The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.

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Well World

I had brunch with my friend R today. We went to a place called Henk’s which is behind the Half Price Books flagship store. HPB was having a tent sale that looked amazing but I hardly need more books. I have no place to put them! Henk’s is a German diner. I had the Polish breakfast, which is pretty much eggs and fried potatoes with Polish sausage. It was good, especially the potato, which I miss terribly while I am low carb. (I can’t in good conscience call myself keto.) R had blintzes, which he said were like eating dessert, and a reuben.

We talked about 10,000 things, as friends do. R works in community education for mental health. He teaches Mental Health First Aid mostly to educators. Eventually the idea of a healthy society came up.

R is gay, no children. He is also an atheist. He tells this to people in his presentation because he believes it is useful in helping educators to sit with situations they might not agree with. Now my atheist friend went on to tell me an interpretation of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan which I thought was pretty interesting. Yes that sentence is knowingly ambiguous.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A man gets mugged and beaten up on the road to Jericho. The thieves leave him for dead. Several people pass the man and ignore his plight, including people you’d expect to help him, like religious leaders. Finally the Samaritan walks by. This is someone who is looked down on for his ethnicity. He sees the man in distress, takes him to an inn, and pays the bill for the man to stay until he recovers.

Jesus asks, who is the true neighbor? And it becomes a story about how to treat other people. But like most parables, there are other interpretations. My friend R says, this is a good example of appropriate care, both care of other and care of self. The Samaritan did not take the man to his own home, and he did not allow the man’s needs to derail him from his task in Jericho. He did not try to help the man directly, instead he took him to a place where he would be cared for appropriately. He paid the bill, which apparently was not a hardship for him. So, says R, we should be willing to help out others while also taking care of ourselves.

Another friend of mine has an issue with paying school taxes since they don’t have any children. I say, pay it. One day those young people will be in charge and I want them to be basically educated and hopefully able to think for themselves. I will live in a world they shape, I am invested in what these people are like. I don’t own a home so I don’t pay property taxes which includes the school tax, but I don’t begrudge the schools money. Money makes a better school, better schools make better people. Can we do it on less money? Well we keep trying and we know what public education looks like, so I suspect we can’t.

What does a healthy society look like? I don’t claim to have the final say on that, but I do know a few things.

Yoga moms are not the face of wellness even though they are the face of wellness culture. They are what could be called “the worried well”. That is, for the most part they are doing just fine and don’t need to worry in general that they will become unwell.

Homeless people are a sign that society is unwell. How can it be that we have abandoned houses and homeless people? Seems like a no brainer, put people into homes. And yet there is all kinds of resistance to the idea. You can no doubt think of some of the reasons: who wants those people in their neighborhood, why should we give a house to someone who is too lazy to get a job, or even when do I get my free house as a contributing member of society? So now we have to look at the factors in why a person becomes homeless, because very few choose this as a life path.

Any of the isms are a sign society is not healthy. Ageism, racism, sexism and others are rooted in fear; fear that somehow there are only so many resources around and if someone gets a piece of the pie, they are taking it away from me. It’s easier to scapegoat someone if you can make them a “them”, that is, not one of us. A healthy society knows we are stronger if we share the resources rather than hoarding them.

It was a good lunch, and a good conversation. I like my friends, they are good and interesting people.


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Isms and Whiteness

I’ve been thinking a lot about isms in the past 24 hours.  Before I start, I want full disclosure that I am white cis het female over the age of 50.  I am a product of my environment in many ways.  I am trying to transcend that, but sometimes I get caught in verbiage I don’t understand or old ways of thinking.

I belong to several online support groups.  Two of them have a high overlap of people so there is an issue that started in one group that spilled over into the second group.  That issue was around perceived racism and observed name calling.

Now I will be honest that I didn’t see much of the original thread.  What I caught was a friend of mine trying to defend his position, and another person issuing personal attacks.  I understand a third party made a comment about ISIS that other people took to be islamophobic.  My friend took the position that it was basic human stupidity not racism, based on the third party being a Fox news enthusiast.  You may agree or disagree with Fox news, but they do have a particular perspective to their reporting.  Another person felt that my friend was being racist and supporting a racist.  At some point the thread disintegrated to such a degree that an admin pulled it down so I am unable to review it.  My friend got banned from the site.

My friend went to another site, and mentioned that he was banned.  Of course people wanted to know why and he told his story.  Obviously he told it from his perspective.  The other person almost immediately chimed in that he was wrong and became personally insulting.  The second group tried to get her to tone it down and stop being so rude, but she would not.  Someone moved to ban her from that site.

The other person went back to the first site and stated that a bunch of racist women were supporting my friend.  That of course got the people at the first site riled up.  So now we have two people having a disagreement that has escalated to involve two forums.

Here’s the thing, it brings up questions for me about how to talk about racism and other isms.  The big question for me is, who gets to decide when something is racist?  Is it the person on the receiving end?  Or is it the person who committed the faux pas?  Because it feels like if it’s the receiver, then there is no room to make a mistake while if it’s the committer then there’s no way to call out someone’s bad behavior.

But what if the person who committed the ism is a POC and the person who got offended was a white man?  And what if the POC rather quickly escalated to bullying behavior?  Is this prejudice?  Group one is very supportive of the POC to the point where it has been suggested my friend is gaslighting, and sealioning.  (Apparently sealioning is when you argue with someone who is trying to leave the situation, that is, arguing to argue, posturing.)  On forum number two, the dynamic is almost the opposite, with the most vociferous people defending my friend and even suggesting we ban the POC.  I don’t know her except for this interaction, and I’m not impressed with her.  She gets heated rather quickly and doesn’t seem to be able to defend her position beyond name calling and stating that certain things are obvious.  Oh, and that she doesn’t owe a random white man anything.  So she played the race card twice.

I am so frustrated by this whole situation.  My friend may well be racist, I don’t know him that well, but I think if he is it’s more institutional racism, not a personal bias.  He has been fair with me and I don’t see him being intentionally racist to other people.  Of course if we agree that the person on the receiving end gets to decide, then the POC would no doubt find him guilty of racism.  If we agree that it’s the person making the faux pas, then there’s no way to call out my friend on the part that he’s getting wrong.

He thinks I am not supportive because I don’t argue directly for him.  I will do that with the admin, not on the general website.  I don’t want to stir things up any more than they already are.  And I do support his right to stand up for someone else’s right to make a mistake.  I get that we want to be allies for POC, women, LGBTQ, and all the rest of what used to be called minorities.  I also get that my friend is being vilified for something that I can’t prove he did.  And he claims he did not do.  (I can’t prove he didn’t do it either.)

I’m so confused.

It’s not the responsibility of POC to educate white folk, but on the other hand if someone is having a problem, it’s incumbent upon them to speak up in a way that the issue can be addressed.  If I don’t know I’m being sexist, someone has to tell me, and probably that would best come from the offended party, even though in another way they don’t owe me anything.

What is the best way to handle situations like this?  Ignoring it only lets it escalate and hurts my friend.  Getting involved has only made me upset, although I don’t think I’ve come across as very upset because I am trying to be diplomatic.  Also I have mostly been asking questions, since I could be completely out of touch.  That happens as one gets older.  I don’t see engaging with the offended person since she was rather vitriolic with my friend.

It just makes me sad.