Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Six

Posted by ilbebe on December 15, 2008

6. Out here on the West Coast we are blessed to be more free from the racist shackles of our dominant European heritage than our compatriots on the East Coast and in the Midwest and in the Great Middle South and Southeast. I assign no blame to anyone, nor do I wish to paint with too broad a stroke, but I simply feel that there are some concrete reasons that people from the West Coast generally think people from the East Coast are confrontational assholes, and in turn, East Coasters generally think West Coasters are too-groovy weirdos who never get anything accomplished except for tree-hugging and making movies and folk music.

Plainly put, there are Americans of European descent whose families have been living in New England for almost four hundred years. There aren’t many white people in California who can say that, maybe a few descendants of randy Franciscan friars here and there. Those New Englanders’ ancestors can’t really be blamed for thinking that Africans were subhuman, that was the predominant belief of the day, though it is a shame that they didn’t wake up to that specific pot of coffee earlier. At the same time, those early Americans are to be commended for seizing upon a prudential business opportunity when they saw it and divorcing the Anglican church…

On the East Coast, and particularly in New England, it is easy to see why people might still cling to the outmoded views of their ancestors. Many more people out there than here on the West Coast still live much like their forebears did centuries ago. Growing up in New Hampshire, history was very close behind us and very real, and many people tended their gardens and canned preserves for the winter. Some people rode horses occasionally, and the Fourth of July was an occasion to have the list of names of soldiers from our small town who died in service of the Revolution read. Can you imagine now how people might be rather irritable towards the notion that our nation should keep open our borders to the hungry, sick and poor as we have in the past, given that recent waves of immigrants have been less quick to assimilate themselves than those prior?

My family, as I recall, was one of three Jewish families in our town, and there was one kid whose father was Jewish, so he got to celebrate Christmas and Hannukah. God I was jealous of that kid. We went to a synagogue in Concord, eight miles away, and I definitely felt strange, having to leave town to go to my church. My last name was Phillips, what was this difference born of? I hated being turned to for explanations on all things Jewish in school, and of course I certainly hated being teased for being different. Not that that stopped once I got to the west coast…

If I can offer my favorite defense of traditional religion in the modern US, let me tell you that when the US invaded Kuwait and Iraq to push back Saddam Hussein’s aggression in January of 1990, I was scared. I understood that this fighting was happening on the other side of the world, and I was in no present danger, but seeing those PATRIOT missiles on television scared me. I loved the bright lights, but I felt uneasy when I saw buildings exploding, and I wondered if everyone was okay. One Saturday, during the sermon portion of Shabbat services, the Rabbi offered this platitude: At the end of every long and dark night comes the dawn.

I felt better instantly. Later that afternoon I met a blind person and relayed the line to them, and they told me I was a wise and good child. As if it ever really stops, having your elders give you their approval is crucial to most children, and I was no exception.

I have only the highest hopes for the next generation, and for our own, and even for the generations behind us. We have all suffered enough from certain old ways of thinking. Time to see the lights within and surrounding us.

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