WTF Wednesday


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One of the most bizarre experiences for me post-election has been the repeated accusation from friends and family that I “don’t live in the real world.” This always surprises me because this comment ALWAYS springs forth from someone who has never left our tiny town in Texas. Or, on the rare occasion, has moved from our tiny town to another predominately white tiny town. Most of them live in the middle of nowhere on land that their family has owned for a century doing the same thing their grandparents did. Don’t tell me about the real world when you never encounter a person of color and you spend all of your time on your isolated ranch bitching about how crappy our education system is. You haven’t been inside a school in 40 years; YOU KNOW NOT WHAT YOU SPEAK OF.

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They’ve never made new friends. Never had to find their place in a new city. Never experienced the unfamiliar. Never had to be uncomfortable. Never worked with or spent significant time interacting with someone who is completely different from them in every way. They’ve never lived in a large city and faced the issues that come with it. They’ve never traveled to another country and have never been thrown into a completely unfamiliar culture. They’ve never had to change. And they have never been forced to look at who they are and realize that they are not always as kind and decent as they once thought. They haven’t been called out on their bullshit or had to take responsibility for beliefs that harm others.

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There is nothing wrong with living in a small town or staying in the town where you grew up. I would love to move home one day (although it will have to be after I retire since there are zero jobs I could do there). Just like there are people who never leave New York City. That is your choice, but recognize the limitations of your own experiences. I am a dramatically different person than I was at 18 because of the diverse range of people I’ve met and the places I’ve lived, but I still have a lot to learn. I also think I have a pretty good grasp on the real world because it comes into my office every single day. I work with kids who have seen the worst that this world has to offer, and yet they still somehow manage to pursue their dreams of an education. That is the real world and it’s bigger than your tiny town in the middle of nowhere.

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While my parents initially got me interested in history, it was a teacher in middle school who truly made me fall in love with it. She would lend me her personal history books and let me sit in her classroom at lunch to have history chats. As you can imagine, I still have great admiration and affection for her. So, I was devastated this weekend when she posted this:

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First and foremost, the fact that there is a period instead of a comma at the end of Lincoln’s quote is an egregious and purposeful error to make a false point. The full quote:

“If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”

No one is denying that the North went to war to protect the Union first and foremost. Abolition came later, bu there was no way to even address that problem if the United States was fractured. Additionally, no one is arguing that Robert E. Lee wasn’t a perfectly honorable man. I have no doubt that he would have done anything to avoid the war. He had to make an unimaginably hard decision, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he led an army in a war against the United States. He still fought for the side defending their right to slavery. And, if anyone pulls that “states rights” bullshit on you, then kindly direct them to the original Declaration of Causes of Seceding States. These states declared, in their own words, that they were seceding in order to retain their “right” to enslave people.

South Carolina: “…An increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery.”

Mississippi: “A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Texas: “She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”

Georgia: “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”

Alabama: “No slave in this State shall be emancipated by any act done to take effect in this State, or any other country.”

I could go on for each state, but this article provides a nice summary of the actual percentage of each declaration that was dedicated to various claims and grievances:

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t typically bust into someone’s comments when they merely express an opinion. I likely disagree with that opinion, but I respect their right to have it. But if you share blatant misinformation, then I am coming for you and I don’t care how mad you get at me or how “disappointed” you are that I dared to disagreed with you. Take a moment to verify what you share, then you won’t have to deal with me. I feel like I should make an “Arguing Against the Lost Cause” toolkit because my GOODNESS how easily people forget well-documented history.

37 thoughts on “WTF Wednesday

  1. I just want you to know that I am going to MEMORIZE this so I can repeat it verbatim the next time my father-in-law bitches about shit like this.

    “They’ve never made new friends. Never had to find their place in a new city. Never experienced the unfamiliar. Never had to be uncomfortable. Never worked with or spent significant time interacting with someone who is completely different from them in every way. They’ve never lived in a large city and faced the issues that come with it. They’ve never traveled to another country and have never been thrown into a completely unfamiliar culture. They’ve never had to change. And they have never been forced to look at who they are and realize that they are not always as kind and decent as they once thought. They haven’t been called out on their bullshit or had to take responsibility for beliefs that harm others.”

    Seriously. It’s brilliant. …have you thought about running for office?

  2. Their “real world” is a fantasy.

    In fact, most of them wouldn’t even have to move to realize this. How many of these people are actually involved in the “real world” in their own small towns? How many of them help the severely disadvantaged living in these towns or volunteer at shelters? How many of them–as you point out–step inside a public school there to tutor or mentor?

    When people use this “real world” refrain, they are simply saying “MY world.” “You don’t live in MY tiny world that I’ve created for myself and am unwilling to let go of.” To which I say, “True, thank god.”

    • Yes! I’ve found my place working for nonprofits, specifically those that provide aid or services to those “less fortunate.” I have heard so many arguments that a person is not against helping others, just the government using their tax dollars doing it (lol).

      I hear that neighbors and churches should be there to help. Okay, but y’all aren’t helping! Religious institutions and local communities AREN’T meeting the needs of their neighbors, oftentimes because they are completely incapable of doing so.

      People will feel good about themselves by supporting a local family in a health crisis through a spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast, but refuse to acknowledge the policies – and therefore their vote – that led to a family’s financial ruin.

      • If only poor people would just stop being poor, ya know? Like, just stop and stuff.

        And spaghetti and pancake dinners are totally lovely, but what are they really doing to hit at the real problem which is, why the hell do we have a healthcare system that requires people to need spaghetti dinners because they’ve been ruined by their four year old getting cancer? Knowing people who have died of totally preventable and treatable issues is endlessly infuriated. No one is immune from health problems!

    • A lot of these problematic poor or homeless people are run out of communities. No one wants that on their beautiful streets. Problem solved! And that “my tiny world” is completely spot on. I even see that with friends who live in places like Brooklyn or their neighborhood in Dallas. The place you live is not the general template for all places where all people live.

  3. With every post my applause grows louder. Jill said it before I could: “Have you thought about running for office?”

  4. I just want to say that I love and appreciate you so very much. I never comment on your posts, but I have been reading your blog for like 5+ years now (wow). I went back and read your posts about losing Bardot when I lost my beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback, Holland, and they helped me so much. Furthermore, while I grew up in the Northeast, I have lived in Texas and Oklahoma for the last nine years, so I really appreciate your rants against the kind of close-minded behavior that is pretty rampant in this area (although TBH, there is a lot of the same insanity in New England…hello Confederate flags on trucks in New Hampshire.). Anyway, just wanted to say you are fabulous and thank you! Also, hope you are fully recovered from the kidney stone madness.

    • I’m so sorry about Holland! I am sure you miss that pup every day! We have Confederate flags here in California, too. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE??

  5. Since all this, I’ve done that as well with one of my old teachers in my tiny town. Hers was more judge-y on “being American and acting like it” than misleading information, but I did wonder if she’d be disappointed in me. Then I figured that I was more disappointed in her, as a teacher, for posting something judgmental and ignorant.

    • Amen. My teacher “didn’t appreciate my tone.” Well, lady, I don’t appreciate you posting bullshit.

  6. Well said!

    I wanted to recommend a book to you (which I admittedly have not read yet), written by my college adviser about Thomas Jefferson. Not sure if you’re into that period of history or not (I was a history major, and really love learning about Jefferson, but often have trouble reconciling his beautiful writing with some of his real world behaviors), but I think that Dr. Boles really tries not to ignore those aspects of Jefferson. Anyway, I just heard him speak about the book last night, I am about to start reading it, so I may be able to amend my recommendation in the future.

    Jefferson: Architect of American Liberty by John B. Boles

  7. “Recognize the limitations of your own experiences.” Boom! You just boiled down the sentiment I’ve been trying to share. Going forward, I’m going to simply use those seven words.

    One of the things I have been struggling with since the election is the feeling that I’m in an alternate universe. It is the perversion of history and the complete and utter denial of science by so many of my fellow Americans that fills me with hopelessness. I understand and expect differences in the solutions to our nation’s problems, but the denial of FACTS has been incredibly difficult for me.

    • This is the most dangerous thing I’ve witnessed in my life. By eroding the concept of verifiable information, then you are getting rid of the “known” which means that now nothing is “known.” So, Trump becomes the creator and sharer of the “new truth.” And his truth is a scary one. Bannon must be so proud watching this.

  8. Dear god, all of this, YES. “Recognize the limitations of your own experiences” is such a true and right sentiment that I will be using it judiciously when dealing with the small and close-minded that seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days. Thank you for stating it so clearly!

    Also, seconding Becca’s comment on the real world vs. MY world assessment. I don’t want to live in a world that small.

  9. Your “wordy rants” are the best! WTF Wednesdays are by far my favorite, and if the day ever comes when you stop blogging my co-workers will probably find me weeping in my office.

  10. I had to read your post twice to gather what you are full of rage about. I think it’s because someone shared their opinion and shared partial quotes (occurs ALL the time in the media) and their opinion of these quotes is skewed because they are from a small town?

    I too have lived in the real world. I have moved more times than I care to count, I joined the Army to pay for my undergrad and rather than loans, I paid this back by spending a year in Baghdad taking care of soldiers and Iraqis (and even terrorists) in a Combat support hospital. I’m very proud of my time in the Army and in no way consider this a bad deal. Since I’ve left the army I have supported my husband who is still in the army. My kids have sacrificed for him and this country. We move frequently, are thrown into new neighborhoods and cities, and have to work hard each and every move to find a community and friends. I have lived in every region of this country except for the mid west.
    All that to say I feel like you judging people for not moving is as narrow minded as them judging you. You don’t know if they’ve suffered financial ruin, abuse, infertility struggles, cancer, death of loved ones too young, drug problems in the family, inability and let down of not being able to follow their dreams, weather catastrophes etc. all of these things shape a person and their views as well.

    I was raised in a relatively small town in the north west. My high school had a graduating class of 250 and while I couldn’t tell you the exact number of non white people, it was indeed a small percentage. I am in no way racist. I think racism is evil and have no tolerance for it. I would argue that while I can’t speak for everyone at my high school, I did not ever interact with anyone who was racist. I would further argue this to be true of most small towns. I think racism is more rampant in large cities but I have no data to back this up, just from observations from living in many different places and meeting thousands of people from all over the country.
    So, I don’t think it’s fair of you to judge people from small towns and to say that they have no valid viewpoints because of this. I feel like that almost puts you in the category of Christopher Columbus thinking the indigenous Americans knew nothing and all their methods were wrong simply because they hadn’t lived in the real world either or traveled anywhere.

    Onto to Lincoln and Lee. Lincoln didn’t emancipate the slaves until almost two years into the war. I was taught in my AP US history class that he did so strategically at this time because northern support for the war was dwindling and he knew slavery was an issue people were passionate about and willing to continue to fight for. I learned in that same class that Lee was very distraught about the war and ultimately decided to fight for the South because he chose family over country. So here is why I think we should not remove all statues or relocate them to museums. We need reminders out there that there were ‘good’ people who made bad decisions. We need to ask ourselves “what would cause me to pick family over country?” Is that issue evil? Does that issue make me a bad person? History is going to judge us and our generation in 200 years. We don’t know at this time what colossal mistakes we are making that will seem evil to them in 200 years. One idea? Maybe the US’s dependency on goods made in China. Much of these goods are made in sweat shops in deplorable conditions for the workers (children) who make either nothing a day or pennies a day. Oh, and most get paid once a year at the end of the year, only if they’ve completed the entire year. How is that much different from slavery? We’re supporting it by buying these goods and doing nothing. Are we evil people? Perhaps. History will tell.
    I firmly believe that history will repeat itself if we try to erase it or ignore it. Evil exists everywhere in this world. We need to learn from it. While I am not about glorifying bad people, I am about remembering them, and adding placards to monuments informing people of who these people were and what they did that was bad and how we can learn from it. Yes, there are truly awful statues of evil that need to come down. But I don’t think Lee is one of those persons. On a side note. Many states including California have gone to the STEM curriculum. I didn’t know what this was until I did some research and hearing complaints from parents at schools. Essentially there is massive emphasis placed on science, technology, English language and math. Every parent I have talked to has stated that history is taught about once a week (if that) in elementary schools and are becoming electives in high school. So yes, we do need visual reminders of the evil from our country because it’s not getting taught. History will repeat itself much like it did in Germany after WWI and further evil will occur. In the meantime let’s ask ourselves what we are complacent about that is a way of life for us. I don’t think it’s statues or remembering Robert E. Lee.

    • Regarding my comments, I was my talking about my experiences with people I know and am related to. “This always surprises me because this comment ALWAYS springs forth from someone who has never left our tiny town in Texas. Or, on the rare occasion, has moved from our tiny town to another predominately white tiny town.” I see comments from them multiple times a day in which they defend the idea that their experience is the only experience. They got out of poverty, so there is no excuse from anyone else. They don’t have problems with police, so no one else does either. If Black people would just “stop having babies,” then they “wouldn’t have problems.”

      My rage comes from the simple inability of the majority of the small town people (who I personally know) to even for one second imagine that someone out there might have a different life than they have had. Of course they have their own problems, everyone does. Frankly, it is absurd for someone who has never gone more than 30 miles from home to tell other people how the world really is or what someone in a completely different environment experiences. You know the world you live in. Just this weekend I was involved in a conversation in which four different white people from my small town told a black guy from Atlanta that if he would just work harder and keep his head down, then he wouldn’t have to deal with racism or discrimination. They don’t have a clue what people of color deal with because they don’t know any and they cannot admit that perhaps they don’t know what they are talking about. That is what gets my judgement and scorn. It’s fine to not know or to speak from personal experience, but understand your limitations. I don’t criticize or comment much on military issue because I have zero idea what that life is like. I would deserve judgement if one day I started spouting off as if I know what it is like to be a soldier.

      There are numerous books, museums, and battlefields with memorials dedicated to the memory and history of the Civil War. There is no lack of information about any of it. What exactly does a statue of General E. Lee in a town square teach anyone about anything? And the comparison with China would be as if we went and put statues of those CEOs in front of those sweatshops. Then, one day down the road when the majority of our nation realizes what a terrible choice it was for us to buy from those companies, then we just leave those statues up to remind the sweatshop workers and future generations that they had their lives destroyed for our tennis shoes. They don’t need statues for that. Statues aren’t where history is documented. Lee argued against the statues because he knew they represented a lost cause and a continued division in our country. Nazi Germany destroyed everything honoring the Nazis. It is illegal to draw or display a Swastika there. Guess what? No one is forgetting that history. They use memorials and statues to honor the victims of the Nazis instead. If you want to teach people about history, take them to where it happened. Show them a battlefield. Watch a documentary. Read a book. I’m not complacent in any of this. Statues honor people. They hold people up as heroes. There is zero reason for men who led an army against this country to be honored as heroes.

  11. This was a very powerful post. Thank you. Also, I just listened to This American Life’s episode on DeVos. THAT was interesting. Don’t fix the school, just take the kid out of it and move her to a pretty new school where she’ll thrive. And buy her mom a car.
    I got a lot more out of it than that but it just spoke so much to who she is and where she sees public education in the grand education plan.

  12. I grew up in the twin town of your town (except mine is in NC). So A-FREAKING-MEN! to everything you said!

    • I just don’t understand how people can believe that Jesus and dinosaurs coexisted, but don’t believe the data of thousands of scientists regarding changes to our climate. Okay…

      • Two main reasons:
        1. They don’t have to
        2. They get paid not to

        It’s a shame and I just can’t deal. One told me that he didn’t “believe” in dinosaurs, the fossils were put there by Jesus, and evolution is fake. He’s an ELECTRICAL ENGINEER!! I can’t even..

        • I just don’t see how you can believe in an omnipresent being in the clouds who has pre-determined your entire life for you, but not that increased sea temperatures cause hurricanes to be larger and more powerful. And that guy is exactly why churches shouldn’t be tax exempt! What’s super sad is that some kids are learning that in their public schools. We are screwed as a species.

          • As a public school science teacher, I hereby swear that I am doing my part! haha. I am teaching in a rural county now and they are actually quite open to evolution and climate change. I have been impressed! There is hope!

    • I wish I had seen that first as that would have saved me a lot of ranting. I didn’t even think to look up the Lee quote since the Lincoln one pissed me off so much. Thanks for sharing!

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