21 May 2008

Perhaps A Foundling

Last Friday, Abelisto and I took the train from Winona to Indianapolis. We were going to visit with my mother and drive back in our Taurus station wagon (so we could be a bit more sustainable in our driving - it gets between 24 and 27 mpg, while the truck, well, I have been afraid to test it - I do not really want to know how bad it is...). We left the Taurus there back in November when we brought my dad's pick-up truck home with us. My brother had been checking over the Taurus for us - it had a few problems.

On Saturday, my brother stopped by to tell us about the things he found out about the car that needed our attention once we got it home. We ended up talking about politics, the environment, and some social justice issues. About halfway through the discussion, I asked my brother if he was libertarian. He said except for drugs and prostitution, he is one.

My sister and her husband are probably republican. My other brother, is definitely conservative, I do not know if he is more likely to be republican or libertarian and to the best of my knowledge my mother has always voted republican, although this time she may not - she is disgusted and disquieted about the condition of the world and our government's abuses. She, at 72, is probably far more liberal than my siblings, far more open to ideas and the views of "the other."

Where did I come from? Or maybe a better question is how did I get to where I am? I told my mother I felt like a foundling, like a misfit in my own family. She said that I have had a "larger life" than my siblings. I have lived more places, had more education, experienced more hardships, been abused, isolated, marginalized - and survived all of it, fairly intact and sane.

Maybe she is right. I think that I have not always been as liberal as I am now. In fact I know that I have not. For most of my life I did not even allow myself to express my thoughts or even know what I thought about a great many things - at least on the surface. I think that over time, I began to collect ideas and opinions which I hid away in compartments in my head, taking them out to study them when I could, when it was safe.

Does one need to experience injustice, poverty, abuse, and conflict in order to understand its impact? I think some people may be able to intuit the magnitude of these violences. But I was an extremely self-centered child/adolescent/young adult. I guess I had to live in it before I realized the weight of violence and abuse and how it pressed me down, made me tired and weak and powerless.

And I had to feel all of that personally, deep down in my bones, before I could develop any empathy for others, any understanding of privilege and lack, any passion for social justice and critical thinking. Before I could learn to be kind or to stand up to violence and injustice.

Of course, I am still working on it.


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