It Would Be Funny If It Weren’t So Sad: Divisiveness Over Pandemics and Crafts

I’ve written before about how human cultures cannot resist creating in-groups and out-groups, us vs. them, and all that. The Behave book I read recently had a whole chapter about it. It talked about how half the humans are “wired” to react to life in one way and the other half in another, roughly corresponding to conservative and liberal points of view (called different things in different circumstances). In this, we ARE literally born that way, though our life experiences can certainly have an effect.

In my naively over-educated way, I keep hoping that there are at least some parts of life where we can come together and enjoy each other’s company or deal with important issues while leaving our artificial differences aside. But no.

Meadow pinks are not commie pinko flowers.

I’m truly disappointed that we’ve now degenerated into partisan camps about whether to take precautions against spreading the COVID19 virus. For goodness sake, it’s not stay at home and quake versus run around in big groups hug constantly. People need to take the precautions they find prudent, which may differ depending on their underlying health or risk aversion trait. And some people need to work to survive, so why can’t they do so and take precautions reasonable for them? None of this has anything to do with what color your state is or who you voted for in the last election. Sigh.

What actually got me going on how ridiculous our drive to make ourselves partisan and despise the other side is something I knew about, but didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. Even our beloved fiber arts have become divided. When the Ravelry fiber arts community site enforced their long-standing rule about not having hate speech in its groups (which applies to all members and topics), a sizable group of people left in a huff, so that they could go express their partisan hatred elsewhere. And as they did, they compiled a list of vendors and stores where they would not shop and teachers from whom they would not take classes.

This all made for fodder for analysis and raised interesting questions, for which I don’t have all the answers. Were their knitting patterns hate speech? Were the patterns produced in response hate speech? Hmm.

But the infighting in one of the internet’s most niche communities is about more than just politics and knitting. It’s a glimpse of how otherwise ignored populations—here, predominantly older women—are using online platforms to organize and make their voices heard. And the Ravelry falling-out highlights questions other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have tiptoed around: What constitutes hate speech, and how should censorship work online?

Technology Review, March 2020

Okay, they had a right to leave and to be pissed off, just as others had a right to be pissed off at them. However, it was over a year ago. Some of these folks are still trying to bully teachers and others with whom they disagree, and in a turn that seems eerily familiar, they started denying they ever had a list and accusing people of making it up. What? Aren’t they aware of the concept of “screenshots?” Honestly, if I felt censored, I could see why I’d still be upset, but I’d figure going after people who disagree would not be a great way to further my cause.

I made this for someone I disagree with on some political issues. I still love that person!

Why can’t we knit and crochet (and needlepoint, cross stitch and weave, etc.) and share our love of those things with others without dividing ourselves up into warring factions? If someone makes a nice sweater, it’s a nice sweater. If someone’s cross stitch with the F-word on it offends you, don’t make one for yourself. And if you want to make tributes to your favorite president, feel free to do so without engaging in hate speech as well.

I have a relative whose politics aren’t the same as mine. So what. I still think she is an amazingly talented needlepointer. I still like her. If we get together in the future, we’ll probably talk about family matters and crafts, not politics. That’s not so hard.

I think this quilt is cute. I may differ from its maker on some issues, but I like her work.

Honestly, I don’t want to hate or fear others, and it really looks to me like we are being encouraged to do so, so that we don’t focus on actual issues we all have in common, like the need for adequate health care, enough money to feed out families, and a wide variety of educational opportunities for all.

When I find myself feeling a little afraid to go shopping wearing a mask, I need to tell myself that no, most of the people not wearing masks are NOT going to yell at me. I’d also like to be able to go into a craft store and not feel judged for buying rainbow yarn, a Franklin Habit book, or something ridiculous like that.

This rough-fruited buttercup hopes that having “fruit” in its name doesn’t make it a far-left flower.

I’m gonna stubbornly care about everybody, even if I get puzzled by choices some people make or beliefs they hold. Even, gasp, if they hold logically inconsistent beliefs. I want to live in peace with my neighbors and enjoy what we have in common, not get all worked up about differences.

So there. It’s sad, not funny that we can’t cut each other some slack and not call each other horrible names.

References

Us Versus Them, or Not Our Kind | Psychology Today: in society

Why a Culture of Us vs. Them Is Deadly | Forbes: in the workplace

How a ban on pro-Trump patterns unraveled the online knitting world | Technology Review March 2020- fairly neutral discussion of the Ravelry mess

‘Knitting Has Always Been Political’: Ravelry Bans Pro-Trump Content, and Reactions Flood In | NY Times June 2019 – article from when the Ravelry stuff started

Book Report: Furious Hours

Oh, hooray! I finally finished a book! I’ve been reading some long ones lately, and it hasn’t helped that I have all those other activities and distractions going on. Speaking of distractions, Cathy J. gave me some fascinating used books and magazines passed along by her daughter. When I sent this photo on to Anita, she squealed via text. Cathy also sent along a VERY 1970s decorating book that may well be my next review.

I can’t wait to delve into all the dish about Lee! (Not my husband, this guy)

Oh, Wait, This Is a Book Report

Anyway, the book for this month’s book club is Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee (what a mouthful). It’s by Casey Cep, a young woman with a mighty big talent for writing complex plots that you can still follow. Heck, it’s so complex that it’s hard to say what kind of book it is.

Cool fonts and scary woods just draw you in.

It’s almost like a few books all gathered together into one. There’s a crime story involving the black community in a small Alabama town, full of innuendo, unsolved deaths, and much drama. There’s a biography of the author, Harper Lee, including her childhood friendship with Truman Capote and her difficulties writing after To Kill a Mockingbird was published. There are also at least two other biographies hiding in the book, Willie Maxwell and “Big” Tom Radly). And then there’s a book on how to write “true crime” books, including how to do the research, interview people, and ferret out the facts.

The cast of characters in Furious Hours is legion. You meet practically everyone in the small Alabama town and the surrounding area from regular citizens to the law officers and politicians. You meet everyone Harper Lee was ever close to in all her travels and adventures, including, of course, all her colleagues in publishing. And you meet people who have insight into all the above.

I’m usually one of those people who has to write down all the characters in books, so I can keep them straight (I was so glad the book Homegoing had a family tree with names and relationships in it). But Casey Cep made the people in the book come alive so well (and she included subtle reminders of who people were), that I followed all the people as they came into the book, left, and came back again years later.

The person you don’t don’t get to meet in this book is Casey Cep, who prefers to let her words tell you about her. She’s the one who impressed me the most. Her research was impeccable, as far as I could tell, and she carefully clarified any time something she wrote about was not verifiable or when she got conflicting information from sources. That sure made the book more interesting to me!

There’s so much to this book that I wonder if Cep, like Harper Lee, only has one magnum opus in her. I hope not, though. Her reportage is clear, quick-moving, and a lot of fun. It’s amazing that this was her first book!

The Physical Book

I’d like to say a few words about the book, itself. You have probably noticed that I like to read physical books, rather than listening to them or reading on a screen. It’s probably something to do with the age I grew up in, but it’s also because books are a sensory experience to me.

Furious Hours has lots of photos of Harper Lee smoking. She was something else.

I also like to read hardback books. I KNOW that’s because they were such a luxury when I was young. All we had were the encyclopedias and a lot of paperbacks (Mom read romance novels). I loved her Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, though, because they were hardbacks. (However, I didn’t like the “condensed” parts once I read some of the full versions of books.) I wonder what happened to those books?

Back to my topic, Furious Hours is over 300 pages, so it’s a substantial hardback book. It’s great that there are photos of some of the people and places in the book, too.

And if you haven’t read it, for goodness’ sake, go get this book.

However, the book drove me nuts as I was reading it. Why? Well, the pages are really thick. I always felt like I must have been turning two pages instead of one. Second, the book just would not open all the way. I even tried to smoosh it down in a few places, but nope, it would not open wide. If you loosened your grip on it, it would pop shut. I’m sure it’s a good quality and will last a long time, but it sure was hard to read! I did like the quality of the paper on the cover, though. It felt good.

I find it interesting that I kept turning from this book to a large paperback I’m also reading, called Behave. I just love the way that book feels. It opens up so I can read it, the pages feel good, a blend of smooth and a little texture, and there are lots and lots of words on the pages, so I don’t have to turn them so often. (I will say, though, that if you don’t have really good glasses, you’ll have a heck of a time with its footnotes, which are in 6 point type, I swear.)

Should You Read It?

In summary: for a fascinating time learning about crazy crimes and Harper Lee, go out and get a paperback version of Furious Hours! Thanks to Anita for selecting it for our neighborhood book club.