Sunday, November 02, 2008

associations

Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the darling of the wingers, tips her elegant nose up just a hair and pronounces "we are who we associate with." Sarah Palin asserts that Barack Obama's association with '60s radical William Ayers somehow taints Obama in 2008. A real estate developer now in trouble with the law is evidence, by virtue of association, that Obama is not what he seems. Rashid Khalidi, a New York born professor and a Palestinian activist, is framed as a terrorist and contact with him is evidence of Obama's lack of fitness for the office he seeks.

Seriously? Are these people fucking serious? I am a 51 year old white woman living smack in the middle of the buckle that holds fast the Bible belt's grip on this country. I am smart, educated, fiscally sound. I own my own business, I have stepchildren and grandchildren. I am respectable, honest, reliable, decent. I help others at every opportunity. I care about my community and my neighbors. Despite my rage over the winger occupation of my country, I am patriotic as all hell and my anger ~ despite my expressions of frustration ~ will not find expression in violence or destruction of property.

In my 51 years, I have associated with child molesters and rapists. I have worked closely with ~ and loved ~ gangsters of all kinds. I have loved and buried two precious young men who were Crips and one who was a Blood. Most of my dearest friends are recovering alcoholics; some aren't recovering and I love them still. I hang out with drug addicts who don't use anymore, with ex-cons who've gone straight. I know people and have employed men who are now in jail on murder charges. My youth was spent in the company of ecoterrorists and activists of every stripe. I used to work for ACORN.

My family is thick with Republicans, God help me, but populated, too, with Democrats. Among my kin are radical farmers who drove their tractors to Washington to protest farm policy. Two of my relatives are the most despicable kind of neo-nazi anti-semitic haters. My cousin won American Leatherboy 2005 and another cousin was Miss Kansas. Every morning that I work, I hug the barber next door to my shop, a Korean war veteran and a raging right winger.

One of my dearest friends is a drag queen and he's gorgeous. I hang out with gays and lesbians and radical feminists and churchgoing folk. I have photos of my younger self taken with a group of young men who lived in my building, guys who cooked for me the most divine and exotic feasts every weekend. I didn't know at the time they were PLO; I don't know that it would have changed how I felt about them. They were ~ they are ~ dear to me after all these years.

One of my most precious friends is a poorly controlled schizophrenic. My beloved Pam still struggles to overcome the narcotics addiction that sent her to prison three times. My husband used to be a hippie. One friend from high school became a witch; another a prostitute. The guy I ate lunch with every day is a judge in Dallas. Another old friend is a CNN reporter.

Are we really the company we keep? Or is the company we keep evidence of our humanity, of our ability to look at what matters in other human beings? I wouldn't give up a single moment of my life or the people in it, good or bad. I know people who live lives tightly constrained by their views of other human beings and I know they're missing out. No question.

I am more frightened by leaders who surround themselves with people just like them than I am by the prospect of a leader who has vast, wide-ranging associations. A healthy interest in others, in other ways of living, in different beliefs and attitudes and behaviors is evidence to me of a sparkling and solid intellect and is something to emulate, not condemn.

It is evidence of a willingness to look beyond the superficial into the soul, the heart, for the thing that connects us all. I am connected, by my humanity, to the gangster, the rapist, to the schizophrenic, the drug addict, the church lady. I am connected to the terrorist, to the professor, the right winger and, of course, to the lefties who speak my language. The hardest thing for me is to let go of my anger over what has happened, to be open to what might happen in the future. In that, I have an example in our next president. Kindness, generosity of spirit, a spiritual view of other human beings. It's a happier way to live, and more hopeful. I'm trying. You?

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14 Comments:

Blogger Big Fella said...

Hasselbeck is moron who should just go back to some deserted island.

You, my friend, are a kind, thoughtful, human being who contributes the mix that makes up a free and thriving society.

Hope you share this post up on Sirens.

November 02, 2008 12:40 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

So beautifully said.......
What about the association with Bush/Cheney/Rove, et. al.?....the worst criminals of our recent time. They have done worse things than Nixon, and Bill almost went down for not keeping his pants zipped...will this be our next cause? I hope so.........

November 02, 2008 7:22 PM  
Blogger joe said...

I hope you realize that you are a goddess. Seriously, you are a very enlightened human being, and it is sad to me that there are so many out there who are so judgmental. I don't know where that comes from, because I believe that, like you and I, EVERYONE has associated with or has family and friends who are all over the spectrum when it comes to "respectable" behavior. And of course, there are many of us who have been or sometimes still are less than "respectable" ourselves. I have to believe that the MAJORITY of people do have a live-and-let-live attitude when it comes to this. I have to believe that it is only the heat of politics and the desire to win that causes people to even think about these ridiculous things.

Your point that most struck me was this one: I am connected, by my humanity, to the gangster, the rapist, to the schizophrenic, the drug addict, the church lady.

That is, in a way, the crux of so much of the Buddhist teaching that I have absorbed so far -- and the Buddhist sage would say that not only are we "connected to" all those people, but we also ARE them, in a way. These are obviously very Christian ideas as well, and I have no doubt that if Jesus were alive today and preaching his teachings, he would be dismissed or castigated by many of the very people in this country who call themselves his most righteous worshippers.

My personal lesson in all this is to try to understand and have compassion for the Republicans (and others with whom I vehemently disagree) amongst us. It's difficult as hell! Yet I know I must try. How, Lynette, do we love and respect the right-wing barber neighbor? The racist in our family? My personal answer is just accepting the idea that we are all human souls struggling to make sense of our world in our own way.

Thank you for this treat on this beautiful Sunday. I hope you retain your sanity for the next two days. Hugs to you.

November 02, 2008 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

I wander over here, now and again. I think I found you first at JMG, don't remember. At any event, this is a lovely post and I wanted to acknowledge you for such beautifully expressed sentiments. We need more such thoughtful people as yourself in the world. Brava!

November 02, 2008 11:03 PM  
Anonymous formerlyAnon said...

Bless you.

November 02, 2008 11:16 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

My two closest friends these days are a suspended priest (he opposed prop 8- on tv) and a lapsed republican.

Each are wonderful and multifaceted people, which is who populates my world.

But we are all connected by those facets.

November 03, 2008 12:12 AM  
Anonymous ewe said...

i think if there was more time you could have had this piece printed in a major newspaper editorial. I do not feel i will ever be connected to Elizabeth Hasselbeck but i do feel a special place for you Lynette.

November 03, 2008 12:17 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

Lynette, this is brilliant!
I feel bad for such a young woman as Hasselbeck being so tight and narrow in her thinking. People like this woman have to have something happen close to home, something very personal to wake her up. The sadder ting is she believes deeply all that she says. John McCain doesn't. He knows full well Obama's association with Ayers means nothing and it's only being used as a fear tactic. Elisabeth really believes it. I bet they all laugh at her furied defense on the View. She is being used too.

November 03, 2008 5:07 AM  
Blogger Dusty said...

I love you Lynette. I love reading your words of wisdom too..

Thank you for sharing them with us. ;)

November 03, 2008 11:56 AM  
OpenID badamerican said...

Lynette,

Seriously, hon, shoot me an e-mail when you're going to have one of these big blogging spurts so I don't come to the party late!

Hey, back in 1999 while covering a story for the Peoria Journal-Star, I shook Bernardine Dohrn's hand at Illinois State University. She is, of course, Bill Ayres wife and a former member of the Weather Underground. So therefore, I have 'palled around with a known terrorist.'

Hmmm. Maybe I should turn myself in to Homeland Security.

November 03, 2008 5:52 PM  
Blogger Tater said...

What a wonderful read! Just what I needed today after casting my vote for Obama. I have badly needed to decompress from all of the pre-election nastiness, the divided partisan rhetoric, the vast amounts of anger, hate, and single issue stupidity. You were just what I needed. You reminded me that there are others out there who have compassion and empathy, who have not gotten lost in a tide of judgment and hatred. Thank you. Reading your words today provided as much hope in me for the future of my fellow Americans as voting for Obama this morning. In my lilly white suburb (one that I am stuck in but can't wait to leave)this morning, as I stood first in line to vote, I silently watched an 80 something year old African American woman take her place in line behind me with tears in her eyes as she adjusted her walker. She was so overcome by the chance to finally vote for an African American for President, she couldn't contain her emotions. I am very proud to be an American today, and am finally feeling hope for a better tomorrow. Yes we can.

November 04, 2008 8:40 AM  
Blogger BigAssBelle said...

Well shoot, Tater . . . you made me cry with that.

To all of you, thank you for being the kind of folks who can hear what I was saying with this post. Compassion, tolerance, loving our neighbors, acceptance, generosity of spirit, kindness. In this country where we use religion as a tool to punish and divide, those "gifts of the spirit" are eternal truths that are not attached to any doctrine or any religion. They're human traits ~ along with all the ugly ones we're capable of. I can choose to fertilize and cultivate and water the ugliness or I can choose the other way. Today I'm choosing the other way. Damn, it is hard to let go of this anger ~ this rage ~ over the winger occupation. But one day at a time. Si se puede.

Oh, and BA? They're already onto you, honey. No need to turn yourself in ;-)

And Joe . . . I don't know how we love them. Act as if. It worked for me in AA . . . I expect it can work with those mired in the ugliness of human nature. Thank you, sweet man.

November 04, 2008 9:17 AM  
Anonymous crescentaluna said...

First comment from a long-time reader ... I have cried reading your words before, but this time, oh this time I teared up from hope. From agreement. Oh, yes, associations! I couldn't agree more: you can tell a LOT about a person from their associations. The wider, the more bountiful, the more humane the associations - well, we can all finish that thought, right? I can't say it any better than you have, so I'll just give you a gracious "thank you, and goodnight."

November 09, 2008 12:08 AM  
Anonymous Michele said...

I love you Miss Lynette. Seriously.

November 21, 2008 4:35 PM  

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