Category Archives: Food for Thought

Threads of Civic Virtue

“God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to defend it.”

– Daniel Webster, 1834

I’ve been spending more time sorting through sewing and craft supplies lately, trying to organize my sewing room, than following politics and the news. However, being an inveterate news junkie is a habit that isn’t easy to break, so I’m still reading some news online daily.  Watching the endless scorched earth battles of President Donald Trump pitted against the Left, the Democratic machine, and the mainstream media disgusts me and fills me with great concern for America’s future.  I wonder, “Who are we and what really matters to us?”

This post isn’t going to be about needlework, but needlework is the thread with which I’m going to try and sew the larger issue of liberty and personal sacrifice to preserve liberty into a blog post.

Through watching needlework videos from around the world on YouTube, I came across some “community” of counted cross-stitchers called “floss tube”, who post videos about their counted cross-stitch projects.  The usual floss tube video seems to be about an hour, divided into sections of show and tell about finished projects, works-in-progress (WIPs), and “Haul” (more cross-stitch junk purchased).  Then there are a few floss tube contributors, like the expert needlewoman , Mary Rose, named after Mary, Queen of Scots, who present much shorter, highly educational and deeply thoughtful videos that deal with much larger life lessons.

The poem she is referring to is a poem, The Life That I Have, which she stitched and is combining with a floral design.  Sounds silly and pointless, until you consider the poem:

The text of the poem, by Leo Marks:[1]

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_That_I_Have

Mary Rose explains the history of the poem and how it became famous, in the WWII movie, Carve Her Name with Pride, which is based on the true life story of British spy heroine, Violette Szabo, who was just an ordinary young woman working in a department store in London at 19:

“Just four years before, she was Violette Bushell, a pretty, Paris-born girl selling perfume at the Bon Marché department store in South London. Then she met Etienne Szabo, a charming, 31-year-old officer with the French Foreign Legion, at a Bastille Day parade, and they married five weeks later. But Etienne soon shipped off to North Africa, where General Erwin Rommell and his Panzer divisions were on the move through the sands of Egypt. Szabo was killed in October 1942, during the Second Battle of El Alamein. He would posthumously receive the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military award for bravery in battle, but he would never see his daughter, Tania, born to Violette in London just months before he died.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/behind-enemy-lines-with-violette-szabo-1896571/#6ADyiWlgBSWG0i4T.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
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This young WWII widow, with a young daughter,  joined the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).  She was captured by the Nazis after being injured parachuting into France on a mission.  She was executed in 1944 in the German concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The poem above is a poem code, which Leo Marks used as Violette Szabo’s code to send messages.  Leo Marks was a British cryptographer in World War II.

Violette Szabo, didn’t have the education or background to be a likely choice for a SOE agent, but in that day recruiters for the SOE were looking for unique people, with unique character and skill sets.  The Smithsonian Magazine article, Behind Enemy Lines with Violette Szabo, describes her:

“…she was fluent in French and, though just 5-foot-5, athletic and surprisingly strong for her size. She was already a crack shot in a family comfortable around guns and target practice; under rigorous SOE training, she became an accomplished markswoman. Reports described her as a persistent and “physically tough self-willed girl,” and “not easily rattled.””

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/behind-enemy-lines-with-violette-szabo-1896571/

Like so many of her generation, Violette Szabo, knew liberty is precious and worth fighting to preserve.  How she lived though, by courageous self-sacrifice, says more than all the focus-group tested speeches, ever delivered  by self-serving, pompous, iconic feminist windbags, like Hillary Clinton.  This 23 year-old war widow, with a tiny daughter, parachuted into France and here’s how she conducted herself:

“Two days after landing, a car transporting Szabo to a rendezvous was stopped at a German checkpoint. With weapons and ammunition in the car, Szabo and the resistance fighter accompanying her had no choice but to open fire and try to flee in the confusion. Szabo twisted her ankle, but urged her companion to go on without her while she sheltered behind a tree and provided covering fire. According to two of her biographers, Szabo held off the German pursuers until she ran out of ammunition, when she was captured and taken away for interrogation, still defiant and cursing her captors.”

http://www.theweek.co.uk/64502/violette-szabo-how-ww2-heroine-earned-her-george-cross

How important messages are sent and received matters.   Leo Marks used his original love poem as a secret code.  Violette Szabo’s selfless courage speaks of a civic virtue, desperately needed, but rarely found in our rudderless trash culture these days.

In today’s world, where checking the “right” boxes for educational background and resumé or knowing the “right” important people matters more than actual character or talents, I doubt our intelligence “experts” would even notice the talents of a heroine like Violette Szabo.  Assuredly, assessing character is a rare ability in America, where the two major parties’ 2016 presidential candidates were both pathological liars and willing to say or do anything to win.  That millions of people cheer on two such morally-bankrupt characters speaks volumes about we, the American people, and what we think matters.

My blog is just my opinions.  When I write posts, often I walk away not sure I expressed what I really intended to say.  Storytelling isn’t my strong suit.  In fact, in most things in my life, I don’t have a great deal of talent.  That’s the truth.  I love needlework, but I’m not a “natural” at it and I don’t produce any heirloom-quality pieces.  Most of what I stitch are small or medium, not highly complicated patterns and I try to keep the back of my work as neat as the front.  My writing is much the same… a great love of writing, but not nearly the skills and talent, that I wish I had.  With just about everything I have done in my life, I had to practice… a lot, to become even halfway decent at it.  So, I stitch things that I like, even small, simple things, like this, that I want to turn into a small quilted wall-hanging for in my I love America room:

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Being willing to listen, with not only an open mind, but an open heart matters.  Often, not only messages come in surprising ways (like via a needlework video), sometimes they are delivered by highly unlikely messengers, like Mary Rose, sitting in her  “stitchblisscorner” chatting about needlework.




Here’s a link to a 2015 news story about Violette Szabo’s medals:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/11755734/WWII-heroine-Violette-Szabos-George-Cross-fetches-260k.html

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Filed under Culture Wars, Food for Thought, General Interest, Inspirations, Military, Things That Matter

Speaking the same language…

My youngest daughter is 29 years old and lives near Dallas, TX.  She usually calls me in the morning as she’s driving into Dallas to work.  She often relates what’s happening with protesters outside the building where, Senator John Cornyn’s office is located in Dallas, because she works near there.  One day in January she messaged  me some photos of these protesters and she asked me what we’re supposed to be “resisting”.  Then she asked me how people have time to show up day after day and protest.  She said it must be nice not to have to go to work.

Yesterday the Left staged another feminist protest, A Day Without Women general strike.   My daughter called me as she was driving to work and she mentioned this protest in scathing terms.  She said if she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid and she asked me what was the point of this protest.  I don’t think the feminist organizers can even agree on a message or what political goals they are seeking.  In a style change from pink pussy knit caps and lady parts costumes of the Women’s March, the organizers of this “general strike” encouraged women to wear red.

A British feminist, Caitlin Moran, offered this stunningly idiotic advice to young girls:

“In The Guardian last week, Gloria Steinem – brilliant, bad-ass, pioneering, pack-mother feminist Gloria Steinem – was asked which book changed her life.

“Little Women,” she replied. “Because it was the first time I realised women could be a whole human world.”

Oh man, she’s right – so right I yelped when I read it. Because if I had one piece of advice for young girls, and women, it would be this: girls, don’t read any books by men. Don’t read them. Stay away from them. Or, at least, don’t read them until you’re older, and fully-formed, and battle-ready, and are able to counter someone being rude to you, in conversation, not with silent embarrassment, or internalised, mute fury, but a calm, “Fuck you very much, and goodbye.”

Because if there’s one thing that has made me, perhaps, happier in myself, and more confident about writing the truth, and less apt to run myself down for my appearance, weight, loudness and unusualness than many, many other women, it’s that I never read books by men when I was younger.
Read more at https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/features/2017/mar/caitlin-moran-how-books-made-me-a-feminist/#2qw3YCE2VicM0wUf.99

Picking literature to read based on the sex of the author…  That’s what edgy feminism is about today???  At this link there’s an interview of Moran and photo of her.  It’s kind of interesting that a hardcore feminist likes a top with such traditional smocking and embroidery, but her top speaks loudly about the total trainwreck of modern feminist ideology.  These angry, self-righteous, bigoted, ignorant feminists don’t really have any clear ideology or political ends.  They’re just making up attention-seeking, headline-grasping nonsense as they go.  Too many modern feminists truly have no respect for traditional female roles or the women who find  happiness and contentment pursuing domestic endeavors.  Some women prefer to be at home with their children and taking care of their home.  Decades of feminist indoctrination hasn’t been able to alter that.  This lady may spout hardcore feminist dogma, but her top speaks loudly that she admires lovely embroidery.

Over the years, I’ve completed many needlework projects, but many “to-be-completed” ones are stashed in plastic storage containers, so I’m working at completing some of them.  The nativity scenes in the counted cross stitch piece above, I stitched around 1995 or 1996.  I only had the backstitching to complete on the bottom section, but I got busy with other projects, then I lost the pattern for this.

A few weeks ago, while going through a large plastic container of craft stuff in the garage, lo’ and behold I found the wooden frame that is for the nativity scene cross stitch, so I brought it into my sewing room.  I dug out the cross stitch piece and kept looking at the camels, not sure where the backstitching around their eyes should be.  Then I remembered that I had a large manila envelope with Bucilla needlework catalogs on one of the bookcases in my sewing room.  So, I began looking through them and in the 1995 Bucilla Holiday catalog there is a picture of this nativity scene picture.  With my magnifying lamp I use for needlework, I could easily see the backstitching in the photo.

So, here’s a completed piece that sat in a box for over 20 years.   When I started to relay this story about the old catalog to my daughter, she interrupted me and said, “Why do I get the feeling this is going to be one of your hoarding stories?”   Hoarding stories are her euphemism for stories where I point out some happy outcome from using junk that I should have tossed out decades ago.  My kids hate my happy hoarding stories…  They fear being stuck with all my junk to deal with when I die;-)

The photo of the stack of plastic canvas needlepoint tissue box covers are 8 of the 12 that I’ve made in the past few months.  I need to mail these to family and friends soon.

In honor of A Day Without Women strike, I watched a lot of embroidery videos yesterday and spent several hours working on a counted cross stitch project. Lately, reading or watching the news makes me feel a sense of dread and deep concern for America’s future, so I’m spending more time watching needlework videos and doing my own needlework.

The video below is a talented needleworker, Shagufta Fyms, who is a wonderful instructor. This video has 3,791,110 views on YouTube.  Not too shabby for an embroidery video.  She speaks Urdu, which I don’t know at all, yet amazingly I can follow her instructions without a problem.  She obviously learned her stitch names and sewing terms in English, so it’s easy to know what type of floss or yarn she’s using, how many plies or threads and the stitches.  With the amazing carnations she stitches in this video, the ruffled effect of the carnations looks so exotic, but once I saw what she did, it’s the common buttonhole stitch, stitching with a doubled yarn, rather than a single strand.

Needlework videos in Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Korean, and the list goes on, are so amazingly easy to follow and the most common stitches in English embroidery are the same around the world.  Needlework is a universal language, I’ve realized.  There are even needlework videos with no speaking, set to music, and I can follow along and learn with no problem.  The comments on many of these needlework videos come from all over the world, in many different languages, where ladies post comments or questions.  Often a commenter helps explain something to another commenter.

Just an FYI, if you want to learn the basics of embroidery in English,  Sarah Homfray, a graduate of the Royal School of Needlework in Great Britain, has dozens of excellent videos on YouTube, from basics to advanced techniques.

I bet you could gather needleworkers from all over the world, stick them together in a large room with their sewing supplies, some tables and chairs, and within minutes they would be sharing their work and talking about their families. Needlework has been an integral part of family life around the world, from the time people began stitching together clothes.  It has also been an integral part of community life in many parts of the world. However, women around the world took the ubiquitous utilitarian and turned sewing into a decorative and artistic form of expression.

In American politics, the complete opposite is true.  We may all speak English, we may all be familiar with the same pop culture, restaurant chains, and stores, but when it comes to politics and the reporting of politics, partisans might as well be from different galaxies, because they don’t understand anything about each other, their belief systems have no common threads, even with news events, their understanding of the facts reside in different realities.

In many blog posts, I’ve written about finding common ground and of all places to find an important story about this very topic, here’s a Washington Post piece, from today,  about a female documentary filmmaker, Julie Winokur:

“It was the middle of the Obama administration, and Julie Winokur, a self-described liberal, was so frustrated with what she saw as Republican obstructionism that she would immediately dismiss any argument from the right. Then one day, her own child flipped her narrative. He told her she was “the most politically intolerant person” he knew.

“If the other side had a good idea, you wouldn’t know because you’re not listening,” she said he told her. “I realized in that moment that I was as responsible as the people I was pointing fingers at. You have to take ownership of your own contribution to the negativity.”

That was 2012, at the height of the tea party movement and in the midst of that year’s presidential election, when it felt like the partisanship and rancor couldn’t get worse. Her son’s criticism inspired her to stop lamenting it and instead try to fix it.

In the latest episode of “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” the host accused a young man of having a “Nazi” haircut, even though, in reality, Kyle Coddington is a #NeverTrumper with brain cancer.

The show sent cast member Mike Rubens to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference in February and spliced together a video showing all the absurdities he encountered at the annual  event. A minute into the clip, a narrator says they saw lots of “Nazi” haircuts and showed a montage of young men who had their hair clipped short or shaved on the sides. Among those was Coddington, who appears sitting at his laptop at the 1-minute mark.

Samantha Bee’s Show Said He Had ‘Nazi Hair.’ He Actually Has Brain Cancer

Kyle Coddington has the “Nazi” haircut, because he’s battling stage 4 brain cancer.

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A woodpecker in my willow tree

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My husband, who is disabled,  spends a lot of time sitting in what I call the “sun room”, which was our screened in back porch.  We had windows installed and heat/AC several years ago, converting it into another room.  He’s a chain-smoker and I can’t deal with cigarette smoke in the house, despite being a former smoker (the worst kind of smoke nazis) myself, so this sun room is the compromise.  He has a TV, coffee-maker, small refrigerator out there and I added a large electric air purifier.  He uses the house phone intercom a lot to call me when he needs something.

Last week he called me and told me I needed to come out there, because he wanted to show me something.  When I went out there he pointed to my willow tree and told me to look at the woodpecker near the top.  I didn’t spot him at first.

My husband said, “How can you miss him, he’s the size of a B-52?”

I stepped out on the patio and then I saw him, because he had moved around the trunk of the tree.  I wish I had had my cell phone in my hand to snap a photo of him.  He was the largest woodpecker that I’ve ever seen – the size of a crow actually.

Later, my youngest daughter in Texas messaged me about some bald eagles in Florida hatching, which she thought I’d be interested in, because I had gotten engrossed with some other bald eagles hatching a few years back.   I told her about our woodpecker sighting.  After explaining what this woodpecker looked like with his red crest on his head and large size, she started sending info on a pileated woodpecker.  That sure looks like the woodpecker in my willow tree.  He hasn’t returned, but if he does I want to try and take a photo.

This woodpecker sighting spurred me to think back over the years to the many times I worked in my yard and heard a woodpecker pecking away in the woods behind my house. Often I thought that these Southern woodpeckers in the woods sure make a lot of noise for such small birds, because the sounds were more like a jack hammer, than a bird pecking. There were many times I heard branches falling after long pecking jags.  When I mentioned this woodpecker and my thoughts about the loud sounds of woodpeckers in the woods for years to my sons, they said they had heard the very loud woodpeckers many times too.

All of sudden I wondered if large woodpeckers had been living here all along.

That got me thinking about how many times things might have been right in front of my nose (or ears), but I was too blind too see (or hear) them.

Trying to be open to new information seems like an endeavor worth pursuing. So, with 2017 fresh, I’ll strive not only to open my eyes and ears, but most of all my heart and mind to new information, ideas and ways of looking at the world.

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Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest, Uncategorized

Happy New Year!

memorial day

Happy New Year!

At the end of 2015, I wrote about moving my blog in another direction:

“Instead of endless political and foreign policy commentary (402 posts in 2015), I’m going to attempt to move my blog in another direction.  Anyone can be an armchair critic about all that is wrong in American politics and culture, but let’s face the truth, it’s not the politicians’ fault for the state of our culture, our communities or the problems in our own lives.  Despite the hype about the 2016 election, neither political party can fix America.  Only committed citizens can do that.

Assuredly, failed social programs do deserve criticism, but let’s enter the new year facing the truth.  Rebuilding the American team starts at the individual level, in fact, it starts with each of us.  So, with this wide open internet why can’t we start working to share ideas, resources, and most of all inspirations geared toward that mission:  rebuilding the American team.”

https://libertybellediaries.com/2015/12/31/rebuilding-the-american-team/

With a US presidential election in 2016 and so much else happening in the world, I didn’t stick to that goal of writing about inspirations to rebuild the American team as much as I wanted.  Like most of America, I got caught up in the Witch of Chappaqua vs. Drumpzilla endless battles,  but with that national embarrassment of two vile candidates running down-in-the-mud scorched earth campaigns over, it’s time to take a deep breath and refocus on that goal.

And after last year’s Reality TV national embarrassment, it’s time for all Americans to recommit to rebuilding the American team;-)

Wishing everyone a safe, happy, blessed New Year!

 

Sincerely,

Libertybelle

 

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Filed under American Character, Blog Notes, Food for Thought, General Interest

Change you can believe in

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Persian Poet, Mystic

http://www.values.com/inspirational-quotes/6506-yesterday-i-was-clever-so-i-wanted-to-change

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Intent?

During the election Hillary’s campaign played Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song”.  I came across this version of the song, “This is Your Fight Song (Rachel Platten Scottish Cover) by the Piano Guys, which I really like.  The bagpipes and snare drums give the song a military march vibe, which naturally appeals to me, being a lover of military march music.  The scenery in the video is absolutely stunning too.

Now, Hillary could commit a litany of crimes, which James Comey listed, but as he said and Hillary, the Democrats, and liberal media repeated ad nauseum, there was no “intent” to break the law, in she and her staff repeatedly mishandling highly classified information, so “not criminal”.  I’m sure that same media would latch onto whatever nefarious “intent” was given to me posting this song, because I angered them with my “Tweet storm”, by mocking their “journalistic integrity” and “reporting” (mostly cut and paste of other reporters’ reports- no independent fact-checking).  I am sure the Dems, whom I mocked would want me silenced and believe anything bad reported about me too.

Am I sending a dangerous, subversive message or just posting a music video, I love?   Guess it all depends on who people believe I am – law-abiding citizen or deranged subversive, in need of her meds, “threat”.

I’ve played the video above a lot lately too.  It’s a singer, Hayley Westenra,  from New Zealand, whom I had never even heard of, until I came across this video .  Her voice is very beautiful.

I’m a big Alan Jackson fan, he and I even have the same birthday, October 17th, so does liking a song that mentions God make me a dangerous right-wing zealot?

Here’s a 2013 LB post on this very topic: “Getting To Know You”.

Have a nice day:-)

Figured I’d add this song too, which I like:

 

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Looking for a Savior in all the wrong places

The above MSNBC interview features J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, a book that is part, starkly honest portrayal of his life as a poor “white trash” hillbilly growing up in the Rust Belt today, and part social policy analysis. In the book, Vance mentions “learned helplessness” as a looming problem in the economically depressed town in the Rust Belt, where he grew up.  He chronicles, in a very personal way, the current plight of the families of those who were part of the Appalachian migration out of the Appalachian Mountain communities to northern industrial cities in the first half of the last century, often referred to as the Hillbilly Highway.

His story is meant to open discussions about government social policy, local community actions, but most of all, he is hoping that the American families in crisis, at the heart of the cultural crisis in America, take a hard look at themselves and begin the painful, difficult process of changing how their own families treat each other.

That change requires unlearning “helplessness”, but also learning to quit blaming big government, big business, big bankers, nefarious Mexicans and Chinese, Obama  and Muslims, and other mythical scapegoats.  Quit looking for a new big government program or an American strong man promising to make your life or your community better!   You are responsible for the choices you make, but if you have managed to get your life on track, the responsibility doesn’t end there.  You have to try to help guide your own families and communities, especially children at risk, to learning to be productive and American success stories too.

Vance writes honestly about his mother’s drug addiction and the impact it had on him and his sister, but it also affected his grandparents and extended family too.  One addict or alcoholic in a family can create endless chaos and upheaval, both emotional and financial, in a family.  These people are like ticking time bombs, ready to tear apart their family and themselves, over and over.   The news clip above offers a shocking glimpse into the opioid  epidemic in America today.

Change begins first in our own hearts and then within our families and communities.

In many posts I’ve highlighted Trump’s populist appeal, his skillfully latching onto patriotic themes, spanning the globe from Mexico to China for foreign scapegoats abroad, evil domestic “establishment” politicians at home and of course, The Left, as the cause of all the failures in American communities.  Many Americans see Trump as hearing their pain and expressing their anger, but I want to move away from Trump and this election, to delve into the state of way too many American families, like the one Vance grew-up in.

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Above is an early photo of Kunkletown, PA, the village where I grew-up.  We lived on the outskirts of the village further off to the left side of where that photo ends.  Behind where the photographer was positioned, is part of the Blue Mountain range, which is the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountain range.  The village had a few more buildings off to the left and right, when I was growing up, but not much more.  My family was a typical blue-collar, rural family in the Pocono Mountains in northeastern PA.  In the late 90s, my husband, kids and I had gone to visit my family and as my husband drove around winding roads in the mountains, one of my sons, who was around 11 or 12 at the time, said, “Mom, your family is kind of like northern rednecks.”  My first reaction was angry pride in my family, but when I thought about his words, I knew they were true.

I love my family, I am proud of my PA German heritage, and I am especially proud of my parents, who were very hard-workers, dedicated to family, drank alcohol only at social occasions and then sparingly, ran an organized home, lived frugally and within their means, did not tolerate drama in our home, instilled values in us, but most of all they lived their values through constant example.  Sure, my family had conflicts, problems, and many flaws, because no one has a “perfect” family, but I never doubted that my parents would care for us and do their very best to provide for us.  I never once doubted that they put caring for their family over their own wants and desires – they made sacrifices constantly to provide for us.

The things that bind strong families together go much deeper than blood, they are love and respect for each other, and building trust within the family.

My parents told all six of us, my three sisters and two brothers, that in America all things are possible if you work hard.  Coupled with that complete faith in the American Dream was faith in God, but also the constant reminders that we needed to help other people and that America isn’t just about “rights”.  My parents believed being an American imposed on all of us a “duty”  to be good citizens and good neighbors. This combined message of “civic duty” and the Christian message of being “good neighbors” is what built American communities.  That isn’t to say America can’t be inclusive and respectful of other religions, it’s a historical statement of how most rural communities and small town America were built.

The anger stewing among America’s poor is very real, but the scapegoating other groups, the latching onto federal government panaceas and the complete abdication of taking personal responsibility for ourselves, our families and our own communities, is destroying not only the American spirit, but also real American lives.

Vance survived a home in crisis, having a mother who had a drug addiction problem, run-ins with the criminal justice and social services systems, and whose lifestyle led to a revolving door of “father” figures moving in and out of his life.  He credits his loving, albeit dysfunctional in many ways, grandparents with saving him from ending up a high-school drop out.  He also credits the Marine Corps for instilling strong values that helped him become a stronger, more resilient person.  His story offers many insights as to what is really ailing America and it’s not just closing factories, corrupt Washington, or bad trade practices.

My husband survived a troubled childhood, eerily similar to, but, perhaps more stark than the one Vance recounts.  Interestingly enough, my husband’s alcoholic mother, grew up in West Virginia.  As Vance talked about his crazy grandmother’s rants and profanity-laced language, I kept thinking, “She talks just like my late mother-in-law.”

My goody-two shoes upbringing didn’t prepare me for my mother-in-law’s flowery language, where two of her favorite phrases were, ” Shit in your hat and pull it down over your ears.” and her version of “go to hell” was, “Up your giggy hole, bitch!”  I sat there dismayed and confused with many of her phrases, and after the first time she said that, when I was alone with my husband,  I asked him, “What on earth is a giggy hole?”  My mother considered “fart” a cuss word and we weren’t allowed to say that.  I tried to teach my children to say, “pass gas” and they told me even their teachers say “fart” and refused to believe me that “fart” is a cuss word.

Besides all the “crazy” things and rough talking, Vance’s grandmother, instilled a belief in him that he could do anything and she also talked about her dream of becoming a lawyer when she was young.    My mother-in-law, besides the obvious problems that hit you in the face quickly, was a very smart woman and at some point in her life, she read a lot.  It always amazed me that she would rattle off the answers to Jeopardy questions on TV, before even the best contestants could open their mouths.  She would have choice words for the contestants who missed questions.  She also did the crossword puzzle in the newspaper every day, in very little time.  Occasionally, she would ponder out loud about a word she was struggling over, but invariably within a few minutes she’d have the answer.

I once asked my mother-in-law how she knew all this stuff and she gave me this confused look and said, “Everyone knows this!”  I didn’t know many of these things and I read constantly.  I’ve often wondered what my mother-in-law’s dreams were when she was young, before having 7 children, with only 2 having the same father, I believe.  My husband related that one sibling died young, so I am not sure about the paternity of that one.  My husband’s father left when he was 5 years old and he never saw him again.

Like the Marines helping Vance escape his troubled childhood, the Army provided my husband a way to escape his life, growing up poor in downtown Baltimore.  I suspect that my neck of the woods in PA was an anomaly in the 60s and 70s when I was growing up. It was the backward, west end of the county, where a small enclave of  PA Dutch people, most related to each other, were clinging to their rapidly evaporating community.  Drugs were prevalent when I was in high school in the 70s and the area has a lot of resorts and also an invasion of people from New York and New Jersey, who decided to move to the Poconos and commute to work in the city.

This urban invasion completely changed the culture in the area.  In high school, we were disparagingly called “farmers” by our rival high school team, from a more populated area of the county.  However, the dwindling family farm culture had been eroding for a large part of the last century.  Most of the people, to include my parents, commuted to other areas in PA to work, with few actually working on farms in my childhood.

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My paternal great-grandmother lamented selling their farm and moving to “town”, which was Kunkletown (a village with a church, a general store, a gas station, a post office,  and a few local businesses) and that was before my father was born in 1929.   The above photo is the post office in Kunkletown, PA, with my great-grandfather behind his horse and mail cart,  He  was one of two rural route mail carriers, when the rural routes were started in 1912.  See, not only John Kasich has a family member with claims to being a postman…   While compiling a history of Kunkletown during the American bicentennial in 1976, local historical sleuths found this record of my great-grandfather’s, January 1912 route stating he delivered 4 registered letters, 757 letters, 369 postal cards, 1802 newspapers, 538 circulars, and 442 packages.  He collected 4 registered letters, 640 letters, 206 postal cards, 2 newspapers, 10 packages and 36 money orders.  Guess reading newspapers was popular in the backwoods.  That post office was still the post office when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s.

The problems Vance relates experiencing growing up in the Rust Belt in Ohio, now are the same ones afflicting the poor white working class in the Poconos, in small towns, in rural America, but also in inner-city poor black communities too.

What is ailing America most is too many Americans started believing they are the downtrodden victims of a system stacked against them.   Much of the “learned helplessness” is the result of liberal government policies, academia and educational system indoctrination and Hollywood and media brainwashing.  Celebrities and flaky TV “experts”, televangelists and assorted “experts” exert more influence over many Americans’ lives than these Americans’ own families or local civic and religious leaders do.  Americans have bought into trusting the advice of total strangers over people in their own families or communities.  This “learned helplessness” belief rears itself in endless strings of lies, way too many people tell themselves and their families, about why their lives are an endless, downward trajectory of personal and financial train wrecks.

As one who has lived through some personal train wrecks and even spent years making excuses for some of my bad decisions, I’m not trying to judge other people who are struggling or acting like I have all the answers. All I can say is that in my life, at 56, one thing I’ve learned to do is to try to quit making excuses when I make mistakes, admit to them quickly, then try to fix them and avoid making the same ones in the future. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but in the end, I blame myself for the outcome – not the “system is rigged or against me”.  Even when I have been treated “unfairly”, I keep working at forgiveness and not letting anger rule my life.  That forgiveness part is the hardest, but by focusing on looking for positive things, it helps me move past anger.

Vance penned an opinion piece in the New York Times, “The Bad Faith of the White Working Class,” June 25, 2016, where he writes about “paranoia replacing piety” in some Christian groups in America. He states, “A Christianity constantly looking for political answers to moral and spiritual problems gives believers an excuse to blame other people when they should be looking in the mirror.” Expanding on that thought, Vance writes:

“This paranoia harms the most vulnerable Christians the most of all. A few months ago I visited with a few teachers from my old high school and asked them how we might give kids in our community a better shot — at a good job, perhaps, or at least a peaceful family life. The mood grew somber. One told me that after a student, a bright young man from a “rough home,” stopped showing up to class, she drove to his house on a school day to check on him. She found him and his seven siblings home alone, her promising student too preoccupied with tending to his brothers and sisters to care much about school. A younger teacher, listening intently, sighed: “They want us to be shepherds to these kids, but so many of them are raised by wolves.”

In the white working class, there are far too many wolves: heroin, broken families, joblessness and, more often than we’d like to believe, abusive and neglectful parents. Confronted with those forces, we need, most of all, a faith that provides the things my faith gave to me: introspection, moral guidance and social support. Yet the most important institution in our lives, if it exists at all, encourages us to point a finger at faceless elites in Washington. It encourages us to further withdraw from our communities and country, even as we need to do the opposite.” (my highlight)

This post has run much longer than I intended, sorry about that.  In my next few posts I want to delve into the history of faith in America, where Gladius has so generously given me permission to pull whatever I want from a sermon he gave to his Baptist church this past 4th of July, to highlight the faith of our Founding Fathers.  Then I want to write a post about the things I learned about American culture working in Wal-Mart many years (leaving in 2015).

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