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Do I Suck at Being an American or Am I Just Like Everyone Else?

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

kidding1I’m thinking about having a Tea Party. Not the kind that has become so popular lately, where rage-filled people gather to protest and metaphorically “throw the tea overboard” like the days of old in Boston Harbor….

I’m talking about a real tea party with little china cups, tea of all varieties, and a group of people from all walks of American life simply sitting down on comfortable chairs and pillows and talking about our various perceptions of what’s going on and trying to find our connections again.

My psyche feels overwhelmed by the hostility in our country. Even if not expressed openly, it feels like it’s hiding just below the surface ready to burst open like a pus-filled infection. Sorry for the gross simile, but it seems to be getting worse with each passing day and our health care system has mysteriously mutated into this psychic maze that we can’t seem find our way through to get an antibiotic to treat it. It feels like a self-induced anxiety nightmare.

And I have no idea where I stand. Am I alone in feeling this?

An old friend and I had a slightly heated exchange over an ostensibly patriotic email she sent a while back that just rubbed me the wrong way. The most difficult part for me was that I didn’t disagree with the intent, but rather, the presentation. Basically, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us…” It made patriotism a partisan concept.

My friend responded, telling me that she grew up with strong work values, and though she is not a church-goer, she was raised with “Christian” principles. I already knew this about her, yet these days the rhetoric that goes along with such admirable ethics clangs like a gong in my brain and drowns out what I know to be good and pure and gracious about my fellow countrypeople.

This morning when I received my application to become a part of the:

DISADVANTAGED MINORITY/DISADVANTAGED WOMEN
BUSINESS ENTERPRISE PROGRAM

I found myself in a different consciousness: that of my more conservative self.

This program would qualify me to bid on mural painting jobs within the local school system but with an unfair advantage. Even though I am only one person (sometimes two, if Nancy helps) I qualify as a woman-owned business and that gives me minority status.

WHAT?? How does the fact that I am a woman put me at a disadvantage as an artist? Why should anything but my merits count toward my qualifications? Why don’t you look at my portfolio and see what I’ve done and THEN decide whether you want to give me the job or not instead of letting me cut in line?

But then, doesn’t that logic put me in line with the liberal feminists? Equal pay for equal work?

And then there’s the paperwork. In order for me to doodle on the walls of an elementary school hallway, I must provide reams of bureaucratic information in order for the government to investigate whether I am worthy.

Doesn’t that put me in line with the conservatives who want less government interference?

I am reminded of the time I walked into my local bank in Vermont where I’d been personally depositing my paychecks every week for years. I enjoyed going in and chatting up the tellers on a Friday afternoon. They had just built a big new bank building and decided they now needed to start checking IDs every time someone came in to make a transaction. Tellers who’d waited on me forever suddenly claimed not to recognize me when I failed to produce my license, which I rarely carried with me. I was LIVID and fired off a 3-page letter to the bank president.

Maybe that’s what’s going on here. Maybe, like me, people are starting to feel cut off from a society that once recognized them, that slapped them on the back and gave a big handshake when they showed up in the bank lobby to contribute to the local lending institution so their neighbors could build their lives and find reason to get up each day in order to honor their debts. A small town where everybody knew who the plumber was, the veterinarian, the pharmacist… They didn’t really know anybody’s background and didn’t really care. They simply trusted each other’s integrity.

That’s why I’m having a tea party. The world has become too big and unmanageable for my mind to comprehend. I need to reconnect with the strong values I know to be so deeply held by my friends and neighbors.

Mostly, I need to rediscover my own. Chamomile, anyone?

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  1. September 21, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    There was a time in my life where every spring, I hosted a teaparty in my beautiful perennial gardens every spring. We would also trade flowers. Then life got too busy with raising a child, and I had to stop. Every spring for years after I stopped the annual teaparty, women would call me and ask me if I was having the teaparty. I have promised myself as soon as the time is right, I will go back to hosting it. It was great fun and reminded us all the simple things in life are the finest!

  2. Tina
    September 21, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Earl Gray with a splash of cream please!

  3. Tom
    September 21, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    I’d like to come to your tea party … an excellent idea. Your thoughts here are right on the money. I found your reflection on turning patriotism into partisanship profoundly important. I know what you mean: often the words are right, but it’s the sentiment that spoils it – like a tomato that looks red and ripe, but cut into it, and there the odor of rot.

    Somehow or other, we’ve got to have more tea parties – to help folks step out of the emotional and ideological gated communities we’re creating as fast as we can, to see that a world changed is still a good world, even though the neighbor may speak with another language and worship in another setting. We can still feel at home in world when we practice hospitality and welcome!

  4. betty
    September 22, 2009 at 12:41 am

    “Christian” principles that statement always makes me flinch. It is never necessary to make that statement one is expected to live it. By example…What does it take to love thy neighbor as thy self or do unto others. If I did unto others as they have done unto me probably would end up in jail. Humans are certainly funny creatures. That is why there is a God.

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