Wednesday, September 17, 2008

cross your fingers, hold your toes

I complain a lot about my family and how they're a bunch of wacky religious fundamentalists, but really they're great people to hang out with. Yesterday I went out with my two little sisters and my mother and my sisters' friend to the Puyallup Fair, which is the biggest fair in Washington state and is apparently an annual outing for my family. Its a sign of how far away from them I've been the last several years that I didn't even know that my mother takes my siblings to the fair every year. Anyway, we went, and now I'm totally exhausted from walking around for five hours and eating too much cotton candy. I got some neat pictures.

There were cows

and goats

and more goats

and cuddly piglets

and gnomes

and I got a cane that folds out into a chair, about which I am very excited, and which is the reason I am able to function today and am not stuck in bed writhing about in pain.

This is my sister modeling the cane. She has homeschooled her entire life, is pro-life and goes to church a couple times a week. She is brilliant: she's 17, and will be getting her AA degree from the local community college in two quarters. Once she does that, she wants to go on a Mission Year, because she believes in service. As you can see, she has dreadlocks and a snappy attitude. What you can't see is that she plays the piano and the harp, paints and tutors a kid in math three times a week, reads science fiction and listens to obscure folk music while she bakes cookies just because she wants to. She really is one of my favorite people.

I forget, sometimes, that the people with whom I find myself disagreeing, on issues as important as the definition of truth, are real people. They are complex, with motivations I may not currently understand but would probably find sympathetic. They create beautiful things and mean well for the world and love and are loved. They may be ordinary, or be extraordinarily talented and brilliant and wrong about some things but not about everything.

Its easier to oppose caricatures, or at least, its easier to be angry with an enemy that is mad, unreasonable, greedy and evil. In a country as big as the US, it gets much easier to keep these caricatures close to our hearts, because with so many people around there is always a way to find the people who think like you do and shut out those who disagree. This is a false way of seeing the world, though. No one is actually a caricature, and in the long run holding on to an untruthful vision of the enemy contributes as much to the divisions between people as the actual differences of opinion do. I know my own enlightenment in this respect isn't going to change the state of society- I wonder if anything can change things, when a society is this big- but I try to remember it anyway.


yanub said...

It's great that you went out and enjoyed yourself with your family. Your sister sounds like a sweetie. Were you not raised in the area? I ask since you didn't know about the tradition of going to the fair. Of course, even if you had grown up there, there's no reason your family wouldn't have developed new traditions as the years went on.

I'm glad to know you enjoy county fairs too! I don't get to see them as often as I would like, but I love to see the farm animals, the produce, the crafts, and the pride of the presenters.

You are very right about the essential goodness of most people. The notion that people who have political or religious differences represent polar extremes just keeps us all from talking and working together on those things we all cherish.

Tayi said...

I did grow up in the area, but I moved away in January of 2002. So I guess it hasn't really been that long that I've been gone, only 6 1/2 years, but the tradition of going to the fair started right after I left and managed to become a tradition in the years since.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I am glad you went to the faire, I wanted to go actually but couldn't make it, had to choose: rainforest or faire, so I went to the rainforest. The cane that is a chair is sweet and does the job, I love things like that, sort of like swiss army knives - made to compact but useful perfection.

Your sister sounds great (AA in TWO Semesters, I took 10 courses a semester and it still took me three, oh no, she is not only more brilliant than I, but she bakes too!). I can hear your love and affection in your description of her, and I respect her dedication to service. I have always considered myself "in service" but that has both the same and another meaning.

And you make a great point about her being a real person. I might disagree with her but I can't hate her, I mean, she is your sister and one of your favorite people and I like you and I can tell by the picture that I like her too. And yet, while I can't hate her, I fear her. Because the definations and beliefs people hold do influence how they act, and after being on the end of a few incidents of spontanous hate crime I know that the people who watched and did nothing, who did not call the police, who do nothing, are people who love and are loved. And are probably the same people now who would run to help or call the ambulance if I fell from my wheelchair, and yet, petition to take away Linda's right to care for me. I can't hate them, but I fear them, because now I am helpless and cannot walk away.

Thanks for breaking me out of the charicature thinking, which is so easy to do, as if the USA is one giant mass brain - but it isn't, of course!

But seriously, what do they put in the water in some states?

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