Hate seems to be cropping up all over the place. It’s not just “those other people I don’t like” that seem to be full of hate, but people close to me. I’ve been paying more attention lately to how people use the word “hate” in conversation, and I’ve also been thinking hard about my own relationship to the concept of hating.
When people I know use the word “hate,” it’s rarely in reference to a specific person or other entity. It’s always a group. A friend’s son declared, “I hate snakes! All of them!” A close friend asserted, “I hate cops!” I’ve heard, “I hate Trumpers” and “I hate libtards” (actually BOTH in the same day).
Does that make people feel better? Does hate help them feel superior to a group? Or does it help vent feelings of being wronged in the past?
Upon closer examination, I would bet both these people don’t hate every individual snake, police officer, Trump fan, or me. It’s just that nebulous category that gets their emotional reaction. It’s hard to hate things or people you know as individuals. So I say.
We’ve decided to activate the website for The Hermit Haus, our meeting center at the former First Christian Church in Cameron. We are interested in knowing more of the history of the church, and would love it if any of you know about events or people of interest that happened during the long history of the church.
While you’re there, we appreciate suggestions for the website and blog, since it’s new. We are excited that we may get to host the El Camino Real Master Naturalist meetings and class there next year. Anyone else want to rent out the building for meetings? The upstairs is all set! The downstairs still needs air conditioning, though!
Hey again. I’ve got some more deep thinking coming up, but first I have to say it’s hard to get anything at all done this time of year, because there’s always something interesting and deceased laying around.
Our first thing isn’t dead, just empty. That’s the tiny nest the baby finch tried to fall out of yesterday. It’s so small and exposed! But birds successfully fledged.
Awkward photo of awkward bird nest
The next best is bigger and more protected.
But at least two fledglings ended up on the porch this morning!
Isn’t it about time I got back to nature observations? I think we all could use some sweet stories and pretty photos, so I’ll try to give you some of each.
The Dangling Finchlet
First, I’ll tell you about the house finch families who have taken up residence at the Hermit Haus, who entertain me and Mandi when we hang out by the carport. They sing and sing, and fly right next to us or sit in big groups chirping and looking spiffy (especially the males).
Well, as we came out to leave this afternoon and I was trying to load paper towels in the car, something brushed against me. I looked left, and there was a poor little baby finch flailing away, but unable to fly off, because a piece of nesting material was stuck on its leg.
Here’s a nice story! Yesterday, I was checking my blog statistics, like I do once or twice a day to see what posts go over well, and I noticed a big spike in hits. What? And wait, they are all coming from Twitter? Why are they all linked to my book review of Dignity (which I still can’t stop talking about).
At most I usually get 3-4 hits from my Twitter posts every day. Part of that is because I don’t think all the posts get shared to Twitter, and part of that is that most of my friends and family are on Facebook and access it there. That’s fine, because I write this for friends and family, not to share my brilliant thoughts with the world (first, I’d have to HAVE a brilliant thought).
I can see why so many people I know are staying away from online communities, even though they provide such great ways to stay in touch, make new friends, and feel less isolated. It just seems IMPOSSIBLE to create a community where people treat each other with respect and dignity. Name calling and blaming seem to be the rule rather than the exception in today’s society in this country.
Case in point
I’m a member of a fiber arts community called Ravelry, which was founded in 2007. Back when I spent much of my time knitting, teaching knitting, and designing patterns, this was like a second home to me. I’m sure many of you readers feel the same, since I have so many knitting friends (before Ravelry we had some wonderful email lists, and some grumpy ones).
I’ve been very proud of the founders and their team, who have truly created a wonderful resource for fiber artists, and have continued to add features and branch out. It’s like Facebook, but with a focus…and generally with more kindness.
Back in mid-April, I participated in the exciting Landscape Committee of my Homeowner Association, where we helped decide on some improvements to the rather unattractive plantings near the Bobcat Lair house. Then nothing happened. For weeks.
Last week we got a note from The Portal (that’s the communications hub of the HOA that people either love or hate) saying that something had happened to the landscaper, but the project would happen soon.
When I went out for my morning Vlassic walk yesterday, some orange lines had appeared on the ugliest of the beds, the one right next to my house with the underground utility and phone line boxes on it. Ooh!
I’ll tell you! It gave me a happy surprise yesterday, and who doesn’t love a happy surprise? I especially love one that leads to nature observations and stories.
I was leaving work around 5 pm, as workers tend to do, and turned left out of the parking garage. That road leads between two sets of offices, but is shady and has lots of trees. It once was a lovely park-like area, and some parts of it still are.
I looked ahead after making the turn and saw something in the road. Usually, you see deer, since the herd that’s always lived in the area is still here. But, no, this looked more canine.
As I got closer, I ruled out dogs. As I got even closer, I easily ruled out coyotes by looking at the tale. It was a native gray fox! You usually don’t see them when it’s light out, but we were in a dim area.
The fox seemed very happy. I soon realized it was not alone. In the proud little fox mouth was a sizable, but lifeless, striped skunk (also native). I knew foxes ate small mammals, but I didn’t realize they’d eat a skunk. Heck, this skunk was hard for Foxy to carry.
I lucked out, and there weren’t any cars behind me, so I got to watch the fox trot along an office building, probably looking for a place to settle down to a nice, but potentially stinky meal. I didn’t get to grab the phone camera, but no doubt you enjoy the fact that I can’t draw for squat.
Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, by Chris Arnade, may not be the most well-crafted book I ever read, but it made a huge impact on me, and I am very grateful to have had the chance to read it. It helped me understand some of the issues in Cameron as well as why some of the things the movers and shakers are trying don’t really work.
I have a suspicion that my friends, family, and coworkers will be very glad when I write up this review, so I’ll stop summarizing the book and explaining what it says. I’m just so glad that I had some of my prejudices and misconceptions ripped away and have at least a bit more understanding of a subset of American society that I once had some strong biases against: the people in small towns or impoverished neighborhoods.
So, all about Dignity
Arnade calls people like me “front row people,” which are people who by luck of their birth have had all the opportunities available to be able to do what counts as “success” in the US: advanced degrees, home ownership, a job that uses the brain, not the body to earn a living. They have a front row seat at all the possible things the society values. He calls people who live in towns where all the employers are gone, where many people use drugs or alcohol to get through the day, and who use their bodies to work, when there is work, back row people. Always having trouble getting ahead, behind on opportunities, etc. *
It impressed me that Arnade, who was a Wall Street stockbroker, and therefore way in the front row, got curious about the lives of people near him who didn’t have the same opportunities he did. He spent three years getting to know a community in Brooklyn, then visited places across the US to learn how they get where they are and why they stay.
Oh, it was nowhere near as bad as I’m making it sound! I woke up yesterday rather early, because we were expecting a man to come work on our Hermits’ Rest gate, which had gotten fried in last week’s lightning storm.
As I was sitting there, I realized there was a market day over at the fancy baseball fields in Cameron, which are officially called the Yards of Cameron. Wow, I said, I bet that would be a nice place to publicize our new nonprofit, Milam Touch of Love (MTOL). I wish we’d planned to do that. Wait, I can just go do it!
I messaged the rest of the Board, and at least two of them said they’d come, too. Jean had the brilliant idea of seeing if our mutual friend, Pamela, would let us sit beside her booth and solicit memberships and donations, and generally let people know we exist. Pamela said yes, so Jean grabbed some chairs and we headed over, wearing our official shirts.