Still Fighting After All These Years

There are some who say, race is no longer an issue, and the proof is that we elected an African-American president in 2008.

I’m not sure if I agree. I’m a bit skeptical that hundreds of years of prejudice, unfairness and barriers, could have been wiped out with a single election.  But, what do I know? After all, I used to think that the Civil War ended in 1865 when it was declared, well, over. But, turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Years ago, before I moved to California, I’d moved to Maryland and, if you know anything about Maryland, you know that it’s one of those states that seems to straddle the North and South. Well, in my 3 ½ years of living there, here’s what I noticed:

Every time we went on a family outing, spending the day at a fair, a harvest festival, or some other community event—whether in Maryland or nearby Virginia, there’d be men, and sometimes women, reenacting a Civil War battle. In 42 months, I must have witnessed at least a dozen such reenactments.

Which just goes to show you: the Civil War hasn’t ended. It lives on and on, in a proverbial loop, in some parts of this country. It’s not easy letting go of old wounds. It’s probably why in some states they still fly the Confederate flag.

The official end of the Civil War was about 147 years. Perhaps that’s not enough time to let bygones be bygones.  Maybe the reason this war continues to be relived by so many, is for purely innocent reasons–a love of war, a love of wearing uniforms, and a love of flying flags–and nothing to do with any attempt to hold on to the glory days of the genteel, Old South. When men were gentlemen, ladies enjoyed their leisure, and slaves were the foundation of a lifestyle that made it all possible.

No doubt, these reenactments are intended in some way to teach the next generation about a period in American history.  But, to watch these battles relived, I can’t help but wonder if the participants are also trying to re-write history. Maybe they’re hoping this time they’ll get it right and experience the taste of victory?

True story:  When my son was about three, we went to Virginia for a summer festival. You know the kind. Where they sell crafts made by local artisans, and have activities for the kiddies. Where you can buy corn on the cob and sausages on the grill.  After walking around quite a bit, on that hot, humid day, we sat down at a picnic bench, where I overheard a conversation between a mother, who happened to be white, and her son.

The son, a pink-cheeked boy of about six, pointed to a scrimmage underway on the hillside, and said, “Mommy, what are they doing up there?”

The mother replied, “Sweetie, they’re reenacting a battle from the Civil War.”

I looked up and, sure enough, there were men in the distance, in full Civil War regalia. Some wearing the uniform of Confederates and others dressed as Yankee soldiers.

“What’s the Civil War, Mommy?”

The mother then explained about the war between the North and the South, as best she could to such a young child. Finally, the boy asked the question any kid would want to know, “Who won the war, Mommy?”

The mother’s response to this question surprised me. Forlornly, she shook her head, and sighed, “We lost, Dear. We lost the war.”

We?

This is how it starts. A word. An expression. A seed is planted. It’s them against us, us against them. As we continue to deal with the shakeout of a war that ended long before any of us were on this earth.

Note how the mother didn’t say, the North won or the South lost. She said, “we lost.”  As if the war had ended just the week before, instead of 147 years earlier. As if the defeat—losing the war and freeing the slaves—still weighed heavily on her heart. And yet, maybe it does.

Maybe it’s a part of what ails this country today. Once defined by region, the North and South, now, because of personal mobility, defined instead by party affiliation, the red states and blue states. The scars of the past are firmly implanted on our beings.

Which is why I wonder, if someone can harbor strong feelings about the Civil War, several generations later, then how can race ever become a non-issue? Reminds me of the Oscar and Hammerstein song, You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, from the musical, South Pacific.

You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

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!

Prejudice. We pass it on, generation to generation. We hold grudges along with our preconceived notions. Seems to me, it’s easier to forget where you last placed the car keys than it is to let go of feelings ingrained in our youth.But, what do you think?

Be sure to visit the Race 2012 website and check out our amazing bloggers! You’ll find a complete list of their posts right here, on the Race 2012 Blogging Project page.

Finally, I leave you with an excerpt the 1958 film version of South Pacific, starring John Kerr and Rossano Brazzi.

Random thoughts from a Crazed Woman

I have too much going on, and too many thoughts spinning around my head. How does that old adage go? Oh, yeah. I remember.

So much to do, so little time. Here’s a glimpse of my weekend:

Zumba, zumba, zumba:  I love Zumba. I love to dance, so it’s the perfect exercise. The music’s lively and loud, the Zumba instructors dance with verve and the class is, well, fun.  My only complaint is that I wish I had more time in the day, so I could go more often. Say, three times a week, instead of two.

Saturday Night Gala:  If it’s Saturday night, chances are there’s a gala somewhere in town. This past Saturday was no exception. It’s actually part of my job to get all dressed up, drive downtown, and attend a gala for a worthy cause. This particular one was a fundraiser for The Center, a non-profit that provides resources and support to San Diego’s LGBT community. Great band, large dance floor. Which meant, after networking and presentations were done, I had to dance to the music at least once.

Atlantic Meets Pacific:  Yesterday, I attended a conference called “Atlantic Meets Pacific,” in which editors of the Atlantic Monthly magazine, in partnership with the University of California at San Diego, host two and a half days of lively, provocative topics covering everything from media and politics to energy and health. Fascinating stuff, if you ask me.

Happy Birthday, Regina! (That’s me, standing directly behind my sister.)

So, I took along my son, who is an avid Atlantic Monthly reader/subscriber, and we headed for the opening talk, which was just up my alley: a discussion on the 2012 Presidential Election Politics.

You should know that I am a political newshound, and that’s an understatement.  I won’t regale you with all the details, but know that I tweeted a lot about the political banter, and picked up nine new followers as a result. Which means, if I can get one more follower, I’ll have an even 600!

Best line I heard was from Republican strategist, Steve Schmidt.  When asked, why he though President Obama wasn’t up to par at the debates last week, Schmidt responded:

“The seven P’s:  Prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance.”

Of course, the audience burst out in laughter when he said that. But you know, there just may be something to it.

Race 2012 Blogging Project:  There are 20 bloggers contributing their personal stories and sharing their perspectives. And, I am coordinating their participation. I love my bloggers, but, honey, it ain’t easy keeping track of the coordination part.  This is sure to keep me busy through the elections.  Which brings me to…

…The Elections: OMG, I LOVE LOVE the elections! I cannot stop watching the news shows, listening to the radio and reading all about it online. I need my fix of politics—and I need it NOW! Can I tell you? This morning, going through presidential debate withdrawal, I turned on the radio and got to hear a pre-recorded debate between Senator Eric Cantor (R) of Virginia, and his  opponent, Wayne Powell.  Let me tell you, this Wayne Powell is a real dynamo!  He is a veteran, having served 30 years in the military, and he has a law degree. As I listened to Powell, I was reminded of the film with James Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. For, I found Powell to be compassionate, stating his case assertively and to the point. He’d certainly be a much-needed breath of fresh air in Congress.

Henry:  Boy, if I had a dollar for every time my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel wanted to go for a walk. Why doesn’t driving him around in my car, while I do errands count? Darn, if that dog doesn’t keep insisting on his “constitutionals.”

My Son:  With my son over yesterday, so that we could go to the conference together, I just had to bake a chocolate chip pumpkin bread for him. And then we had to watch the first episode of the new season of Homeland, and it didn’t disappoint. No wonder it’s our favorite show.

Isn’t my sister a cutie patootie?

TV:  Now I know what you’re thinking. “Monica, if you’re so busy, why watch TV?” Simple. Because I LOVE it! I have too many favorite shows and I know I would get the DT’s to give any of them up.  I already mentioned Homeland. And, Sunday nights are the worst now that the fall is here and the shows have returned.  And, by worst, I mean, all the shows I watch seem to fall on Sunday night! Maybe in another post, I’ll confess more of my addiction.

My Sister: My sister is the youngest among my siblings, trailing me, the next youngest, by eight years. Well, today is her birthday, and I’m so very proud of her and all that she’s accomplished. For starters, she’s a journalist for a major daily newspaper, and she’s doing what she loves. So, Happy Birthday, Regina!  Oh, and by the way, if you ever run into her while she’s covering a story, ask her this question:

“Who the heck is Lois Nettleton??”

She’ll know the answer or my name is mud.

So, tell me. What did you do this weekend?