Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Have We Met?

It's all about labels. People feel more comfortable with labels, even if the label says generic and inside there is nothing of value. It's labeled. It's known. And so too with people.

I was taught that in a group of people at a party, or anywhere people are gathered, there are three subjects you never discuss: religion, sex, and politics. As I have lately come to realize, politics is the most volatile of the three subjects.

In the short space of a few sentences or a couple of short paragraphs, while discussing the current situation in this country (that would be America), I have been labeled. Republican. Liberal. Wealthy. Privileged. Uncaring. Cheap. Of no consequence. Usually after reading a couple of sentences I have written in a comment on a post. I have learned that people don't really read everything written. They tend to pick out a few words and decide they know the person. As if we had met and had exchanged ideas about politics, poverty, etc. in long discussions into the night. But they haven't read what I wrote, not all of it, and that snippet of information is not indicative of my philosophy, experience, or all of what I believe. It's not even a drop in the ocean that is my life after 58 years, a life I have actually lived.

Europeans and Canadians decry America's lack of universal health care, point to our capitalist society and, with that look usually reserved for the illiterate, unwashed, and uninformed of the world, deem me a greedy capitalist who cares nothing for the plight of the poor, and all because I mentioned socialist in a 30-word comment. They know me. I have money and look down my nose at those less forunate than I. More than likely, I oppress the poor, kick bleeding dogs, and drown sacks of cats on the weekends all while driving around in my BMW or Hummer talking on my iPhone while cursing at slower drivers, honking at pedestrians, and breezing past the huddle masses trying queueing for mass transportation on my way to a front row seat at a seal clubbing so I can get first dibs on a new sealskin coat.

It is amazing to me how people go from 0 to outrage in 3 seconds or less. If only my car had that kind of speed.

The only way to know me is to talk to me. That means leaving outrage and preconceptions outside the conversation until they are needed. Such hair trigger emotion and ideas that my character is defined by a few random words you think I wrote -- as opposed to what I actually wrote -- is a waste of my time and yours.

Someone I know from high school, although I didn't know him well in high school since we didn't travel in the same social circles, asked me what I thought about limiting abortion to 12 weeks. Although the hope that I wasn't an idiot or a murderer were obvious in the tone of his voice, I answered his question honestly. I believe that all women should have the right to choose whether or not they should get an abortion. I do not believe that abortion is the answer for being careless or should be used like the Morning After pill or a condom, or just because you don't want a child by that person (then why were you having unprotected sex with them?). I believe in allowing women to choose because it is not my right or my job to tell them what they should do if they find themselves pregnant and unwilling or unable to care for a child.

That does not, however, mean that I believe aborting a pregnant in the 20th week -- or partial birth abortion -- is right or an answer. I don't have the right to judge them, but I do think that is murder. My personal opinion and of value nowhere else but with me. I think an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is ample time to decide whether or not carrying that fetus to full term. Anything after that, especially at 20 weeks,, at least in my mind, is tantamount to murder because at 20 weeks, that fetus has a change of living outside the mother's womb.

This view doesn't make me popular with the far right religious conservative political crowd, nor does it make me popular with the far left liberal crowd. I don't care. It is what I believe.

Short version, directly from me to you, abortion should be limited to 12 weeks. If it takes you longer than that to choose, go ahead and have the baby and give it up for adoption, but an 11th hour choice is not an option.

I am used to taking flack. I get it all the time from my family, mostly because I'm a writer and I write about my own life, and my family is part of my life. I have had a lot of grief and recriminations from my family because they didn't read exactly what I wrote. They read a piece and weren't familiar with my personal definitions and decided they knew what I meant -- even though that is not what I wrote. Angry emails followed from siblings who haven't taken the time to answer letters or call or visit in the past decades. It was like being at the middle of an angry hive of wasps with only one intention -- kill. Reason was not part of the equation. The need to destroy me was the intention and nothing would stop them, certainly not the calm, cool voice of reason. That would be me. It's as if they had never met me.

Well, in effect, outside of a few holidays we were forced into each other's company once we left home and went our separate ways, they really hadn't met me. Their only knowledge of me was from what I have written -- and they didn't even take the time to read every word or understand what it was I wrote.  Sarcasm and satire are lost on them.

"That was private," they moaned, screamed, and spat at me.

"Did you tell me it was private?"

"I shouldn't have to," was the inevitable response.

"Have we actually met before?" I ask with my tongue firmly in my cheek. "If you didn't say it was private, then it isn't private."

"It was private."

"Well, thank you for telling me after the fact." I pause for effect. "If you will notice, your name was not used and I sincerely doubt that anyone who happens to read this will connect us. We do have different last names and most people, though aware I have siblings, don't know who those siblings are." I wait for the next scripted remark.

"Well, they might and then they'll know all my business."

"Not actually," I say with infinite patience finally wearing thing after this umpteenth discussion on the same topic. The inevitable phone slamming (a lot less effective with a cell phone) is the next move and I am cut off. That sibling won't talk to me for a long time, which won't be a huge loss since they haven't talked to me in years before they happened to read what I wrote.

They know that I was homeless when I was left stranded in New Orleans. They know that I worked for an escort agency for a while. They know I've been married and divorced twice, that I have given birth to 4 sons. They know those facts because I have mentioned them, but they do not know me. They know me about as well as the average reader who comes across one of my books or read something I wrote for Chicken Soup or Cup of Comfort or they knew someone who knew me and had nothing good -- or bad -- to say about me. They haven't actually met me before.

Reading about someone or reading their comments is not the same as sitting down and having a discussion with that person. It's also not the same as having a relationship with that person or having been with them as they laughed, cried, raged, and fell into a depression over a broken heart or devastating loss. The best the can be achieved is an inkling of a shadow of a faint idea of who and what that person is. Labeling them won't change that.

Label me as you will -- because you will do so anyway. If you're really interested, here's a thumbnail sketch. I was a Republican until I could no longer agree with the party line. I became an Independent and remain an independent. I believe that welfare is a trap unless coupled with more than good intentions. There should be a program to educate those on welfare by training or retraining to find a job, manage a budget, and learn that just because you want something doesn't mean you should have it. Spending all your food stamps or money in the first week of the month will leave you like the poor man allowed in to sit at the feast -- sated for a while but then starving when the food has been digested.

I know whereof I speak -- and write -- but you will never know that or understand what is behind my comment, the one you didn't take time to read fully and understand completely, unless you get to know me and discuss these issues with me. It is the only way to know me.


the savage detective said...

I really enjoyed this post, even though it sounds like a rant after a recent run in with one of the shitty family members. I enjoyed it, because, I harbor many of those same feelings. And as much as I pretend not to care, it still hurts. It hurts that they won't support and love you for who you are and what you choose to do. It hurts to realize what a bunch of losers the people you grew up loving and idolizing really are. Life sucks sometimes, but fortunately, its mostly amazing and wonderful, as long as those people stay out of it.

I'm constantly amazed at how much my friends do for me and take care of me, while my "family" ignores or "misses" any communication that doesn't directly benefit them.

I would like to say, however, that INHO the last paragraph about your "independent" views, which reading them the way you wrote them makes it seem as if your politics hinge upon your disgust for the poor and needy (I know you will take issue with this and probably do not see yourself like this, I'm only telling you how it reads to a total stranger who accidentally stumbled upon your blog), would be best left off. And I did read the ENTIRE post. I see how it fits with the theme of labels, but it was like a nasty pinch at the end of what was an enjoyable post, and really has nothing to do with the main theme, whether you meant it or not, of being who you are, regardless of what family does to support you or not, and how family can be absent for years until something annoys them.

Cheers and happy blogging!!!

J.M.Cornwell said...

Thank you for reading and for your view of the second to last paragraph. I was not speaking about the poor in general, but about my own experiences. Again, you would have to know me better and get to know me personally to make the judgment you just made.

The fact is that I have lived next door to and known from personal experience what it's like to go without for long periods of time and then finally have some money for what you have missed. It is human nature to gather as much as possible of what you've missed without looking too far down the road to when you will have exhausted your money and resources and come back to the same place you were before the rash of cash -- or food stamps or welfare money or bonus check or whatever.

It takes experience, maturity, and being taught that you will not miss anything if you give up the lobster in favor of what you could buy with the same dollars. The same goes for material goods as well. Just because you have the money now doesn't mean you will have the money later, as I have learned to my utter chagrin and embarrassment when it came time to pay the bills. All those things don't mean much when it comes time to pay the piper.

Although living comfortably on welfare is difficult, it can be done, and should be a spur to getting off the dole and into a job with a regular paycheck. Too late we learn that satisfying that desire for something is not so satisfying once it is yours and the bill comes due. It's the way for most people without someone to guide and train them and for the immature.

As you can see, there is more to me than your snap judgment. You have merely proven my point. You would have done better to ask than to judge.

As for the reason for this post, it wasn't my family this time, although that is a constant problem, but a group of people who took a comment on a post and turned it into a label war with me as the villain, in much the same way you have done, except with far more disrespect and vehemence. More often than not, it is better to simply ask what someone means rather than deciding you already know -- or think you know what it looks like.

I hope you will explore further. Feel free to ask questions. There are no stupid questions -- except the one you fail to ask.

the savage detective said...

Well, the irony of what you have just said about ME, is that YOU are doing exactly what you are blaming others of. If you read what I said CAREFULLY, which is exactly what you are asking of your reader, you will see that I did NOT jump to any conclusions, label you or cast you as the villain. This is the blame game and is absolutely non constructive. I merely pointed out to you how a person may react to what you have said. If you can't accept what an outside opinion of your writing says, I'm afraid you may be dooming yourself to failure.
I love feedback on my writing, good and bad. I was only sharing this so you could think about it and ponder its usefulness within the framework of your longterm and overall goals. Writing, as making a movie, is essentially for an audience and every person will interpret it in a different way, usually not the way you meant it. It is important to take that into consideration.

Also, I clearly said IMHO, in my humble opinion. I definitely don't claim to be right. Just sharing my feelings. I apologize if that made you feel labeled. Jumping to the defensive, definitely isn't a great way to foster discussion though.

I think you should just ignore people who attack you and use violent language. Life's too short to listen to that crap...

J.M.Cornwell said...

"I think you should just ignore people who attack you and use violent language. Life's too short to listen to that crap... "

I'll certainly follow your advice.