Tuesday, October 30, 2007

# 21

Subject L. and I met at her rural home, surrounded by plants and the steady rasp of cicadas in the nearby woods.

Folk music and a good friend who liked to play folk music were my first awareness of Sixties culture. I went to an all girls’ Catholic high school -- in retrospect, I think I had a pretty wide range of experiences there. I went all the way through Catholic college, and it was not a conservative or repressive environment, at least at the time I was there. My most respected professor -- of philosophy -- ended up leaving the priesthood and getting married. There was a lot of choice. The basic thing was, what you got out of it depended on your experiences. That background, for me, was that it was alright to ask all kinds of questions, and nothing was taboo -- There was a lot of conversation and questioning, different backgrounds and lifestyles.

In high school, I was interested in social causes, like civil rights and integration. When I was a junior or senior I did work through some classes, went down into the inner city in the mid to late 60s to work in the housing projects. As a sideline I did some work with the school for the deaf -- we learned sign language. But once I got to college (in 1968), I became more aware of the Vietnam War and that whole thing. My focus shifted from civil rights into the whole Vietnam era. My taste in music changed too, from folk to rock and roll. Another element that ran all the way through my life, and was especially strong in the late 60s and early 70s, was this back to the land hippie peace flower child thing. I grew up in suburbia but had grandparents who lived in the country, which caused my mother untold grief because I wanted to be a country girl. As a child, I’d go to my grandmother’s and cry when I had to leave. I also loved small towns. I didn’t see anything good in suburbia, although now I do see the convenience.

I was a sociology major in college, and I was going to save the world. I had one very good professor -- the department was split between two people: the head of the department was a sociologist, and he was very interested in people getting a good background in all the readings and the theories, and then the other fellow was very practical, social work oriented. I don’t think I appreciated the sociologist enough, but I was really impressed with the social work guy, so in college I ended up with a sociology/psychology degree. We had classes where we were working and it brought to the forefront the actual reality of working in that field and how bureaucratic it was, how difficult it was to actually get things done. I enjoyed the hands-on social work more than the theory.

When I did graduate in ‘72, there was a hiring freeze and there was no way to get a job. By the time I got a job offer, it was two weeks before I had my daughter, so I didn’t take it. When my little girl was young, up until 8 or 10 yrs ago, I worked as a volunteer in some sort of area related to social work things, women’s centers, adult day care centers.

During college, I became a vegetarian, and I was sympathetic to a variety of issues, but there weren’t any major protests in the small town where the college was. I had an early and very strong interest in environmental issues, which didn’t go away, and I was interested in Buckey Fuller’s work. I managed to get them to bring him to the school as a visiting scholar, then I was excluded from the formal dinner -- school politics. He was pushing the geodesic dome, and it was related to environmental issues in that there was a lot of passive solar and low use of natural resources -- very efficient. He also had an automobile that he had made that was extremely efficient -- the dymaxion car. I tried to find out if there were schools that worked on that -- you could get into a specific program, but there weren’t many schools offering just plain environmental programs at that time. I started getting involved in World Watch -- back in ‘71. Their state of the world report was really dire, but some things have been done that they said needed to be done. But from the perspective at that point in time, we figured that we’d be long gone by now and the earth would be a crisp cinder. I also had a lot of awareness of the nuclear arms race. I was more involved with social and environmental issues, but I wasn’t involved in protesting the draft or the Vietnam War, even tho I had friends who went off into the war and friend who went to Canada.

Getting back to the land was extremely appealing to me, going back to when I was a child, maybe more so than a lot of people. I had fancied living in a commune but never did. I lived with groups of people, but not on an official commune. When I left college, I got pregnant. That changed my life. I was a single mom, and pretty much deserted by everybody for awhile there. My family was there but not there. I’m the oldest of five children, and there was the recommendation from a particular parish priest that my family shouldn’t allow my younger brothers and sisters too much exposure to my evil influence. My family was actually more supportive than most of my friends, because my friends felt that there was no excuse for me not to get an abortion. My plan had been to travel the world, the whole thing, go back to the land, somehow do all these things, which now as an older person I realize weren’t going to work well together. Maybe I could do them consecutively, but I couldn’t do them all at once. I was sidetracked -- which disappointed everybody but me. I was pretty happy about it (being pregnant). It was an accident, but once I found myself pregnant I had no doubt about what I was going to do.

I was on welfare, AFDC until F. was two. I had good friends, and lived in a community in the country, and that’s where I met C. He and I moved in together. He was graduate student and had no income. After we met, I began moving into what I do now, which is archaeology and anthropology. I had been interested, but my college did not have an anthropology department. I guess from the point where I was interested in sociology as a social science, I was almost more interested in anthropology, in its cultural aspects, where you’re going out learning about cultures you can interact with. When I met C. I became more interested, even tho I was in the middle of working at the women’s shelter. I just took F with me. I spent probably fifty percent of my time doing volunteer work when she was little, basically working with poor people. In women’s issues, it was primarily the women’s shelter. I did that in Illinois, then again in Tennessee when C got a job, and I worked as a field cook. That was pretty interesting, I cooked for 16 people. Then we moved to Alabama and I found places to work. I did start working part time in archaeology, but also continued doing volunteer social work.

C came to Arkansas in conjunction with his profession, and by that time F was in first grade, and I started doing archaeology, and volunteered at the battered women’s shelter. After three years, the government contracts changed, and our jobs abruptly ended, and that was right after our second child was born, so we decided to start our own business. We bid on government jobs. C is the archaeologist, and I do the business aspect. I enjoy the field work and have done some of it, but I do the money and personnel management, editing and quality control, and we’ve been in business for 15 years. The last two years have been difficult for the whole profession. All the cutbacks, all kinds of upheaval, again trying to change the procuring process, and the death knell for the small company in this field.

We grow a big garden. For years, we’ve done organic gardening, pretty successfully. I enjoy gardening a lot. I did a lot of canning, but now I do more freezing. I do more specialties, like pickled okra. In Alabama, I was very organic, only not the point where I was making my own flour or anything. Eating good, home grown organic food was very important to me. I had neighbors who thought I was an abusive parent because I did things they didn’t consider good parenting. I did not give my children sugar, which was their term for love, their way of demonstrating love, and I also didn’t believe in hitting children. I worked temporarily as a substitute teacher, and I did a good job, but they didn’t want me back because I wouldn’t hit the kids. The teachers all carried a paddle, kind of like a ping pong paddle, right on their belt, and I didn’t believe in that.

I’ve run into downright bigotry here in Northwest Arkansas. People can be bigots in all different directions, and I’ve run into my share. I think that’s where the anthropology part comes in handy, gives an uninvolved perspective. Observing people who fancy themselves big liberals and yet they’re not truly liberal, because if you don’t go with exactly what they think is good, then your ‘aura’ is wrong, you’re not cosmically cool enough. Maybe I’m not as liberal, maybe I’m not as cool as they are, I’ve never really gone with that. I consider myself conservative in some areas, especially in terms of the environment.

I used lots of drugs. I used nicotine and alcohol in high school. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 13, and quit when I was 22, when I got pregnant. I drank heavily in college, for the first year or so, but then I considered myself superior to the riffraff who used alcohol because I had better drugs. I enjoyed pot much more, but I didn’t get to pooh-poohing alcohol until I got to the hallucinogenic drugs, which I did do the last two years of my college career. That was combined with the back to the land thing, and I did it for the spiritual part of it too. I do think that hallucinogenic drugs do expand your consciousness. I do believe that. Yet, I would be petrified to see my high school age child get anywhere near it -- I lost a couple of friends to drugs. I formed strong opinions about drugs then. I’m very against speed. My experience was that speed turned people into monsters. My basic opinion now is that I wish they’d (the government) stop wasting all their (our) damn money fighting marijuana and I think we’d have a lot of support from a lot of people. My personal feeling is that it (drugs) should all be legal. That would be the best way to go at it, the most effective way. Then maybe we could deal with the people who have the real problems. I had friends who were heroin addicts, I thought they were crazy but I still liked them. I had friends who fell into speed and they were no longer my friends. And those are the people who we lost, people who went out of second story windows. I never knew anybody using heroin who was that crazy.

I no longer imbibe, because I found in my late 20s that what marijuana did for me was put me to sleep, and I didn’t need to go to sleep. I had a thyroid problem, and I think that was one of the reasons I was so reactive. I finally did have to have one gland taken out. Both C and I have communicated our attitudes on drugs to our children, because I think we need something honest, and I think this baloney that they’re teaching in the school systems is harmful, because these kids are too smart, and they all of a sudden realize that marijuana is not this evil substance -- like T-- already will spout off that it’s only a gateway drug if you have to keep going to people pushing other garbage. To me, tobacco is the worst drug we’ve got out there right now, not counting speed and so forth -- it’s so readily available, so addictive. C’s been trying to stop smoking since I’ve met him, he’s been smoking since he went to Vietnam. T says she went to some sort of music thing, and she said 80% of the kids in there were smoking cigarettes -- kids under 18, 20. My brother has been a strong member of NORML for years, and I’ve sent him money, but we don’t give directly because of work restrictions. At least as archaeologists we don’t have to be very straight to keep a job. I think that’s why I’ve developed some of my attitudes.

These two sides of the spectrum, liberals (progressives) and conservatives (traditionalists), the terms are used to stereotype people. I think one of the main earmarks of a truly liberal person is tolerance. I keep trying to teach my children that. The main place we give money is to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has a teaching tolerance program, which is fantastic. I think it’s a thread that’s gone all the way through my life, trying to fight intolerance. You can find intolerance everywhere, in right wing ultraconservatives and in the yuppie liberal political agenda -- I may agree with more of the liberal political stances, but I don’t agree with the social attitudes that close out others. We can learn something from everyone. I attribute my desire for tolerance partly to some of the drugs I took in college, because the experiences showed the kinship of people, that we’re more alike than different.

I’m optimistic about the future. I think you’re born that way (optimistic). To me, if the glass is half full/ half empty, why not think of it as half full? What’s the point in the thinking it’s half empty? I think that human beings can do it. Looked at historically, things are getting better -- maybe not as fast as I’d like. I think we have ourselves up against the wall environmentally, but I think the human being per se is trudging along slowly in a positive direction. Look how long we’ve been around -- we’ve made immense leaps and bounds, just in the last century or two, the centuries we’ve got recorded information. But then, based on my experience in anthropology and archaeology, in some ways it appears we haven’t changed at all. In other ways, both physical and the whole spiritual/moral aspect, I’ve seen just in my short lifetime some change for the better.

I like my kids, and I think they offer promise for the next generation. I think there’s a dual reason for our children’s adherence to our values. In my experience, in some ways it was more difficult to discuss and explain, rather than to just whack a kid for some misbehavior. But these kids grew up asking questions, thinking about things. Also, I think the information age has had a great impact. I’m reading a book called On Photography by Susan Sontag, really interesting, and it makes you realize that a lot of these changes (relating to the information age) started with photography because all of a sudden images were available everywhere. We all talk about the influence of television, video, how the world has gotten so much smaller. But I think some things have gotten better, and even tho on a personal level maybe people are not that much more improved than they were a hundred years ago, there’s a perception that we are. Look at the emphasis on all this human rights stuff -- . And when people are actually interviewed about these things (such as human rights, the environment) they say these issues are important to them. I think the culture is changing. You don’t have to go too far out to see differences, and I think it’s spreading -- the integrity of the human being is becoming important -- our definition of who deserves respect and integrity has become a lot wider.

One of my pet peeves right now is this whole thing that’s going on with homosexuals -- how can people be such bigots, it drives me crazy. I have two siblings who are homosexuals, and this is not a life that they choose -- it’s who they are. Assuming we accept people are born as homosexuals, for people to say that they are just born evil or choose to be evil, that’s beyond my comprehension. This sexuality is a divergence, different because most animals are born to reproduce, and obviously homosexuals do not have that drive to reproduce. It’s an issue that really gets my goat. Take Trent Lot’s stance on the guy they’re trying to make an ambassador to the Netherlands—a gay man, extremely capable—Lot is holding back the vote because Lot says he’s (the prospective ambassador) a sinner and being gay is a decision and we don’t want such an evil person representing the U. S. Lot stated that homosexuality was a moral choice and they can go get it fixed if they want to, that people choose to be homosexual, just like someone would choose to dye their hair —then the first lovely person to support Lot was our representative here from NWA, who said the prospective ambassador had some kind of gay agenda. We’ve tried to figure out what this gay agenda might be --

Anyway, it goes back to my thing about intolerance. I’ve tried to teach my children to be tolerant and have a sense of humor. I think if you go from there --

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