Mary Beth Writes

I’m reading a new book about the Upper Midwest, late 1500’s - 1750ish.  The book is Indian Women and French Men; Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes, by Susan Sleeper-Smith - and I am reading it as avidly as my granddaughter listens to story hour. 

This is from the introduction: “In kin-based societies, behaviors change as people struggle either to attain or retain symbolic capital – what people sense as honor, prestige, respect, or authority.”

Kin-based societies: Most Indian nations were comprised of loose but related groups of kin-based smaller families.  You might live with 50-150 people who were more-or-less related to you.  Several times a year your kin-group might travel to some mutual place and hang out for bigger ceremonies, meetings about issues that were coming up (those Iroquois that will not stop decimating you), flirting among those who were of an age to flirt, admiring each other’s babies, sharing and coordinating the assets and knowledge gained in the past few months or year.  But your primary living group was small enough so that you knew how you belonged to it, who was in charge of you, and what your role in your society was. 

We still often live like this. We may belong to a nation of 330,000,ooo people, but if your people told you to not wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day – you might wear white shorts to your town’s 4th of July parade because it’s okay to do that on the 4th.  It’s part of your kin-based values.

I grew up understanding that my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all believed that regular church attendance was part of “our values”. We also always wore clean and modest clothes, baked things for people we liked, washed our cars, did our homework, were ALWAYS on time to our jobs, plus we didn’t swear, sing, or act joyously in public.  We had VAULES: respectability, reliability, understated sense of humor, kindness, and being determined about our religious faith.

Then I grew up and moved away. It was weird getting used to people who did not adhere to my kin-group’s rules.  I mean, large people who wore TIGHT pink pants?  OMG, the world is ending.

But I kept meeting great humans who wore tight pants, didn’t even know how to bake (how do they live?), and who drove terrible cars held together with dirt and duct tape. (I had a taped-together car for a while. You can’t wash them.)  I met and liked immensely people who sang in train stations because the echo was awesome, didn’t go to church, who didn’t have high school diplomas or jobs.  So I have been reassessing my values for decades now and I’m not done yet.  Sometimes these days I wear the same t-shirt two days in a row.  Sometimes I skip church.

Here we are, 4th of July in America for all 330,000,000 of us.

Way too many of us are still living as if the only values to have are the ones from our kin-group. 

You know what I mean. They are dirty. They are lazy. They are criminals. They don’t belong here if they can’t speak English. They wear head coverings I am not familiar with, so they must be terrorists. Those women dress like sluts. Those men all drive trucks with engine problems. They are all Catholics. They don’t believe in anything. Their voodoo gives me the heebie-jeebies.  

I already know the point of the book I am reading, although this writer is clearer and the whole book is going to be about what I read in one chapter in one book last year.

The point is this:

For nearly 200 years Illini Indians and French fur traders encountered and married each other. They lived in prosperous communities along the upper Mississippi and Lake Michigan. They became aware there was money to be made and handsome, strong children to be reared if they could figure out how to live and work together.

 It was a complicated but interesting piece of the American story. Everyone wanted safety, income, respect, and healthy kids. Yes, there many parts to this story that were not great, but the overarching reality was that people from extremely different societies changed parts of their core values in order to live in peace and prosperity.  

So next time you think “Those people…” stop yourself.  When someone from your kin-group lays in on “They are so bad, lazy, unwelcome because…” argue back because it is unamerican. 

This nation has been strongest when we encounter each other, consider and respect each other, and then together figure out how to cook amazing food, build amazing businesses, and raise amazing children.

Together we invent new and mutually-held core values - curiosity, a humorous humility, persistence, and the low American hum of modest greed.

Comments

Beautiful

Fascinating subject followed by intelligent analysis. If only the lessons you have extrapolated from the book could be taught to all...what a wonderful society we would then have. I will start by learning myself and just maybe set an example for another.

I try but don't always succeed in excepting others not like me although I do pretty well... I was raised catholic but didn't buy in to the indoctrination the church was trying to impose on my young brain... I couldn't believe that a loving god would be sooo cruel as to condemn me to eternal damnation because of my feelings so being excepting of other religions came naturally to me.It's a start...

You always make me think combined with a little laughter.

Great post. Thank you. Patricia/Fl

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Advent Light Post 12-4-2020

Like likes like.

I received this (above) lovely photo from Susan W of an old-fashioned city lamp seen through trees at night.

It made me recall the pix Karen P sent of her son and daughter-in-law at their wedding a few years ago. They lit and sailed paper lanterns propelled by small candles which (hopefully) flickered out when they flew high enough.

Which of course, reminded me of the paper lanterns at my kids’ wedding.

I don’t walk around noticing spheres and globes, but the image is just unusual enough to bring similar images to mind.

Advent Light Post 12/3/2020

The photo is Karen P's mom, Joan, who has been in quarantine in an assisted living residence since March. Her birthday party was a few months before all this began. Light for hope. Hope for light.

...

Yesterday I wrote “I liked figuring out the best way to position my stance in order to frame whatever it was I wanted to focus on.”

Point of View. 

Advent Light Post 12/2/2020

Len has been taking photos since he was a college newspaper reporter/photographer; (University of Chicago and University of Calgary). He has photos that he took from Willis (it was Sears then) Tower while it was under construction. Len had a journalist pass so he called to see if he could “do a story” and they didn’t ask if he was 20 yet, so he got the gig. When (if) he finds those photos, I will put some here.

As long as I have known him, Len has owned a camera. I think we are now on #3. He brought to our marriage the tripod that he still uses.

Advent Light Post 12/1/2020

(The photo is of headlights making a dotted line on the cemetery fence.) 

...

Oh that morning! Len drove us like crazy across Chicago to the hospital where we would birth our first child.  It was a very clear, very cold December morning, kind of like what’s outside my window right now. 

That same evening I was wheelchaired back out of that hospital. When the lobby doors slid open, the world had become night and the driveway vapor lights lit a blizzard of whirling snow.

It was a completely different world. Yes it was.

Advent Light Post 11/30/2020

Today is Len’s birthday and to celebrate being born on the last day of November in the upper Midwest, he is out on his bike right now. It’s spitting snow, there are 20-30mph winds, and the real-feel temp is 20. He has on both pairs of his bicycling pants. He also has a slice of pumpkin raisin Bundt cake (hmmm, I wonder who baked that) in his bike’s little trunk. 

Happy Birthday to the kind of guy who, when a girl invites him to attend the Sunday school class she teaches - comes to that Sunday school class. A rare man, indeed. 

Advent Light 11/28/2020

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the first Sunday of Advent. 

So first of all, like I said before, I’m preaching. I think you can listen to the whole service starting at 9:30AM, if you go to https://www.uniteduuc.org/ .  There is usually a link there that you have to click, when you click it, it says something about YouTube, so click that link, too. Otherwise, by Monday (maybe earlier, I don’t know who does this or when) it will show up on YouTube at United Unitarian Universalist, Waukesha, and my name.

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