“I believe success is achieved by ordinary people with extraordinary determination.” ~ Zig Ziglar.
When I was a young child in the UK, there was a prime minister called Harold McMillan. I have no knowledge about him, was too young to know anything about politics. However I had picked up enough from my parents reaction to him, that if his name came up on the telly (television, TV) I would walk up to it and say (very sternly I imagine): “Stop talking about Mr. McMillan!”
It is funny to imagine what kind of a child I was (perfect in every way I am sure!). As the youngest (the ‘wash-belly’ is the attractive Jamaican term) I was frequently teased by my older siblings. But I could be quite bossy. There was a song I used to make everyone participate in when we were on those long road trips of my early years. It was about a ship sailing from China with a cargo of tea, and it had many accompanying actions – hand waving, foot stomping, head nodding etc. I don’t know if they cooperated to amuse themselves or if they were scared of me, but (after many groans), everyone would soon be singing along.
We have started to change the way we talk about children, especially girls, recognizing that we can be quite harmful in our choice of adjectives. Boys who organize their friends into playing games, assigning roles, distributing toys are seen to have qualities of leaders. Girls who do the same are told to stop being so bossy and let others take a turn. There are studies that have revealed that at some point in their development, girls are socialized to keep quiet, to allow the boys to answer questions in class even when they know the answers. Girls who go to single sex schools are more likely to excel in the STEM subjects than girls in co-ed schools.
I watched the biopic of Margaret Thatcher the other day. She of course was one of those glass-ceiling shatterers, a woman who didn’t know she was supposed to keep quiet and let the men do the decision-making. I have no sympathy with her politics, or the grief she brought upon working class people in the UK. But it was interesting to watch what it meant to be a strong woman. She had to be groomed, molded, recreated. She was provided with a speech coach, so that she could learn to speak in ‘less shrill’ tones (remember Hillary, anyone?), speak lower and slower so as to be more appealing. Even her hairstyle had to change.
It is these trailblazers that we have to hold in high esteem, these people who refuse to be put in boxes and silenced, who refuse to dim their light. When we tussle over whether Kamala has mentioned her Jamaican father enough, we are playing into the old stereotypes, judging her differently than we would treat a man. It is crucial that we judge her by her actions as they relate to public office, not her personal life.
For many of us, the announcement last Saturday of the next President of the US brought about a collective letting go of a breath that had been held for too long. Many who had not realized they were so bothered by the current occupant of the job described the feeling of a weight lifting, a dark cloud clearing. Finally we could see hope, a possibility that common sense and decency will prevail once more.
But is it possible to push all of the more dangerous elements released over the past years back into the bottle? For all the people who have voted for change, there are almost as many who voted for things to stay the same. This is what is truly scary.
The great comedian (wish he didn’t smoke publicly) Dave Chappelle unleashed his biting wit on us last Saturday night. In his plain-spoken way, he empathized with all of those saddened by the defeat of their hero, and reminded us that we should empathize with them also. He said something that I heard many years ago in regards to raising children. It is important, even as your child is driving you crazy, to make them understand that it is their behavior that is making you crazy, not the child him/herself. In other words, hate the deeds, not the child. Most kids can’t see the difference. But Chappelle said the same thing – hate the feelings that people have, don’t hate the people.
It is difficult to imagine showing empathy for people who are blatantly racist, especially if they are armed and dangerous. But people are people, we are all human. In World War I, in the trenches on the front lines of the war between the English and the Germans, there was a cease-fire on Christmas Day. And somehow the soldiers on opposite sides of the battle met up, shared gifts they had received, sang Christmas carols, and played a game of football together. When the war resumed, they went back to killing each other, pawns to be sacrificed in the struggle for power.
We have felt a weight lifting, but there is still a lot of load to be carried. As we fight the COVID-19 enemy, we still have people who think that wearing a mask is somehow a political statement; they are willing to risk their lives and the lives of those around them to score a point. There are many people (and not all of them are uneducated) who do not see the big changes that need to take place deep within the bowels of American life. It is still up to ‘we the people’ to be willing to share the burden, to play our part, to hate the feeling, not the people.
This Friday morning may you be filled with determination and hope to see real change in our lifetime. And if your granddaughter is too ‘nuff’, if she is a little too loud, too assertive, too unwilling to back down, please encourage her! She may one day be in the majority, one of those wonderful Wild Women who will rule the world! Have a relaxing weekend, Family, and like Joe said, spread the faith!