It’s not that I haven’t blogged in the last week – but it was a work-related rant so I made it a private entry. Also, I spent last week on a work trip to Toledo, so I was mostly either at meetings or in transit. Landed back in Portland at 1, drove home (yay me – no issues or brain weirdness this time), transferred a few things to a backpak and headed to the lake house for the weekend. Unfortunately it was fairly windy all weekend so we didn’t get much rowing in; Saturday we kayaked a bit and then Sunday I took my open-water single out but only for 5km. (Poor Ted had a headache and didn’t get to row at all. So not much distance, but I operate on a general principle that any is better than none.
Another of my general principles is that I will only knit for other people is a) they are related to me or b) I really want to. I put a package in the mail today for someone who makes me really want to – we’re not close but she’s put conscious effort into maintaining our friendship over many years and it’s really meant a lot to me, especially with all of my travel. So I guess I just ruined that surprise somewhat – maybe I’ll write more about it later.
There have been another couple of entries I’ve been mulling over. One hasn’t gotten written because it’s going to take a lot more focus than I’ve had so far to give it, but I can summarize: if you actually read the Jewish and Christian Bibles, it turns out that they talk mostly about how to regulate your own conduct (the Torah is also about how to run a communit, but in those cases it’s about structured action and setting up laws, not making your own judgement). What they don’t talk about, and in both cases militate strictly against, is judging other people’s conduct. Similarly, an online acquaintance pointed out that in the Torah, “the prohibition against pork is mentioned twice. There’s 30+ instances of not engaging in various kinds of “evil speech.” So, really, there’s a better argument for eating a BLT than there is for critiquing someone’s choice to eat one.”
The other thing I want to talk about is in response to reading Sarah Vowell’s essay collection “Partly Cloudy Patriot” (which I liked a lot in general). She mocks people comparing all and sundry to Rosa Parks, with a couple of odd and egregious examples (Ted Nugent?) including people who were actually trying to stifle others’ freedoms. But where I disagree is where she goes on to say that really, no one can be compared to Rosa Parks “except maybe that young Chinese guy who faced down cannons in Tiananmen Square”. For one thing, I’d rather stare down an angry bus drive, even if he calls the cops, than a cannon. But avoiding that comparison (because there’s plenty of praise and respect to go around and it’s not a zero-sum game), there are lots of people even just in the US struggle for Civil Rights whose bravery, I’d say, was on a par with Mrs. Parks’ – all those young people on the Freedom bus, for example. Hosea Williams and John Lewis on the Pettus Bridge, on the March to Montgomery. Anyone who walked ten miles to work rather than taking a bus during the boycott. And all the people I can imagine in circumstances I don’t know of, putting out arson-born fires, facing mobs, sitting at soda counters. More importantly, if we put our heroes and hera on too lofty a pedestal, we make them unique and inhuman – and impossible to live up to. I’m not diminishing Rosa Parks in any way when I say that she was just a woman, a good and brave one – I’m just stressing the possibility and the responsibility to live up to her example.
(In My Life with Martin, Coretta Scott King discussed the question of whether Rosa Parks’ action was preplanned, and whether she was chosen to take that action. No idea, but if it was, I don’t think that diminishes her bravery either. It’s probably harder to have to look forward to danger than to do something dangerous on the spur of the moment. And if your character is exemplary enough that the people who know you choose you to be the prow on the ship of their movement, that’s a tribute.