Hitching the wagon

some days it be like this…

I’ve always found that it’s really hard to get what I want. Not what I need, but what I want. I don’t say that to start a pity party (I can do that at anytime, don’t need to waste keystrokes on it here), but just sayin’. I also don’t say that to give myself a pass on how I get in my own way and contribute to the less than stellar track record of realizing my own goals. I understand how I am frequently my own worst enemy, and how I sabotage my own success.

All of us have our own wagon of … stuff … that we drag with us everywhere we go. It’s been said that where you go, that’s where you are. And that’s where your … stuff … is. I have a lot of stuff, i suppose. Most of us do. The older I get, the more stuff I have accumulated. There are times when I’ve needed to purge, and did. There are other times when I’ve needed to purge, and didn’t. I’m a slob, it seems, retaining things with no further usefulness, piling them on top of the last batch of things that have long stopped working, long run out of battery power, long been outdated and replaced by newer models. I guess it’s emotional hoarding. The floor is going to need support very soon, and the house may be condemned as not fit for human habitation. This is not good.

So. my recovery program instructs me to clean house, do a searching and fearless moral inventory, throw out what no longer serves me. Perhaps it is time for doing that again, but I would much rather deal with the stuff coming into my emotional field from external sources. No use embarking on internal spelunking when I can solve the problems of the world from my bedroom. That’s far more non-productive than anything i can come up with.

Speaking of non-productive, I am simply fascinated by the amount of diatribe still resounding from the January 6th insurrection. The talking heads are rehashing all manner of pseudo-analysis they can to find the single answer for how we got here. How thousands of people managed to come together in frighteningly organized fashion to do a break-and-enter on the nation’s Capitol. It’s not hard to see how this happened, unless they want to pretend this is shocking and totally unprecedented. This kind of malicious and malignant activity has been happening on this land for generations. This is where we come from. America is a colonial enterprise, and the original colonists were not the best and brightest that Europe had to offer. They were dissastisfied rebels, convicts, malcontents, and opportunists. To their credit, they were risk-takers and adventurers who had more than average hunger for something different. As a nation, we’ve culturally maintained all of these attributes, even though some of them have no further use in our body politic.

Some time ago, I began reading essays about the “culture of outrage”. We are just looking for a fight. All the time. We’re outraged by the price of gas, the price of housing, the price of cigarettes, and the price of history. All of this is relative, of course; when I was a kid, my father was outraged at paying $.39/9 for a gallon of gas. His head would have exploded with today’s prices. We’ve all learned so much about how the price at the pump is derived, and THAT’S what outrages me. There is politics involved in what we pay more than we’d like to believe. But I digress.

In my life today, if I choose to interact with the world outside my body in any way, I have to settle a bit, and accept certain realities. I have to abandon my innocence, as a wise minister friend of mine once said, and accept the fact that my experience is not mine alone, nor is it a perfect representation of what I want. We are living in essentially a communal arrangement, where there are certain common elements that must be maintained. We’ve all entered into some manner of contract with each other to do that, which is the U.S. Constitution. The Preamble to the Constitution says that we establish a common defense, and promote the general welfare. Common defense. General welfare.

I do not feel commonly defended, nor do I feel that I enjoy general welfare. I feel, more often than not, that I am not defended from the hate and toxic bending of reality by those with larger voices, who are usually those with larger bank accounts. I feel that many of us who are not dominant culture members have been left mostly to fend for ourselves. If we were simply left to our own defense, though, I might be able to deal with simple neglect. However, non-dominant identities are under attack by targeted strategies of oppression, like voter suppression, systemic allowances of discrimination and bias on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, and stigma that provokes aggression and harm. We continue to say “this is not America”, but it is totally America. We have to own that if we are going to progress toward our founding vision of common defense, and general welfare, and liberty for all.

Liberty. Over this past summer, there were crowds of people who protested their states’ response to the pandemic. They found it entirely unacceptable, and a withholding of their liberty by the government. These were largely white crowds, for purposes of description, and they were largely non-compliant with the state guidelines that called for use of masks in public, closure of beaches, closure of gathering places like bars and gyms, and so on. These folks were enraged to the point of irrationality, and certainly to the point of oppositional defiance. I can never un-see one shirtless man explaining to an interviewer that he had not been able to get a haircut for three months, and had the right to get one, and the government should not be able to restrict him from getting a haircut. To my working class mind, this is an amusing first-world problem. My first response was to advise him to get that mixing bowl his grandma used back in the day, put it on his head, and have someone run the scissors around the rim. That’s how it’s done when you have no money, and no transportation to get to a barber or salon. Talk to me about not being able to get to the hospital because there’s no ambulance service for your area. Talk to me about not being able to afford medication that’s going to keep you alive, or not being able to go to a doctor in the first place. Talk to me about running out of diapers for your baby and no money to get more.

My working class experience (both my parents were teachers) did not mean that I didn’t have enough to eat. It did not mean that I couldn’t go to school, or have clean clothes and decent shoes. It didn’t mean that I was ignorant of social norms or didn’t learn right from wrong. It meant that I understood, from a very early age, that some other people had way more than I did. That other people got more of what they wanted, and not just what they needed. I understood excess and disposable income before I was five, and certainly by the time I was looking down the barrel of adulthood.

When I moved to the State of South Carolina, just before theY2K, I had never lived outside of my home state before. I found life there fascinating, sometimes macabre, and enlightening. I though I knew what racism looked like, but I developed a new sense of it once I lived away from home. There were many there who proudly displayed their allegiance to the Civil War Confederacy, members of Sons of the Confederacy and participants in Civil War re-enactments on the regular. One of my managers explained to me, very matter of factly, that KKK meetings were still held in particular areas not from our work site, so if he was me he’d just want to know that. I was grateful for that information, but confused by the need to know that.

What I found while living there, however, was that many people my age and older had never encountered a Black person who was not black or brown-skinned, and had not encountered anyone who was non-white until the desegregation of schools in the 60s. This multiculturalism was very new to them, and I needed to understand that or summarily dismiss them all as blatant and hostile racists. I learned that people of all colors shared theology, in large part. Black people were not particularly enraged by the obvious racism, or the apparent social engineering present for generations, but they understood and shared the Christian experience. The Confederate battle flag was flying over the State Capitol when I moved there, and had been so for many years. They don’t put that sort of thing in a new employee’s relocation packet, so it took me several months to comprehend that.

The final learning that changed my concept of what a racist looks like, though, was this: despite all of the seeming intolerance, and inherent contradiction of being a Civil War loyalist in the new millenium, despite having so little in common with my life experience and my world view, there was not one of those people I encountered personally who would not have helped me had I needed them. If I had called any one of those Sons of the Confederacy members in my workplace at 3 a.m. to help me if I was stranded on the roadside, or in some kind of trouble, they would have broken their necks to help. I knew this unequivocally, and I felt safe with them. I could not classify them as blatant racists, although before I knew them on a personal level I might have done just that. There is way more gray area in what a racist looks like, and I don’t know if those folks really fit the definition of racist. Today, I would say they are supremacists, but they don’t know it, or at least don’t see it that way. It was my understanding that had to expand, and it did. It’s complicated.

My experience in South Carolina has been so necessary in how I comprehend racism, how my vision for non-racist society has evolved. I did not have language to differentiate my thought process between non-racist and anti-racist. I did not think in terms of multiculturalism, but only in the binary – black/white, white/spanish-speaking, white/non-white. i did not fully understand the ongoing effects of colonialism on the dynamic of this country, and i definitely did not consider all of the genocidal efforts that formed this country. My exploration of things like generational wealth and cultural cancellation had stopped at slavery, but there was so much more. Living in North Carolina at this point has allowed me to go far deeper into the true history of this nation, and my own heritage. It has allowed me to delve into the manner in which culture is cancelled, how classism was expressed in music as well as economics. These days, when I claim my citizenship and my voting rights, it angers me to remember that people who resemble me had to die for me to have both citizenship and the vote.

People who resemble me are still dying for me to have full citizenship and a vote that is counted. I take that seriously. So, when I consider who gets my vote for public office, be it local or state or federal, I bring all of those who did not have this choice. I am consciously bringing their voices into the voting booth, or onto the ballot that I fill out manually or electronically. I am choosing to hitch my wagon (with all my stuff in there) to the train of the candidate who I feel most represents me and those I am bringing with me. To have an entire class of people violently display that my vote is fraudulent, and patently wrong, is beyond insulting. It is negating of all that I am, all that my ancestors were. Those who discount my ability to make a creditable choice, and have it stand, discount me as a full citizen and that is unacceptable. To demonstrate their discontent, they trashed the people’s house, which since I am part of “the people”, is MY house. Their action was, at best, unsuccessful. At worst, it was rude, stupid, and typical white supremacy. That is not a train I’m willing to hitch up to. It’s going to derail pretty soon, and I’m bound for some place other than the ditch. People get ready…there’s a train a-comin’…don’t need no ticket…you just get on board.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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