BE HOME BEFORE THE LIGHTS COME ON – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was growing up … and even when my son was growing up in the 1970s, kids went out to play. Alone. Unsupervised. Unstructured. Disorganized with not a single adult to keep an eye on us. We built “forts” and “clubhouses” out of crates and old boxes and anything we could find that mom wouldn’t miss.

We played stickball with old, pink Spalding balls that were often long past bouncing or even being “round.” You didn’t go and buy a “stickball set.” You found an old broomstick and someone had a ball, or what used to be a ball, or you all chipped in and bought one in the local (!) toy store.

The dock at River Bend

Remember toy stores? Not “Toys R’ Us.”

Local shops where you could buy a ball or a bat or a Ginny doll for a few cents or a few dollars. The shopkeepers were always grumpy old guys (probably a lot younger than we are now), but they had a gleam in their eye. If you don’t like kids, you don’t run a toy store.

We ran around a lot. Playing tag was basic. Even dogs play tag. “Catch me if you can,” you shouted and off you went. If you got tagged, you were O-U-T. But if you could run fast enough, you could grab whatever was “home” and one shouted “Home free all!” and everyone was back in the game.

There was Hide and Seek, another classic. Someone hid, everyone hunted. You had to be careful. If you hid too well, your friends might get bored looking for you and go do something else. But no one’s mother came to complain that you were being bullied. This was stuff you dealt with because there will always be bullies. Unless you were in real danger, it was better (then and now) to cope on your own. Much better than waiting for rescue.

In the real world, rescue is rare, but bullying is not.

1953 -I’m in the middle

Jump rope. There was always an old piece of laundry line somewhere. They actually call it skipping rope in other parts of the country. In the cities, the Black girls played a variation called “double Dutch” using two ropes. We all knew how to do the double Dutch ropes turning, but none of us ever mastered the technique of actually jumping. More like an intricate dance — and I also wasn’t ever much of a dancer.

Klutz that I was and am, I was barely competent on a single line, much less two. I remain in awe of how incredibly graceful, athletic, and coördinated those girls were … and are. There was a feature about them on the news a couple of weeks ago and I am no less awestruck now than I was more than 60 years ago.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Along with jumping rope came chanting. All those weird little ditties we sang as we jumped. They mostly were alphabetic and involved names and places.

“I call my girlfriend … in …” when we were playing in a group. You could gauge your popularity by when and who “called you in” to jump in tandem. Looking back, I think the problem was not unpopularity, but being a washout as an athlete. I was a slow runner, an indifferent jumper, and a terrified tree climber. On the other hand, when it came to derring-do, I was a champ. I could organize games of pretending –pirates and cowboys and outlaws and cat burglars.

We burgled, but we never stole. We weren’t thieves, just little girls trying to prove we could do it.

I don’t see kids playing outdoors these days. Almost never, except as organized groups with one or more adults supervising. Calling the plays with whistles and shouts. Children are not allowed to “go out and play” anymore. Everyone is afraid of something. Bullying, kidnappers, traffic, skinned knees. Unlike we kids who were always covered with scabs from a thousand times falling down on the sidewalk or street.

Come home with a bloody knee today and they’ll call an ambulance. Growing up, unless you appeared to have broken something, a bath was the remedy of choice and usually, beneath the dirt, was an unbroken kid.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It makes me wistful, thinking about it. My family was dysfunctional, but I could escape by going out to play.

“Bye, Ma, I’m going out,” and off you went. It was the best part of being a child. Those months between school and hours after school (much less homework and we still learned more!) contained what seemed unlimited freedom. That was the freest I would ever be in this life.

Once you were out of the house and too far away to hear your mother calling, you could do whatever you liked. You could be whoever you imagined. There was nothing you had to do, no place you needed to be. Until the streetlights came on.

Streetlight is on. Time to go home!

You had to be home when the streetlights came on. It was a fundamental law, the bottom line. Do what you will, but be home when the streetlights come on. In those warm summers of childhood, the days flowed in an endless stream.

Darkness fell late. There was more than enough time.

CLUTCHING AT FREEDOM – Marilyn Armstrong

I want everything to last forever.

When I buy a television, I don’t expect to ever buy another one. I will keep using the old one until it simply won’t work anymore … or someone gently tells me that I really need a new one.

“Oh,” I say, “But I just bought this one.”

“You bought it 14 years ago. I can’t even connect most things to it. It doesn’t have the right connections.”

“Is it really that long ago? It seems like yesterday.”

It does seem like yesterday because I can remember buying it. I remember deciding which TV would give us the best pictures, be reliable. Which is how come it lasted 14 years. Actually, it still works. It’s just too old to be of much value — and too huge to get rid of, so I guess it will live in the basement forever.

The only things I buy more or less on a schedule are computers because operating systems change and software won’t run on old systems. I don’t want to get new computers. In fact, I hate new computers. Setting them up is a total pain in the butt. But I cope because I need them.

On the other hand, things like refrigerators, washing machines, ovens? The roof, the water heater, the floor, the sinks, and toilets — aren’t they forever? Don’t you buy them once, then never have to worry about them again?

I’m on my third water heater and beginning to worry about the roof. I’m discovering that the vinyl siding wasn’t a permanent investment as I thought it was. And the ants keep coming back.

Just to remind me how impermanent the world truly is, the rights we fought so hard to create, the young are fighting for them. Again.

Early 1900’s protests against the czar in Russia

How can that be? How can we have made so much progress and find ourselves back — not only where we were, but back to where my parents were. I feel like we haven’t regressed to the 1950s, but more like the 1930s.

The changes we make, the changes we paid for, fought for, battled for … they are supposed to be forever or at least for our lifetime. The roof should never need to be replaced. The heating system should be a lifetime investment.

Freedom should be given — and once achieved, you should always be free. We should never need to battle again for the right to live our lives as we please. I don’t think we should have to fight for it in the first place. We should be born free and take on obligations as a conscious choice.

Freedom has come and gone many times throughout human history. Rome was free until it wasn’t. Greece was free … until it wasn’t. Many countries were briefly free until swallowed up or conquered by others. I guess it’s our turn, my turn, to realize that the freedom I thought we’d won was merely a respite from the despotism of the world.

I’m not sure why it’s like this. Why is it freedom for which we need to fight? Why doesn’t tyranny require a battle? Why do the bad guys always seem to have the upper hand?

I think it’s because we let them. We say “Oh, a few huge corporations won’t really matter” and then we look around and the entire world is made up of huge corporations and we don’t matter. We give up our freedom incrementally.

We surrender it for higher wages, cheaper toys, nicer cars. We give it up because it sounded like fun and we don’t see the downside. We elect the wrong people because they sound good. We fail to examine if they are really who they say or are capable of being who we need.

We do it. Ourselves. We give up our freedom in tiny pieces until we have nothing left to lose.

Freedom is a costly gift which does not come to us without commitment and a battle. I didn’t imagine I would live long enough to need to fight for it again.

Is that some kind of bizarre payback for living longer?

WORK, HOLIDAYS, AND PERSONAL CHOICE – Marilyn Armstrong

I know you think you are helping people by trying to get everyone to close on holidays, but it isn’t necessarily everyone’s best choice or preference.

It might be the right thing for you … but what about me?

Taking wing

What about the people next door? Are they just like you? Same holidays? Same available choices? Same kind of family?

Same religion?

When you promote a work ban on holidays, consider that many folks don’t have families. These are people who are grateful to be working.

Moreover, there are many individuals and families who count on the extra money they can earn by working holidays.

Not everyone is equally enthusiastic or sentimental about traditional celebrations. There are plenty of people for whom Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Columbus Day are non-starters.

They have their reasons and they are entitled to them.

Not everyone has someplace to go and a warm, fuzzy family to share with. It’s wonderful to be grateful for what we have.

It’s also good to be mindful that not everyone is equally or similarly blessed … and not everyone celebrates the same holidays.

And. Even those who celebrate the same holidays do not necessarily celebrate them the same way you do or on the same dates.

PLEASE DON’T PASS THE TURKEY – Marilyn Armstrong

For the past few years, there has been an increasing clamor to make everything shut down for Thanksgiving, supposedly so everyone can spend time with their family. Nice, well-meaning sentiment, on the face of it. Except for all the people who don’t have families with whom to celebrate. Or who are estranged from (or just plain don’t like) their family.

What about them? Are you making their lives better? Do they want the day off? Did you ask any of them?

Then, there are Native Americans who don’t want to celebrate the arrival of armed Europeans who would steal their land, infect them with diseases, and try to murder them. They don’t feel this is something to celebrate. Or the struggling families who count on extra money from working holidays to help them survive.

Everyone doesn’t celebrate the same way. Or want to. Some folks prefer to work on holidays. They would rather earn some money than sit around their empty rooms feeling left out of America’s favorite dinner party — and maybe they need the extra pay.

Or they don’t like Thanksgiving, for whatever reason. It is their right to feel that way.

I understand the sentiment. To me, it’s one more example of how we try to force everyone to march in lockstep as if we are all the same or at the very least, we all should be the same. Above all, we should want to be identical.

I would appreciate it if the righteous folks would shut up already.

This is a diverse country. That’s not just something we say during an election year. It’s a real thing.

As a nation, we supposedly treasure diversity as much as any other freedom. So let’s leave a little room for people to express their differences as well as their similarities, shall we?

We do not all need (or want) to eat turkey, with or without gravy. I bet if you ask the turkey, they definitely would like to skip the holiday.

PLUTOCRACY AND OLIGARCHY – WHICH ONE ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

We live in a have a country full of shallow, if not outrightly stupid people.

They watch “the news” and believe it’s all lies because an orange-skinned bloke says so. As a woman whose husband was a television news reporter for more than 40 years, I’d like to point out that not ONCE in his entire career did my husband haul his tired ass out of bed so he could get up to fabricate lies for the public.

He made mistakes now and then — but not very often — and sometimes made the wrong choice about what story to cover, but never at any point in his long career did he intentionally lie to the public. Moreover, none of his colleagues lied to the public either.


Note that I do not include Fox in this discussion. Whatever it is they are doing at Fox, the news is not it.


The news has always been as truthful as the people who do the job can make it. Are there errors? Of course. Reporters are human beings and we are imperfect, but none of the errors was intentional. It wasn’t lying. Errors are not lies.

What Trump does? THAT is lying.

Garry was never told to tell lies. He was occasionally asked to omit something, but he didn’t do it even when asked. Garry tells the truth and so did his colleagues.

And the other reporters, photographers, directors, and producers? They told the truth, too.

Fact.

Reporters are not liars. They work their asses off trying to spread the truth to the dunderheads who too foolish to listen.

Fact.

The news is as true as the people who research and write it can possibly make it. Do they make mistakes? Yes, but they correct themselves and apologize. They don’t erase the truth about a president. Only an elected pathological liar could do that.

Fact.

The news IS the truth. If you are don’t believe reality, you are going to live with something worse. We are on a razor-thin edge between what we used to think was freedom versus a plutocracy or oligarchy — if we haven’t already crossed that line. Time will tell us soon enough.


Shallow people are stupid. I don’t mean they have a “low IQ.” I mean they are too limited, lazy, selfish, and foolish to find out the truth. It’s so much easier to believe bullshit, isn’t it? You don’t have to read. You don’t need to research. You don’t need to know anything.

You can roll along, believing whatever the current blowhard in power tells you. That’s how we got where we are and that’s how we will keep rolling down the long grassy slope until we become one of those infamous shithole countries.

FREEDOM AND THE LACK THEREOF – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #76 – FREEDOM


Folk songs notwithstanding, freedom is not “just another word for nothing left to lose.” Freedom is exactly the opposite of that. Freedom — having freedom — leaves you a lot to lose.



Like … say … your right to live a life you want to live. A life that is open to any choice you can make. Without freedom, life is a prison, even if you aren’t behind any bars.

When you are not free, they are always watching you, tracking you, closing off the doors to opportunity. They write laws which can get you executed, locked up, deported. They can take away what little you have and leave you with nothing, not even your life.

Lack of freedom means lack of choice. You can’t go where you want, do what you want. Achieve what you would.

Freedom means wings to fly while its opposite is chained and barred.

Stay free. Help keep us all free!

ALLOWED AND FORBIDDEN – Marilyn Armstrong

Are we still free?

As our “freedom” seems to be becoming increasingly less free with each passing day, I have to wonder about a lot of things I always accepted as true. Or close to true.

I never believed Americans were quite as “free” as we said we were, but we were freer than most places I could live. Americans were under less scrutiny than most places. Our press was stronger — and freer — than most other places.

A friend told me a long time ago that one of the major differences between Europe and the U.S.A. was how we see our “freedom.”



Is that still true? I have a feeling it isn’t. You think?

Just a little note here:

The U.S. was explored by Europeans.

Spanish, Italian, English mostly. French. Portuguese. The people who didn’t “explore and settle” were the Natives whose land it was. So if a lot of what came with those original “explorers” stuck, you guys stuck it here. It didn’t get born in this soil. It was European. Brought here by the greedy guts explorers who showed up in ships and did their worst. We are your descendants. YOUR descendants. You might consider that in the midst of your condemnation.

You brought it and this is what it became.