

I hope you’ll give this story a chance. You may like and understand Jules; you may not. But I think her story will be one that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

Pax, Caren

Vigils

“And when death comes, I’ll reach for your hand, feel our love flow in your breath. In your eyes I’ll find a way to stand and see more life than death. Stay with me.” © Joe Wise

Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week for the Christian world. Wednesday of this week will be the start of Passover. This Friday is Good Friday.

This is always a solemn time of year, a time of keeping vigil.

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Thirty-four years ago, on Good Friday (it was 29 March in 1986), I was keeping vigil at my mother’s bedside as she was dying of pancreatic cancer. She died in the wee hours of that night, and I was blessed to be there, with my father, grandmother, my aunt and uncle as she passed. I’ve written about this before (Watch With Me) and (On Eagle’s Wings).

The most important thing is, we were there with her, able to touch her, speak to her, tell her we loved her and that it was okay to let go.

Today, a dear friend of mine is marking the one-year anniversary of her wife’s passing. She was able to be there, to hold her, to say good-bye.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people are dying in hospitals where their families can’t be with them. Medical staff are doing their best to be there, to hold phones and tablets so that family members can see and speak to their loved ones as they pass, but it will never be the same for them. The families can’t have wakes or funerals. The risk of people gathering is just too great. I can’t imagine how much harder it must be for them to adjust to this catastrophic change in their lives, for it to seem real when they couldn’t be there.

This has been a tough weekend, emotionally. Reading about a Florida couple in their 70s, married for 51 years, who died 6 minutes apart after ventilators and intensive medical care couldn’t save them. Watching an interview with a woman who lost her 42-year-old husband to COVID-19 and was only able to be with him virtually as he took his last breath. I’ve been in tears more than not the last two days.

I just learned a few days ago that I’ll probably be re-assigned from an outpatient clinic to the hospital, but without any idea of what I’ll be doing. I worry about whether I’ll have adequate PPE. I worry about possibly bringing something home to my spouse. Our house isn’t set up to allow me to live in one part and her in another. But I know many others are caring for patients in absolutely horrific conditions.

My beloved and I have tried to be as prepared as we can. We updated our wills a few months ago. We’ve prepared a folder with everything our families would need if the worst should happen to us. It may seem morbid to some, but that kind of planning brings a kind of peace.

As we all keep vigil, please pray for those who are ill, for those who are grieving loved ones they never got to say good-bye to, for all the healthcare workers and first responders who are trying to care for the stricken.

 

 

Hold your loved ones tight, and don’t wait to tell them how you feel.

Pax

To Tell or Not To Tell

There are so, SO many blogs and posts out there about the downward slide of the discourse all around the country since this administration came into power and enabled people to openly voice their racism and xenophobia. But I’m not going to write one of those.

Warning: this will be a bit of a ramble.

One of our newfound delights is an HGTV show called “Home Town.” It’s based in Laurel, Mississippi and features a young couple named Erin and Ben Napier, who remodel homes for people looking to move up or settle in Laurel. More about that later.

I have always been out at work, at least with my coworkers. In addition to my gayness not feeling like something I need to be ashamed of or try to hide, it always seemed to me that if I was out and open, that takes away the power of others to try and use it against me, if anyone was so inclined. There’ve been a couple of negative reactions over the last 30 years, but very few.

IMG_0307

A couple of weeks ago, I had a patient, a Vietnam era veteran, who has been seeing me for back and hip pain. He was in a talkative mood on this particular day. He and his wife were going to be traveling to an upcoming wedding of a son of one of his platoon members, and he was looking forward to seeing his buddy. He started telling me about this dream he’d just started having for the first time in over fifty years—a very detailed dream of saying goodbye to his family when he got drafted and had to report, of boot camp, and then his deployment to Vietnam via Midway and Guam. The whole thing seemed to have played like a movie in his head.

While in Vietnam, he had a few hand-to-hand encounters, and did kill some of the enemy who had infiltrated a communications station he was working in. And then, a platoon member lost it and began shooting up their barracks, killing a few men who were in there. My patient, when he got to the barracks, saw where a few of the bullets had ripped into his empty mattress—the bed he might have been sleeping in if the attack had happened a few hours earlier or later. He even has one of those bullets in his office.

And suddenly, he was sobbing, unable to speak.

All I could do was be there with him, assuring him when he kept apologizing that it was perfectly all right. I offered him some toilet paper (it’s softer than the government-issued tissues around here) to dry his eyes and blow his nose. I let him know we had three mental health providers in the clinic, if he felt he wanted to speak with someone. He declined that day, but said he’d think about it.

Yesterday, he came in for his next (and last) visit with me. Turns out the wedding of his buddy’s son was to his fiancé, not his fiancée. My patient had never been to a same-sex wedding and said he found it very moving.

And I found that very moving. This 74 year-old man, instead of being angry or disgusted or repulsed by the exchange of vows between these two men who loved each other, listened to the vows they’d written and made to each other, in front of, not only their friends and family, but friends of family. Just like any other wedding.

It was so tempting to share with him that my wife and I got legally married on our 20th anniversary. I think he would have been open to that and would have accepted it without any issues, but I really needed to touch base with him about his flashbacks from our previous visit, and I didn’t want to distract from that.

I firmly believe that the only way to change hearts and minds about LGBQ people is for them to know us, for us to be out and open. But it’s different when I’m contemplating crossing that line with patients.

I have done that, many times. I met two of our dearest friends, M&M, by opening up to them when I was treating each of them. But in each situation, I always have to step back and question whether it feels okay.

Of course, I don’t always need to come out. Like the day one patient called me a fucking dyke. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the hate in his eyes.

We fear what we don’t know. I do believe that. But we also disdain what we don’t know because we don’t value it. It doesn’t mean anything to us, so… who cares? And disdain is just one short step away from hatred.

Which brings me back to Mississippi, and Erin and Ben Napier and their TV show.

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I’ve never given Mississippi a thought. It ranks 49th or 50th in nearly every statistical category: lifespan, health indicators, per capita income. It has a long history of rampant racism. I’ve never had any desire to live there or to visit. I disdain Mississippi because I don’t know it. And there may be parts of that state that live up to every preconceived notion I have of it. Especially the parts with lots of red MAGA hats. But not Laurel.

As Erin and Ben squire folks around Laurel, showing them houses to possibly remodel into their dream homes, they’ve worked with all kinds of folks: the older black woman who owns a local diner, a young lesbian couple (one of whom grew up in Laurel), the woman who headed up the town’s revitalization campaign. But they’ve also had a couple from Canada who have decided to retire there, and an older man who chose to move there from Belize, along with an actor and his wife from California who decided to help remodel some more modest homes and provide them as lease-to-own for lower income folks.

What Erin and Ben wanted to do was to introduce people to the charm to be found in a small town. But the other thing they’ve done, whether they intended to or not, was to bring all kinds of different people to Laurel. I listen to the strong southern accents, and I know my first inclination would have been to think all of those carpenters and painters and floor refinishers were uneducated, racist, homophobic, xenophobic bigots. And maybe they are off-camera. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have been just as guilty of assuming the worst of them and everyone else filling in the vast spaces in the middle of the country. Which makes me realize that if I am willing to assume the worst of people based solely on where they live, I am part of what is tearing this country apart.

But by bringing all these disparate people together in one small town, the Napiers are helping to create tolerance. When you live among people who are different from you, you learn acceptance and tolerance, because you see those folks aren’t that different after all, not in the ways that matter.

The challenges are only mounting: the coronavirus outbreak; the tanking of the markets and their possible impact on the economy as a whole; several more months of soul-sucking political campaigns before November gets here.

No matter how disgusted I am by the behavior of people sporting MAGA hats, the hooting and hollering at the rallies, I have to believe they do not represent everyone in their community. If I lose that hope, well… I don’t want to be that person. I won’t let them make me that person.

This time will not last forever, if we only remember to have courage and be kind. (okay, I borrowed that from Cinderella – the Lily James version).

https://www.imdb.com/video/vi1065004825?playlistId=tt1661199&ref_=vp_rv_ap_0

Pax