Monthly Archives: December 2005

In God We Trust and Have a Merry Christmas

The past two nights, as I came home bleary-eyed from a day of reading, grading, feverishly writing exams, listening to lectures, etc, I logged on to check my email. Both nights I got some sort of crazy forwarded email from each of my parents — from Dad first, then Mom. Both emails were about the victimization of Christians in this country, because we cannot say “Merry Christmas” anymore. The one from my father was a letter forwarded from the American Family Association about how successful a Target Boycott has been (although looking at the headline of the link, it says Target has not responded). They also claim the fact that Sears has Christmas promotions as a victory.

Today I got this ridiculous email from my mother that had a supposed letter to the editor from a Tampa newspaper about how immigrants and a few people born in the States are disallowing the patriotic citizens their rights by forbidding “Merry Christmas” and God.

I believe I missed this memo. You see, I, a beautiful liberal, say things like “Merry Christmas” and “Oh my God!” all the time. The last I knew, there was no law passed saying people could not use the word Christmas. Has Christmas commercialism gotten out of hand so that it rubs every non-christian’s face in it? Yes. Does that mean we have passed a law? No.

And once and for all, can people please understand the concept of separation of church and state? People fled their countries to come to the US at various points in its history to avoid religious oppression. We have been founded on the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state. I’m so tired of hearing, “America, love it or leave it.” I do love it. Does that mean I have to agree with it all of the time? Does that mean I have to give up thinking as an individual? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of freedom?

If you want to be ruled by the Catholic Church, move to the damn Vatican City.

Finally, when people say things like there is nothing wrong with extreme patriotism in one’s country, I kindly as them to look at Germany circa 1938. The is no benefit to any society from jingoism.

I got kind of excited when I first saw the email subject from my father, something about a boycott being successful with Target. I was hoping they had changed their stance on a recent decision they’d made about allowing their pharmacists to refuse to fill the Plan B contraceptive pill based on religious beliefs. Sujal claims this is “my” issue, and therefore we should boycott Target. I fully support this boycott, because I am completely pro-choice, and I think it is wrong for someone else to presume they can and should make “moral” decisions for someone else. But I was very sad that we can no longer shop at Target, because I like the store. So I was hoping that my dad was sending me an email that we’d won the battle. With hindsight, why my dad would ever send me that kind of email, knowing who he is and all, I have no idea. But I was hoping, nonetheless. Sujal feels strongly about the issue, because it opens the door to sanctioning other religious discriminations, which I can see as well. Damn it, Target. You were the last big store we could shop at. It’s not like I have interesting shopping options down here in CT, either.

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Age and West Hartford

I’ve been thinking about my age lately, and maybe that’s not even the most accurate term to use: age. I think the better word might be: aging. I’m 32 now, and I love being an adult. I would never go back to being a kid for all the money in the world. I love being in (general) control of my life, making my own decisions, etc. But I think with many of my increasing life changes, I am becoming more and more aware that I am indeed aging. I know it is laughable to many people to hear a 32 year old talk about aging, but I am beginning to realize my mortality on a whole new level.

I’ve been pretty aware of my mortality since a pretty young age. Around four, I began to think about and figure out what death was. By my freshman year in high school, I tasted mortality by hearing of a girl who commit suicide. While I did not know her, it weighed on me for a long time. Finally, when I was 21, a 21 year old friend of mine drown in the Niagara River. He was Steve Kszan, a friend I had from Welland, Ontario. Not only was he my age and dead, but he was a really special person to me. As a teen, I was a perfectionist, in terms of what I expected of myself and others. Steve was one of the very few people who just made it okay to be human and fuck up once in awhile. When he died, I narcissistically mourned my own death. I say that, and I want to clarify that I was not consciously mourning my own death, but I became obsessed with how he died. I morbidly tried to picture or imagine what it must have fekt like to drown in that River. For those of you who do not know the River, he drown in the lower river, and the rapids there are so fierce, that if you go in the river, you do not come out alive. I researched the history, geology, and culture of the falls. I read so many books, the informative and the ridiculous. I wrote about it. I visited his grave on a regular basis. I even keep a doorknob he gave me. And again, I really think that I transferred the realization of his mortality onto the realization of my own.

So again, this is not a new concept for me. What’s new is I am a size 8 for the first time in my life. Yes, of course I could go exercise, etc. But my lifestyle change since I moved here, has prompted me to be more sedentary and to eat much worse. Yes, of course, I can and should take some responsibility for this and do something about it. But there are two undeniable parts to this: 1. my metabolism, my notoriously fast metabolism, is slowing down 2. I live in the suburbs.

I have detested the ‘burbs since I was a teen living in them. There is this isolation of the ‘burbs that is like ice. And it means I’ve hit an age — an age when one moves to the ‘burbs. Since I have moved here, I have been trying to like it. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have started getting the West Hartford News, which I have to say right now is a gossip rag. I’m sorry, but I have absolutely no need to know what is going on it the police blotter. It may be public info, and that is fine, but it should not be published in a newspaper. I suppose there is a good article or two once in awhile, but Cindy Basil Howard’s column is so vapid that I can’t even read it anymore. I began getting the West Hartford News because I wanted to learn more about the local politics. I think I was feeling a bit guilted into it. People always say that local politics affect an individual the most, but I disagree. When leaf day pick up is affects me to some degree, but only in the most insignificant way. Schools and public works are important. This is very true. But Blueback Square — honestly, if the right to an abortion is overturned, that affects me more than a shopping center in West Hartford. Whether or not my country is at war is much more important to me.

I thought about this for awhile, and I recalled that Northampton’s local politics cared about those more global issues. West Hartford is so insular. So far, that is my impression of the entire state of Connecticut. (Remember: being a Catholic means you get to blame your surroundings.) I love living in New England. I believe it is my favorite part of this country, But CT is almost not really New England at all. Yes it has the churches and fall leaves and a bit of snow, but it does not have the New England feel that I love. It has the dour New England feel, the let’s shut up and sweep it under the rug feel. I’d rather live in MA, VT, ME, or even NH, where you can live free or die. Northampton, even though it was in Western Mass, had a mix of this cosmopolitan feel and this small town community feel. God, do I ever miss that!

How does this make me feel like I am again, aside from the fact that my wrists hurt far too much? I feel like I’ve lost goals, like I’m not aiming for anything. I feel like my Connecticutian surroundings are stifling me and making me sedentary. Can I really blame the state? Or do I need to get off my tushy and do something? Okay, I think the answer is obvious. But dear CT, if you can find it in your heart, kick some opportunity in my direction, please. Have a goal roll by like a tumbleweed so I can chase after it.

Thinking About Rene

Note: I wrote the first three paragraphs of this post in June of 2005. The rest I am adding in December.

I’m not exactly sure why I began thinking about Rene recently. I was driving back from Amy’s shower, and my mind was wandering around as it is wont to do when I’m driving for quite a while. I recalled Rene, a boy I was acquainted with as a young teen. As a naive suburbanite living in Cheektowaga, coming from a working class, polish immigrant, hard drinking, self-definsively racist, devoutly catholic background, I became friend with Dawn. Dawn was from the city of Buffalo, and we lived in Cheektowaga. WE were going places, living in Cheektowarsaw. So you can see there was an obvious class difference. My family had escaped Buffalo, and had a long time ago. Both sets of grandparents had lived in the polish suburb of Cheektowaga for many years. On my paternal side, my grandparents had lived in Buffalo in their youth, including when they first married. They were part of the historic white flight from the city to the ‘burbs. I’d say my family mellowed with generations, but it really depends on the individuals to be frank.

So Dawn had the citified edge to her. She actually knew people who were not white, though they were indeed still catholic. She had this friend Michael, who was hispanic and lived in Buffalo. One day we chatted on the phone with him, and he put his friend Rene on to chat with me. I was in ninth grade, and this was one of the first times I was flirting with a boy. I was receiving attention I liked, and so I had a telecrush on Rene. To be honest, I don’t think I even had any idea of his race. I’m not sure I know his last name at the time, but because he had what I thought was a french name, I probably assumed he was white.

We exchanged phone numbers, and we chatted on the phone often. It was a time of teenage sexual exploration, in the most benign manner. He asked me how big my bumps were under a sweater (not very), but I was becoming aware of myself as a sexual being, not for the first time exactly, but in a continuing sort of way. He participated in some junior air force group. I think he flew(?) — hell, I’m not sure what they did there, because he could not have been more than 15. They were having some sort of ball, and he asked me to go as his date. A DATE! Of course I wanted to go. So I asked my mom, and she said a resounding no. She said he was probably black, and that seemed to be the strongest reason for me not to go wth him. I don’t remember her saying much about the fact that he was a stranger I’d only chatted with on the phone. I so clearly recall having to call him to tell him that I could not go and citing the reason as my parents would not allow me to be in an interracial relationship. Of course when I think now, I wonder what the hell possessed me to be that brutally honest. I suppose it was complete ignorance.

(Now in December): I’d still like to hope it was ignorance. I just posted about being very mean to a girl in my homeroom. I guess I, too, have the confessional bug, which I will blame on my Catholicism, as we Catholics can’t take any blame ourselves. (The devil made me do it, afterall.) I was out the other night with co-workers, and Asha, the new teacher, said of Debbie, the teacher she replaced, that Debbie’s former students told Asha that Debbie was black. Debbie is asian. We chuckled in a sad way that our students see all non-whites as black, but frankly, I did the same damn thing as a teen, or my mom did, or we both did.

When I was so honest with Rene, he told me, “Well what race do you think I am?” And when I said black, he told me he was Spanish (might I add, not hispanic, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Guatemalan, etc). Of course that didn’t change anything for our potential dating situation. Again, I’d like to chalk it all up to age and inexperience, and perhaps in part I can. It’s not easy to figure out our own places in the world and other people’s places in the world. The sad thing is: there ARE places for us in the world.

Again and again, I am aware of my own roots, especially having jumped a social class. I am very uneasy living in West Hartford at times. I still have some disdain for ostentatious wealth. I think of the American Dream and how it deludes people so easily. That is the goal of capitalism, to delude people. I look around at hardworking people in the service sector, and I see sharp class lines. And the sad thing is, I am often aware that I help maintain those lines. When I have the energy, I do try to shake up those divides, but it’s not easy. I wonder where Rene is today. I wonder if he joined the armed forces and if he is in Iraq. I wonder if he is married and has kids. I hope he has left Buffalo, if for no other reason than the racism there is thick enough to be cut with a knife, as it frankly is in Hartford. Anyway, ‘nough said. Thoughts?