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Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Political Right: Encouraging a culture of fear

fearspiders_fullpic_artworkI am an avid Facebooker. After my granddaughter Marrisa and my colleague Josmell talked me into joining Facebook several years ago I immediately became very enamored of the site. I was living more than 500 miles away from my hometown of Xenia, Ohio and this was a great way to keep in touch with people and events unfolding in the City of Hospitality. My husband, who was still living in the Xenia area for a few years until he retired would get his news about what was happening in town from me even though I was in NC. Facebook is fabulous for keeping your finger on the pulse of a town.

What I did not expect was to become Facebook friends with dozens of my former students. I was thinking more of folks my own age, colleagues, friends, etc., but the first ones and some of the most permanent ones have been former students. I am both amazed and flattered that so many of my former junior high, high school and college students want to stay in touch with me. It makes me feel much more like a citizen of the world to still know what is happening in their lives. I love my former students. I took that in loco parentis thing seriously and always told them we would be together 9 months just like their mother carried them for nine months and that meant we were permanent parts of each other’s lives no matter what happened. I also warned them that I would take partial credit for anything wonderful they did, and I assured them all that I knew they would do wonderful things.

Now, however, I find that a few of my former students have kind of wandered off the track as far as I am concerned. The fact that several of them are Republicans is not disturbing, well at least not that disturbing, the fact that some of them seem to have become gun lovers and are living in a state of fear of attack from some unknown villain is much more bothersome. These young white men, now rapidly approaching middle age, that i taught when they were teenagers or young adults, feel beleaguered and I am not only not sure why, neither are they.

When I see them posting pictures of guns, sometimes guns they are wearing, I ask them why they feel the need to be armed. Do they live in dangerous neighborhoods? Have there been a lot of home invasions where they are? The answers to both questions is always “no.” Then why this fear of being caught “unprepared?” Actually the answers they give read like gun manufacturer’s propaganda. “To protect my family” and to be ready to take down any miscreant foolish enough to try anything in front of them in public. I am not sure if these young men, good, generally rational, intelligent, realize that they have been sold a bill of goods.

The increase in gun sales both since the election in 2008 of President Barak Obama and since his re-election is telling. There is actually a television program now about people who are stockpiling weapons and food for the eventually collapse of our society. Can you ask yourself why this did not happen, at least not on this scale, with the election of any other modern president?

The bread and butter of the political right for some time has been the selling of fear. They sold fear to the Southern whites in the 1950s, telling them that blacks who had equal rights would cause chaos, run rampant and marry their daughters. They used fear to shift the Dixiecrats from the Democratic party to the Republican party, effectively driving blacks out of the GOP.  They, the  Republicans,  promised  they would help the poor Southerners stem the tide of barbarian blacks threatening to end their world as they knew it.When the predicted Armageddon did not occur after the civil rights and housing acts were passed they changed their story to the mythical ” Welfare Queen” and the black thug image so artfully played out on a daily basis. ” Okay, they may not be dangerous like we said, but they are still a drain on society, they wear their pants wrong and they still might want to marry your daughter!”

Recently they have sold fear of immigrants, making outlandish claims to the point where I read obviously untrue statements like the fact undocumented people do not pay taxes. Really? When was the last time you were in a grocery store or mall that had a tax free line for immigrants? And property taxes are waived for renters and home owners without papers? Who knew?

The vaunted War against Women is yet another fear tactic. Fear that men will become less powerful, or perhaps even relatively irrelevant. Women are attending college in far greater numbers than men, women are actually taking control of their own reproductive rights, it is no longer a hanging offense to have a baby without benefit of marriage, some women actually admit to enjoying sex! What is wrong with these women? We have to get them back under control and relieve them of these silly ideas of equality and independence. They should be housewives and stop being obsessed with things like sexual violence, which we all know is over stated and not nearly the problem those Feminazis try to make it!  Fear of women is one of the new pages in their binders of fear.

In all of their scare tactics, however, they have rarely told people to go buy guns to defend themselves from their own government ( isn’t that treason?) and against their fellow citizens. This is relatively new. Using the Second Amendment (ignoring the fact we no longer have, or need militias), which was obviously written for a different time and circumstance, they equate trying to keep automatic weapons out of the hands of the neighborhood looney as tromping on their liberty and rights.

This culture is almost exclusively white as far as I can tell. I am sure somewhere in this favored land there is a brown survivalist, we are pretty ubiquitous in all areas of American culture, I know several black rednecks for example, but the people I see and hear from are white. The memes that are used to illustrate the need to have a gun and not be afraid to use it show only white men and the occasional white woman. On a side note I notice that when T. Martin was shot by his father’s neighbor they gun advocates did not suggest young black men go out and buy guns to protect themselves from the local racist.  I wonder if the gun lovers are equal opportunity in wanting folks armed, somehow I doubt it.

I am not sure  the people who buy this ” be afraid and buy a gun” even understand the underpinnings of this created fear of society in general and the government in particular. The fact that the government is being led by a black man has scared the bejesus out of a bunch of people in this country. And the right is trying really hard to take advantage of it by encouraging them to fear the government and prepare to fight if necessary. See, if I sell you a gun I make the profit even if you never get to use it.

What the right does not realize, at least the rational part of the right, which is, granted dwindling, is that there are not enough of the fearful or at least not enough willing to let go of sanity all together, to win elections. That means what they are creating is a dangerous brew. People who have been told overtly and covertly that they are at risk are dangerous themselves. If they see the candidates who tell them the government is against them and is evil, not get elected it only shores up their paranoia. See, the good people who think like I do cannot get elected, it is a conspiracy! Take to the bunkers!

The talk of taking up arms against the government has come into the public sphere. Grumblings about the American Revolution and its stand against tyranny are relatively common in public media, including letters to the editor. What happens when the frightened and paranoid feel themselves disenfranchised? When the government passes, as I have no doubt it will, gun regulation laws? What will these people who have been convinced by the right that they are under attack do? Will they decide to take out a few of the “enemy?” Will the enemy all be in Washington, or will their neighbors who voted for those evil, corrupt, society ruining politicians in Washington serve as sacrifices to the Code of Liberty?

When people on the left get disillusioned with government we tend to write letters and essays and even books about the failures of government or if we are really on the fringe join a commune and smoke pot and wait for the end. We do not think buying guns and hoping for a chance to use them is a rational response to bad government. We have our loonies too, but they are generally only dangerous to themselves.

It is chilling to hear people you know talk about protecting themselves from the government. There are several things wrong with that idea. First, our government, although far from perfect, is elected. The people who took up arms against England did not get to vote for the King of England. Second, the idea that a disorganized band of frightened people could beat the US military in a fight is ludicrous. I recently pointed this out to one of my errant friends and his response was that the Vietnamese beat the US despite their superior force. This, of course, demonstrated a woeful ignorance about the Vietnam War and the reasons behind the  decisions made by the US government to leave Vietnam.

What I see is the danger of a group, connected by the internet, trying to organize a modern day militia to overthrow the government. If you are afraid of your government and sure they mean to do you harm what is the next logical step? Can they overthrown the government, uh, no, but they can do some substantial damage to innocent people in the attempt.

To my survivalist, Last Days, the sky is falling friends I say this, calm down. No one is coming to attack you besides perhaps your local nutters and there is no way to protect yourself against lunacy. You may have a Glock on your hip but if some crazy decides to burn down your house while you sleep or blow up the mall you are visiting it will not do you any good.

What we all need to work on is understanding and trusting and valuing each other . There are always going to be outliers in any society but we do not need the gun lobby and the right wingers creating a fringe element that is dangerous to public safety.

I am afraid that most of my fellow citizens who are rational and not paranoid do not understand or even know what is going on in the shadows of our society. They may not know that the person next door has an arsenal and is talking about their duty as a patriot. I do know it and it worries me enormously.  Does that make me paranoid?

I am, in the final analysis,  convinced that the image I have at the top of this post is true, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…and spiders!

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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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This Old House: Why I love mine despite its flaws!

When I went to North Carolina to work 2003 my husband decided he wanted to continue to work at a different college in Ohio. So we did not sell or rent our house, because he was living in it. When he moved down to NC in 2010 we discussed doing something with it, but I knew I would never sell it and renting it meant landlord issues and not having access to it whenever we wanted to, so we simply kept it. Because I was making good money and his retirement was good we could afford to keep it open, turn down the furnace, and maintain basic cable. The cost of keeping it up and running was about $150 a month, not counting the mortgage of course.

When it came time for me to retire from UNC, or more accurately when I decided they had lost their minds and were never going to address diversity in any relevant way and I might as well leave, I was excited to go back to my old house in Ohio.

My condo in Cary was built in 1986 and has had lots of renovations to make it modern, wood floors, new windows new faucets, paint, etc. My house in Ohio was built in 1927 by Dr. David, a professor at Wilberforce University and later at Central State University.  We have owned it since 1982, well us and a few banks, and  have done some work, new windows upstairs, etc., but it still needed and needs a lot of work to approach being what anyone would call modern.

The problem is I do not want it to be modern. I love the fact that the downstairs windows still have wavy glass in them, true they are not the most weather proof windows, but lined curtains or drapes take care of most of that, along with some super caulking. The bathrooms are both tiny. If you are over 6 feet you probably cannot sit straight on the downstairs powder room toilet without hitting your knees on the wall.  But they are functional.

There are doors and windows everywhere. In the kitchen there is a door to the utility room, a door to the back stairs, a door to the dining room and a door that leads to what we call the In-betweens, a small hallway that leads down to the basement or to the kitchen or to the downstairs bathroom or to the living room.

There is old, big woodwork everywhere, holes in the floors in corners of the rooms where gas stoves used to sit. When we moved in and had the plumbers come to update the plumbing one young man came upstairs and asked me quite earnestly if I wanted to keep the gas in the walls since it was still being piped in for now non-existant gaslight fixtures.

There is a built in china closet in the dining room, back stairs in the kitchen, which is also tiny by the way,  a large living room, big dining room, small study with floor to ceiling bookshelves.

I love my old house, not because it is perfect but because it is unique. . As odd as it sounds I like it because you could not build it today without spending a fortune, and in some cases you could not build it at all, the materials no longer exist or are not code. The  walls are plaster, not drywall, except in the kitchen, which we had to gut since when we pulled off the paneling in there the plaster came with it down to lath and plaster.  The floors are not level, but they are not laminate either, they are hardwood. The hallway upstairs is small, but the doors to the three bedrooms and the bathroom are all wood five panel doors, not some hollow core things.

The small bedroom which is also serving as my dressing room has one wall that is almost all windows, and it has a tiny closet door that leads to a big closet back under the eaves, but looks like it belong s in a hobbit house.

New house are formulaic, and people spend all kinds of money trying to make them unique, different, quirky,, individual. I do not have to do that. I just have to figure out how to store modern stuff in an old house. We had to have the furnace replaced ( the old one was the size of a room and still worked well, but with climate change we also needed air conditioning) and the electrical outlets upgraded to grounded fixtures to allow for a three pronged plug. We had the ivy yanked off since it was growing onto the roof and covering the back of the house, and the house painted. We still have miles to go, concrete works, a new porch, etc., but we will get there eventually if our pocketbooks hold up.

Whether we do or don’t I love my old house even when it makes noises I cannot explain ( one of the advantages of having cats is you can always blame it on them) and when something breaks and the person who comes to repair it says wonderingly ” I have never seen anything like this before.”

If I ever become rich I am going to roam the countryside looking for old houses to renovate. We are a disposable society, if the house has flaws tear it down and build a new one. But, old houses speak to me, they tell me they still have potential, even the capacity for excellence. All they need is a little love and a lot of money!

In a world that is becoming more and more standardized my old house is my rebellion against uniformity. I am sure some of my friends think we are mad to put so much into such an old barn, but I personally believe that one day, if I live, I will look at what we have done and say ” There, I told you I would bring you back to your old glory girl.”  Now if I can only figure out how to stop having my guests have to enter off the deck into the utility room, and take down that big cabinet that serves no purpose and find a spot for that cabinet I want moved out of the study and figured out how to put a sink bigger than 12 inches across in the little bathroom and ……

🙂

 

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Uncategorized