Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Will They Come For You?

Has the culture of America been so changed by 9-11 that the sixteen year olds can justify something that the most of the rest of us condemn?

Which takes precedence, the security of the community or the rights of the individual?  George Santayana said that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.  How many generations does it take before the injustice of a situation becomes rationalized as the sense of what is just and unjust evolves and perhaps not for the better. 

This notion was powerfully brought home to me today at school.  Because I am an assistant for a Sophomore student at Gig Harbor High School, I sit in high school classes along with the students and sometimes it is difficult for me to keep my mouth shut for, although I seem to be a perpetual high school student, I am a 61 year old high school student who has been around the block a couple of times so when the question above came up in conjunction with the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII and a majority of the students in class felt that it was justified, I was horrified. Those who felt the internment was wrong were not particularly vocal leaving me to think about the Germans who did not speak up when their Jewish neighbors began to disappear.

I have a friend whose Japanese American parents were interned during WWII. What sort of message is our culture going to be sending to the survivors of that ugliness and their descendants?  This attitude is frightening to me!

Has the culture of America been so changed by 9-11 that the sixteen year olds can justify something that the most of the rest of us condemn?  Are we doomed to have history repeat itself because of our fear of the Middle Eastern Boogie Man? Following 9-11 I feared for my son whose father was born in Iran.  I was worried that history would repeat itself and that he and his father would be rounded up with others of Middle Eastern decent and put in internment centers. I was prepared to see that they both made it to Canada.  Fortunately that fear was never fulfilled, but today I realized that we need to worry about the future.  If today’s young people can justify taking away the civil liberties of Japanese Americans in the past, to what extremes will their fear lead them in the future? 

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

"First They Came for the Jews"
By Pastor Niemoller

Friday, May 25, 2012

More Than a Sale Day
Monday is Memorial Day.  Its origins seem to be in the ladies of the South following the Civil War when they organized a day to remember those who’d fought for their community.  To help heal the country it was decided that the entire nation would remember those who fought and died for our country regardless of the side they fought for and gradually the tradition of decorating graves came to include all loved ones.  As a matter of fact, it came to be called Decoration Day in many communities including the one in the Missouri Ozarks where my father, Conrad R. Frieze, grew up.  This is a picture of the cemetery where some of my father's ashes are buried with his parents and grandparents.  I intend to have the rest put in Tahoma National Cemetery because there is no one left in Greenfield to even stay with if I want to visit the cemetery that is half way across the country from me.

I believe that those we love can come to us in dreams and are never far from us and I have reason to believe that applies to pets as well.  Yesterday a young friend of mine posted a blog about having had a dream about a beloved dog that passed a year or so ago.  In her dream the dog was everywhere she looked, swishing between her legs, running down the road she walked and only she could see her.  Her dream doesn’t surprise me a bit.

Last summer a most beloved cousin passed away.  On her birthday she came to her best friend in a dream.  Debra, who had been very sick and emaciated at the time of her passing looked well and healthy.  Her friend asked her how she liked heaven and she said, great!  I am so glad that Debra visited her friend and comforted that for sure she is out of pain and finally, finally feels well.

My own beloved grandmother came to me in a dream.  We were in an unfamiliar but homey kitchen.  We sat at the table there and had a lovely conversation.  I was so glad to see her!  Eventually I realized that I had to leave and that she could not.  I woke crying, but grateful that I’d had this encounter with someone so beloved to me.  Recently I discovered that a friend had the same sort of dream, including the kitchen, about her grandmother. I must say that I was glad to find someone else who’d had the same sort of visitation—or did we visit there?  No mind, it comforts me that Grandma is still thinking of me.

Memorial Day weekend is a great time to get together with family and friends, to eat summer food and have a good time, but somehow the true meaning of the day has been lost in vacationing, and Memorial Day sales.  Those in particular really make me mad.  Monday is not just a day off from work.  Take time to remember those who you loved and loved you.  They are not far off.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Growing Up in the Atomic Age

For his Sophomore Exhibition the student I work with picked the topic of how the development of the atomic bomb impacted the world when viewed through the political and psychological social science perspectives. Boy did his choice of topic get me to thinking the last couple of weeks.

Once that jinn was out of the bottle the United States and the world was set on a course that created the Cold War, the Atomic age and is arguably responsible for the rebellion of the Baby Boomers in the 1960s. Talk about psychological perspective!

Because he worked for Boeing on the B-52 flight test program my father was part of the government’s operations Redwing and Hardtack in 1956 and ’58 respectively.  I don’t remember a part of my life when the atomic bomb wasn’t in my consciousness. It loomed like a dark cloud over my childhood.  It is not that my father wanted to frighten me, but as a veteran of WWII and Pearl Harbor, he considered the threat of a nuclear attack to be a very real possibility and wanted my mother and me to be as safe as possible.  He considered Boeing to make Seattle a prime target and while he did not build a bomb shelter in our backyard (he didn’t think them worth the money), he did come up with a plan.

My father felt that if we were lucky we’d have 30 minutes warning of a nuclear missile headed our way.  He hoped that would be enough time for my mother to get me far enough away from Seattle to not be involved in the initial destruction.  If the air raid siren (which was tested weekly) behind my elementary school sounded I was to go to the back edge of the school property and meet my mother there.  We were to drive to my grandparents’ beach house on the south Washington coast where he believed the prevailing off shore winds would blow the radiation inland¸ away from the coast. Initially we were a one car family with my father riding in a ride pool.  I don’t know what was supposed to happen if the attack occurred on his day to drive.

Around the time my father returned from his first tour on Operation Redwing one of the television networks produced a program that he thought was important for my mother, her sister and brother-in-law to watch, but which my cousins and I were not to see.  We were visiting my aunt and uncle at the time.  I guess I developed my nose for news at an early age because despite my cousin’s protestations (she was a very good child who always minded), I crept to the bedroom door and peeked into the living room where I could see the television.  I sat on the floor in stunned horror as I saw a program about the death and destruction promised by a nuclear attack.  I never told my parents what I’d seen.

Not long after that a new high school was being built in Bellevue where we lived.  My mother drove me by it, cheerfully saying, “That’s where you’ll go to high school.”  I didn’t say anything.  I knew she wasn’t kidding anyone.  I wasn’t going to live to go to high school.  None of us were going to live long enough for me to go to high school.  Imagine my surprise when not only did I go to high school, but realized that I was going to graduate and had better figure out what I was going to do.

The development of the atomic bomb, the Cold War and the arms race, a world that our parents, the Greatest Generation, had not been raised in, but had created, contributed materially in the rise of the Peace Movement and the rebellion of the 1960s.  I grew up envying my parents childhoods.  Sure they had to deal with the depression, but they didn’t have to worry about becoming so much radioactive ash at a moment’s notice.  This gap in understanding made it difficult if not impossible for that generation to understand the Boomers.  My mother regularly asks the universe how she could have raised such a radical liberal.  Maybe I’ll show her this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"I Go to the Sea to Breathe"

My “reasonable assurance” arrived in my work mailbox this week.  That means that I can be “reasonably assured” of a job in the fall.  Actually, I’ve worked for the district for long enough that they’d have to RIF a whole bunch of people to get to me.  The notice along with the oral boards and the secretary printing diplomas are signs that the end is near and I can’t wait.
Our 131 year old house by the sea is waiting for us to make more than a visit of a few days.  There is always plenty to do there, but it different “stuff” than what goes on here and our activities are set to the background music of the Pacific Ocean and the bustle of the Ilwaco docks where we can shop the Saturday Market or buy fresh fish at Jessie’s cannery.
Hopefully I’ll get in some writing this summer, exploring possible homes for my father’s autobiography, and get in some reading as well.  Not only do I have a stack of books beside my bed in Gig Harbor, but our gypsy bedroom is full of “my one true weakness.” 
Ocean air truly is beneficial.  Whenever we have guests they become relaxed and sleepy and have to adjust to both the sweet salt air and beach time. You’d better not be in a rush to get things done at the beach because you will be fighting the universe.  Things don’t move quickly there.  Better to sit on our porch and watch the world go buy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hey, Mr. Postman
I seem to be writing in circles, coming back again and again to both post offices and letters.  The recent news that the Postal Service is going to cut back hours and rural post offices rather than closing them is welcome news indeed for anyone familiar with the life of a village.  Heavens, they may cut service to all of the post offices before all is said and done.  We’ve come to rely on technology rather than the handwritten word.

Recently the importance of writing and receiving letters was brought home when I had the privilege of attending a reading at the historic Espy house, now the home of Sydney and Nyel Stevens.  Sydney is a writer and a descendent of the Espy family which helped found the village of Oysterville, Washington on the Long Beach Peninsula.  Among her writing credits is a wonderful book titled Dear Medora and which I’ve blogged about before.  Dear Medora is a collection of letters written back and forth between Sydney’s grandmother and Aunt Medora.  The collection, along with some wonderful pictures, is a glimpse into Oysterville’s past that might have been lost were it not for the Espy family’s predilection for keeping correspondence. Sydney read from Dear Medora, published in 2007, on Sunday evening, but that was just the warm up.  She also read from her biographical manuscript on her uncle, writer Willard Espy.  Again she has drawn on family pictures and letters.  The sneak peek she gave is has me praying that the manuscript will find a publisher because I want to read the rest of the story.

Sydney’s readings also made me ruminate on my own boxes and boxes of letters.  I come from a long line of packrats and consider myself in recovery, but Sydney has given me license to hang onto my letters.  I have letters that were written to my grandfather by a girl he didn’t marry. I have letters written to me by my father when he was on Eniwetok helping test the atomic bomb and later from his travels around the world for Boeing.  I have letters from my grandmother who was the lynch pin of our family until her death.  She was the source of news of aunts, uncles and cousins.  While our family is not as prominent as the Espys, I’d like to think that if not my children, my grandchildren will be grateful for my accumulating ways.

Which brings us back to the Postal Department’s budget woes.  The reason the Postal Service is in trouble is that we don’t write letters any more.  Email and texting are easy and sometimes faster than trying to call someone.  Remember when you waited until evening before having the operator place that long distance call so you’d get the cheaper rate?  Now my daughter-in-law is able to talk to her mother in Brazil every day.  So why write letters?

I think that future generations are going to lose out on a lot of information about our lives unless they are able to hack into our email accounts when we are gone.  I’m not sure that has the cache of finding a ribbon tied bundle of letters that have been handled by a forbearer. Maybe my great-grandchildren won’t have any letters written by their parents or grandparents, but my grandchildren will.  I will keep doing my part for history by saving my letters.  Besides, I think them much more a treasure than my husband’s 7,000 LPs.