Welcome to the Reading Alcove ~ A Place on the Window Seat

This is the official blog of Victoria Adams, a published author.  It has been established as the contact point between the readers and the author and as a “window seat” where we can talk about the books and subjects that we find of interest.  The primary interests here are Caregiving Backstage (because I am one), Humanities for the Unbound Mind (because I love all related subjects), and Natural Science from the Observation Deck (because I am an amateur Natural Scientist whose heroes spend a lot of time thinking). It is the type of place where you can imagine grabbing a cup of tea, a comfy thing to sit or sprawl on and a warm place in the sun (or a quiet place to listen to the rain).  It is a place where we will explore the world of the word together.

Courtesy WANA Commons, Rebecca Burray

Courtesy WANA Commons, Rebecca Burray

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under General Comments

When did the Giver of Life become an Object to Own?

Another Facebook post that started to grow beyond reasonable means – now becomes a blog.

Sunday morning: Instead of reading through FB posts and tripping over things that make me sad or disappointed, I am choosing more frequently to spend time with those “other bookmarks” that I save for “when I have time.” Many of these articles are saved from Facebook posts of friends across the globe that share my interests, some are the product of searches to verify, or run from, a post that peaks my interest. A writer’s Google search may be revealing – but what is saved is a whole new ballgame.

One of this morning’s reads was about the history of women in religion and faith. Some of the most revered minds of our ancient past were female. [Hypatia, Aspasia, Diotima…there are dozens more modern and ancient on my Facebook page] The question is, why do we, as a gender, pay such a high price for what we have given to our species – including life itself both in the birthing of a child and in the commitment to nurture that child. This article is an excellent short history of the rise and fall of women in faith and religion.

Of course, as short as it is, there is much worthy of discussion that is missing. For instance, Hebrew tradition symbolizes wisdom with a female – Sophia. And yet rabbinic literature going back centuries warns of the dangers of a woman’s manipulative abilities. There are traditions that record Lilith as Adam’s first wife. Since she was unwilling to submit to Adam as her superior, she left the garden and was demonized for the rest of history. Poor Eve doesn’t fare much better. Deborah, a judge of Israel, appoints Barak to lead the army against Jabin and Sisera. He will not engage without her in the lead. And it is a woman (Jael) that takes down the commander Sisera.

For New Testament figures we have Mary, mother of Jesus who is raised to near-divine nature, while Mary Magdalene finds her contributions buried by the early church. The Magdalene is a mystery within a mystery due in part to the struggle for authority within the early church. Labeled as a repentant prostitute, she was kicked to the curb of history until quite recently.

This editing of history goes on even in the face of New Testament records (however bent a translation may be) that indicate women held leadership roles within the early church. This was not an exception to the rule, but a organic part of the church’s early need for solid leaders in the faith. An interesting bit of history is provided in this article.

My maternal great-grandparents came to the US from what was then Yugoslavia. Their home town sounded something like Poland to the folk at Ellis Island and for a good portion of my life I thought I was one quarter Polish. A cousin deep into genealogy research (not so easy in Eastern Europe) discovered the error and determined that the family originated in Croatia, and was, most likely Roma. The Roma are a people persecuted around the world for centuries. Although nomadic by nature, they were rarely permitted to own land or conduct a business. They were a target of Nazis during the rape of Europe. Forced to find alternative means of survival, they were often accused of theft (sometimes accurately). However, in contradiction to the contempt of “polite” society, deep were the paths worn in the dead of night to the doors of the old wise women who could offer cures, or hope, or spells for success. (Along with the more carnal needs of humanity).

I am truly not sure why the strengths of women are so disparaged in our current society. Why is it we feel that women should not be independent in thought and choice? Why shouldn’t they be leaders when our early history indicates they can do as well and sometimes better than their male counterparts (meaning that sometimes the fellows do better)? Why do we condemn the Muslims when so many of the practices we disparage are mirrored in our own society? Toss the Burka, but make sure that the little lady does nothing without her man’s approval. Why do we have such a propensity to ignore what we detest in others rooted deep within our own souls?

Our current culture (at least here in the US) blatantly supports the pervasive attitude that women are somehow less. Boys will be boys, but girls make choices for eternity – given the assumption they have a choice in a threatening situation other than to survive. Men can impregnate whomever they wish whenever they wish; but the mother must face the roadblocks of an uncaring system to care for that offspring even to the point (in some states) of providing a rapist with access to her child. A man can get a prescription for an “enhancement” drug that is covered, without hesitation, by any insurance company. A woman, however, must fight for coverage of any reproductive related medical prescription or treatment. Sometimes she must also fight for access. Does this make sense in a modern society with access to well-developed medical and scientific practices? Why is it even a question in this century?

woman-1749355_1920

Woman of Tibet, photo by Smokefish, Pixabay.com

Of one thing I am certain, wise women are women of patience. I knew my maternal grandmother well and we were very close. So much of who she was is very much a part of me. It is from that well-spring of strength that I know that one day our species will understand that the whole cannot function well without all of the parts functioning at the highest level of performance. We are a global family with limited resources and great responsibilities. We are way past the time when we should stop fearing each other, whether by perception or deed, and find a way forward to a more stable future.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Personal Journeys

My Achilles’ Heel

I think I have found that spot in my professional life that I can’t do well or have yet to develop the skills to manage well. Maybe because it is less professional and more personal. Consequently, it is a good thing I have run out of near relatives so I can avoid this particular pitfall in the future. My sore spot is tax issues relevant to an estate and noncollectable debt.

1099.jpg

Now, I must tell you that I have handled the accounting side of several estates, and I did just fine, in some cases exceeding expectations. Way back in the away-time when I was first starting out as a bookkeeper/accountant, I was called on to handle two very sensitive estates. In one case my employer’s son died from a brain tumor. He asked me one afternoon if I would meet him at his son’s office the following weekend and help him with a few things. The day went by in companionable silence and we worked through the files sorting out what had to be paid and arranged information for attorneys and accountants who would close out the estate. I was very close to the family and I genuinely felt the loss. At the end of the day he thanked me. He told me that he knew I had probably figured out that it was not my help he needed so much as he needed the company. He let me know how much he appreciated the professionalism, the help, and the quiet support.

Not too long afterword (memory fails on these dates), my employer was diagnosed with Lew Gehrig’s Disease. His prognosis was not optimistic. I was one of three people that knew that his focus had changed from building and maintaining, to preserving and estate planning. For six months he, his son-in-law, and myself, worked diligently with legal and accounting professionals to work out the best way to preserve his estate for the future. I remember vividly when I took his last tax return to his house to gather his and his wife’s signatures that he looked me directly in the eye and asked me if that was all. I replied that to the best of my knowledge, yes. Within 24 hours he was in the hospital in a coma and we lost him soon after. Again, I spent a quiet afternoon going through a desk and personal files to help the family organize and respond.

I have been involved in other estates. Remainders of pieces of family that were close to people I cared about. Always, I felt the greatest gift I could give was my background and the willingness to find things out, to help make decisions, to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.

Then, I became a primary. Dealing with my husband’s, and now my mother’s estate I have discovered I have zero tolerance when it comes to incompetence. Actually, regardless of the situation I am not overly patient with sloppy work when it comes to other people’s money. I’m lucky, truly. With my husband I did hire an estate attorney to give me the lay of the land so that I knew what was needed and expected. I could then figure out how to handle any outstanding issues knowing I had backup if needed. And still, I found myself wanting to climb through the phone and strangle many of the people I had to deal with. Now, my mum. This time I had a professional I could speak with that is working on a file for a friend/client of mine. I offered to pay, but no, this was one commiserating accountant to another. I shall treasure that conversation for a very long time.

So, what is the issue that so bothers me? When a person dies and there is nothing in their estate to cover debt (such as credit cards when they are the primary debtor) the debt is usually written off. Now, companies to which such money is owed can take their sweet time making sure that there were not large sums of money hidden under grandma’s mattress, or that there isn’t some other asset tucked away to which the estate has a financial claim. But, in the end, the debt is declared noncollectable.

At some point, whenever “they” get around to it, the company might then issue something called a 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. These things are evil incarnate. First of all, conservative estimates indicate that nearly 70% of them have some type of error. These errors can include such things as using the wrong taxpayer ID (or none), not reporting the interest portion of the debt, using the wrong date for the “identifiable event,” and several other bits of information. Now, cancellation of debt is a taxable event. There are limitations, such as interest that would have been deductible on a business return but was not taken.

The point is, there is a form out there in the IRS databanks assigning some value as income to a taxpayer. If you have access to accounting help (not a drive by shop), you will get assistance on how to address the reported income from your side, or to follow up on a corrected form. If, for instance, you went bankrupt, that date of event can be critical in answering the question of whether taxes are due or not. Let’s say you have recovered financially, and the date is set after the date of bankruptcy. That balance is now taxable unless you can get the financial institution to change the date to the date of insolvency. Anybody have a headache yet?

As mentioned above, I have zero tolerance for incompetency in some areas. I have to think about the number of people out there who do not have access to the things I do, who get these documents and have no clue of what to do with them and end up paying someone something when they don’t owe it. Sometimes at great personal sacrifice. And I really don’t like having to work double time to fix someone else’s lack of focus (lack of knowledge is okay, uncaring incompetence not so much).  I get that we do not want people of means to declare financial ruin and skip fancy free from using other people’s money to support a life style. The problem is that the “fix” does far more damage to those who can least afford a viable and legal defense.

I just have to say that I am blessed with people who bring me back from melt down and offer solid advice. If you know someone who is dealing with an estate that is insolvent with not enough assets to cover the debt, it will help if you find an accountant to walk you through. Some senior centers have access to professionals willing to donate time or provide advice at lower rates. Remember always that you have the right to use reasonable resources to care for last expenses such as burial and legal and accounting services (unless of course it is the final Social Security check). Just don’t panic, find someone who has been there to help you walk through it. I shall go try to take my own advice and be thankful that all the folks left in my life are people that can depend on me to be more level headed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal Journeys

On the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Today I was reflecting on MLK. I have had a stormy relationship with his memory. There were times when I toyed with the histories that thought less of him, or may have been, in some ways, an attempt to see him more as a human than an icon. Eventually, though, he secured my respect. In the end I could not resist the siren call of “I have a dream.” It was a speech delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Stanford University, among so many, catalogs the speech with this summary:

“In his iconic speech at the Lincoln Memorial for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King urged America to “make real the promises of democracy.” King synthesized portions of his earlier speeches to capture both the necessity for change and the potential for hope in American society.”

And the part that will not leave my heart:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification,” one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

He chose to remain faithful to a nonviolent protest, to become a reminder to those who governed the nation that in the process of writing the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution our founders had written a promissory note to which each American was to fall heir. “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

His legacy is the voice of promise, and the demand that it be fulfilled. It cannot be fulfilled by governments alone, it must spring from the people governed. King left us the legacy that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Indeed.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In the past week another nationally shared event took place. Although there is still much finger pointing and multiple interpretations of what precisely happened, a few things appear to be settled. A small group of Black Hebrew Israelites began to verbally attack a group of Native Americans. Black Hebrew Israelites have a fringe militant edge that are the mirror image of White Supremacist groups – a vision that would have given King living nightmares. All the identity theology and supremacy ideology packed into the white-people rage fringe is mirrored in this group. They are known for their inherent hatred of Native Peoples as well as whites.

Into this mix appears a group of high school boys attending a Catholic High School and wearing MAGA hats. I was not able to confirm the reason for their visit, although there was mention of their attendance at the anti-abortion event, March for Life. So, now we have the perfect storm. Enraged fringe people, persons accustomed to being assaulted in word if not deed, and a group of young men nearing their testosterone peaks. America of today in a mini-mash.

Then there is the Elder, playing his drum and making eye contact with the one he perceives to be a leader. Willing the young man, will all that is within him, to not escalate the confrontation. Somehow, to some extent, he succeeds. And, yes, this is my interpretation born by the experience of working with First Nation peoples and knowing something of what it takes to receive the honors he bears. In addition to his garnered respect in the Native community, he is a vet, a man who has served the country which still has issues keeping its commitments to his people.

In this explosive incident, one that is being interpreted, reinterpreted, shared, doctored, fought over and blasted through social media, we have shone a light on where we are as a country today. I may not agree and may even be disgusted by the views of these young men and their parents – but never would I suggest death threats. Little is being said about the BHI because, well, there is probably too much guilt over the general treatment of blacks in this country to see with clear and reasoned vision when we should protest. We have wrapped ourselves up in such convoluted visions of what we think America is or should be we have forgotten our first, simple, shining vision.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence).

From the Library of Congress:

The concept that all men are created equal was a key to European Enlightenment philosophy. But the interpretation of “all men” has hovered over the Declaration of Independence since its creation. Although most people have interpreted “all men” to mean humanity, others have argued that Jefferson and the other authors of the Declaration meant to exclude women and children. Within the context of the times it is clear that “all men” was a euphemism for “humanity,” and thus those people, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, who used the Declaration of Independence to demand equality for African Americans and women seized the historical as well as the moral high ground.

I have a dream, that one day we will be the nation we have always aspired to be and that all of our people will know the fruits of the promise of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind

Reflections ~ On the Changing of the Year

I recently read an article by Melinda Gates that talked about goals and New Year resolutions. She wrote something that resonated with me. She does not make resolutions or goals for the new year, she has been trying something different. She chooses a word. Last year she chose the word grace. She reminds herself of her chosen word throughout the year in situations great and small, triumphant and trying. It is a touch stone that guides, rather than defines, her goals for the coming year. I love that idea, so I thought I would give it a try.

There are oh so many marvelous words in the world, choosing one can be rather daunting, but it is worth the effort. My word for 2019 is “seasoned.” Season is both a noun, and a verb. As such, it can describe an accomplished goal, or the process. Common synonyms include, experienced, accustomed, toughened, inured, and habituated. Or, it can mean the fullness of time for the seasonal cycles of the earth, or the perfect moment to consume a fruit or vegetable. Season gives balance, flavor, a richness to things when properly applied. Season, and its related forms, can bring to mind a hint of a flavor, a powerful storm, the aging of fine wood, the smiling face of a wise old mentor, or the face of a storied warrior. Seasoning is how we become.

This word will serve me well, I believe. There are some areas of my life and my developed personal philosophy that have come to fullness. There will always be more to learn, but I feel settled in the direction that learning should take me. Let’s say I have found a distant star and know that it exists. Now I wish to know all about that star, what it is made of, when it was born, when it will die, and what depends on its existence. There are always amazing things to learn even if you feel settled in the path from which you explore them.

I’m not sure I can claim maturity in the full sense of the word. Yes, I am more mellow and more understanding than when I was younger. I am better at leaving well enough alone and at walking away when I believe my presence will cause more harm than good. However, I’m also rather uncompromising when it comes to core values. There are actions my heart has no room for and if people try to convince me there is no solution, then I believe we are looking at the problem incorrectly. There is a solution, but to find it we must first be willing to understand all aspects, all points of view. We need to look deeper to better understand while acknowledging that we are not the metric by which the whole world must be measured.

Consequently, in this coming year, I want to remind myself of the investment in time and knowledge required to mature to fullness; and that it can be a rocky road. I want to find the knee-jerk in my mind and mellow it a bit more so that I am able to frame alternatives in the manner needed for the audience. I want to work on the rough edges of my personality and learn to be a bit more tolerant of the perceived foibles of others. I want to season my presence in the world.

There is one other aspect of “seasoned” that resonates with me. Not only does season refer to experience or flavor, it also refers to cycles and timeliness. This, too, is a critical piece of any decision or goal. Is it time? Is it time for here, but not there? Sometimes we are in such a hurry to make sure our thoughts, our goals, our beliefs are known, that we miss the perfect moment for reception. Communication does not occur unless there is a confirmed receipt of the message. I want to be more mindful of the time and place for sharing. I want to hone my skills like those of a surfer that knows the moment to accept the wave. I want to be more aware of when the piece I have to share will do the most good. My door is always open, I want to get better at knowing when to start the tea.

There are many songs that speak to my heart when it comes to finding the better way, or to reminding me that even the smallest of contributions can make a difference. Recently, I have been reminded of this one. Somewhere in the vast ocean there are many small boats sending big waves, and with one match…

boat-clouds-cloudy-611328

Photo by Matheus Guimarães from Pexels

Fight Song – Dave Bassett / Rachel Platten
Fight Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

Leave a comment

Filed under General Comments, Personal Journeys

The Scandal of the (White American) Cross

Much food for thought in these trying times.

Leaning Out

I was raised at the cross. It stood atop steeples high in the sky and marked the front of every church I attended — the only symbol allowed in our iconoclastic faith. We sang about it and talked about it, preached about it in every sermon and invited people to come to it at every altar call. We cherished the cross, embraced the cross, and “took up our cross” every day. 

The instrument of the worst torture the Roman Empire could devise, the cross,  had been transformed into the symbol of a life devoted to God.

And I was taught that cross was a scandal — offensive to all those who wouldn’t believe and didn’t belong. A scandal to liberals who were “squeamish” about blood. A scandal to secular minds and hearts that didn’t like the idea of personal sin and guilt. A scandal to the self-satisfied who…

View original post 828 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under General Comments

A Letter to Mumsy

Hi, Mum. We haven’t talked in a while and there is so much to catch up on. It has been such a crazy year filled with really great things, and things that worry and terrify me. I miss our chats. We didn’t always agree, but we could always talk. Well, at least once we had sorted our roles out and found a space we could share.

You didn’t know, last year, but I had lost my job. I didn’t want you to know because, well, you didn’t need the worry. Things worked out, I was able to cobble things together, keep the bills paid, and find my way to you. I think you knew something was stressing me because, even though I asked repeatedly if you wanted me there, you wouldn’t say yes. I am told that you made sure our customary teddy bear was with you constantly in those last days. So many people had so many wonderful things to say about you. I treasure those thoughts even now.

I’ve missed our talks. So, this Christmas Day, well, I’ll write you a letter.

Last fall, I had patched together an arrangement of contract work, tax returns, and part time work to get me through to another permanent position. As sometimes happens, the timing was impeccable, and I found a new job that I love dearly. It is challenging, but not stressful. Although I’m still the number cruncher, my work contributes to an organization that helps a lot of folks manage and recover from mental health issues and substance abuse. The team I work with is amazing and, although the salary started lower than where I had been, the benefits are quite juicy. I’m doing some of that doctor stuff I was always hounding you about. Oh, and I have a raise coming in a month, and a retirement account starts growing in two. Sigh, such a journey I’ve been on to reach this point. I’ve even started the renovations on the house

I do so miss our talks about what is happening in the world. Again, we didn’t always agree, and you were often more forgiving than me. Well, sometimes not so much. As we often discussed, the things happening in my country are crushing my heart. It’s not that I don’t understand that we need to protect ourselves and that we need to make sure that agreements are advantageous. I just don’t get the venom. It hurts. So very much.

Even you would be angered by the constant re-writing of history, of the seeming unwillingness to check on the most basic of facts. We allow ourselves to be influenced by the waves of social angst and rarely stop to question, to research, to make a choice anchored somewhere in reality. So, we accuse people fleeing a disaster we helped create of being terrorists. We talk about mowing down populations simply because they represent something we were taught to hate. Although for months I have been talking about the instability of the markets – I was told the economy was the best it had been in years. Farmers are going bankrupt, there’s barely a place in the country where minimum wage can provide decent shelter, food, and clothing. The money so graciously given to our largest companies was spent reacquiring stock, rather than investing in people and material growth. Our infrastructure is collapsing, and we want to build a wall – a wall where one already exists where it is feasible. Border patrol wants technology, yet there are those that are pushing to give them a monument.

Health care is going through the roof and people are dying because they cannot access drugs that have been around for decades. You were diabetic. I have no idea what your drug costs would have been had you survived. Even if your cancer treatments were still working, could we have afforded them? That is a heartbreak I’m not sure I could have handled. You, in your stoic way, would have trudged on through. We seem to have no will in this country to care for people in an efficient and cost-effective manner. The whole system is a mess. Thank God I have a job that provides the coverage I need. I am one of the lucky ones.

The international scene is a mad man’s ball. We have no idea from day to day who our allies will be, or who is now our enemy or competitor. Yes, I know we were in a place where we needed to push back and rearrange some of our agreements – but kicking the whole world in the balls was probably not the best idea. And the people we have always known were not our friends – well, evidently now they are. They can do no wrong. No friend is a true friend if there is no room for accountability. I hope our boat can float long enough to survive this storm. I honestly do not believe we are in a position to respond to another Pearl Harbor or 9-11. Many of the folks that could have guided us have left or been excused. I know from experience that no matter what your intentions and other skills may be, learning the job in the middle of a critical event is not the best idea.

I do have hope. I really do. Each day I meet people who, like me, continue to work toward the best moment for now. I find people who are kind, who believe in the underlying ethics of seeing the best in folks whatever their gender, sexual intent, faith, race, or personal quirks. I see people who genuinely care without being naive. I have no notion of what the next 20 years will bring. Thanks to you and my maternal genes I have a pretty good chance of finding out. I do know that when things appear to be heading into a catastrophic train wreck, I hear the voices of two people I know and care for the most. Two people who managed through depression and war. Two people I love. You, and my beloved husband.

Merry Christmas and sleep well, Mum. You’ve earned the rest.

Mumsy Memorial

Memorial for Delores Troxell, December 2017.

Leave a comment

Filed under General Comments, Personal Journeys

Reflections ~ Banned Books and Social Stigmas

While in a cold-haze today, I ran across an article written by a pastor. He was describing one of those moments in life when you dearly want to be happy about something, but the cost is too great. In his district a mother had approached the school board with a impassioned plea to ban Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. The book used the word bastard and she didn’t want her 13-year-old exposed to such language.  The pastor’s conflicting emotion arose because she wanted to replace the book with his, When the English Fall (by David Williams). This was an honor he wanted no part of, Bradbury is one of his favorite authors.

I was taken back to my own junior high, high school reading experiences. First, there is the year we were to study Catcher in the Rye. I believe this was during the no man’s land period of junior high when a course of study is but a vision on the horizon. I did, however, love to read. Due to the “adult subject matter” of the book, we were required to take a note home and get parental consent for participation. Now, one must understand that my mother had a Bachelor’s in Literature and my father left school in 8th grade. I am assuming he at least asked her opinion and my guess is that somewhere in that house there was a copy of the book.

My father gathered his religion around him and said no. One should know I had been living “adult subject matter” for the greater part of my life. I might have found something useful in the tale had I been given the opportunity. Perhaps that was the point. I was the only one in the class who was unable to gain permission to read what was already a classic. I do not recall what the response of my classmates was. I wasn’t that connected to what they may feel at that point in my education. What did happen is that instead of reading a 200-page book with the benefit of class discussion, I was assigned another book to read, Where the Redfern Grows. The book is around 300 pages long and, although sweet here and there, was far removed from my experiences at the time. Still, I was expected to keep up a reading schedule and make all the assignments within the same allotted time. I still don’t know if the teacher was attempting to make a point for me, my parents, or just wasn’t that engaged in the farce of “teaching” me anything of value. What I did garner from the class was of little use in helping me meet the requirements related to my assigned book. Isolation was a well-known companion, if not a comfortable one.

Fast forward a few years to a high school class when the book being read is Bradbury’s 451. I don’t recall if permission was required and, quite frankly, I wouldn’t have bothered. However, this too was an interesting experiment in education. The books provided to the students were purchased by the school. Our teacher purchased hers at a local bookstore. Then the games began. As we started to read various passages out loud in class, it became quite evident that we were reading somewhat different books. I remember one passage being “sanitized” by scrubbing even the word navel. All four-letter words were banished, and some passages had been re-written changing the intent and the impact. All in a book about censorship.

Young minds are not to be daunted and so, under the guidance of our teacher, we composed a letter to Mr. Bradbury explaining our shock and dismay that someone would tamper with his work in order to “clean it up” for our young impressionable minds. Bless his heart. He responded with a lovely letter and sheets of stickers for each of us, so we could spice up our editions as soldiers in the fight against those who would burn pieces of our books without our knowledge. I read a forward to a later reprint and saw hints of this experience in his commentary. (see also:  this blog for the quote from Bradbury’s CODA).

I believe what I fear is that in a world that constantly screeches “fake news” at us, we will dim our drive to discover, to check, to be aware of all the information available to us, even if it is unpleasant. Even if it exposes something in ourselves that we are not prepared to acknowledge. Not so long ago I saw that an award named after Laura Ingalls Wilder was dropping her name because of some of the attitudes in her books. These are phrases she herself called out in later years surprised at how insensitive they sounded now even though the language was commonplace when she was a child. I have heard the uproar over Huckleberry Finn and the language and attitudes shown in that story. I am here to tell you that if we bury this past, we will never be forced to acknowledge it. Apparently, it is far more appropriate to shoot a black person today than to acknowledge the attitudes of a society that enslaved him; and in some ways still does.

photo credit plymouthherald.co.uk

The current mood in our country is a symptom of the live burial of the past. We choose to ignore the symbols of hatred and division from the past because it is inconvenient, and we may have to face the same thoughts and actions in today’s world. Consequently, some will up the cry and shock us with their naked anger and hatred to preserve a past that never was. I must ask you, though if this is not the path you would choose; what are you doing to turn down the temperature, to educate, to seek the wiser course? It is crucial to protect the joint heritage of humanity with all of its glory and destitution, with all of its great loves and deepest darkest hatreds – and from that muddled soup of human emotions and aspiration – perhaps we can build a future worthy of living. Don’t hide the past but do your best to seek out the truth and defend it from those who would re-write it into a story that never was.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, Personal Journeys