American identity, cultural absurdity, healthy living, Uncategorized

Don’t watch the news.

I grew up in a house where watching the news to stay informed was considered a mature and reasonable thing for an adult to do. My dad read the paper faithfully every morning, watched the 6 PM news faithfully every evening, and rounded it out with Peter Jennings at 6:30. I am not as faithful about the news as he was, but I always had at least a side eye on what’s happening. However, American news outlets are a one way ticket to CrazyTown.

Abandon American national news media via television or radio. Check local weather online (we live in a hurricane zone and it’s peak season here for the next six weeks, so…). Only read national news twice a week, and world news from non-American sources. Yes, the BBC is a liberal outlet, but it’s still better than ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/MSNBC, etc. And at least with them I can get news on what’s happening in Afghanistan, which I like to stay on top of for familial reasons. Other than that, it’s best to tune out.

Every person I know who seems sane and untouched by the crazy is a person who has no idea what’s happening in the news.

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American identity, cultural absurdity

American stupidity is more like it.

This morning during the cool down after our run, our daughter told me about a  singer –Allen Stone– she recently encountered via Spotify. The lyrics to one of his songs follows:

American Privelege

Oh, it doesn’t seem right that I, I was born white
And my seven-stone fight told me they love me each night
I don’t lose sleep for kids sewing my sheets
Or the ones snitching my sneaks, as long as I can buy ’em both cheap

American privilege, is blurring my vision, inherited sickness
American privilege, is blurring my vision, inherited sickness

Everyday I piss money away, I’m the tip of your slave
Just tryna polish this ball and this chain
‘Cause I, I don’t think twice, just keep it out of my sight, oh
Bitch, don’t kill my vibe, no, bitch don’t kill my vibe

American privilege, keeps blurring my vision, inherited sickness
American privilege, keeps blurring my vision, inherited sickness

As long as I stay comfortable
(Cash that paycheck, spend it all)
(Build that house up big and tall)
Break the bank to build the wall
(Robbing Peter to pay Paul)
As long as I stay comfortable
(Robbing Peter to pay Paul)

American privilege, keeps blurring my vision, inherited sickness
American privilege, keeps blurring my vision, inherited sickness

 

She did some recon on this guy after encountering the song and…lo and behold! His dad is a pastor and his mom a nurse. In other words, with such parentage, he probably would’ve been fine no matter what color they were.

Her thoughts:

“I liked his music until this silly song played. He completely missed it when his privilege, as a straight white male, was revoked. Most of what he describes of his life is also my experience. The great life with the happily married parents is likely because he was raised in a Christian home rather than a white one. I’m as privileged -if not more- than he is. Only privileged white people left in America are white women, and that’s because they’re women. “

This current climate is easy to reduce to sound bites and sides but it really is complicated. 

I ran across this guy recently. Despite his misunderstanding of diversity and obvious affinity for BLM (Garvey’s Ghost echoes my thoughts on that movement) he is at least intellectually honest enough to acknowledge that white men are being demonized and denigrated by the liberal media as much as black men have been, even though the genesis and motivations are different.

 

American identity, family life

The nuclear family (alone) option.

This is an interesting bit of history on the roots of the nuclear family. Namely, that the notion was mostly 1) British, and 2) marked by many of the same characteristics that mark family formation in the United States today, hundreds of years after the era used as the springboard for the piece.

Not so long ago, family scholars labored under the assumption, half-Marxist, half-“functionalist,” that before the Industrial Revolution, the extended family was the norm in the Western world. There was more than a little romanticism associated with this view: extended families were imagined to have lived in warm, cohesive rural communities where men and women worked together on farms or in small cottage industries. That way of life, went the thinking, ended when industrialization wrenched rural folk away from their cottages and villages into the teeming, anonymous city, sent men into the factories, and consigned women to domestic drudgery. Worse, by upending the household economy, the Industrial Revolution seriously weakened the family. The nuclear family, it was believed, was evidence of family decline.

The nuclear family was the dominant arrangement in England stretching back to the thirteenth century.

But by the second half of the twentieth century, one by one these assumptions were overturned. First to go was the alleged prevalence of the extended family. Combing through English parish records and other demographic sources, historians like Peter Laslett and Alan MacFarlane discovered that the nuclear family—a mother, father and child(ren) in a “simple house,” as Laslett put it—was the dominant arrangement in England stretching back to the thirteenth century.

Rather than remaining in or marrying into the family home, as was the case in Southern Europe and many parts of Asia and the Middle East, young couples in England were expected to establish their own household. That meant that men and women married later than in other parts of the world, only after they had saved enough money to set up an independent home. By the time they were ready to tie the knot, their own parents were often deceased, making multi-generational households a relative rarity.

As I stop to think about it  for just 2 minutes (I just read the piece),  it makes perfect sense really.  Given that the U.S. was born of British heritage, it should be expected that our family dynamics mirror this.

I am beginning to wonder, however,  if I am too naive. Despite my oft-professed realism, I actually believe there’s a reasonable and sane midpoint. One where the overwhelming importance of the two married parents, father-led home is acknowledged as best for children and society, but which also acknowledges that such an arrangement thrives with  a little help from a village.

Ideally, that village would be extended family, but experience has taught many people that in the absence of shared values with some blood kin, you have to take support where you can get it. Thankfully if we’re fortunate, Christianity can open the door to heart connections with those of like precious faith onto whom we can lean from time to time when we need it.

Having come from a community where historically the extended family has tried -with minimal success to speak of if any- to fill in the gaps of the broken family nucleus with extended family support, it is my belief that if you have to choose one or the other, then the nuclear fmaily is the only viable way to go.

(h/t): Maea, via TPC

 

 

American identity, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world

Thoughtful commentary by thoughtful, thinking men.

I’ve been knee deep in family celebrations and get togethers for the past little bit. Perhaps there will be more on that at a later date, but I took a bit of time to catch up on some of the writers that haven’t been winnowed from my formerly way-too-long reading list. Some of these are worth sharing. Some I fully agree with and others I appreciated for the opportunity to think about the implications. In no particular order:

To say that Garvey’s Ghost has been on a roll the past few posts would be an understatement. I really enjoy this guy. He thinks, and he makes sense, and even on the rare occasion when I have a quibble (for instance, I am just not into Pan-Africanism), I click away from his stuff with something to consider that is off the left or right’s beaten path.

Next up is Doug Wilson’s thoughts on using profanity. I *get* where he coming from here. I really do, and although I battle with cussing in my head at times, it is extremely rare for a cuss word to come out of my mouth. My husband, who can be pretty incisive with his words, and is known not to pull a verbal punch, finds profanity problematic as well. The difference is that rather than it being indicative of someone’s lack of love for the Lord, he sees it as a lack of ability to think well or quickly enough to convey the depth of one’s convictions or perspective without it.

I’m not particularly moved by squeaky clean language coming from a snooty, snobby, self-righteous person. I’m so over propriety draped over feigned piety that I could spit, and someone who uses a cuss word here or there -unless the setting or situation is wholly inappropriate- doesn’t really bother me all that much. It certainly doesn’t mean they’re a Hell-bound sinner. I said Hell. Is that permissible?

Buried in the comment thread of Doug Wilson’s post was a comment tangentially related to the subject matter, but this guy’s words resonated with me so deeply that I think they bear repeating for their spiritual value. It is this very conviction which has completely overhauled the way I view people. More importantly, the way I speak to and of them:

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot more about how sinful I really am. The part that scares me is not that I sin, but that I don’t fully desire to be rid of it. I do at times, but at others I make accommodations for it’s presence. I’m not sure I know the difference between personal disappointment and disgust, and real repentance.

Yes, brother, whomever you are. I know exactly what you mean. If there’s any good from it, it’s that it keeps my heart tender towards others. Saints who know they are also sinners tend to be less snobby. Or we should be.

Lastly is a C.S. Lewis piece that I was reminded of by a commentator at Zippy Catholic’s. I cannot recall which post this was buried in, but the portion from Lewis they quoted was this bit:

Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. Fur spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

I was motivated to go re-read the entire article which I hadn’t read in at least a decade, and it was well worth the re-read. Lots of good stuff there, regardless of whether or not you agree with the thrust of Lewis’ argument:

Well, between the reading and the writing of this post, lunch break has gone way over. If I was on somebody’s job, I’d be losing money.

Enjoy the rest of your day. All 15 of ya.

 

 

 

American identity, black in a multi-culti world

Something about roots, culture, and history (I guess).

Yesterday morning a dear friend, of Scotch-Irish descent born and raised in Appalachia who has long since forged a new life and path with her (non-Appalachian) husband and children, handed me a book.

Hillbilly Elegy, which I’d never heard of despite its being a best seller, has fascinated me since I picked it up last evening. In the years since I’ve known my friend, she has been trying to get me to *get* the universality of certain experiences in a way that I didn’t until I started reading this book.

There were numerous accounts and recollections offered from J.D. Vance’s upbringing that I related to quite strongly.[1]  He offered examples and experiences that I could have written almost verbatim, but for the cast of characters and regional backdrop. This, even though I am as far removed from Appalachian culture as anyone I know.

Many of his conflicting feelings and emotions (feelings which my friend has also expressed over the years) resonated with me. How, did I connect with this white hillbilly -his description of himself- from the Appalachian hills in a way that would seem pretty unthinkable to me, a black woman raised in the black, working class south?

It really came down to the same thing that built the connection between my friend and I. I used to think it was that we both loved Jesus, but nope. There are plenty of people who genuinely love Jesus but with whom I’d just as soon not be bothered. Rather, it is tension of being similarly situated on numerous fronts:

  • Raised in a culture among people who we loved and who loved us,
  •  a culture with deep roots and strong virtue,
  • but a culture also in the grips of strong vice and pathology, which
  • limits the ability to achieve, grow, and thrive without leaving those behind, while
  • still feeling a deep gratitude for what it imparted to you even as
  • your sanity and the future of your children demands that you move on from it.

As I talked with my daughter about it this morning, she was less incredulous. Across the board, she noted, people are increasingly classless and it is quite common now to find people of various backgrounds and ethnicities involved in various displays of dysfunction. The stereotypes are becoming increasingly obsolete and the dysfunction generally associated with the poor or ghetto classes are seen every where except among the upper crust.

Of course, while she certainly witnesses the tension of which I write, she does so from a more comfortable vantage point. Which is the very thing we wanted for our children; the ability to see, analyze, and understand without emotional or psychological weights. In effect, any double consciousness they experience is spiritual in nature (in the world not of it and all that), rather than ethnic or cultural, as described by W.E.B. DuBois.

Somehow, my man seems less hamstrung by the weights than I. As usual, he is the anchor to my rocking boat, the lighthouse our kids use to navigate the storm that typifies today’s stormy cultural waters. But then, he generally ignores commentary: from the left, right, and others, choosing to think for himself. “True intelligence [about an issue]”, he said recently, “Comes from taking the time to really think about a thing, not simply regurgitating what someone else said about it, and that includes randomly spouting off cherry-picked Scriptures.”

[1] Thomas Sowell penned the research that connected a lot of these dots several years ago, but because he is that damnable combination of black and conservative, this research is rarely spoken of when dysfunctional cultural narratives are discussed.

 

 

 

American identity, cultural absurdity, Humility is important

America: One big fun house mirror.

President Trump’s latest undignified, poor impulse control theatrics has the media trotting out the “beneath the dignity of the office” line. Indeed, before i heard any news report, I even used the words: “That is so undignified”.

All it took however, was one good cup of coffee and clarity took hold. This is who we are, and by we I mean collective America; undignified, impulse driven, show boating, shameless, and daring anyone to confront our right to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. Of course we elected a president who does exactly the same.

One would certainly hope that by 70 years of age, a bit of maturity would kick in, yet I am reminded of one of my stepmother’s cardinal sayings: “Wisdom done not come from age, wisdom comes from God.”

That a media and corporate complex which relentlessly pushes exactly this type of emotion-driven, flesh-fueled approach to life would start to yell “undignified” when the man the people they service elected behaves in precisely the way they prescribe and reward crystallizes how distorted our self- images are. It’s as if we’re surrounded by fun house mirrors with no sense of how the behavior we condemn is part and parcel of American life.

This is occurring as I am reading books that touch on these themes as well. One of them is very recently published, and I have been dissecting and writing on it chapter by chapter.

The next installment includes a chapter on how unbecoming, unchaste, and embarrassing behavior is the new normal as a direct result of the current technology. The Anthony Weiner incident is used as a prime example, which speaks for itself.

For every person who understands full well that their antics are on display, there are others who find themselves having their naivete and sense of intimacy betrayed by people they thought they could trust. In a sane world, most people would refrain if only for fear of public shame, but that no longer exists either.

The other book, Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch, was published in 1978, and yet somehow, with no knowledge of what life would be like in 2017 he tapped into the pulse of what we see today. America has been headed for this, complete with a nutty, no holds barred, undignified commander in chief for quite some time.

The president’s antics are simply an extension of the way many Americans live their lives and share their thoughts; unfiltered and without reservations for all the world to see. The pause button has been disabled until after the fact and when it’s too late.

So pardon me if once again, I find my outrage meter mysteriously on the fritz at the latest round of American pearl clutching. My ironic humor meter, however, is working just fine and we got a good laugh this morning here at our house.

American identity, black in a multi-culti world

Whitewashing black fatherlessness helps no one.

While doing research for an offline project, I ran across this article advertising a book on the impact of fatherlessness on the lives of black men who have produced famous and widely read  literature. These portions jumped out at me:

“One question pulls this together: What is the impact on black men when their fathers are absent?” said Green, who is also an associate professor at UNCG. “It’s quite significant, but it’s not debilitating. It doesn’t mean life is over for them, that they’re ‘at risk’ or that they have a target on them.”

Later, the author continues:

The success of the profiled authors proves that the absence of a paternal figure doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle, Green found.

“I’m not saying in this book that not having a father doesn’t make a tremendous impact, because it does,” Green said. “I’m not saying they will all become award-winning writers or the president of the United States. What I am saying is that they have a chance to be something – and we need to encourage that.”

It is a monumental mistake to use Barack Obama, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and Richard Wright as templates for the typical black man who grows up without his father, which is what this book does. Exceptional cases are just that; exceptional. That we know their names at all is reason enough to discount them as indicative of the average man, regardless of race.

This is not helpful.

At all.

 

American identity, Common sense, Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world, wife stuff

Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

American identity, Common sense, cultural absurdity, Humility is important

Commitment as long as it works for you isn’t commitment.

During a very edifying time with a friend, we got on to the subject of the innate problem most Americans, including Christians, have with commitment. We weren’t discussing marriage.  Although there is certainly an argument to be made even on that subject, there have been (literally) no divorces in the relatively large circle of families we have been blessed to have fellowship with over the past five years. A couple of close scrapes, but they weathered the storms and came out on the other side, usually happier it seemed. So no, this isn’t about marriage commitments.

It’s about the kinds of commitments that make a viable Christian community over the long haul possible, but which no one -myself included- really want to commit to. At some point the needs of my family, my kids’ education, or my perspective may change in a way that continued commitment to that community won’t work for me anymore. By won’t work, I mean become inconvenient, not comforting, non-affirming, or in some other way fail to add measurable benefit to my life as needs dictate at that time.

The freedom to go for the gold, forge our own paths, rebel against “tyranny” and maximize our potential are what it means to be an American. There are few things in life worth giving up that kind of autonomy for, so in order to spare ourselves the messiness of disentangling from one thing to seamlessly move on to another, we resist committing to anything. Then we wonder why there is no depth of Christian community nor sufficient support, socialization, and connections between believers so that our young people aren’t floundering when it’s time to find a good job, Christian social lives, or a suitable Christian mate. Or why some of them have already determined that family life is not worth the risks or the sacrifices. It’s because we’ve set a poor example.

This admonishment is as much for me as anyone else. After all my impressive rhetoric (according to my friend), when she proposed that I might be the perfect person to fill a particular role, my immediate response was, ” I don’t know, [Carol]. That’s a big commitment!”

…first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

American identity, black in a multi-culti world, How to pick a guy

What’s a [black] girl to do?

I have a lot of thoughts about this piece of writing, but for right now I’m putting this article here as a marker to share one of the things we’ve discussed in our family given our present social circle and the experiences our daughters have had (or will have).

It’ll probably be next week before I can even begin to unpack it properly and I don’t know that I’m going to take the time to do that, so here it is:

Negro Bed Wench or Baby Mama: A Black Woman’s Dilemma.

An object level example:

A white guy at our daughter’s job made an offer to spend the day hanging out with her when their day off fell on the same day. She didn’t think it was a date proposition -she declined- but as a general rule, men don’t hang around young, attractive women thinking she’s another one of the guys.

There’s also a black guy at her job who clearly has a serious crush on her. Everyone can see it, but he has yet to say anything to her and it’s probably best that he doesn’t to spare everyone involved. She’s not interested.

In other words, this is not just a hypothetical exercise for me, and frankly, despite the fact that the Benevolent Dictator is perfectly cool and at ease with a son-in-law of whatever hue so long as he’s honorable, God-fearing, and good to his girls, I go back and forth on the matter.

The Judgy Bith article just got me thinking. That is all.