Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The 40 Year Snow





https://www.pexels.com/photo/trees-and-cars-covered-by-snow-512229/


I am taking a free course on Coursera called "The Science of Well-Being".

Today I watched an interview with Dr Nicholas Epley. 

https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being/lecture/x4U9I/interview-with-nicholas-epley


He described a study his team did on the Chicago trains. Volunteers either were assigned to a group to talk with fellow commuters or be solitary or do what you normally do. Three groups. Most people don't talk to their fellow commuters. After the volunteers finished, they were asked to submit a short questionnaire. Basically, the results were that people predict that a conversation with a stranger would be unpleasant and that's why we don't talk on trains. But, the volunteers who talked to folks actually enjoyed it and were happier afterwards than the folks who traveled in silence.


All the times I rode MARTA, most of the time, I wasn't brave enough to start a conversation. Ditto when I moved to Salt Lake City and had a whopping hour and a half commute from Provo to University of Utah Library. I never talked to my fellow passengers. Until the day we had a huge snow. I was out of sick leave and couldn't call in, so I boarded my bus and it took 4 hours to get to town. It was fascinating to see soooo much snow for this Georgia girl. I spent the day taking calls from folks who were taking a vacation day because they couldn't get out of their driveways. Then came the commute home. That took 5 hours because of a huge multi-car accident. But, this time, stopped dead on I-10, people were asking the driver what was holding us up, and he said dispatch depended on the drivers to let them know! Several people left the bus and began talking to stranded motorists to find out what was going on. When we saw people outside and heard the pleasant conversations, many on the bus began talking and we had a group conversation! It was wonderful! I will never forget that day. I made a lot of friends on the bus, people from all walks of life. Though when some of us started talking religion, some of the group dropped out of the big group conversation but did get in smaller groups. The smaller groups were livelier because it was much easier to hear each other. After that, I sat with a friend I'd made and had many wonderful conversations on my commute each day. And, many of the others made friends, too. It literally changed our commute on that bus for as long as I continued to take it!


I can vouch for the happiness effect. After I had the snow day and got to know my fellow commuters, I looked forward to sitting with my buddy on the days our commute coincided, and I was a lot happier with my commute.


One of the things that made my workday pleasant were the many conversations I had with folks at work. The social aspect of work kept me going even when my work wasn't very pleasant and when I didn't feel well, which was often. I've been disabled since childhood. I was always willing to work and worked hard, despite the difficulties, but working wasn't easy for me. I changed jobs a lot to try to avoid heavy lifting, which would aggravate my health conditions, but it seemed that every job had me lifting 20-50 pound objects. But the hardest part of becoming disabled at 40 was having to give up most of my social life, which happened at work.


I share this story with you to encourage you to yes, talk to strangers you meet. If you are an adult, you need social contact, and that few pleasant words with a stranger, if they are pleasant, will enrich your life. Don't let your fear of a negative encounter rob you of the pleasantries that await. I've had many pleasant conversations with homeless people, for example, and most of those didn't involve a plea for money. Even when I've had to admit I didn't have any, I have still had pleasant conversations after those few, and they are usually very understanding about it. These encounters have been in public places and not in homeless camps. Most of my contact with strangers starts with a smile at an employee at the doctor's office, but I plan to start talking to patients in the waiting rooms as well after learning about these studies.

***

You can take this free course on Coursera:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-science-of-well-being?page=1

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

On Dan Rather's "The Echoes of Jan 6"

 First, here's the link to the article:

https://steady.substack.com/p/the-echoes-of-january-6?r=g16zi&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web&utm_source=copy

And, here are the sections I want to comment on and add my personal experiences about:

"But sometimes danger surprises you, because it explodes in a place you think is safe. 

    "I would cover the towns and the cities of the deep South, and they often looked like idyllic slices of Americana: churches, manicured town squares, courthouses, five and dime shops, schools, movie theaters, a sleepy Main Street. People would tip their hat with a sir, or a ma’am." Dan Rather said it best.

 

   I moved to Cuthbert, GA with my younger teenaged daughter. Dan Rather's description fits it perfectly. The town square has buildings from 1890. I love history and I have family history in this area. 




  My mother graduated from high school in the same building that is now an elementary school - the only elementary school in two counties. The principal graciously let me take pictures on campus and showed me many architectural features that she commonly showed to architectural students who visit. The building has been threatened with demolition many times and fought for by local advocates to preserve them. It's a beautiful two buildings, one not in use from disrepair.

  I have many direct relatives in many cemeteries in this area, going back to my great-grandparents.



We spent 3 idyllic years in a quiet neighborhood. Black and white folks alike treated us like family when we saw them on the streets or at the Post Office where we checked our Post Office Box.



Our neighborhood was mixed Black and white. Several of my cousins called it a 'Black' neighborhood and refused to visit me there. That reaction confused me, as many of my white friends said Cuthbert was integrated and peaceful before integration was a thing, that race relations got bad for a while in the '70s but improved. I guess that was on the surface.

I had always hated racism. Mama raised me to love everyone. She used to visit the Black community when we lived in Cornelia, Georgia and I went with her as a child. I always enjoyed these visits. It wasn't just Black folks, it was also anyone elderly. Mama set the example for me. She never talked down to anyone. She and my older sister often lamented social injustice and wondered aloud, 'Why can't we just get along and be fair to everyone?'

When I was older and worked, I always made friends, Black and white, and enjoyed the company. I thought then that just being friendly was enough.

Then I got a job at Georgia State University and attended the required Multicultural Orientation. Wow! I learned a lot! In that class were Black folks, a girl from Brazil, several other Hispanics, and white folks like me. There, I realized that it's harder for a person of color to go through their day. Personal experiences we shared made my learning go a long way. So I began to see more injustice and talk about it more. I often found that I couldn't get my Black brothers and sisters to talk much about race. I began to notice that there were barriers to this on both sides. I wanted to do something about it, but didn't know exactly how. I'd noticed how in the break room, Black folks usually sat together but avoided sitting in a group of white folks. A white friend pulled me aside and warned me, "Don't keep asking them to sit with us or their friends will call them an Oreo." I'd never thought that my friendly invitations could get them in trouble. I realized that there's a whole world there that is invisible to white folks.

I went out of my way to be nice, these days, now that I was more aware of the pain Black folks have because of people who look like me.

Now I was in the most economically depressed area of Georgia, an area where Black folks outnumber white folks, yet I always felt safe. In fact, I noticed that the Black community has more couth than us white folks. If someone's hungry, and a Black family has nothing, they still share. A white person might make excuses not to share a meal. The Black community sticks together, and it's obvious a lot of us white folks have a ways to go in our sense of community and in the sheer strength of our faith. Black folks have greater faith and follow Jesus closely than a lot of white folks I know. That was a shock to me, considering how evangelical so many white churches are, and yet it's certain white churches that persecute grieving relatives of gay people. To me, that's not Christian behavior. Are we not supposed to 'mourn with those who mourn'? Black folks do. From what I saw in Cuthbert, Black folks are more accepting of differences in people than us.

So, I was enjoying life and learning lots, then came the Prowler. He stood at my 14-year old's window one night doing vile things and it terrified her! So we called the police! They couldn't find him.

"For those who occupy majority demographics, encounters with law enforcement are expected to go smoothly —the promise upheld that police are there to “serve and protect.” For people of color, particularly Black Americans, that expectation far too often proves to be an exception to the rule. An encounter with law enforcement carries with it the possibility of death." - Dan Rather

I told my neighbors about the prowler. They let me know they also had visits from him and were scared. I said, "Well, if we all call the police every time he comes around, eventually, they'll catch him!" I was shocked at the resistance of my Black neighbors to call the police. They were scared of our policemen and women. We had seven officers, some white, some black, and the police chief was Black. Yet, they were scared of the police.

I kept calling them. The prowler made repeat appearances and tried to break in a bunch of times over the next four years. Sometimes our policemen chased him. Always, they lost him. He usually struck on the holidays. My next-door neighbor got a window broken in her house. She eventually moved to the high rise. The prowler was Black, but he terrorized everyone on our street, Black and white.

During this time I, and later, my next-door neighbor, put our houses on the market. Houses don't sell often in Cuthbert. It was on the market for 4 years. After 3, I sent my daughter to live with my ex because I was afraid for our lives. Finally, when I couldn't get the mortgage company to let me out of the contract, I simply moved out. I couldn't afford to make payments. I ended up declaring bankruptcy.

Some people said, "I told you so" when I related my sad tale. But I will tell you that it wasn't the neighborhood. Crime hits wherever it hits, and it's not any more likely to happen in a poor neighborhood than in a rich one. Appearances are deceiving. All you need to do is read your local police reports and notice the addresses if you don't believe me. 

It's easy for white people to say, "Oh, there's no crime in the suburbs, it's all downtown!" I went to school at Georgia State University for years, at night. I rode the bus for an hour to get downtown from Chamblee, and I had to walk a half-mile to get to MARTA. I left school after ten o'clock at night and had to walk a block to the bus stop in the dark. I did this for years and never got robbed, raped, or even embarrassed by anyone. Lots of white people in the suburbs were sure that I would. There were few people on the streets. I was terrified when someone was out there but no one said a word to me. I was a young, pretty white girl and some of those people were Black men. No one ever hurt me. So if the danger were all dark streets and poor neighborhoods, I should be dead, and I'm not.

In all my 25 years of living, working, and going to school in metro Atlanta, I never had many problems. I did get my wallet stolen once in Lenox Square Mall. By a pickpocket. My purse was stolen once when I left it in the Faculty Lounge on my first day of work in Georgia Tech Library. Not where you would think such a thing would happen. I was robbed by a passenger when I was a taxi driver, but he found my purse in the back of the station wagon, so it wasn't an armed robbery. I was raped once by a homeless white man, but I invited him in because it was below freezing outside and a good friend brought him to me. This happened in my apartment, not out on the streets. Did I mention that during most of these years, Atlanta was the murder capital of the world? I was street smart. Of course, driving a taxi at night is dangerous more than simply going to school.

"Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Katie Porter relayed their harrowing hours huddled together. Even for those who may differ with their politics, how can one not be moved by their humanity?" - Dan Rather

I heard from these women, and yes, I was moved. Particularly by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's account, after she admitted that she was sexually abused. I felt that fear just watching the attack on the Capitol as it happened. I'd been chatting with friends on Telegram and one mentioned it so I found a live feed. I prayed for all the Congressmen trapped inside. And I had been expecting something to happen. For me, all the signs were there, and I wondered how in Heaven's name the law enforcement people allowed such a large group of protesters on the grounds in the first place?

It was not lost on me, as it was not lost on many news commentators, that if this had been a Black Lives Matter protest, police would have been there en masse! I would love to see Trump jailed for the murder of the five who died, and the two policemen who committed suicide afterward. To me, the blood is obviously on his hands.

"Representative Dean Phillips, from Minnesota noted the unequal terror felt that day: “I’m here tonight to say to my brothers and sisters in Congress and all around our country, I’m sorry. For I’ve never understood, really understood, what privilege really means. It took a violent mob of insurrectionists and lightning-bolt moment in this very room.”

I learned what privilege meant in Cuthbert, Georgia, more than I already knew. I'm just a 62-year-old member of the disabled community, a senior on Medicare and Medicaid. 


And I miss my power chair. The tires got bald and I could no longer get up my aluminum ramp. Medicaid will not buy me a new one so I've been without it for about 2 years now. I could write a whole article on disability issues. I've been the recipient of several types of discrimination in the past, from my job as a woman computer tech, from using up my sick leave and vacation because I was disabled and sick too often, from my religious beliefs.

I've been homeless, and I'm no stranger to the therapist's couch. I've known true hunger. I have suffered the grief of losing both parents and four babies. Because of what I went through in my life, I want to see an end to major injustice in my lifetime. This is why I tweet so much about injustice, the lack of universal health care, the lack of mental health care, the use of incarceration as mental health and substance abuse care, and the homeless situation. It is all interrelated. Folks don't want a handout. They want equality. They want jobs they can do. They want a home. They want their families to be safe. They want to be able to afford healthcare.

President Biden understands this and most of the Democrats stand behind him. As for the Republicans, their party is fractured, and most of them favor Trump even as the Impeachment Trial goes on. 

My own Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has betrayed my trust in every way possible. I didn't have a Democrat or candidate of any party to vote for in her race, it was all Republicans. I feel very betrayed by the Georgia Legislature. None of my elected officials will answer my respectful emails. They are trying to restrict my right to vote by mail.

Even January 6th hasn't changed the Republican mindset. It seems that the Republican Trump Cult and QAnon has taken it over. But, I have hope that President Biden and his experts that he gathered together can tackle the problems in our Democracy and help it get back to health.




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