Tales from outer turnip head...

Tales from outer turnip head...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Muchas veces donde hay estacas no hay tocinos..."

Early Lessons: Throughout my schooling I have been privy to conversations about privilege, that label which describes the systemic advantages that one group, gender, ethnicity, etc. may have over another. I was confused early on, but quickly understood the main ideas, agreed that the world was skewed, and developed a strong sense of guilt as a result. I looked for ways to qualify as someone who struggled, to avoid the self imposed gaze-of-disapproval for my blessings. I tried to wreck it all. What a stupid act from someone who has privilege. "Peter, it takes a rich boy to want to be poor." Rather than use my access to improve the access of others, I thought I should just join the ranks of those who were not as blessed; like somehow it is a choice, like somehow I could actually get rid of my advantage...

Polarizing: Often at the heart of these discussions is the seemingly apparent denial of many who benefit from privilege that there is any real inequity. The conversation of "haves" and "have nots" becomes quickly polarized, often with both sides angry at the other, without focusing on possible solutions. I hate the conflict of the world. I naively wish we "can all get along." And yet I think we need to fight through our wrongly held misperceptions to get to the truth. That fight can be humanly tempered though. It can be done side-by-side somehow. I'm just not sure how...

History: There is very little specific discussion of privilege prior to the end of the 20th century, although in its different forms privilege has been discussed as long as minority voices have fought for the right to speak their mind (Wollstonecraft in the late 1700s, Du Bois in the early 1900s, etc.). I am a teacher of history. I see where access is unequal. I see how some effortlessly slip into success, while others seem to stand little or no chance. I also hear excuses in the guise of  "parenting" and "interest". We can do better. I can do better... 

Solutions are there, somewhere: We need to have these discussions. We need to work on ways to make people aware without making them aggressive or defensive. I worry that often I see attacks on those who benefit from privilege as if they chose to cheat, rather than attempts to look at how to make society more fair for more people. Fairness is a hard topic to pin down, but we can work to a more just society, I am certain. Our conversations should be about empowerment and access, not about guilting those who have those things nor attacks on what those who don't, didn't do to "get in". These dialogues should be about opening the doors of opportunity for everyone, and not allowing anyone to feel that they are "being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face." (Du Bois) The only way to find solutions is to ignore the denials that privilege plays a part in so many's success, and attacks on those denied access as some how "less than" in their abilities. We also need to stop vilifying those who benefit from open doors, and help those who are denied entry to find a way in...

Back to early lessons: A buddy of mine from high school posted a link to a comic originally housed on TheWireless. It is pretty good for those open to seeing one facet of this problem. Try not to take sides, nor to identify too much with anyone in the comic. Read it like a story and ask yourself if it feels true...














Sunday, May 24, 2015

Scoring tens...

Urban Jungle: I grew up in the suburbs in the north of Baltimore. My playgrounds were green; we had a yard for a good game of whiffle ball; there were a few cement-lined streams nearby to mess with. But we also exploited the huge stretches of paved surface for skateboarding, and the quick bus ride to the harbor to hang out among the tall buildings, tourists, and businessmen. Later, when we were older, we found the harder parts of Baltimore, heading west, south and east, exploring the more "real" sides of a great but struggling Charm City...

The Tranquillity of the Wild: We were fortunate enough—my family and me—to spend considerable time growing up, vacationing four hours west of Baltimore in a rustic spot in Garrett Co. Maryland, on a lake, with woods and waterfalls all around. Winters were fierce; fall was glorious; sumer, lazy; and we were allowed to explore to our hearts content—so many expeditions led by our father, pocket knives in hand, sticks for walking found, paths to explore, dams to build. We were less wild in the wild...

The 80s: Boomboxes and Targets
Outposts of Experience: When I was nine my parents agreed to send me to Maine to a summer camp run by my 5th grade teacher. I engaged in more serious play than I did in Baltimore or in Garrett Co.—Hiking, climbing, water battle games, and above all, riflery! I seemed to have a knack for it. I won a little trophy my first year with accolades from all around; I was young to win the plaque. I felt so important bringing home that trophy. How could I not win something given how many periods I spent at the range? Part of my award was a chance to shoot skeet with the other winners (middle and senior champions) and some staff. Twelve gage, full recoil, and the smallest, lightest ten year old you have ever seen made for a disastrous "prize". My first shot blew me, literally, to the ground. The second sent me stumbling; the third reduced me to tears and left purple on my shoulder for days. (I developed a solidly profound fear of shotguns along with an immense respect for the super-macho people who could actually use them without tears.)

Prone at 14
What will they think?: I worried my parents would not approve of my chosen activities, but their attitude was so much more accepting. Camp, they told me, was for new experiences, rock climbing, sailing, kayaking, archery! By my second summer—I was ten—I had achieved my Sharpshooter qualification and was working towards Expert. And then my 5th grade teacher thought to close his small camp in Maine...

I Had to Find a New Summer Home: I went to live with my aunt in London the summer Thriller landed in music stores, and can't for the life of me remember what I did the summer of '84. But in 1985 I found the best summer camp a kid could hope to attend on the North Carolina-South Carolina border snuggled in the shade of the Smokey Mountains. I learned how to do so many new things, including broadcasting on the camp radio station, turning a wrench on mountain bikes, performing a barrel roll in a kayak, and how to sail a Flying J solo. But my heart belonged to the rifle range and I won the dubious award "Give Me Bullets Award" my first year there. I was completely shut out of the top three spots in the prone, kneeling, and standing competitions. I was a little disappointed that, at thirteen, I was not as good as I had thought in my ten-year-old self's ego. My new camp did not use the NRA qualification system, so my delusions of achieving Expert or Distinguished Expert were left on the range with the bits of ripped target paper soiled with trace lead...

Treasures from Childhood
I peaked at 14: I lived at the range in my free periods the following summer. I had an instructor who had been British Special Forces and had the heart of a Care Bear. His patience and faith in me led me to find my way to learn better breathing and patience. I felt like a zen master in my moments of clarity, calm and in control, motor-mouth not moving, hyper-active brain not spinning, peace! I went on to take 3rd in Prone and Standing, 1st in Kneeling, Best overall Senior, and placed in a tri-camp competition at the end of the summer. God, did I love target shooting...

And then my camper days were over. I later worked as a CIT, kitchen-crew, and then back home in the restaurant industry, but I never lay prone with a rifle in my hand until 28 years later...

Science
Today: I cannot completely explain the joy I have for shooting a firearm at a target. I have strong feelings about violence and the use of force. I feel some element of guilt about loving the sport I engage in as a function of war-making in history and today. I respect hunters for their willingness to work for their meat, and feel loathing for the trophy hunting that results in wasted flesh and endangered species death. But I have always liked the science behind the shot and the intuitive nature of taking the shot. I took up target shooting again last year. Many years ago I moved away from the streets of Charm City, passing through the best city in America, Boston. I moved west to the shade of the Greens and Taconics, the northern brothers of the Smokies and Alleghenies. I chose to live where black bear occasionally hunts in my back lot, where deer run regularly, where bald eagles make their comeback. I live in a place where there is room for target shooting again.

I have lost my keen eyesight; my patience has been tested by so many responsibilities; my intuition has been replaced with a lot of busy thought. But on the good weather days, when a light breeze wafts through the lilac blossoms, and the sun lights the target for these middle-aged man's tired eyes, I can work on my zen and seek to squeeze the trigger so lightly that the .22 report comes as a surprise before scoring a 10...


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I love the mothers in my life, a lot...

A Short Rant, I promise: Although I regret I am a consumer worthy of John Bugas' (of Ford Motors) praise, I have always been bothered by the commercialization of holidays. Plastic Santas, frilly boxes of inedible chocolates, expensive Halmark cards for ANY occasion, each have made me rant more than those around me like. But I love wood greens on a banister and an evergreen tree lit by real candles, homemade love letters, sweet kindness on special days... I love the sentiment, I hate when other's profit from my sentiment with cheap disposable product...

Founders: So I was happy to read that the founder of Mother's Day was equally angered by the commercialization of her efforts. She wanted expressions of gratitude for mothers. She wanted honor offered at a time that women were really starting to push for more public recognition of their worth. She wanted the unconditional relationships to be acknowledged and valued. Here is the Wikipedia entry:
The modern American holiday of Mother's Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew's Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, which now holds the International Mother's Day Shrine.[6] Her campaign to make "Mother's Day" a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her beloved mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Anna's mission was to honor her own mother by continuing work she started and to set aside a day to honor mothers, "the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world". Anna's mother, Ann Jarvis, was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues.
In 1908, the US Congress rejected a proposal to make an official holiday, among jokes that they would have to proclaim also a "Mother-in-law's Day".[7] Due to the campaign efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all US states observed the holiday, with some of them officially recognizing Mother's Day as a local holiday,[7] the first in 1910 being West Virginia, Jarvis' home state. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.[8]
Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother's Day, she soon became resentful of the commercialization and was angry that companies would profit from the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark and other companies started selling Mother's Day cards. Jarvis became so embittered by what she saw as misinterpretation and exploitation that she protested and even tried to rescind Mother's Day. The holiday that she had worked so hard for was supposed to be about sentiment, not about profit.[9] Jarvis' intention for the holiday had been for people to appreciate and honor mothers by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude, rather than buying gifts and pre-made cards.[10] Jarvis organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits to try to stop the commercialization. She crashed a candymakers' convention in Philadelphia in 1923. Two years later she protested at a confab of the American War Mothers, which raised money by selling carnations, the flower associated with Mother's Day, and was arrested for disturbing the peace.[9][10]
So...


Kat and Baby W, 2002
Dear Mom and Kat,

You are both amazing. Our families revolve around you; so much boy-power floating around, and so much tolerance from you.

I do not always behave around you. I forget my respect on "normal" days in moments of familiarity. The openness and comfort sometimes spills into rudeness and impatience. I am sorry.

I can tell you anything. I tell you everything. Sometimes I am sorry for that.

Mom and family, 1984

Kat and M, 2005
I wouldn't be the person I am without you; I wouldn't even be here, physically, functionally, wholly.

Jon, Toph, Walker, Maya, Me all owe a debt for the nurture, worry, unconditional love. Thank you.

I often count my blessings, list my gratitudes, remind myself of my fortune. You are always in my thoughts. I would like to say how "lucky" I am, but it feels less like "luck" and more like "love" that I am the constant recipient of. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

-metta metta
-peter

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Taking a break this week...

I need to take a break from my usual attempts at weaving some sort of tale on Sunday mornings. I have used Tolstoy's comment about great literature before. (I intend to reflect on it more in posts to come): "All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town."

Today's story would be "A stranger came to town, caused a fire that burned for days while a lot of firefighters went on journeys into the woods to try to stop the stranger's handiwork."

On Wednesday a fire "was caused by a campfire along the Appalachian Trail some two miles north of Massachusetts Avenue in North Adams." (Berkshire Eagle). Firefighters from roughly ten towns along with state crews and national guard help (Blackhawk water drops) were able to contain the 272 acre fire by Friday afternoon. Mop up crews worked all day Saturday. 

I spent two of those days in the woods and have responded to additional calls all day Saturday around town. I am fatigued. We all are. Here are a few photos (from various sources) showing a little of the action.