Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Thinking Out Loud

     When looking at photos of myself as a kid, for a while I see a spark of curiosity that NOTHING could stop.  I hung upside down from my swing set and posed like a circus acrobat next to our wading pool.  Training wheels didn’t last long on my bike because I learned to ride the bike of the little boy across the street.  Yep, a boy’s bike.  I was outgoing and creative to the point of bossy.  Once, while the neighborhood kids and I were pretending to live in the Old West, I began instructing them on their “roles”, as if I was a Director on the set of “Gunsmoke”.  Yep, including their dialog. Today, that approach to “fun” would mortify Polite Me.
         There are photos of me in Halloween costumes which brought out my inner actress.  Dressed as an angel for a school classroom play, I actually VOLUNTEERED to step forward and sing “Away in a Manager”.  As a solo.
         And then one day, a switch flipped. 
         I went from ready to take on the world to painfully shy.  Blushing seemed to be my new talent.  Hiding in plain sight was my goal.  Finding a corner to observe the world was how my curiosity was fed.  Rather than raise my hand to answer the question, I silently prayed to avoid the spotlight.  Even if I knew the correct answer, I didn’t want all eyes on me.
         For years I wondered what changed.  What happened?  There was no personal tragedy.  No bullying.  No one being condescending.  The change silently occurred before puberty struck, so it wasn’t hormones and growing pains. I had, by choice, backed away. But why? I continued to wonder.  I finally figured it out.
         The year I was ten has been described as “The Year That Shattered America”.  And all of it was documented on television. Back then, if your t.v. program suddenly became a static screen with the logo, “Special Bulletin” and a man toned gravely, ”We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin…”, something major had happened.  Something terrible.
         Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.  When I learned of it, I was at a birthday sleepover.  All the other girls ran off to play a game, but I sat with the hostess’ Dad, watching the sad news unfold.  I felt the oddest emptiness in the pit of my stomach.  Dr. King and I shared a birthday and even as a kid I knew parts of the, “I Have A Dream” speech.  But I was witnessing a nightmare.  The nightly news would fill with the frightening, yet understandable, reply of rage in the streets.
         Months later, I’d go running into the kitchen to tell Mom that someone had shot Bobby Kennedy.  At first she didn’t believe me.  She thought I was confused and had seen something about JFK.  I persisted.  She relented and followed me.  Then she cried.
         T.V. didn’t seem to be my friend any more.  The Vietnam War was a nightly event.  When Uncle Walter Cronkite, the most objective newsman on the air, suddenly called U.S. involvement, “mired in stalemate”, I realized for the first time America didn’t win everything we attempted. Then the Democratic National Convention erupted. I can still see Dan Rather literally caught in the middle while trying to report.
         Today I checked to see what else had happened in 1968.  While I was aware of all of these events, I had no idea they’d all occurred the same year.
         North Korea seized the USS Pueblo: 1 killed, 82 imprisoned.  At year’s end they released the crew, but kept the ship.  (It’s on exhibit in the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang).
         S.C. State University: (aka the “Orangeburg Massacre).  Police opened fire on students protesting segregation in the town’s only Bowling Alley: 3 died, 27 wounded.  The 9 officers were acquitted.  The protest organizer was convicted of inciting a riot and served 7 months in prison.  He was pardoned…25 years later.  As kid living in S.C., this was unnerving.
         Pres. Johnson, having failed in Vietnam and struggling with Civil Rights, decided not to run.  Protests are held on college campuses nationwide while Draft Cards are burned.
         Dr. King is assassinated.
         Bobby Kennedy is assassinated.
         The Democratic National Convention: Members of the National Guard club/use teargas on antiwar demonstrators, as well as innocent bystanders and reporters.  The violence is caught on live t.v..
         Controversy ensues when Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise gloved fists during the medal ceremony to protest violence and poverty among African Americans. They are stripped of their medals.
         Fifty years later, I find it ironic that 2018 could also be described as, ”The Year That Shattered America”.  Politics are more important than people.  The Village that it used to take to raise a child is torn into special interest subgroups…the One Voice of a nation gathering strength is now a cacophony of special interests not aimed to aid the huddle masses yearning to break free.  Common Sense….R.I.P.
         I kinda miss “Special Bulletin” reports.  Those interruptions marked rare moments in history where America might not have shone in the moment, but once in-the-heat-of-the-moment emotion abated, we realize we’re stronger together than separate.  Now if only we'll put that into motion again, rather than view the world as Violence vs. Silence.
         Come on Common Sense…I don’t think I’m quite done with you yet.


savannah said...

WOW! I was 18 and a senior in high school getting ready for graduation in 1968, I can't even begin to imagine the impact on a 10 year old girl! Not to mention the difference between the climate that existed in the South versus the West Coast, specifically California. Yet, here we are, 2 friends wondering WTF has happened and how do we find our strength as a united nation? Yes, we have problems here that have not been addressed, but we also share so much that is good and makes America the gorgeous gumbo of humanity that it is. Hang in there, sister-from-another-Mother, we'll get through this, I know! xoxox

Ponita in Real Life said...

Being the same age as you, hope, but as a neighbour to the north, I actually know of almost all of these incidents, but don't think I was aware of them as they unfolded. I actually can't remember when I learned of them. I had never heard of the USS Pueblo incident, though. But I certainly share your (and Savannah's) WTFness. My mind is continually boggled at the antics of those in power in your country. Completely boggled. But I am on your side, True North strong and free. xoxoxo

hope said...

Sav: you're living proof that good people find each other. Our differences make us interesting and neither of us is willing to give up yet. You're my favorite sister by the way. :)

Ponita: and I'm glad my friend to the North also has my back. The world can be a weird place but I'm reminded by my friends here that there are more good folks than bad ones...the bad ones are just noisier.

Good weekend!

Kim Ayres said...

When I was a kid and at school, periodically we'd be given an assignment that involved finding a story in a newspaper and writing about it. I couldn't do it, as we didn't have newspapers in our house.
I complained to my father about us being "not like everyone else." Why didn't we have newspapers?
My father replied that he used to read the newspapers avidly and became convinced the world was going to end.
One day he decided he wouldn't read them any more, and the world was still here.
I've become like that with the news on TV. I no longer watch it. I avoid all the FB posts about Trump, Brexit, Syria etc because all it does is make me feel threatened, scared, and impotent do do anything about it. It puts me in a permanent fight-or-flight state of anxiety.
And yet, right here, right now, in this moment, nothing is trying to kill me. Outside there are people going about their everyday business, and inside I have a wife and daughter nearby who both love me.
And here on the Internet, rather than spending time on FB, I can catch up with old blogging friends

hope said...

Kim: I know what you mean. My news feed allows me to read headlines to keep up-to-date but further reading is up to me. I back away from the political because I can't take the "I'm RIGHT, you are so WRONG!" mentality. This is the most trying time to be an adult in America and like you, I can only stand so much. I don't like feeling angry or anxious. Which is why I love my blog family: we share opinions without anger and know how to make each other laugh. Hugs right back at ya! :)

Kim Ayres said...

I think one of the things I'm particularly struck by is the way the news is spun to make it feel that we are living in the worst of times, the most threatening and dangerous of eras. And yet, I remember the cold war and the ever present threat of nuclear wipe-out. I remember race riots in the inner cities back in the 80s. I remember the football hooliganism in the 70s. The world felt very threatening then.
I don't think it is any worse now, but it sells more newspapers or advertising space on news programs and social media, to give the impression it's the worst ever time for civilisation as we know it.