Idealism Takes A Hit

Occasionally I read an article posted on POCKET, historical articles or some journalist’s take on a recent news story. I’ve read about the newest wave of CENSORSHIP, an issue that often boils down to an idealistic approach versus a realistic one. I read about one young man who responded to the many PROTESTS and CONSPIRACY THEORIES by starting his own. Others said, “Hey, why not?” and the crazy thing went viral.

I’ve heard about the social upheaval massive immigration has caused in Texas. Last night I started reading J D Vance’s HILLBILLY ELEGY, describing the “hollowing out” and desperate poverty in the US Midwest — “the Rust Belt.” All this input rattling around in my mind, plus my own experience, has produced cogitations I’m going to share in several upcoming posts. Starting with…

Idealism In a Real World

A few years after we were married we were discussing a politician of our day and my husband commented, “He’s too much of an idealist. I’d rather see a crook elected to run the country than an idealist.”

I understood where he was coming from. A crook usually has a good handle on how things really work. A dreamer who isn’t facing reality can be dangerous when handed the reins. Now, with almost fifty years of practical observations as well as a keen interest in history, I understand that sentiment so much better. Especially after I read a number of accounts of how the ultimate idealism, PROHIBITION, worked, especially in the US.

An elderly friend once told me about Nellie McClung’s sad observation on being hit by reality. McClung (1873-1951) was one of Canada’s original suffragettes and women writers. She worked hard to get the vote for women; once women had the vote she was elected to the Alberta Legislature. Being all for home and family, and opposed to the demon drink that destroyed homes and left wives and families destitute, she was totally in support of Prohibition.

The sad remark she made in her old age, according to my friend, was: “We thought when women got the vote, we’d outlaw liquor. But we never thought we’d see the day when women would take to drinking!”

I could have told her that. When I was young most of the women I knew drank. My own mother, according to my sisters, “spent half her life in the beer parlour.” My younger sister, Donna, unsuccessfully fought a lifelong battle with alcohol, though it was finally a drug overdose that took her out. Always a feisty kid, I think she would have loved a swig of bootleg booze.

Evangelical Christians have always leaned heavily toward idealism, thinking they know what’s good for the rest of the country. But there’s a whole ‘nother world in their midst – my own non-religious people – that Protestant Evangelicals haven’t really been able to acknowledge. And when those citizens rise up and start following their inclinations, idealism will crash.

Bootleg booze, rum-runners, organized crime: the Christian Women’s Temperance League never foresaw how these would flourish.

Now for a secular example…

Breast-feeding Is A Natural Act

Definitely it is. However, there’s a reason why North American women have been hesitant – some may say “inhibited” – from breast-feeding openly in public places. In fact, one weekend in Saskatoon a group of zealous women set up a display in the Midtown Mall promoting the natural act of breast-feeding. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” they claimed, “Nursing a baby should be allowed openly anywhere with no embarrassment or legal questions.”

In an ideal world, it would work. In this awfully real world…

In the course of shopping, I passed by their display several times. They’d set up a prominent booth and hung huge posters above it showing mothers nursing their babies. Lots of posters and pamphlets displayed around the booth. But reality lingered in the shadows. Each time I noticed a number of fascinated men strolling, or lingering by walls and in corners, so obviously drinking in the visual stimulation.

Yeah, it’s awful – but are you surprised? In a society where respect for women, consideration for motherhood, respect and decency in general, ran the show, this blatant display of lechery wouldn’t be. Pardon me, but I hope those ladies so inspired by their rosy ideals had their eyes opened to the reality of lust. Nursing openly may work in a different, more accustomed, less sex-focused society. But in ours, I believe this peeping is something nursing mothers in our society will deal with if they start to bare it all in public places.

Goals and ideals are great, but a person — especially a leader — needs a clear understanding of what will actually work in our imperfect world.

Theories Can Crash and Burn–2

“We The People”
(Okay, Maybe 30% of Us)

A few days ago day blogger Jill Dennison posted an “Open Letter to Congress” dealing with a number of issues of relevance to the American people today. I’m going to snatch one of her thoughts as I continue my article about the Women’s Movement in North American and its fiery, hugely successful campaign for Prohibition.

Along with a requests to reign in President Trump and/or his policies, Ms Dennison asks Congress to do something to restrict the sale of firearms, a hot topic in the US these days:
“We The People have made it clear that we want stricter control over firearms in the hands of civilians. We want a ban on assault weapons, waiting periods, and stronger background checks that are actually enforced in all venues.”

Probably some — maybe a lot of — elected representatives agree with these “We the people” and would be ready to do something to prevent the mass shootings happening too often in the US these days. The trouble for politicians is, “We the other people” have to be appeased, too. Restricting access to firearms would involve a showdown with the NRA, a group with a powerful lobby in Congress. If I understand rightly, after the recent shooting in Florida, the National Rifle Association strongly resisted the idea of setting any age limitation for the purchasers of firearms.

And there are a lot of US citizens who cling to the Second Amendment as their only hope of defense, should a modern King George send his Redcoat army— now bearing powerful automatic weapons — to try taking over the US. Or should a Hitler-type dictator arise within the US and take control of the military.

Trouble is, elected leaders who turn into dictators usually are initially popular and successful. By the time things start going south, a lot of the potential resistance had been disabled. It takes time to organize an effective counter-assault — especially when part of the people don’t agree that it’s necessary or that it will work. And then, who will lead this resistance? That can be another battle!

Historians say Hitler was initially quite popular and had an appealing agenda — at least appealing to large group of German voters. Some people got nervous about what he was saying, but he was successful in turning the depressed German economy around. Our parents say his scheme even appealed to a number of German North Americans, some of whom packed up and moved back to Germany to be part of his new order.

The Americans have always referred to the US as a “melting pot,” but those of us looking on see some large lumps in the sauce, factions that could give problems, if push came to shove. Factions that may make a united defense difficult to organize.

Here in Canada, most of us understand the different factions that make up our people and the potential for division. The general “East versus West” sentiments; more particularly Eastern bureaucrats and manufacturing interests against Prairie Folk with an agriculture-based economy. (Though this is changing.) Some folks in British Columbia threaten to pull out and form their own country; Quebec has some strong voices for independence. And then there are various ethnic groups within the whole, not necessarily divisive, but having a voice and capable of taking sides.

When you start out on a political platform, it’s important to understand that you are NOT “We the people.” You are part of “we the people.” And “we the other part of the people” may see even the main issues in a totally different light. This was a reality the WCTU, comprised mainly of Protestant evangelical church women and their supporters, seemed to not grasp when they began their campaign for Prohibition.

They thought they were speaking for all women. When they finally realized that a lot of women wanting the vote were of a different mind-set, or world- view, the movement was headed in the opposite direction than they had envisioned.

To be continued.

Multitasking Motorist Woes

Officer Chan Forbister noticed a car ahead weaving erratically and crowding the cars in either lane. Turning on his flashers he came up behind it and saw the driver writhing in her seat. A moment of panic hit him. “Was she having a heart attack? A seizure?”

But when he pulled alongside the other car, the woman straightened up in her seat and gave him an embarrassed smile. One of those multi-tasking drivers again. He sighed and signaled her to pull over.

Standing by her car, Chan eyed her critically. “Are you okay, lady?”

“Of course I am, Officer.”

“I thought you were having a seizure. What exactly were you doing?”

“This is so embarrassing! You see, I snagged my pantihose leaving the house and now I’ve a huge hole. I can’t show up at the office looking like this, so I was trying to take them off.”

“While driving?” Chan rolled his eyes. “May I see your driver’s licence and registration, ma’am.”

He walked back to his cruiser, spent a few minutes on his radio confirming the registration information, then returned, ticket in hand.

“I see you had another driving infraction last month?”

“Quite a minor offence, really.”

“Blowing up balloons while driving ten kilometers over the speed limit on a main street is minor? Now that’s funny.”

“They were for my granddaughter’s birthday party and I was running late.”

Chan put on his sternest cop face as he handed her the ticket. “From now on, lady, when you’re driving forget about multi-tasking. When you’re driving, JUST DRIVE! We don’t want to see you in the morgue.”

“Yes, officer,” she answered meekly.

He climbed into his cruiser and watched her drive away. Then he chuckled, remembering the reactions at last month’s staff meeting when Officer Vennie told them about the ticket he’d given this balloon-blowing grannie. Chan shook his head. Just wait ‘til the guys heard this one.

Just A Clueless Tourist, Sir

Guilty As Charged

A writing exercise one day was: tell about an adventure you had while traveling, focusing on one particular scene during the trip. So here’s a scene from when I drove my daughter to Mississippi for a Teacher’s Summer Class.

Twelve years ago our daughter wanted to attend a week-long workshop for teachers — the event being held in Mississippi, no less. She didn’t want to drive all that way alone, so I accompanied her and did most of the driving. I was excited about the trip, having never been to the Deep South before. We were living in Quebec at this time, so had two long days on the road, entering the US at Detroit and heading more or less straight south on Interstates.

The second day found us somewhere in Kentucky on a nice four-lane highway and I was behind the wheel when we came up behind a line of about six cars, every one of them in the right lane, doing almost 50 mph. I found this curious, as the speed limit was 55 mph and the left lane was completely empty. I craned my neck and peered ahead as best I could, expecting to see some extra-wide vehicle causing this slower traffic. Nada. Just a line of ordinary-looking cars.

Now I was really curious. Had the speed limit changed and I hadn’t noticed the sign? Last thing on earth I wanted to do was get nailed for speeding in the States. I knew the chain gang was passe but I’d read some pretty awful accounts of arrests at gun-point and strip searches, etc. Not to mention fines and fees for a US lawyer.

A few minutes later we passed a sign: 55 mph. So why is everyone doing below 50? As the road went round a curve I got a better look at the lead car. A police cruiser. Aha! He was cruising along at a lower speed and the drivers behind were all meekly following, no one daring to challenge his authority. I joined the line and took it easy on the gas for another mile.

Would it surprise you if I mentioned here that I can be a rebel at times? As I drew near yet another 55 mph sign, I wondered,  “Am I going to poke along at 50 mph for an hour in deference to the whims of those officers? Can they arrest me if I don’t just meekly follow? Have they got any reason to stop me for driving at the speed limit?”

Nope. At least I sure hope not! So I pulled into the left lane, sped up to 55 mph, and slowly overtook the police car, making very sure I wasn’t speeding. If I was indeed committing some other social faux pas, I trusted my Quebec license plate would tell him I didn’t know any better.

They say about sheep that when one sticks his head through the fence, the others will surely follow. People are much the same. When I was some distance ahead of the cruiser — we didn’t have cruise control so I kept one eye glued to the speedometer the whole way!— I saw in my rear-view mirror that other cars had pulled out and were also passing the cruiser. I suppose they’d been anxious to see if I’d get into trouble and when no lights started flashing they decided they could get away with it, too.

Now I can say I led a mini-coup — a social rebellion of sorts — in a foreign land. I can just imagine those policemen sitting at the doughnut shop later and chuckling about it, just as I am now.

What would you have done?