Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Astringent

I truly think that anger can kill. It sits in our bellies and ferments and decomposes the better bits of our nature and before we know it we are left with an angry, pale, canker sore of who we once were. I’m sad to say I watched this happen to my maternal Grandmother, whom I called Nanny.

She was a tall, slenderish, handsome woman with dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin. She was, I’ve heard, happy once. Though, by the time I was born, she was already trying to swallow the bitter taste in her mouth. Life had only one flavor for her. And for all of life’s sweetness, (children, grandchildren, family gatherings, finally a house to call her own,…) there was an unremitting acerbic aftertaste.

She always kept score, and by her count, she was always losing because someone else was breaking the rules. She could hark back to every iniquitous deed ever committed against her.

She grew up in the cotton fields of rural Arkansas, the seventh of ten children. She never had new dresses or well fitting shoes. And she was not her mother’s favorite. She was afforded a short childhood before expected to quit school and go to work as a cotton picker. It was in those fields, I think, that she was bent toward harboring anger.

When she was eight, one of her brothers threw a dirt clod at her as they picked cotton beneath the merciless summer sun. The clod smashed against her head and blood trickled down her neck. The wound was still fresh fifty years later when she recounted the story to me.

In her thirties, for undisclosed reasons, she and my grandfather separated and divorced. She began dating someone new and was quite serious about him, until her four children began blatantly putting her and my grandfather into situations where they were forced to reconcile with one another. And they did. And, as far as I know, she was happily remarried to him for another 20 years. She however, never forgave the intrusive behavior of her children.

Later, her father became ill and she and her siblings took care of him in turn. Disagreements abounded, standoffs ensued, paternal tug-of-war matches followed, concessions were made, bitterness was cultivated, and grudges were harbored in the belly of my Nanny. She let silent years pass between her sister and herself, just to drive home the truly wicked nature of the abuse she had suffered during the disagreements.

The “Misdeeds Charts” of her children began filling up in childhood. Every dirty dish, every piece of laundry, every injury, every illness, every social blemish, even when my uncle was shipped off to war, all of these things were cause for her to fret over them, and according to her records put them farther and farther in debt to her.

She took it personally when someone disagreed with her. She ended her friendship with her closest friend when that friend continued dating someone that Nanny did not find suitable. She disowned five of her ten grandchildren when three of the granddaughters admitted to being sexually assaulted by my grandfather. (Which is another post entirely.)

Months after the initial bomb was dropped and many, many more subsequent fires ignited, I hadn’t seen or spoken to Nanny and all of my granddaughter-ish letters had gone unanswered. I walked down the stairs from my bedroom into the entry way and there she was, standing half way in the door. My gut burst into flames and all of the blood in my extremities drained and pooled around my toenails. “Nanny!” was all I managed to get out before she grunted and turned around and left. She had driven the 45 miles to our house to return the things that we had given her over the years; trinkets and what not that reminded her of us, of me. Among them, the sickeningly spoiled poodle that was, on most days, the reason she got out of bed. She was pouring on the vinegar, to be sure.

The next time I saw her, she had three months to live. She didn’t yet know that she harbored cancer in her colon nor that it had metastasized to her liver and was spreading from there like an airline route map. She was rotting from the inside out…a walking, bitter cesspool for which forgiveness was a rare detergent.

Her life is a heart wrenching, cautionary tale. She was never able to let any of it go…to roll with the punches. She was immovable. She equated worrying over all of the details with loving people completely. Her fingers were clenched so tightly around the love she gave away, it bruised her knuckles just to nurture her relationships.

In some very faint and terrifying ways, I see my mother adopting Nanny’s philosophies. Perhaps it’s old age. (My mother is 54 and old before it is entirely necessary.) And in some very faint and terrifying ways, I see myself turning into my mother. (I am 29 and middle aged. I plan on running in backward circles on my birthdays from here on out to combat the gratuitous aging, females experience in my family. I’ll keep you updated as to how this works out.)

If at the end of the day, I can let go of my neighbor's thoughtlessness, my sister's heartache, my daughters' selfishness, my husband's cluelessnes, my own ineptitude,... perhaps I will be able to stop the alarming circuit and scrub clean the generational canker. My first and best defense is gratitude.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Dangerous Ideas

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is speaking at Columbia University, today. Upon hearing that this was going to take place, my first reaction was: WHAT the *freaking heck*? Have they lost their Mother-*effing* minds... (etcetera, etcetera)

And now, that I'm writing and have the benefits of spell check and editing, my response is:

Why would an institution charged with molding and shaping minds, turning out future leaders, imparting wisdom and knowledge lend a platform to a man who is as morally backward as the President of Iran? Columbia University, as far as I understand, has a large body of Jewish students. How could they invite an anti-Semite who has called for Israel to “be wiped from the map” and who dismisses the Holocaust as a “fabricated legend” to speak to their student body? Why would they allow him to scatter his dangerous ideas among the fertile landscape of young adults still seeking their own truth. What if those dangerous ideas take root?

And then, two things happened. 1) I visited Chani’s blog where she put it right there in black and white: Are ideas dangerous? And 2) I watched the live video yahoo had up on their homepage -- As I write this, President Ahmadinejad is still speaking. He is, in fact, speaking of the importance of education and the freedom of speech “we are given in this country.” (Irony dripping, from the lips of a tyranical “president” who keeps the women of his country hidden beneath veils of decorum and mutes their ideas and denies them civil liberties under the guise of “honoring them as the mothers of Iran.” Women’s rights activists have been arrested in his country as recently as March of this year. Just this August, Iranian scholars and democratic thinkers were imprisoned for their dissenting views of the current government and allegedly initiating a US backed velvet revolution. Children have been publicly executed in his country as criminals, within the last few months.)

A moment please. I’ve become entranced by the soothing (female, I might add) translator.

Ok, so, The interview and Q & A is worth the 90 minutes, however if you don’t have the attention span or the constitution for the ramblings of a megalomaniac, at least watch the tongue lashing delivered by the President of Columbia University. It wasn’t very diplomatic in nature at times, and may have cost him some propriety points, but it’s fun to watch someone (anyone) lay into a monstrous dictator.

Unfortunately, His Most High Majesty, wasn’t as easily dismissed as an idiot, as I’d hoped. (Don’t get me wrong. He’s an idiot. But evidently, he has a couple of cabinet members that keep him straight.) He answered most questions with questions....which, I think, is one of the ten most annoying social behaviors known to man. People have been imprisoned in his country for lesser offenses... However, he made a couple of confusing, but valid points. For instance, Question #2 during the Q/A: Why is your govt. providing aid to known terrorist organizations?
His Most High Excellency: “I want to pose a question.” Emily rolling eyes. “If someone explodes bombs...kills your president and members of Congress... how would you treat them? It’s clear. You would call them terrorists.” “...Iran is a victim of terrorism. 26 years ago the president and prime minister lost their lives in terrorist bombs,...” more examples of terrorism. “That same terrorist organization is supported and secured by US...We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those causes.... We are a cultured nation, we don’t need to resort to terrorism.”
While, he never actually answered the question, he did refer to the US’s horrendous foreign policy and how it has jumped up to bite us in the ass over and over again.

Ok. I am boring MYSELf with this post. If you’re still reading, bless you. If not, me neither.

In closing, *hallelujah*, I’m glad Columbia invited him to speak. I think for the most part, he hung himself with the microphone wire. (“In Iran, we do not have homosexuals like you do in your country. We do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who told you that we do .” BWAHAHAHA.) ahem.

Believe it or not, President Bush may have said the most intelligent thing about the forum, “Ahmadenijad’s appearance at Columbia speaks volumes about really the greatness of America."

This way-out, evil, manipulative, scary smart, ignorant, dumbass of a dictator came to an Ivy League college with US blood on his hands and spoke freely to a room of students, scholars, academics, and free press under the protection of our rights to free speech, and no one even attempted to assassinate him.