Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

All or Nothing

Wow. Out of the blue, I just had someone accuse me of being a slave to what she believes are my opinions—which to me means she doesn’t understand either slavery or me. Her comments are an insult to both. Obviously, she’s guessing what my complicated convictions are. We haven’t discussed any of them. But she’s a good person who has fallen into the all-or-nothing bin. Logically, we don’t live in an all-or-nothing, you’re-either-good-or-evil, world like the one characterized in her post and popularized by extremist pseudo-journalism.

Lots of people these days wax nostalgic about times gone by. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling nostalgic for happy times, as long as we remember we have never had times that were entirely happy and certainly no times in which everyone everywhere was enjoying daily life. For millions, happiness can be limited to fleeting moments. Life in the fifties and sixties looks totally charming to the privileged only in the dim rear view mirror. After WWII and the Korean War, we wanted a happy space. In my family, the children were sheltered from reality. In those days, many thought sheltering children and/or students was a loving gift. “You don’t have to worry your pretty little head about that.” On his deathbed, my father said he regretted his decision because he left his children—especially the girls—without tools to deal with the world as it is—both good and bad. He left his children to be vulnerable to persuasive appeals, as he was without ever realizing it. As I look around, I see our family wasn’t unusual. Many adults today react to a world of villains and heroes according to their perceptions. They didn’t learn how to cope with a universe of surprisingly gray issues and subtleties. They repaint it in black or white, red or blue. They weren’t encouraged to develop empathy for those beyond their immediate circle.

Logic teaches that absolutes are not real. Every story has two sides and usually far more than that. Lately, many women have been telling heart-breaking stories of abortions that were necessary for survival. Without delving into that controversy, their point is to explain that not every woman who seeks an abortion is merely inconvenienced by pregnancy after indiscriminate sex. That is an ignorant assumption. The descriptive term “inconvenienced” reflects the perspective of people who cannot know the burden of being forced to bear an infant that may or may not be viable or may or may not have a way or place to thrive. We forced everyone to identify as male or female, in spite of historic evidence that gender has never been that clear for humanity and several animal species. Speaking for my generation, ignorance was bliss. We thought our world was wonderful because we didn’t know about the ugliness or even the complexities. We prepared many of the teachers who went out to teach with a naïve education of their own. Many still believe the United States was quick to defend and embrace the Jewish refugees during the Holocaust—if they accept that the Holocaust was fact. Our textbooks were boring because aside from dates and white male assumptions, no complete history was included. For example, we didn’t know what was happening in the reservation schools. We didn’t understand what was not glorious about war until Viet Nam appeared on TV. We didn’t realize government had lied to its citizens about our own nuclear tests near American towns, and we didn’t know women or minorities contributed much of anything to society. Real education relies on individual curiosity.

Trying to force the world to appear to be simplistic is unfair and unkind. We’re here to be our best selves—which involves coping with knotty problems in a positive way. You can’t be considered good if you’ve never chosen the high road over what was evil or mistaken—especially when that choice was difficult or lonely. It’s the complexities that make life worthy of the gift of living.

One comment on “All or Nothing

  1. Frances Sullivan
    October 8, 2021

    Another great bit of writing that provokes thoughts. Brava.

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