Finally, the quotes notebook story

Without trying to be controversial, the truth is there really are big conspiracies and some of them are carried out by rich and powerful people or by political factions, but where I have a problem is so many people leap to embrace conspiracy theories, without doing some research or even considering any other explanations. Most of the conspiracy theories I see floating on social media are garbage.

Over the weekend I saw a video of a fuming liberal lady, irate about high gas prices and she’s blaming the religious right for the high gas prices. She completely believes this:

Of course, I realize many people likely disagree with me and that’s fine. I grew up in a large family where a lot of us had opposing opinions, but my parents insisted when we sat down to eat dinner, we had to be civil to each other. I don’t want anyone silenced or shouted down, even this liberal lady or the prepper guy I criticized. I also didn’t get outraged by her rant, in fact, it struck me as an indicator that the soaring gas prices are affecting everyone and we’re all feeling the pain.

There are people on the right who believe that everything going wrong is because of liberals. Interestingly, this lady says she gets her information from Robert Reich. In a recent blog post I mentioned a former Clinton administration official who tweeted about putting Americans who wouldn’t get vaccinated in camps, well, that was Robert Reich…

That’s kind of where America’s at these days. What alarms me is a whole lot of powerful political players and influencers online amplify many of these conspiracy theories to agitate their respective partisan followers against the other side or get clicks. It’s a very deliberate effort to fuel divides for partisan political gains.

This Libs of TikTok Twitter account is basically catnip for the right, I know, but this is an excellent example of the rage that’s pretty palpable around all sorts of hot button issues – on both sides of the political aisle.

Many people are concerned, anxious, afraid, angry, and some are fighting mad about everything that’s going wrong – from shortages, to sky-rocketing gas prices, to runaway inflation (yeah, inflation is rising faster than most of us will be able to keep up with), and all the other alarming happenings in the world, from the war in Ukraine to the economic war between the US and Europe vs. Russia and China, to the continual finger-pointing from the President and dismissing concerns about inflation and high gas prices.

There are more major, global crises incoming right now than I can remember in my lifetime, so all any of us can do is try to position ourselves, as best we can, to focus on trying to cover the basics. There isn’t any sort of master plan that guarantees any of us smooth sailing through any of these crises as they hit, but economic hard times are already barreling towards all of us.

Trying to keep ourselves grounded, calm and hopeful will help all of us weather the coming storms.

Finally here’s the story about my quotes notebook. I wrote about it long ago on my blog, but I don’t remember what post that was. I’ve been writing this blog since 2012.

I grew up in rural northeast PA, in the Pocono Mountains, right by part of the Blue Mountain Ridge, which is actually part of the Appalachian Mountains

My area of Monroe County was called the West End and we were considered the hick farmers of the county, even though family farms had mostly died out long before I was born. A lot of people, including my parents had other jobs and commuted to other towns and areas with jobs and industry. My father was a supervisor for a road construction company and my mother was a registered nurse.

My father was an excellent gardener and both of my parents worked in our large vegetable garden. I remember my mother used to lecture me not to touch the plants in the garden when the leaves were wet and I got the lecture many times about how that spreads plant diseases. She was also big on saving seeds.

We lived in the same house with my great-grandmother and she was an avid needle-worker, everything from quilting to embroidery. She grew up on a farm, worked her own farm when she was raising her family and she was very good at starting flowers, plants, shrubs and trees. She knew which propagation methods worked best for each thing. I trotted after her as she tended her plants and showed me how to do things.

My area was characterized by the locals, who were mostly of PA German ancestry (they had been farmers) and although we weren’t Amish or Mennonite, among my parents generation a lot of the locals spoke PA Dutch at home. My father and his family spoke PA Dutch amongst themselves. PA Dutch cooking lives on too.

The Poconos became famous for being a resort area in the early 1900s and that continued through the last century, although when I was growing up, many city people from Philadelphia, New Jersey and NYC began migrating to the Poconos and living there year-round, while commuting to their jobs in the city. This influx of city people created a culture clash of sorts and it also dramatically changed the local culture as the area became more populated. Many city people also bought summer homes in the Poconos, so between the resorts and summer homes, we had a seasonal population influx.

In 2020, with the pandemic, some of the northeast counties in PA became Covid hot spots due to this movement of city people back and forth. I remember this, because one of my sisters gave me an earful about those “damned city people.” I grew up hearing about those “damned city people” and even as I moved around with Army life. In phone conversations, my mother frequently had some complaints about some encounter at the grocery store or some new things that were going wrong due to those “damned city people.” I remember my mother’s outrage about some lady from the city wanting sidewalks to be built. My mother went on and on about, “if that lady wanted sidewalks she should have stayed in NYC.” This bias continues with my sisters, brothers, many locals, and me, even though I moved away from the area in 1979, when I joined the Army. In fact, those “damned city people” are why I have no desire to move back there and why I much prefer living in GA. The Poconos is nothing like it was when I was growing up.

My “damned city people” bias and broad stereotyping is what I want to talk about and my quotes notebook is part of the story.

Our elderly retired pastor and his wife lived across the road from us, right next to the parsonage. He was an expert woodworker and converted a small woodshop he had built into a small home after he retired. He had fit in perfectly in our area, because although he wasn’t from our area he was of PA German ancestry and spoke PA Dutch. His wife, though, in one of those typical American love stories, was from NYC, had graduated from Teachers College at Columbia and she was Jewish.

She was one of the most lovely ladies I have ever known and although she was very different than the female role models in my family, she was like another grandmother to me. I think everyone would benefit having a wise Jewish grandmother. She took me under her wings and tried hard to teach me to play the piano. I was a dismal failure. She loved opera and she would play her albums and explain the stories to me.

We didn’t have a local library, but our retired pastor and his wife had a pretty impressive home library and they had many magazines going back to the 1920s, all neatly organized on shelves in the attic. When my brothers and sisters and I had reports to write for school, she allowed us to scamper up the ladder to the attic and look through magazines, but she often would do research for us and have a stack of magazines and books with pages marked with information for our reports.

I remember one time during the summer, when her grandson was visiting she organized a nature walk in the woods, going up part of the mountain. At our dinner table that night, my brothers were talking about how dumb and boring that was. My brothers and her grandson had no interest in her nature walk, but I was captivated. She had field guides and was pointing out all sorts of things that I had never noticed before. It felt like I was seeing our woods through new eyes with her pointing out so many new things. To this day, I love field guides.

In my teens she let me borrow their copy of Bartlett’s Quotations to read and she urged me to start a notebook and write down the ones I liked. Thus my quotes notebook was born. I still collect quotes.

I never once considered her a “damned New Yorker.” I loved her like she was one of my grandmothers.

Traveling around the Army, I’ve met wonderful people from all over the world, including many people from NYC. Stereotypes get smashed to smithereens when you start looking at people as individuals and get to know them. I always told my kids to stop listening to gossip and bad things “about” people, because all you’re getting is second-hand information. I told them to get to know people – face-to-face and you’ll always be amazed at how interesting so many people can be. In fact, I bet when the ranting liberal lady in the TikTok video calms down and talks about her life, well, most of us might find some common ground with her and if all else fails, I agree with her that the gas prices are insane.

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