All of a Piece

I have a bunch of books here on my table that I’m not reading and a few more in the background of my laptop I’m also not reading. They are all related to the work in progress, “The Schneebelis Come to America” even though that’s not the real title and I’m still not sure whether, in the book, they will actually arrive.

Writing historical fiction requires a lot of studying, and when you study you learn stuff. When you learn stuff you aren’t the same person anymore. Everything you learn sets you apart from people who haven’t learned the same thing. I kind of think that’s why we send all the kids to schools where they learn a relatively standardized curriculum.

Right now we’re having the hullabaloo about the president calling certain impoverished nations “Shitholes” and wondering why we couldn’t get some immigrants from Norway. I don’t know why, but that flipped a switch in my mind. I became completely disgusted. My disgust stemmed not only from the remark, but from the reactions to the remark, noise from people about how that’s “not the way we treat immigrants in America.” Excuse me, but it IS the way we treat immigrants in America. The immigrants who first settled this continent were ALWAYS afraid that they would be asked to support poor dirty people coming in on boats from some nasty place such as the Alsace or Karlsruhe or Limerick or Trento or Seville…

I know this very well now because the last few years of my life have been spent studying early migration to America. It’s awful, uninspiring and shameful. I’ve read Philadelphia newspapers (thanks Ben Franklin) with published complaints about the “poor dirty people from German-speaking countries who are ruining our colony.” Yep. “Pretty soon the colony will be speaking German!”

Who were those “poor dirty people”? My ancestors. My ancestors were complaining about my ancestors.

But this treatment of immigrants isn’t limited to the New World. People forced to move from one place to another in the “Old Country” faced the same problems, and not just in the dim past. Read Jerzy Kosinski’s Painted Bird.

And, when it comes to geographic “shitholes” it’s hard to beat the beautiful place where I live. Most of the people in the San Luis Valley live at or below the poverty line. As an example, just yesterday a mobile home from the 1970s was posted for sale on Facebook. The asking price was $5500. The place had been remodeled and had many upgrades, but it was still a mobile home from the 70s. The line of interested responses was long, even though the thing had to be moved.

“Does it have wheels?” asked one responder.

“Yes,” said the current owner.

“Will you be home tomorrow?”

You see, the “shitholes” are not defined specifically by the race of the people who live in them — though that’s been the general and mediazed  reaction — but by whether the people there are losers or not. And poor people are losers.

I’m really tired from all this. I woke up very early this morning thinking social media is evil. I wouldn’t know about the “shithole” comment or the mobile home or people’s reactions to every stupid thing that happens in DC if I were not on social media. At 4 am I woke up realizing that I don’t need to know. I’m supposed to be an artist, a writer, but I’m not creating anything. It’s too easy (and I think quite natural) to be sucked into the vortex and I’m no good to anyone there. I can’t wave a magic wand and give us a decent president. I can’t suddenly transform a 1970s mobile home into a new one. Some days I can barely walk.

13 thoughts on “All of a Piece

  1. I listen to a British radio sender now and again. There is no music, just phone ins on a certain subject. Last Saturday morning it was all about Trump and his trumpeting and whether this was in order. Thre were many different opinions, but I was shocked to hear how many people actually thought he was right. Of course they said, out of decency, it was not the way to talk as a “president”, but we have enough of these people worming their way into Great Britain etc. etc.

    • I just find it incomprehensible on two fronts — one, it shows his lack of diplomatic sense, two, the reaction of the American press (official and unofficial). I wish that hermitage near you would extend me an invitation. 😉

  2. I’m appalled at how low we have gone. Not that an educated man can’t be a shithole either, but having said that, the standards we expect from those representing us “was” higher at one time, they were held accountable for all they said and did and yes there were loop holes and they jumped through them readily. Still, really????

    • Well, Nixon’s tapes were a large percentage “Expletive deleted” and LBJ was infamous for his language, including the “N” word, but they also kept it under control a bit in official meetings. At the same time, the “press” wasn’t everywhere, we had no social media, etc. etc. I’m just sick and tired of it all. I know it. 😦

  3. You’re right. We hate every new group of immigrants until the next group hits. We hated the Irish and the Scots and we hated Italians and Sicilians. We’ve ALWAYS hated Jews, no matter where they came from and anyone with brown skin, even if they were born right in THIS country.

    It’s the American way.

    But — I think this maybe has made a few people wonder if perhaps there might be a better way. Maybe hating isn’t the best way to go.

  4. I know exactly what you mean. Today I was having a little rant to my partner about planned changes to childcare subsidies in my country. Apparently the changes are designed to encourage women into full-time work. But secure, full-time jobs are few and far between. So cutting the number of subsidised hours based on a so-called activity tests disadvantages those people (an ever increasing number), whose hours are changed at a whim, but to keep one’s job one just has to to be available. I was lamenting how these policies seemed to be designed by people in secure full-time jobs who don’t have a clue. My husband thought it was worse than that – the inability to get a full-time job was seen as a moral failing or character flaw that the public shouldn’t pay for. Does that make sense?

    I thought about blogging about this, but going down the rabbit hole leads to a dark place for me, so maybe best not to?

    • I think your husband is right and it’s not by being cynical; it’s my real experience. 😦

      I was a contract lecturer (part-time teacher) teaching twice as many classes as a full-time tenured teacher because I was less expensive. The trend in the US in higher education — for a long time — has been to hire lecturers rather than creating tenured positions. OK. I patched together a decent income and even managed to qualify for health insurance and retirement benefits at one school (university) where the union had been active and successful. Yay me. And Thank God or whatever powers look out for me because I’d be screwed now. BUT a real story…

      Once when I went for a tenured job (200 applicants, one job) one of the people on the committee said, “We shouldn’t even interview our lecturers. If they could teach, they’d have tenure, am I right?” 80% of the college and university classes in this country are taught by lecturers so that idiot’s comments pretty much labeled all the schools (including his) as total crap.

      Yeah, that rabbit hole is an ugly place and there’s no reason to go there. I reallize today that my own little problems are about as much as I can handle (and those of loved ones).

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