Thursday, January 29, 2009

Just Who The Hell Am I, Anyhow?

It takes a bit of an ego to sit down to a keyboard and expound on your view of the political world to the public as though it mattered and it takes a bit more to run for office to represent a US House District so maybe it's only fair to give loyal readers some insight into who that guy is, particularly since I had the nerve to reference myself in the previous post. Since these things have a tendency to get taken as single pieces I'll recap a bit, in fact 'copy and paste'.

'You see, I am a child of privilege. No, the silver spoon was missing, wealth wasn't in the picture, solid upper middle class sort of a deal. What I did have was both parents who loved me and offered financial security and something incredibly valuable beyond that. My parents were both professionals with high intelligence and active questing minds who owned an extensive library of not ordinary books who encouraged the same in their children. At thirteen I was reading Crime and Punishment for amusement and decided my book report might as well be on that, astonishing that particular teacher. I was blessed, or cursed, with an IQ that put me well out of the ordinary scale. Unfortunately I never had to work at school work and learned some poor habits as a result, but beside that, I absorbed knowledge like a sponge. I was never going to be a professional football player but outside such things the world stood open to me because my mind was prepared for that. I knew a safe world where minds such as mine were respected and expected to be utilized. My lazy academics and SAT/ACTs meant any university I desired was within my reach, assuming actual wealth wasn't required. My K-12 education happened in Ohio at a time when Ohio meant something other than rust belt - in fact it meant that many schools were going to give you some of the best education available in the nation. About 10% of my cohorts in College Prep courses went to elite universities in their fields of interest (I mean I entrance standard not Ivy).'

My grandmother came to live with us when I was in early grade school and she was a school teacher by training, born in the 1890s and raised in N Michigan as a farm girl. She and her husband got themselves involved in the union movement in Flint MI at a time when it was not only socially unacceptable, but quite dangerous personally. Her husband went to an early grave with a strike breaker's bullet in his leg and the Reuther brothers spent dinners and after at their home hatching their nefarious unionism plots. You can take from that a pretty clear picture of someone intelligent and involved in the affairs of her fellow humans with some real dedication. (if you don't know who the Reuthers are look them up for pete's sake) Grandma was getting elderly by then and had time for a nosey kid who wanted to know a lot about most everything and a lot of what he got was philosophical. You need to have spent real time with someone with that level of involvement to understand the force of personality possessed by such people. Adults who give a damn are real impressed, a grade schooler is entranced. You further have to understand that an intelligent school teacher was dealing with a powerful intellect though unformed at that age. It was not a case of being told things, it was a case of being led through reasoning and being treated as an equal. Even now, forty years later I find it an astonishing experience. You can understand the difference between parents and an old lady who doesn't treat you as a child. I learned an awful lot at those knees and all of it was an exercise in critical thinking.

This was during the early sixties that I was that young and when my Granny was spending her time with the firebrands of unionism the government itself considered them enemies of the state. The beat generation was just folding its tent, the Beatles were in the US, JFK was getting killed, Vietnam was crankin up, and civil rights workers were busing into the South and I was learning at the knee of a firebrand. I watched a society in turmoil, cool music was damned and burnt by a preacher, J Edgar lurked, MLK flowered, and I learned from the world that it was full of people in authority who were jackals and by practical demonstration gave an absolute rat's ass about the welfare of our citizens and boy was I young. I read the textbooks about the US and knew from what I saw and my family history that there was a hell of a lot more to the story than was told. I saw LBJ kicking ass in the Congress and getting laws passed and bigots fighting it and civil rights worker kids get dug out of a dike. I saw the kids in shiny uniforms going off to SE Asia and I worried about them and their families, a bit later I learned about who ran the place and I saw combat footage and began to get angry.

I'd never been told what to think or even how to think about something, I'd been taught to use my mind and I discovered that I was being lied to, by those in power who I should be able to trust. I took it to heart. I understood that they had ends and means that I couldn't support or even abide. Odd how that disbelief leads to psycho-active drugs as a possible launching pad to more discoveries, particularly when the liars are so frightened of them and the questioners seem to be using them. I did learn things that I won't go into other than to say that looking inside can be informative and that reality has many faces and it isn't surprising that we sometimes cannot understand each other. As far as I'm able to tell drugs never hurt me, but alcohol finally did me in 20 years ago to the extent that I've been clean and sober for going on 21 years.

I've never been a large person, I didn't hit 120 pounds until after graduation about the time I got to 5-10. I had a couple issues going on that made for a certain amount of social awkwardness, my IQ put me into a very small group and I am still to this day physiologically over amped. Without about 1/2 gallon of coffee daily I become pretty hard to tolerate with over activity.

I backed away from religion in my early teens when I found the contradictions too much to take and particularly the exclusive club aspect. I couldn't get along with the idea that a creator of universes was so narrow minded that good people of one book didn't get the good stuff people of another did, still can't. That was the United Church of Christ, one of the most liberal for the unacquainted, and possibly because of its liberalism I never learned the disrespect for religion common amongst those who quit it.

I abandoned college after several attempts to get along with it in Mechanical Engineering because I finally reconciled myself to the fact that the active life of carpentering actually appealed to me and indoors did not. Remember that I mentioned something about being over amped. Construction, as a college boy, one who'd swallowed whole an OED, a Thesaurus, and a classical library - that was an interesting start. Funny how an over-developed vocabulary doesn't work well with people who aren't well acquainted with $5 words. It takes a bit of time to learn to stop doing the thing you've done all your life. (as a side note, a writer I worked with complimented me for the "voice" I use on this blog, it isn't an artifice - now) Some things never get comfortable, I process information at a very high rate and in ways unexpected and that makes me different than what most people are used to. People who are the unexpected are difficult until you know them well enough to be comfortable with that difference. It isn't the same thing as being black in a white surrounding or gay, but there is an element of understanding for that which comes with being different.

It's hard for people to reconcile a lefty intellectual with a hard driving physical person who does things like hunting, fishing, shooting, and drag racing. I doubt this exercise does more than provide a glimmer into that, I accepted a long time ago that niches and myself weren't going to work well. It was pretty hard for folks to get along with the idea of a radical hippy doper driving a monster fast car or the four eyed teachers pet who was more physical and more anti-authoritarian than anyone else. I ran hard and fast and I skirted the edge of disaster for the sake of beating it, it should have killed me, and it didn't. I was a fire fighter because I honestly couldn't think of anything more physical, dangerous, and productive for what I loved-the woods. You get a left wing site that gets more hits from gun people who'd be horrified by the politics than it has political readers. I build high performance vehicles because the puzzle pleases me and then I get to drive it. It all makes sense to me, but then I live in this skin.

So why do I insist on being that odd peg and putting so much effort into it? Remember Granny? Nothing she and her husband did in itself made history, but they were a part of the molding. That molding happened because enough people cared to take the risks and to put the effort into it. I'm pretty safe from bullets and jail as an activist, but we have 40 hour work weeks, job safety, child labor laws, and some kind of wage because folks like granny pushed the edges, got kicked for it, and pushed again. We have civil rights not just because LBJ was a hard driving prick, but also because kids took the chances and lost sometimes and blacks took godawful abuse from authority to win it. It has been the case for much of our history that politics is behind the curve, that the fight is fought long before the votes get taken and I'd really like to see that change. I keep on with it because power still ignores the reality of the populous, because gays can't get married because somebody thinks love and comittment are subject to silly rules and because being different scares the hell out of people. I keep doing it because there's no point in having this mind and letting it rot in self gratification. I keep doing it because I was a drunk and I owe a lot for being an asshole and because I can never fix that hole in my life but I can try to make up for it.

If this has seemed like an exercise in narcissism or egotism, it wasn't intended that way. It isn't even a good explanation for what you get from me, but it's a little look inside. If it's bored you, well you had a pretty good warning to quit when I made it clear that this was going to be autobiographical.


Carla said...

In my view, this is the most interesting and insightful thing you've ever published on this blog.

Nicely done.

Thanks for the peek behind the curtain.

Kevin said...

I'm going to echo Carla here.

Nicely done.

Kevin said...

PS. an exposition on why you're a fan of the early Chevy II/Nova is the only substantive thing missing.

fellow Chevy II/Nova fan


Chuck Butcher said...

ya'll are too kind.