Marketing A Culture: Genocide, Racism, and The “Others”

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We want to talk about racism in the past tense like it was something that happened rather than something that is happening. No one likes to admit that while we can send an expedition to Mars, our country still cannot overcome this disease that’s plagued us since the inception of our nationhood. Like smallpox, racism came across the ocean from Europe to infect a land and a people who had never been exposed to its deadly effects. While it’s true the indigenous people of the US were not always peaceful amongst themselves, slavery and racism was as foreign to them as the other diseases brought here by the settlers. Sure, we’d like to say none of that is relevant in 2015. It only takes this one picture to prove otherwise.

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Normally the discourse of racism is centered on either African American lives or the lives of immigrants, and it’s true that those groups are subject to hate even yet today. However, the one group’s voice no one seems to hear is that of the very Native Americans from whom this country was stolen.

It’s a historical fact that Native Americans were taken from the shores of this country as slaves long before any Anglo Saxon settled. It’s also a historical fact that Columbus, while never setting foot in the United States of America, did enslave and kill countless Native people to our south. In fact, the whole idea of slavery hit our shores because Columbus designed the idea of enslaving Native people on the sugar plantations he started. Most of us know Columbus was no hero—he was just an attention seeker, lost in the world, trying to make a fortune. In the process, he committed genocidal acts. Without recounting the entire history of the US, suffice it to say Native people have been treated in the same manner as any other minority: they have been enslaved, forced to assimilate, and made into a group of “others” pushed aside and largely forgotten.

Ask my grandson who the Indians are and where they live. He is in kindergarten, and the only conversation he has really had about Thanksgiving is what he’s learned from his public school education, so he will answer “I think they’re out in the woods looking for food still”. We correct his school-led misguidance at home, but many kids don’t know any better. “Indians” are still portrayed as wild, uncivilized heathens who hunt wild animals under the cover of the forest. It’s sickening. No one tells these children the truth, but the school mascot of my grandson is the “Brave” complete with headdress, so they do learn it’s supposedly acceptable to appropriate the very culture Europeans tried so hard to eradicate. Call them uncivilized. Steal their culture when it suits our needs. That’s the Anglo-Saxon way, apparently.

Which brings me back to the picture. While walking through a Wal-Mart store (a place I despise, but that’s a different article for a different time, but yet another solid reason to boycott them), I noticed this bow and arrow hanging out for display. We’re a small, largely agricultural community, so archery equipment and guns are typical here. That’s not what bothered me. It isn’t the aspect of hunting that bothered me, either. My own family hunts. What astounded me enough that I snapped a picture were the words “Lil Sioux”.  Those words punched straight through my brain into my soul. There they were in big, bold letters as if buying this plastic archery set would somehow transform the child for whom it was purchased into a Native American, and not just a random Native American, but a Sioux. It can’t be lost that many associate the strong Sioux leaders of Sitting Bull or Red Cloud with the picture of what they believe all Native people to be. Seeing this inanimate object hanging there as if one can buy what real Native hunters and warriors spent a lifetime learning made my skin crawl. It was culture for sale. Moreover, it was more false ideas of what being Native really means, as if all Indigenous people are just running around with bows. It wasn’t lost on me that while someone decided to market how great it is to be a Sioux warrior, one great Sioux warrior remains falsely imprisoned as a political prisoner yet today, having been imprisoned since the late 1970s, Leonard Peltier. We will never admit that in a public display at Wal-Mart, though. Nope. We’ll just continue to market a culture for white profit whilst committing cultural genocide on the very people from whom we steal.

I wish I could tell my grandson that racism “was,” but instead I have to tell him that it “is”. I can’t look at a display such as this and think any differently. Had this been a different type of display with pejorative, racist term about another ethnicity, it surely would have been removed. It probably would have never been displayed at all, although that’s debatable. What is glaringly obvious is that we, as a Nation, refuse to recognize our racist underbelly. We hide the seeds of racism in areas many never look, one of which is the Native American community. We let them lie nearly dormant there while we steal away from an entire people what is their own: their identity. Racism hasn’t been eradicated. Hell, it’s not even close to being wiped away. The seeds of racism are still here, hidden away in store displays and mascots, team and school names, classroom discussions and lessons, movies and depictions. One need not search hard to find them. All we have to do is open our eyes to the real meaning behind the words before us in bold print. The very people we owe our success to—we took all the land and resources from them after all, we continue to disparage, and as long as we let these seeds stay buried in our treatment of one people, they will vine out to all people. Don’t think racism matters because it doesn’t affect you?  Just wait. The finger will point at you one day, too.

 

(Cover photo via: https://awakeningthehorse.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/culturalappropriation1final.jpg)

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Between Ignorance and Selfishness: Personal Accountability

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How many times do I have to see someone trying to give away or sell a pet they no longer want? It seems everyday someone in the paper or on the internet has evicted their once beloved pet from their lives, and for what? Some of the most idiotic reasons surface, but it’s usually the fact they have a small child, they’re moving, the landlord is making them get rid of it, or they don’t have the time to invest in a pet. I’m well aware life happens—things can and do pop up, circumstances can be beyond one’s control. Usually, though, people know they’re taking a risk when taking on a pet. Do I need to think about the responsibility I’m taking on with a pet? Of course not. I’ll just rehome it later.

Being a bad pet parent is not the only thing that hits the top of my list of irresponsible acts by people this week.

As August rolled in and kids went back to school, my newsfeed was clogged with people looking for help with school clothes and supplies for their children. Again, I realize life happens, but some of these people act as if they had no clue what was going to happen as fall approaches. They acted as if parenting slipped their minds whilst they were posting all their summer-fun shenanigans on social media. Do I need to put back a little for school clothes? Nah. I’ll beg for those.

We often call people like the ones I’ve mentioned “stupid,” but I need to argue about that term a second.

Truthfully, none of these people I know are ignorant. We like to label them as that, and they like it, too, somewhere deep down inside because if they are “stupid” or “ignorant,” that serves as justification for their actions. They can just “dumb” it away.

“Look, I know I was stupid, but I’ll do better next time,” you might hear when calling them out for their irresponsibility.

I expect better than a lame excuse, though. I expect the truth.

Honestly, people who act in this manner are not stupid. They are not ignorant of the way life works. Instead, they are selfish.

To say someone is stupid or ignorant there must be some understanding that they were not privy to the information that might have helped them make better decisions.

For instance, someone might buy a car with underlying mechanical issues no one found before the purchase. A mechanic might not even know. These people are ignorant to the fact this issue will impact their future with the car, and therefore, they purchase the faulty vehicle. It is not their fault. They simply had no knowledge.

People who knowingly and willingly take on a pet or child are not ignorant to things like a landlord not allowing pets, or children needing school supplies. Ignorance never enters the arena. They make decisions based on their own selfish wants, without regard for the responsibilities they’ve  embarked upon.

I cannot and will not explain this away for them by calling them “stupid” or “ignorant” because I believe in personal accountability—something these folks clearly do not want.

Children and pets are not something to be cast aside when times get tough. Being a pet parent or parent of a child requires good, strong decision making skills. When someone adopts a pet  with the knowledge that they are not allowed to have said pet, or has a child they knowingly cannot afford, they reach a pinnacle or self-indulgence I cannot understand.

We do not live in the dark ages when educational material was hard to find. Nope. We live in the age of the internet. Most everyone, at least in the US, has access to the information they need to make it through life. This includes details about pet ownership and parenting.

People who do not educate themselves are at fault for their blaring mistakes, and what’s infinitely worse are those who have been educated, but simply choose not to take heed.

Knowing the pet you loved enough to bring into your home or the child you willing created has needs, but choosing to ignore those needs, or breaking rules that will make it impossible to properly care for them, makes you a supreme narcissist—nothing more and nothing less.

So, no. I won’t call those folks ignorant. I will give them the ugly crown they deserve to wear as those who depend on them suffer. Then I’ll hope those they’ve completely let down survive the fall to be happy and healthy despite the self-centered jerks who hurt them.

(image source:http://day-with-kt.com/self-absorbed/)

Joyeux Fête Des Pères!

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It’s Father’s Day—

There are men I could bash for doing it wrong—some fathers who never see or speak to their children, aren’t there to support them emotionally or financially, and are seemingly so caught up in their own lives they barely recognize the lives of the people they chose to create. However, I will not concentrate on them.

Instead, I want to take this time to recognize the ones who do it right. There are so many men who are terrific parents and mentors to their children, and even the children of others. Some of them father with the help of a spouse, and others are going it alone. Either way it’s no easy task. In order to parent, one must sacrifice, give, and work more than they’ve ever thought possible.

I’ve seen men being amazing parents for a long time, but they rarely get credit. The most common word associated with “Dad” is “deadbeat”. Anything else gets swept under the rug. But I’ve seen it firsthand. Men everywhere making sure their sons and daughters are cared for in every sense of the phrase. Men setting the example of being a good human being. Men treating their significant others well so their children can follow suit in their own relationships. Men giving up the single life to raise a child on their own. Even though we don’t see it in the media too often, they really do exist.

Being a father is as difficult as being a mother, only with a little added tinge of difficulty. Socially constructed man code tells men they’re not nurturers. It tells them to be despondent and disconnected. It tells them to never show emotion. Increasingly though, men are defying and rewriting that code.

Men are stay-at-home parents. Men want to take paternity leave. Men want to be active in their children’s lives just like moms, and more and more they’re making that happen.

So, to all you dads out there, especially my son, I applaud you. You are helping to make the world a better place. You are helping to raise responsible, compassionate human beings who know there is no reason for lack of love because of gender. You are raising a future generation who will one day look back and say “My dad was always there for me,” and that, fellas, makes all the difference in the life of a child.

And to all the moms out there who are acting fathers for the men who won’t step up, Happy Moms Doing It All Day to you!

(Imagae source:http://www.jardinierdedieu.com/article-priere-pour-la-fete-des-peres-118496788.html)

You Don’t Have to Choose: Clean House & Happy Kids

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Writing is work, and since the old proverb is true that money doesn’t grow on trees, I’ve been dedicating most of my time to my fiction writing of late. Once in a while, though, something comes along that crawls up under your skin, forcing you to write about it so you can rid your mind of the toxins. Such an article made its way into my pores tonight.

I’m not a fan of either/or stories, usually. Life proves with increasing frequency that rarely is “either/or” the way things actually are. There are generally many explanations or solutions. Thus, most of these stories are just some false dichotomy built around (or sometimes for) drama.

When I clicked on this little piece written in a man’s point of view, I thought I’d be happier by the end. The letdown was not dissimilar from a bad date.

Writing for The Washington Post, author Clint Edwards’s article “I Blamed My Wife for a Messy House. I Was Wrong For Many Reasons” seemed to have the potential of being rather insightful.

I wanted to read about a man who not only shared in the work of raising children, but also in keeping the home. To be fair, he does hit on that aspect, at least a little. He says he started washing some of the dishes after realizing the heavy workload carried by his wife, a stay-at-home mother. He even says he began to be more aware of his children’s development.

Kudos, I guess. Call me crazy, but I thought most dads did that sort of thing nowadays.

Sure, most of the time women carry the greatest part of the burden in the household as far as raising children, cooking, and keeping house. Maybe in decades past men weren’t helpful in the home, but I think that climate has changed significantly, even from just a decade ago.

I’m not honestly here to argue the finer points of gender roles in anyone’s home, though. What really bothered me was the point Edwards laments that having a messy, disorganized home is quite acceptable.

I refute that idea completely. Why? Let me tell you.

I raised three sons. Part of that time I worked a full-time job. My home was still never disorganized or dirty. I didn’t have the time of day for disorganization. “Messy” made me late. “Dirty” made me edgy. Our home was clean, neat, and organized so we knew without question where everything was, and there wasn’t a need for last minute cleaning if guests were coming. We were ready.

I say “we,” because we were a family, but I happened to have a husband who wouldn’t have lifted a finger to wash a dish or pay attention to our children any more than he would’ve volunteered for a superfluous rectal exam. Not that he shouldn’t have—don’t get me wrong, I deserved more help that I received. However, I did it. My kids learned to clean up after themselves, and no one suffered.

I had time to attend sporting events, band concerts, and school functions. Believe it or not, even though I took time to wash dishes, I was still able to potty train my 3 sons—a feat the author’s wife, apparently, is unable to perform.

This whole concept of one not being a good parent if they have to take time to clean their home makes no sense at all to me, and this woman didn’t work outside the home, either.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I had time for all my children, cooking, cleaning, yard work, and even time to myself.

It isn’t about life being one or the other. It’s about being organized enough to make things work. Granted, sometimes that means enlisting help—and listen up men, if you’re not already helping, you should be. However, while being a stay-at-home mom is more than being Peggy Bundy circa Married with Children, eating bonbons and watching Oprah Winfrey, it is also not impossible.

Edwards says his wife would rather not be the type of mother who pays no attention to her children or herself, making it sound as if those stay-at-home parents who do find time to keep the household in the kind of order that prevents our neighbors from thinking we should be on an episode of Hoarders, are neglectful parents who also make no time for ourselves.

I call it hogwash.

Sometimes the kids have to come before scouring the tub, but generally speaking, what parents learn to do best is multi-task. Yes, that may mean you will sometimes be tired. That may mean your kids will not have your undivided attention throughout the day. It will probably also mean the kids need to pitch in to clean up their own little messes, but what’s the harm in that?

Keeping house has been part of human life since the advent of homes. Humans build a space to accommodate their family, and someone has to keep it clean. What humans are also champions at doing is complicating very simplistic situations.

Are we to believe that homemakers, no matter their gender, have life harder now than say in the 19th and 20th centuries? With all the new automated machines we have it harder? Now that we put dishes in a dishwasher or clothing in the washing machine and walk away until they’re ready to be removed instead of washing laundry on a washboard or dishes by hand in a sink—both which used to require also carrying water, I am to believe a person who stays home with their children is overburdened? Doubtful.

Here’s the real truth: Our lives have become so much easier we fail to organize properly, and we complain at even small efforts.

Rather than letting work pile up, women (and I say “women” because in the past it was traditionally women who were doing the work in the home) used to keep on top of things because they knew that pile of dishes or laundry would be impossible to tackle if they didn’t. Now, it seems so easy. “I’ll get that later,” but later never comes. By the time someone decides to jump in, the house is a disaster.

It isn’t either the house or the kids. Both can be attended to nicely, but it will take a slight bit of effort. Not the effort our foremothers were forced to put forth, mind you, but a little organization and time dedicated each day to housework can save so much trouble and embarrassment. While you’re at it, enlist the kids. One day they’ll be adults, and unless you want to clean their homes for them, it might be a good idea for them to know what cleaning looks like. Life isn’t all trips to the park, even though we wish it could be. The little ones won’t hate you for spending the time to clean the house. In fact, they’ll probably appreciate it in the long run.

(image source: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-clean-the-house-7/)

Parenting and Relationships: Choice Not Cultish Behavior

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Sometimes kids will get in your way. This should be what they tell you before you have children. Kids will get sick. They’ll cry. There will be school events, and even flat our tantrums to deal with. When you become a parent, life as you knew it changes. You are no longer the center of your own universe, and your relationship with your partner may change.

However, meeting the needs of your children probably won’t kill your marriage as this article suggests. What this author, who claims to be a physician, posits is that a strange “religion” of parenting is killing marriages because children are put first, and according to the author, this is a sin against a partnership.

Calling parenting a “religion” is about the most polarizing thing I can imagine for parents. It’s as if dedicated parents are now being equated to cult members. I do realize there are some people who do not have a life outside their children, and I might say they should nurture their own interests to some level because one day, those children will be grown. A person should not live through another person. Individuality is important for happiness, but there is an amount of individualism parents sacrifice.

When children are born or adopted in the context of a marriage, there should be a basic understanding that sometimes the needs of the adults will fall to the wayside in order to tend to the needs of the children. If both parties cannot agree to this caveat, then it would be my suggestion that they not become parents.

Being a parent is a delicate balance of me, us, them, and we. Each parent and child must be an individual, the parents must be a partnership, and the entire family must be unified. In order for this to happen, there must be an atmosphere of respect amongst all members. To say that when parents put children first it destroys the marriage, is to say that respect for all members of the group was not present.

Yes, parents need to have time for themselves both as individuals and also as a couple. This time gives them the strength they will need to make it through the times when life is cracking them about the head and shoulders. It gives them a sense of mattering—a sense of self and self-worth. However, this sense of counting also must relay to the children. They must count enough that they don’t look to other places for attention, which children are often wont to do when they feel like the parents don’t care. They must know that the parents will sacrifice for them. It is imperative parents instill in their children the knowledge that they are valued above a night out or drinks with friends so they can have their own sense of self-worth to carry into adulthood.

When done correctly, the family-centric household will value all its members equally. Sometimes, one or two members will sacrifice for the good of the others, and later, probably when the parents arrive in the fall of their lives, that sacrifice will be repaid as children care for aging parents.

Equating solid parenting with religion is just another way to attack those of us who choose one way of life over another. There is no “right” way to live. Some choose to marry. Some don’t. Some choose to have children. Some don’t. When two people choose to marry and have children, and they choose to put those children before their own needs most of the time, people should not belittle their choice by labeling them as cultish. I can’t help but wonder where the author of the aforementioned article would be if their own parents didn’t care and sacrifice for them? Maybe they didn’t. I can’t answer to that. What I can answer to is that I, too, am a parent who put my children first. Even as they are becoming adults, I can say I don’t regret one moment I gave to them.

Being a parent is tough. Putting your children first is not about abandoning your relationship with your significant other. It’s simply about making a commitment to your children–the people you chose to create-that you will always consider their well-being first, above and beyond all things. If your marriage can’t withstand your commitment to your own offspring, then I’d suggest there are other underlying issues you should explore.

(image source:http://ishareimage.com/family-support-clipart.asp)

Fall is for Daddy

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Every November it happens. As the leaves turn and fall, I’m forced to think about tromping through the woods with my dad—hunting, cutting wood—the crisp fall air reminding me winter was near. His birthday is in November, too. We never did anything especially spectacular for his birthday, but I always remember nonetheless.

Although he’s on my mind often, November is the time of year I usually try to reach out to him—to find him again. I lost him when I was about 14. All I really want every year for Christmas is my Dad back.

What’s crazy is we both know exactly where the other lives. I have his phone number, or at least an old one. Both of us have Facebook. No matter how many times I reach out to him be it by social media, snail mail, or phone, the outcome is the same. He isn’t interested. He blames his wife for his not being allowed to have me around, and we play a game where we both pretend to believe that’s the truth, at least while we’re on the phone. He ignores any other correspondence from me completely.

I know exactly what went wrong in our relationship. It was a culmination of things from the divorce with my mother, to his new wife, to my being an asshole teenager, to his refusal to be part of my life. We are both in the wrong on some level. I want desperately to right the wrongs I was responsible for, and I want him to do the same. Thing is, he just doesn’t have that desire. Maybe it’s because he heartily believes that he isn’t my real father. Maybe his wife would really make life that difficult. Maybe it’s because I have a relationship with my grandmother (his mother), who he also despises. Or maybe he’s just that full of hate. No matter. The result will likely always be the same: he will forever deny me.

Loving someone so much it rips a whole in your chest to think of them hurts. Sometimes I wish autumn would just go away. The smell of newly fallen leaves is a constant reminder of my dad holding my hand as we hiked through the woods, bending down to whisper in my ear: “Hear that? That’s a squirrel”. Every NFL game is a reminder of us sitting in the recliner together, eating popcorn, rooting for our beloved Cowboys. Each new fallen snow a reminder of making our way across the field following the tracks of the rabbit dogs. All these fond memories that make me smile, yet cry.

All that’s left for me is the wish he’d come to me. Maybe, one day, the leaves will remind him of me, too.