Cultural Traits, Culture, Feminism, Guest Authors, Morals, S.W. Atwell, Sexualization, Village Idiots

“A Liberated Chicks Take Shit From No One Moment” (Guest Post)

Please Note:  The following is a guest post from S. W. Atwell.   — Paul Sunstone

I recently had a Liberated-Chicks-Take-Shit-From-No-One moment.  It happened on one of our busier downtown thoroughfares.

There I was, blatantly walking about without my burkah, when I only added to my insolence by reflexively smiling at a man as he approached me walking in the opposite direction.  It was my closed-mouth friendly, urban midwestern smile. He told me I had a nice smile.

In a move worthy of Salome herself, I gave him my “Aren’t you nice, and thank you for saying so!” smile.  That’s the bold smile, the one where I show actual teeth.

Then, he added: “You just wanna be with me right this moment, don’t you?  Yeah, you just can’t stop yourself from wanting to climb all over me right here and now and–”

Whereupon I interrupted him by asking, “If I buy you a gun, will you promise to shoot yourself with it?”

© S. W. Atwell 2011

Children, Culture, Family, Guest Authors, Marriage, Relationships, S.W. Atwell, Values

Marriage Through a Child’s Eyes (Guest Post)

In the following post, guest author S. W. Atwell writes about her young daughter’s surprisingly sophisticated views of marriage.  — Paul Sunstone

My daughter was seven when she decided that having a Canadian mother meant that she was a “Canadian American” and began noting differences between the United States and Canada.   Mimi has Asperger Syndrome, which causes her to obsess about odd little areas of interest.

AS also makes Mimi prone to utter her thoughts with disarming frankness.  She sometimes at a disadvantage when it comes to interpreting new situations.  That is why I wondered what Mimi would make of it the evening she walked into the living room, where I was watching a commitment ceremony for two women characters in a favorite sitcom.

Mimi stared at the television, taking in the wedding finery as she moved her stare from the center of the screen to the top of the screen, from the top of the screen back to the bottom.

“Mother,” she stated, hitting each consonant with a precision that nearly pulled the syllables of her words apart.  “There are two ladies getting married on the television.”  (“There are two lay-ties ge-ting married on the telee-vision”).

Her face still and concentrated, she resumed scanning the screen.  Then, her eyes widened, she pressed the palms of her hands together and bobbed forward slightly with the delight of discovery.  “Oooh.  This wedding must be in Canada!”

She asked no questions, nor offered any comments.  She had categorized the phenomenon and that was all that mattered.

That was the beginning.  Weeks later, Mimi called me into her bedroom.  “Come here, Mother!  Two Canadian girls are planning a wedding!”

Indeed, Barbie of Swan Lake was about to marry Barbie with the Dolly Parton hair and the peacock blue eye shadow.  It made me wonder if intercultural marriage could go too far.

Then came the evening when I lost patience with Mimi for repeatedly interrupting my housework. “Mimi!  Why do you keep coming to me for help with something new every two minutes?”

But rhetoric falls flat when directed at the literal-minded.  “Because, Mother, you are my mother and you are supposed to help me.”

“Yes, sweetheart, I realize that, but right now I am so tired and overworked that I feel like I need a mother to come over and help me.”

“But Mother, your mother lives in Canada.”

“Yes, dear, I know–”

“And she has a job and cannot come here.”

“Pussy Cat, I understand this–”

“And my daddy says she does not like you anyway.”

“Oh my!”

“And anyway, now that your father is dead, your mother could get married again.  And if she is in Canada, she could marry a lady.  And that lady would be your step-mother.  And maybe she would love you and come here to help you.”

I was speechless.

It took me a long time to understand that something was working in my daughter beyond a fascination with differences between American and Canadian culture.  It was broader than the differences and similarities between gay and straight marriage.  Mimi had the makings of small social engineer and marriage was her engineering media.  She knew about relatives who were unhappy about the marriage between her Jewish mother and her Christian father.  I assured Mimi that love was the important thing and it was nobody else’s business if people came from different religions or had different skin colors.

Mimi was usually the second arrival at day camp that summer, the first being a four year old biracial boy.  Perhaps Mimi considered the little guy “black,” as Americans do when a person’s ancestry is partially African.  In any event, Mimi’s eyes lit up the morning he and his very Nordic mother arrived a few minutes after we did.

“Wow!” she told the little boy.  “Your parents are different colors, but they still got married!  That is so good!  Did you know nobody is supposed to tell other people not to get married because they are different colors so long as they love each other?”

The boy was speechless.  His mother held her laughter and gave me a “thumbs up” sign as she walked out the door.

As proud as I was of Mimi’s tolerance, you can only imagine my chagrin the day I learned she had mocked another camper because of his religion.

“Over religion?”  I spluttered.  “But Mimi, of all children, should know better than that!  Her father and I are of different religions!”

“That seems to be the problem,” explained the camp director.  “Mimi made fun of the boy because his family only has one religion and hers has two.”

I read Mimi the riot act, ending with an order that she apologize to the other child immediately.

“I am sorry,” Mimi began, “for making you cry because I said it was better to have two religions in your family instead of one.”

Then, leaning in confidentially and dropping her voice to a whisper, “But do not worry!  Maybe someday your parents will get a divorce and one of them will get married again to somebody who has a different religion and then your family will also have two religions!”

That was when I finally understood that Mimi considered marriage the panacea for all social conflicts.

Liberal she might be, but she would agree with conservatives any day of the week that marriage is the basis of American society.  Perhaps one day she will decree that Democrats and Republicans must intermarry.  Mimi may be generations removed from the shtetl, but never mind.  She is truly a matchmaker for the twenty-first century.

© S.W. Atwell, 2011

Abuse, Compassion, Guest Authors, Happiness, Health, Kindness, Meaning, Mental and Emotional Health, Morals, Oppression, Quality of Life, Relationships, S.W. Atwell, Sadness, Values, Violence

Two Kinds of Sad People

Please Note:  This is a post by guest author S. W. Atwell.  The views expressed are entirely her own.  If you yourself would like to post as a guest author on this blog, please contact me by email.

— Paul Sunstone

There are two types of sad people.  One type does not contribute to the happiness of others.  He may be of the withholding sort:  One who believes that any happiness he gives will be subtracted from his own, small store.   He may be the sadistic sort: One who takes whatever is ill in himself and uses it to make others unhappy.  He might even seem ravenous in his desire to impose misery, as though he were consuming something in return for his contribution.  Perhaps he feels as though there is a finite amount of unhappiness in the universe and that he decreases his own large burden of the stuff every time he imposes misery on others.

The other type of sad person is not unkind.  He may feel sad because he has experienced loss.  He certainly feels sad over the misfortunes of others.  In this way, he is invested in the happiness of others.  While he can become happier if his own fortunes mend, he can also become happier when he knows that others are happy.  He has an urge to contribute to the well-being of others.  It is not uncommon for him to discover the depth of this urge when he finds consolation in caring for the needs of others at a time when the reasons for his own deep sadness are beyond his own control.  Whether fortune smiles or frowns upon him, his own happiness multiplies when exposed to happiness, whether that happiness is located inside him or in the hearts of others.

The sadistic or withholding sad person experiences happiness and sadness as elements to be measured in mass or volume.  The sad person with the warm heart understands happiness as an organic phenomenon, with the gametes from one source of happiness meeting and multiplying with the gametes from another source of happiness.  His sadness is a soil that welcomes and grows the seeds of happiness.

© S.W. Atwell (2011)

Abrahamic Faiths, Alienation, Belief, Deity, God, God(s), Guest Authors, Judaism, Religion, Religious Ideologies, S.W. Atwell, Spiritual Alienation, Values, Yahweh

“They Find in Religion an Aggressor”

Please Note: This is a post by guest author, S.W. Atwell.  The views and opinions expressed in her post are entirely her own.  If you would like to post as a guest author on this blog, please contact me at the email address posted on my contact page.

— Paul Sunstone

I’m writing this blog piece in response to some of Paul Sunstone’s musings about people who blog about leaving the religion in which they grew up.  According to Sunstone, some people lose their childhood religion because of an intellectual disagreement with doctrine.  “Typically, their doubts began to mount until one day some point in particular became the straw that broke the back of their faith.”  Others found their religion personally repressing, even destructive to the development of their selves.  “They find in religion an Aggressor.

I cannot resist blogging about my loss of faith, not the least because Sunstone feels that loss-of-religion blog pieces usually “outclass” religious blogs.  How can I resist an invitation to be “classy.”  Oh, yes, and Sunstone finds it especially “moving” when the reason for leaving one’s religion was the discovery that it was working against them personally.  So, now I simply have to blog about my little faith crash.  I want to move my readers and do so with at least a little class.

When I was seven, my moderately observant Jewish parents placed me in a school for Hasidic girls.  Hasids are the “old style” European Orthodox Jews, easily identified by their clothes.  The men wore dark suits, long beards, sidelocks and black fedoras.  The women dressed in long, dark-colored skirts and never rolled their sleeves higher than the elbow.  Once they married, my classmates covered their heads with wigs or kerchiefs.

I liked the school well enough at first.  I did not even mind learning that I was not observing Jewish ritual “correctly.”  Learning to follow the customs better did not seem all that different to me from learning to read better in the second grade than I had in the first.  Where I got stuck, however, was on this God (usually referred to as “Ha-shem” or “the name”, because Orthodox Jews avoid saying God’s name) who knew everything that was going to happen and could do anything about it that he chose.  As a child getting crunched under a heavy load of disapproval from parents and teachers, I could not understand why he did not intercede on my behalf before I screwed up.  How about making it easier for me to learn to spell?  Or putting a thought in my mind that would stop my big mouth before I insulted my big sister?  Or even prompting the adults to be a little bit kinder when I made mistakes?  How could an all-powerful God make it so easy to sin even when you didn’t really mean to.  The story of Lot’s wife was simply terrifying.  What small child has never peeked through her fingers when told to cover her eyes?  Unkind adults and an uncaring God make for a bad psychic combination in the minds of the young.  I still remember one little girl who was scolded by her teacher for making mistakes at math.  She waited until recess to whisper her greatest fear to her best friend, “Ha-shem must really hate me,” she wept, “and I don’t know why.”

There is not much of a line between god and parent in the mind of a small child.  The parent can get the child to believe in god, or not.  The parent can get the child to believe anything, or not.  Sometimes, there is not much of a line between god and the parent in the mind of the parent.  My own mother was a religious fanatic.  She was sure she knew what god was thinking.  It was, of course, whatever she was thinking.  God’s desires were her own.  One of her desires was to quelch my growth into any sort of person who thought for herself.  She had this right, because it was what God wanted.  While I did not grasp all this until I was in my thirties, I certainly felt unable to live in some sense by the time I was twelve.  My breath would nearly stop at times against her unyielding wall.

This was also the point in my life when I became really aware of the most faith-testing circumstance faced by modern Jews, the Holocaust.  I asked my mother why God had not prevented it.  She responded, smugly, that God always had a reason for allowing bad things to happen and that the Holocaust had paved the way for the modern State of Israel.  In that moment, I decided not to believe in God.  Either he did not exist, because such bumbling could hardly be credited to the Omnipotent One, or he was not all-powerful.  If he couldn’t prevent babies from being gassed, he did not deserve to have people believe in him.

That last was a primitive reaction, but there was something even more primitive going on.  There were three people in the room that day, my mother, God and me.  My mother wanted to tell me the most terrible things so I would know I was never safe with anyone other than her.  God was her weapon.  If I accepted what she was saying, I would somehow no longer exist.  In short, one of us in that room had to die.  I was too stubborn to be the one, and I was too frightened of my mother to make her be the one.  Only God could die that day.

It would make quite a headline, wouldn’t it?  “Jew Kills God.” Now, where have I heard that before?

© S.W. Atwell (2011)