A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING

The Message by Rich Paschall

Roy walked into the restaurant just after noon, about the same time as almost every other Saturday for the past ten years.  He picked up a newspaper from a rack near the door and came inside.  The sign in front of the register said “Please wait to be seated.”

“Oh, you can sit anywhere, hon,” the blonde haired waitress advised.  She was on duty most Saturdays but Roy did not know her name and she did not know his.  Their faces were familiar to one another but they never introduced themselves.

The restaurant was equally the same size to each side of the register.  Roy took the first booth to the right, as was his usual custom. He set his cell phone down on the table and grabbed for a menu.  A bus boy appeared with a glass of water, set it down and hurried away.  Roy turned over the coffee cup on the table, as if to invite it to be filled.  Then he perused the menu which he knew well.

As he waited for the waitress to arrive his phone buzzed the alert that he had received a message.  Roy did not look down.  A moment later it buzzed again, but Roy continued to ignore the phone.  He knew who was sending him something on Messenger, and he would read it near the end of the day, as usual.

The waitress came to booth 1, filled Roy’s coffee cup, and then set the pot on the table. “What’ll it be, hon?” she inquired in a tired voice.  At that she grabbed an order pad from her apron and a pencil from her blonde teased hair.

Roy looked up and thought that her hair style must have been in fashion 30 or more years earlier.  He guessed bright blue eye lids were in vogue then too.

“I’ll have scrambled eggs and sausage with hash browns and toast,” Roy announced.  It was his usual Saturday fare at the Golden Prize Restaurant.

“Links or patties?” the seasoned waitress asked.

“Uh…links.”  Roy thought he must have had sausage patties last time, so a change was in order.  In truth, little ever changed in Roy’s life, except for one recent event, of course.

His concentration on pork sausage choices was interrupted by another buzzing on the phone.  He glanced down to have his suspicions confirmed.  He knew what the message would say.  He would read it later.

Soon the bus boy arrived with a coffee pot in hand, but Roy’s cup was full and the young man scurried away.  Roy sipped his coffee, read through the sports section of the paper, and did not look at his phone.

Across the room he spied a couple with three young children.  The youngest was just a toddler who could not sit still. Roy stared at the group and wondered how a family of 5 could afford to eat at the “family restaurant” at those prices.  “I could buy a week’s groceries for what that  meal will cost,” Roy thought.  It was a bit of an exaggeration, but not far off the mark.

“Here ya go, hon,” the waitress announced as she artfully slid the coffee cup over to set down the large plate of eggs, sausage and hash browns and the small plate of toast.  “Anything else, dear?”

“Nope,” Roy said automatically. There was something else, but it was not on the menu at the Golden Prize.  In fact it could not be bought anywhere so Roy tried to keep it off his mind.  His phone sitting in plain view was a reminder of his situation, however.

When the meal was finished, the waitress arrived with coffee pot in hand.  “More coffee, hon?”

“Just a little,” Roy stated.  The waitress filled his cup, put the check face down on the table and walked away.  Roy sat motionless for a while, took a sip of coffee and then grabbed the check.  He calculated 15 percent of the total in his head, so he would leave the appropriate tip in cash. Then grabbed his phone off the table and headed to the register.

The blonde waitress was leaning on the counter as if she was waiting for Roy to arrive.  He handed her the check and his credit card.  She  handed back the receipt to sign and Roy was soon on his way home.

When he got home, Roy plugged in his phone to be charged and successfully ignored it the rest of the day.  When the clock had passed 9pm, Roy picked up the phone to find the battery at 100 percent.  He sat at the kitchen table, opened Messenger and began to read.  It was basically the same message he had received every day that month.

“Baby, I am sorry I had to go.  Things were not good for me and I needed to go away. I want for us to be friends, but I just could not stay any longer.  I need more freedom.  I hope you will understand and forgive me.  Please bb.”

Roy read the short message a few times.  He did not understand, so how could he?  Each night he read the message received that day, thought it over carefully, but he just did not understand.  If he could not understand, how could he forgive?

Roy sent no responses for over a month.  Then the messages stopped coming.

 

CRITICISM – Marilyn Armstrong

Mostly brutal


Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest and is never well-meant.

Honesty without kindness is meanness under false colors.

When criticism is given without love or humor, its aim is not to inform, but to hurt.


Anyone can tell — by the tone of voice and facial expression — the true intent of someone who is “only telling the truth for your own good.” Most of the time, it’s a bald-faced lie. I wish people who have a bone to pick would just say so and stop pretending it’s for my own good. It’s for their good if anyone’s good is truly involved.

brutal honesty

Some people really can’t handle criticism, no matter how gently given — or even a suggestion there might be a better way to do something. In which case, give it up. Whatever you feel you need to tell them? Don’t bother They’ll always take it the wrong way and no one will benefit. Sometimes, they have good reasons for reacting that way, but it doesn’t matter. From your point of view, it’s a lost cause. Give it up.

On the whole, people who like to criticize other people get a kick out of it. I would like to kick them back.

So, to sum this up, are you suggesting I don’t take criticism well? Who do you think you are, anyway? I take criticism fine. You are out of line, sir. I am the soul of restraint and patience and if you don’t agree, I’m going to shout at you until you apologize.

There. Now I feel better.

LEARNING TO HATE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There’s a beautiful and poignant song in the musical “South Pacific”, by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. It’s called, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. It opens with the lines “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year.”

I’ve been thinking about those lyrics recently. I was struck by a common statistic in both the Brexit vote in the UK and our election of Donald Trump. In the UK, the voters who voted most heavily anti-immigrant and anti-EU were from areas that had few to no immigrants. The open-minded, pro-immigrant, pro-EU voters were clustered in the areas with the highest volume of immigrants.

Interesting.

The same phenomenon repeated itself in the United States. Trump supporters accepted, if not endorsed his xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist rhetoric and dog whistling. His voters were concentrated in areas that were most heavily white, with the lowest number of immigrants and other racial minorities.

The cities, where immigrants and minorities are concentrated, were across the board Democratic and anti-Trump. It seems that if you have contacts with minority groups or people not exactly like yourself, you accept and don’t fear them.

If these groups of people are total unknowns to you, you’re open to believing all the negative rhetoric about them. You’re open to seeing them as dangerous and destructive to you and your way of life.

At first, I thought this was counter-intuitive. But I realized that it makes perfect sense. When you live with a diverse group of people, you see that everyone, regardless of race, nationality or religion, shares your life experience. Most importantly, you see all other people as individuals. To you, they’re not, nor can they be seen as, a monolithic, mysterious blob of humanity, threatening everything you hold dear.

On a personal note, I grew up in New York City. Even in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, I saw different races and nationalities everywhere. I also went to integrated schools. When I was four years old, I had an eye-opening experience that I still remember. I’m a Jewish Caucasian. My beloved Nanny was a Christian black woman.

To me, Ethie was part of the family. She was just like me in every way. The first time that belief was challenged was when something came up about her going to church. It suddenly hit me that Ethie wasn’t JEWISH! She wasn’t just like me, she was different in some ways. It still didn’t register on me that her skin was a different color. That didn’t even show up on my four-year-old radar. I just remember grappling with the idea that Ethie was not really family.

She was not JUST LIKE US. She was, in some crucial way, different. I didn’t love her any less. I learned something that day. That I could love someone who wasn’t exactly like me.

Different was okay.

I guess isolation from different religious and ethnic groups leaves you susceptible to hate and fear.



You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
|Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

BE NICE – Marilyn Armstrong

I often feel like I should print a million t-shirts and bumper stickers that say: “BE NICE.” If I had the money, I’d do it and I’d stand on a busy street corner and hand them out.

Be nice and a better world will follow.

I don’t expect everyone to agree. I don’t even think having everyone agree is inherently a good thing. We need opposition. Controversy should be a positive development in politics and other areas of thought.

Phoenix sunset – Photo: Garry Armstrong

On the other hand, I believe civility would heal a lot of wounds. You don’t call people ugly names no matter what you believe because doing so is cruel, hurtful, and mean-spirited.

You don’t need a better reason. You don’t need “PC Police.” Keep a civil tongue in your head is a good enough reason.

I grew up in a household where we never, ever called anybody by any name that referred to their race or religion. This wasn’t only if someone of that race or religion was present. This was a general rule and applied 100% of the time, whether we were alone or in company. Nobody called names.

It was clearly and completely understood by everyone this was an absolute and rigid rule. No exceptions. Unless it was a literal quote and you were making a point about the speech, it was forbidden. Into my adulthood, I never heard anyone in my house — not kids or adults — racially or religiously insult anyone. Come to think of it, I didn’t hear it from any of my friends, either.

Sunset in the desert – Photo: Garry Armstrong

What anyone might have thought privately? I don’t know and I don’t care.

In our house, those words were never used. Garry says he was brought up the same way. Maybe if more parents refused to spout hateful words and made sure their kids didn’t use them either, the world would be a more civilized place for all of us.

SORRY ABOUT THE FRIENDSHIP THING – Marilyn Armstrong

So, you ask, why can’t we be friends?

There are so many reasons. For one thing, you live on the other side of the world and we don’t even have a bus or a taxi in this town. You know how long it takes to get there by airplane? More than 18 hours … and that’s a direct flight. Oh, wait, there is no direct flight. You’ve got to stop somewhere. Take your pick of continents.

Another reason? You wouldn’t really like me. Count on it.

Photo Garry Armstrong

Even if I like you, more than likely, you won’t return the feeling. I talk too much. My tongue is sharp. If you say dumb things, I will snort derisively. I will not take you seriously if you don’t know any history and don’t read books.

If you take photographs with trash cans in the background, I will not admire them, even if the subject is your beloved grandchild. She/he would look better — I personally guarantee it — without the trash cans. Unless you are making some kind of artistic statement about grandchildren and trash, and I sincerely hope you are not.

I am not everyone’s cuppa tea. Sometimes, I’m not even my own cuppa tea. Actually, I’m not all that fond of tea, except for green tea ordered with Japanese food.

This probably makes me a bad person. Coffee anyone?

ABUSE AND FORGIVENESS – Marilyn Armstrong

All religions have some good points, even ones with which you don’t quite always agree.

Personally, I am very fond of the Christian concept of “forgiveness.” It is not “I forgive you, let’s go hang out.” It is closer to “God forgives you, now please go away and never come back.”

You can forgive someone and not want anything to do with them. It took me the better part of a lifetime to figure out that my version of “forgive” and the Christian concept of “forgiveness” were not the same thing. Actually, they were not even close.

Forgiveness is about handing over your burden of pain and anger to your more powerful entity or whatever you want to call it.

It’s a brilliant concept. Dumping the burden, whether you throw it into the air to be absorbed into the never-ending universe or write it into your computer’s hard drive, it doesn’t matter. Whatever gives you your freedom, do it.

Forgiveness works because it’s a process. When you understand it, it gives you a place to start and a finish that includes freedom from anger and hate. Forgiveness matters. Not just religiously, but personally. If you never let go of the pain, anger or hurt, you can’t grow. You dry up.

After all these years, I wonder how so many smart people do such incredibly stupid things even when we (they) know better. Women marrying vicious men and staying with them long years after anyone — EVERYONE — can see they are in a hopeless, dangerous situation. Ditto men with women who are awful for them and make their lives into a hell. These are choices people make. Voluntarily. It isn’t always oppression or victimization. It can also be bad personal choices. Shame and pride keep people stuck in terrible situations.

Abuse is a huge issue in my world. If I can’t understand the bad choices people make when choosing mates, how can it be that parents abuse their children? Rape them? Beat them? Torment them? And sometimes kill them?

It turns the meaning of life upside down and inside out. Where is faith to be found in this horror? I can’t answer it because faith has always eluded me. The depravity of which people are capable is literally beyond my ability to contemplate. Torture? Intentional slaughter of an entire people? Abusing a child or dog to death?

Where is God in this?

The issue of abuse was important, to me because I was abused. The more I learn about it, the more people I discover who were also abused. It is not all that rare after all. Many people were abused as children and a lifetime later, still can’t talk about it.

I don’t mean can’t talk about it much. Can’t talk about it at all. I was able to get people to talk to me, at least a bit. To the extent, they could admit something happened. The sense of shame, anger, and horror which clings to victims is hard to understand given that victimization was unsought, unwanted, and terrifying.

Yet there it is. We are shamed by the evil others committed on us.

What makes it so much more difficult is that people whose lives were untouched by abuse don’t believe it happened. Their disbelief intensifies the shame. Not only do “regular” people disbelieve us, but judges, lawyers, police officers, teachers and other family members refuse to accept it. Nor has anyone a solution to fix it. Taking kids away and handing them to a stepfamily isn’t an answer. So many of these “temporary placements” are worse than the places from which the kids came.

It’s a problem we spend a lot of time talking about — and little effort solving. It’s a weird world in which we live.

FREE SPEECH ISN’T FREE – BY TOM CURLEY

As I’m writing this, there was a “free speech” rally that went on in Washington DC. It’s was held by a bunch of right-wing white supremacist neo-Nazis. They seem to feel that their civil rights are being violated because a whole bunch of people don’t like them.

Because they’re white, you see. They’re being persecuted because they are a superior race. Oddly enough, many people take umbrage with that claim.

The “rally” ended up consisting of a couple of dozen of these poor downtrodden racists and thousands of counter-protesters who believe that NAZIS ARE BAD!

These white supremacists seem to feel they’re being persecuted because they’re being denied their right to free speech. The super nut-job Alex Jones is crying and moaning because his shows have been taken off almost all the major social media platforms — like Facebook, YouTube, and ITunes.

Why? Because he spouts insane dangerous conspiracy theories. That the massacre of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut was a “false flag” operation. It didn’t happen. The kids and parents were actors.

Because of this, those poor parents have been hounded by nut-jobs that believe this crap. They’ve received death threats. Some have had to move more than once to escape the harassment.

Think about that. Those poor people lost their five or six-year-old child and now they have to deal with this. The only good news is Jones is being sued by a lot of these families.

White supremacist groups and neo-nazis complain when they have a rally or publish hate-filled bullshit on social media platforms, the places at which they work see the posts — and promptly fire their asses.

They claim they’re being punished for exercising their First Amendment rights. This is bullshit. They’re being fired because they’re racist assholes.

Their problem is that they don’t actually understand how the First Amendment works.


Here’s what it says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”


What does this mean?

No law can be passed by the government to prevent you from saying whatever you want in public, no matter how fucking dumb, sick, stupid, or racist it might be.

But here’s the way it actually works.

Just because you can say anything you want, doesn’t mean you should. Nobody has to listen to it or agree with it. I or anyone can say you’re an asshole because of the stupid racist thing you just said.

Social media platforms are not governments. They can deny you access to their service for any reason at all including NO reason. It’s in the service agreements on which you click on but never read.

A business can fire you for any reason they want and which includes no reason except they don’t like you (“You don’t fit into our culture”).

It’s not surprising that businesses, big and small, don’t want racist hate-spewing dick-wads working for them. Who can blame them? It’s bad for business.

Free speech means you can stand on a street corner and spout any kind of bullshit you want. But you need to understand — there may be consequences.

Like getting fired.

Or having thousands of people show up to exercise their First Amendment rights to say you’re an asshole.

Or, to put it in terms white supremacists can understand.


Your kind is not welcome here.