Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The People We Were, The People We Are

We used to know each other.

I always wondered what happened to you, where you ended up, what you became, how your life turned out.

My memory isn’t what it once was, but I still remember you, I do.

Despite the years, decades even, I’d still recognize your face in a crowd – at least I think I would.  Probably.

It’s been a long time though, hasn’t it?

We were friends, you and I.  Once, long ago.

Maybe we were inseparable or maybe we just sort of knew each other like people do, either way there was a time I would have counted you among my friends. Yes I would have and I don’t say that lightly.  I have a lot of acquaintances but by design I don’t have a lot of friends; I treasure the ones I do have.  I treasure the people who made a difference in my life, even if they exist only as memories now.

I remember you and the times we shared fondly.

I remember that I looked up to you and valued your viewpoint and opinion. I had a hard time finding myself when I was young, I wasn’t the most pleasant person or the most easygoing back then. I tend to live a bit louder than the average and I truly valued your patience with me. I respected you and you should know that you helped to shape my worldview though maybe not in a way you expected.

We were schoolmates maybe, growing up together during a childhood that is much further away now than either of us like to acknowledge.  We grew up in the same neighborhood.  Or maybe we were boy scouts together.  We met at summer camp, or on the baseball diamond, or at the lake.  Maybe we were co-workers decades ago, back before I left Michigan to see the world. Sure, we slung hash and bussed tables together, we lusted after the same hot waitresses in their cheap polyester skirts who wouldn’t give us the time of day and we hated the same jerk managers and made fun of their silly comb-overs and crappy two dollar clip-on ties.  We worked side by side on the paint line at the car factory, sharing a Marlboro Red during break to get the stink of burning metal and wet enamel out of our noses (Dumb? Sure, but back then we were positive that we were immortal. And why shouldn’t we have believed that? Nothing had killed us up to that point).   We bailed hay and drove tractors and shoveled cow manure together.  We drank cheap lousy beer from a keg around a bonfire at a party in somebody’s backyard surrounded by faceless people that I have long ago forgotten. Or maybe we met in the service. Two and a half decades in uniform, a dozen deployments, one quick month-long war and two endless decade-long ones, a half dozen ships, a dozen duty stations, six continents and seven seas, I met a lot of people. We might have been shipmates, you and I.  Maybe we stood the watch together on some Cold War cruiser off the coast of Africa or Russia or Greenland, or maybe we crossed the Pacific together and sailed through the Straits of Malacca or Indonesia or Hormuz. Maybe we went on liberty together, drinking and swearing and raising hell as only Sailors can through the streets of Mallorca and Tel Aviv and Athens and Rome and Cairo and Sidney and Hong Kong and Singapore and Nairobi and Freemantle and two dozen other places and countries that I no longer recall.  Maybe we hunted pirates off the Horn of Africa, sweating our butts off in that goddamned inhuman heat or maybe we chased drug smugglers in the Caribbean or down off the mysterious Galapagos Islands under the light of the Southern Cross.  Maybe we served together at some long gone duty station in some forgotten part of the world, trying to figure out what the hell we were doing in such a miserable godforsaken place, stuck in the festering armpit of the universe surrounded by people who hated our stinking guts or maybe just the opposite, hell and gone from the rest of civilization and so close to the edge of the world that you could see it.  Maybe we slogged through the same warzone together, wondering if we would ever make it home again, miserable and sweating and afraid and wondering what we ever did to deserve such a fate or witness such devastation.

Maybe we shed tears over the same fallen comrades, the same lost friends.

I’ve got a box of old faded photos around here somewhere, because back when I knew you cameras still used film. I’ve still got those albums, and I’ve still got those pictures. You know the ones I’m talking about. I’ve seen you piss drunk and I seen you cold sober. I’ve seen you scared and tired and hungry. I’ve seen you laugh and I’ve seen you cry.  You once told me about your dreams and what you hoped to get out of your life. I remember that you wanted to open your own restaurant, or maybe it was a bar and grill (even going so far as to draw up floor plans and menus and pick out locations), you wanted to be a singer (I heard your demo tape, the one you cut when you were 19, the one you scraped together $500 bucks to make at some fly-by-night studio with a drunk session keyboardist and a second-rate soundboard and a broken microphone. It was terrible, goddamn was it terrible, but hey, it was you and you know what? Even though you can’t sing for shit and I haven’t seen you in decades, I still have that tape and some day, if I can find a working cassette player, I’m going to upload it to your kid’s Facebook page),  you wanted to be an orthodontist (honest to God, what kind of kid dreams about being a dentist? But that was you), you wanted to be a poet, you wanted to drive a taxi, you wanted to go back home and be a small town cop.  You wanted to be a doctor, you were going to do good, save people, serve in the Peace Corps.  You were going to be a priest, you were going to walk in the footsteps of Jesus or Gandhi or Indiana Jones. You showed me pictures of your kids and your spouse and your butt-ugly three-legged dog (or maybe that was your new baby, it’s been a long time, I forget). 

We were going to change the world, you and me. Make it better. Wasn’t that what we were taught? Service above self. Respect. Duty. Honor. Be trustworthy and loyal. Integrity. Help others. Heal the sick. Clothe the poor. Feed the hungry.  Help little old ladies across the street. Leave only footsteps, take only memories.

You worked with others, of all faiths and none, maybe you believed and maybe you didn’t and maybe you just didn’t care one way or the other but you didn’t make an issue out of it.  If you talked about your faith, or lack thereof, you weren’t an ass about it, you didn’t proselytize, you didn’t try to witness me,  and you didn’t try to force your beliefs on me – because if you had, well, we wouldn’t have been friends, would we?  You didn’t hate others for believing differently, or if you did you never said so out loud and that was good enough.

You used to believe in taking care of the planet.  Remember when we were Scouts? Leave no trace, isn’t that what we practiced? You taught me that. Remember when we were kids and that commercial about keeping America beautiful, that one with Iron Eyes Cody and narrated by Robert Conrad? Remember the Exxon Valdez and Love Canal? There was a time when we, you and I, believed that we were stewards of this world and we wanted to leave it better than we found it, we wanted the next generations to know the forests and the lakes and the beauty that we knew.

In all the time I knew you, I never heard you call people who were different traitors or un-American or enemies or lazy parasites who were destroying America, I never heard you call people socialists or fascists or Nazis (Nazis for God’s sake. Nazis) just because they didn’t belong to your political party.  And the only people you called commies were communists, not the 208 members of Congress who happen to have different political beliefs than you.

We used to talk about science. Of course we grew up in the same decade when men walked upon the moon.  We believed, you and I, believed in science, in technology.  In education and learning.  We read the works of Heinlein and Asimov and Clarke and we wanted to go, and hell, we even believed that we would.  Someday.

I never knew you to buy into crazy conspiracy theories and obvious nonsense and hysterical talk radio bullshit.

I don’t remember you being afraid all of the time, afraid of everybody and everything.

I don’t remember you thinking that guns and violent revolution and theocracy were good ideas.

I don’t remember you ever using a racial slur, or demeaning women or minorities. You were the guy who would have spoken up, who would have put a stop to it and, man, back then I wished that I had  half of your courage.

I don’t remember you hating people.

Hell, you used to enjoy meeting people who were different, people like me for example.  You accepted people the way they were, people like me for example, and that was so unusual in my personal experience that it profoundly changed how I viewed the world – and how I treated others.

I didn’t know there were people like you and you have no idea how much I admired you for being you.

You helped me grow up.

That’s one of the things I really, really respected about you.

Even after all these years that’s the thing I remember most about you. Your face grows hazy in my memory and maybe I really wouldn’t recognize you in a crowd after all, but I will always remember the way you treated others, people like me for example.  I’ve always carried that lesson with me and I’ve always tried to live up to your example – even if I haven’t always been as successful at it as I’d like.


Maybe I’m remembering it wrong. 


It was a long time ago and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since we last saw each other. 

But, you know, I remember plenty of folks from the same time who hated others, who were bullies and jerks and hysterical fools. I remember those who were small minded religious bigots. I remember those who thought they could solve every problem with their fists, believe me I remember those people very clearly – despite the various head trauma I’ve suffered over the years that part of my brain, the part that stores those memories, remains solidly intact. I remember those who were racists and xenophobes and haters.  I remember those who treated people who were different, me for example, with contempt and scorn and mockery.

I don’t remember you being one of them.

Maybe that’s why I was so glad to hear from you again after all these years.

You found me on Facebook or saw my Twitter feed or you came across my name listed at TogetherWeServed.  A friend of a friend of an acquaintance forwarded you something I wrote and you realized you used to know me.  You saw a link to something I wrote in the national media or on a blog or via StumbleUpon or Reddit or on Google Plus. 

You did a web search and somehow you ended up here at Stonekettle Station.

One way or the other, we reconnected after ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years.

And that’s when you found out I wasn’t the person you imagined I was.

Don’t feel bad, the discovery was mutual.

You, whoever you are, always start your message the same way. You tell me how smart you thought I was, how much you used to respect me or how funny you thought I was. What a card, what good times we had. But (and there’s always that but isn’t there? I can always see it coming. But.  I used to really respect you, but…  I used to admire you, but… I remember what a smart guy you were, but…). You read something I wrote and you were appalled.  Now to be fair, you gave me the benefit of the doubt, or benefit of your denial, whatever, and decided that I was just misguided.  You could straighten me out if you just quoted Rush or Glenn or the Savage Wiener at me.  When that didn’t work, well, then you couldn’t wait to tell me just how utterly disappointed you were in the way I turned out.

I’m not the guy you think I should be.

Sorry about that.

But hey, it turns out you’re not the person I thought you were either.

I guess that makes us even.

Nowadays you call yourself a Patriot or a True American or a Constitutionalist, implying of course that I am not, despite the fact that I’ve spent my entire adult life sworn to uphold and defend that same Constitution, that same America and despite the fact that I’ve put my life on the line to uphold that oath.

Somewhere in the intervening decades, you stopped believing in science and started believing that science is some vast conspiracy theory, a dodge, a con game to make scientists rich – the fact that you’re surrounded by rising seas and melting glaciers and dying species and the fossil record and can’t point to very many rich scientists doesn’t seem to deter you at all.  If the filthy rich guy in the the multi-million dollar temple of glass and steel and gold says it’s true, well it must be so. 

Somehow, somewhere, you gave up your dream of being a teacher and started sneering at education. Like scientists, teachers seem to deserve only your contempt and scorn. Our parents dreamed of their children having a better education than they did, you demand that your kids, and mine, have less. 

Somehow you went from accepting those that were different, like me for example, and started surrounding yourself with people just like yourself.  You’re the guy that turned the Boy Scouts from an organization that once included all, into a small withering outfit that is largely defined today by those that they hate and exclude.  Don’t. Don’t bother to try and tell me different, I’ve seen exactly what it became with my own eyes when I tried to introduce my own son to an organization I once dearly loved.  I remember a guy we once called a friend, one of the best scout leaders we ever knew, a guy that lived up to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law every single day – a guy people like you kicked out of Scouting because it turned out he was gay.  He died of cancer a while back, with his lifelong companion by his side, and all those Scouts he helped and guided and mentored over the years, well, they pretended that they didn’t even know him. So much for loyalty and courage and doing the right thing.

Somehow environmentalism became a dirty word for you.  Leave No Trace somehow became Drill, Baby, Drill.  Conservation became Consumption and anything else is just plain unpatriotic.  Our children can live without the forests and the lakes and the beauty we knew, so long as they can still buy an SUV.

Somewhere along the  line you stopped believing in bearded happy robe-wearing Jesus, that guy who welcomed all and admonished you to do onto others and love your neighbor as yourself.  Instead you took up with the Mirror Universe Messiah, the angry goatee wearing soldier Jesus who carries a high-capacity 9mm H&K concealed in his cammies and hates pretty much every goddamned body.  Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick, love your neighbor, that hippy garbage is for suckers and socialists and people who want to enslave us all.   You’re all about America being a Christian nation run by militant Christians in accordance with Christian values, just as long as that means government can use Jesus as an excuse to dictate a woman’s reproductive and healthcare choices, but not when it comes to having a government that does what Jesus specifically commanded you to do – because charity, of course, is about individual choice. I guess it’s a whole lot easier to shoot an abortion doctor than it is to feed and care for the tens of thousands who go to bed hungry and cold and sick every night.

You used to be fearless, but somehow you ended up afraid all of the time.  Afraid of everything and everybody, afraid of change, afraid to hope, and afraid of anybody different, people like me for example.  You live in the freest nation in the world and in a time of nearly unlimited opportunity, you have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep and unfettered access to endless information, you’ve got fresh water and healthcare and a sanitary place to take a shit without it ending up in your food supply and you’ve got all the goddamned guns you can afford. Your worst damned day is better than what ninety percent of the world’s population will ever experience, ever, in their entire miserable short brutal lives.  But you’re still afraid. Maybe it’s because you only listen to people who tell you to be afraid, dimwitted small minded fearful haters who make a profit on your fear, folks like Ted Nugent and Allen West and Sarah Palin. Maybe it’s because you only listen to people like Rush and Glenn and Sean instead of actual scientists, engineers, economists, or people who have actually gone more than fifty miles from where they were born, people like me for example.

Maybe it’s because you want to be afraid. 

For all the things I once admired about you, for all the things you taught me, for all the glad memories we share, it saddens me that it should be so. 

We used to know each other.

I always wondered what happened to you.

I always wondered where you ended up, what you became, how your life turned out.

Now I know.

And I wish that I didn’t.


  1. Wow.. Just wow. The truly sad part of this is that I have had this conversation before - more than once, and in the last year.

    That was a great post, Jim and it makes me inutterably sad.

  2. This is an amazing post. Thank you.

  3. As I connect with some of my extended family on a more adult level, I am running into this more and more. I have been having that cognitive dissonance with one of my parental units on a regular basis. What was taught to me as a child is being directly contradicted by what is coming out of parental unit's mouth. It's almost enough to make me bang my head into a wall, but then I might start spouting the same things. Instead, I just get sad and we agree not to talk politics, most of the time, and acknowledge that we will *not* see eye to eye on the subject.

    1. Rebecca, I can totally relate, I am pretty much the lone liberal (how I hate labels) in a conservative family except for possibly my 13 year old grandson. My heart feels for you.

    2. I can relate to this as well. A parental unit of mine has said similar things while in the presence of my son. I replied that this was not the way to talk about people, it was wrong to have said various comments to me, but also in front of my son. If the conversation continues I say that we are leaving and get up and leave.

      I do my best to point out to my parent that what is being said is wrong, racist & bigoted, but for the most part she is unable to understand why I get so upset. I also try to help my son understand why it is wrong to say such hurtful comments. His reply was, "all people are created equal."

  4. I actually wept, Jim! I have a close friend from childhood who fits this category and it causes me great personal pain to realize that someone who was so much like a sister that I named her godmother to my children is now a person who is SO different from me that I scarcely recognize her.

  5. Wow, it posted me as "Unknown" above! LOL Sorry - this is Melanee M!

  6. Jim this is a very poignant post. I can sympathize and empathize with your thoughts and feelings. I have come to believe, especially lately that life is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Some of these "friends" and family have somewhere along the path decided to live in fear of the unknown and different, rather than celebrate the new and diverse. In the Bible, Proverbs 23:7 says "As a man thinketh so is he" and unfortunately, in my opinion, it seems that too many people have decided to let the negatives gain control.

  7. I am becoming more and more a loner due to this very reason. It saddens me, but I have to get away from the Fox News toxicity. I put up with it at work, because I have to co-exist with with them. I find I'd rather be alone than to try to talk with these types, even my own family. I shut down Facebook.

  8. More than once I've had this happen. I'll reconnect with someone on Facebook only to have their name pop up in my newsfeed with the craziest, most divisive whackjob crap imaginable, and it'll make me sad someone I held in such esteem falls for that stuff.

    I don't know what makes me sadder - that people believe in that kind of stuff, or that our society is now one where that kind of smash-mouth, in-your-face recycling of partisan talking points, facile logic and bumper-sticker slogans has become the new normal.

  9. Wow... this is about *so many people* I grew up with.

  10. Another great post, Jim. I recently had a friend I've known since 3rd grade un-friend me on Facebook because I had no tolerance for his intolerance, bigotry and religious fundamentalism. In truth, I didn't even object to his views, he's certainly entitled to them. I could not, however, accept the way he felt the need to present them. Hateful in manner and disrespectful in tone. Obviously exaggerated "statistics" that when confronted with real ones from reasonably reliable and accepted sources, he could only admit he'd pulled them out of his ass. Total inability to rationally, reasonably discuss any subject, only to parrot the latest Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck garbage.

    It's sad to realize a childhood friend has gone off the ideological deep end and essentially severed all ties with you. Unfortunately, it's the price of the one constant in life...change. That's what makes open-minded liberals and moderates different from closed-minded conservatives. A liberal accepts that change is natural, inevitable and desirable. A conservative covers their ears with their hands, digs their feet into the sand and yells, "LalalalaIcan'thearyoulalalala!" I like the first way better.

    Jim, I don't agree 100% with you on everything...probably 95% though. I continue to look forward to your work.

  11. You know I've always been a lone wolf. But it's pretty damn sad when people who do have friends they used to care about put the hate and fear of strangers over experience, trust and companionship.

    Civilization is all about trusting the next guy to do his job and mostly it works. You put your foot on the brakes and it turns out the brake assembler did a job that lasts fifteen years. You plug something in and it doesn't explode because the electrician wired your subpanel correctly. You trust people with your life dozens of times a day; almost always strangers. Yet we give up a friend in order to hold on to fear and bigotry. Where's the sense in that?

    1. This comment truly moved me, Pangolin. I'd like to repost it in my facebook, properly attributed, of course. Permission?

    2. Ditto, Kathy. I'd love to make a meme out of this. Would you mind, Pangolin?

  12. You summed up the USA both all parties in that blog. Where do we go from there? First time read you blog good job. We still need to find an answer in all of us.

  13. You have just described my relationship with my father. I grew up like this - caring about the environment, reading Heinlein, Clarke and Asimov, watched the moon landing with my parents, learning my father's good hard work ethics, caring about people, being as colorblind about race as its possible to be as a white person...only to find in middle age that my Father has become one of Them. The conspiracy theorist who hates everything, trusts no one, and nothing. He loathes science, thinks global warming is a crock, despises other religions, and the racial crap coming out of his mouth shocks me. When did it happen? Where did it happen? In his case I think its about age and time, a world changing so fast he couldn't keep up (not that he tried very hard in the first place) and he fears anything that is unknown. I spend conversations fighting to avoid politics and religion, and saying very little when he gets on them. My relationship with him is good and precious within a narrow boundary of topics, but anything that steps into that zone of fear would mean he'd toss our relationship in a minute. He taught me to be the person I am...and then he became someone else. I love him and respect him, I recognize the fear and the exhaustion and the inability to face change, any change. And I just give him space and go on loving the man. Because whatever he has become today, I wouldn't be the person I am today if he hadn't been the man he was back then.

    1. Annnnnd.... *this* one actually brought me to tears, especially this: "And I just give him space and go on loving the man. Because whatever he has become today, I wouldn't be the person I am today if he hadn't been the man he was back then." As powerfully stated as the post which inspired it. Wow. Thank you, Cameron.

  14. I was going to write a post almost identical to Cameron's, above. My father (thankfully) hasn't gone racist on me, but this man who revered science (his own father got a degree from CalTech in the 1920s, for heaven's sake) has told me that he can disprove the idea of man-made global warming. He has Fox News on as his constant companion, and it has poisoned his brain. I don't understand how this happens. Glad to know I'm not alone in that puzzlement.

    1. So, so not alone ...

      My father trained as an engineer, putting himself through college on the GI Bill after working to send his younger brothers through college.

      I remember, as a 13ish year-old at the supper table, repeating a racist joke I'd heard at school that day that I thought was funny. I remember being backhanded ... HARD. He had such large, hard, rough hands. I also remember not ever doing it again.

      I remember being raised to believe "we are all God's children," worthy of respect - nobody is born better than anyone else. If God gifted you exceptionally, it was because he expected you to share exceptionally.

      I remember learning from an early age that, as Christians, we were responsible for our fellow man. That as Americans, we always look out for the little guy. That as Americans, we respect our leaders, even if we disagree with their politics.

      Now, I get the emails (as part of a very large distribution list) from him, or FB posts from one of my 4 siblings, many cousins, and aunts and uncles, with the racist jokes, hate toward our President, hate toward everything Faux News tells them to hate.

      I often feel lost from all of it. Sometimes I wonder where I went wrong. How did I grow up believing crazy shit like food, shelter, healthcare, a living wage for a day's work, and the right to love whomever you choose were basic human rights? That, especially in the richest country in the world, these things ought to be a given? To be a *gasp* "liberal" when he and virtually all of my family are convinced that these are all satanic ideas? Yes, I have a PhD and have seen a good part of the world, but he, like many of my relatives, also is well-educated and fairly well-traveled. How did I go off the reservation?

      I remember once telling my father that I am who I am because of the way I was raised and, although I'm not entirely certain, I'm pretty sure he was offended.

      I know he loves me; he adores my wife and daughters, but it hurts me deeply to see what he (and the rest of my family) has become. I dearly hope I can have the courage to be the man I was raised to be and, like Cameron, "give him space and go on loving the man."

  15. I can completely relate to this post! A lot of folks I looked up to in school are now simply regurgitating FOX talking points and insisting something is wrong with me!

    Excellent post Jim!

  16. Very powerful post. Very sad too. Like so many of the previous posters, I can relate this to various friends and family members. They are all Fox news devotees. Very sad.

  17. What's worse is that there are people in the extreme on both sides.

    The "Right" is louder about it, but I do hear about it from the "Left" too.

    And the sad part is that both extremes seem to feel that if you don't agree with them, you are vile, evil, and not even deserving of notice.

    Not to mention that both ends of the extreme think that the government needs a revolution.

    However, it does seem to me like the "Right" is willing to lie and distort a lot more than the "Left".

    And I am using quotes to define them because it is their own label, not that I agree with either.

  18. I am one of those who cried, but they were tears of gratitude.
    We cannot change those who cower in fear of the unknown, but we all have a chance and a duty to be that mind-opening influence upon the next generation.
    The pendulum shall swing to the other side, and we can help it make that turn sooner, rather than later.


  19. Not to stroke your ego, Jim, but this may be the finest thing you've written to date.

    Just thought I'd let you know.

    1. No stroking. Hugs, sure. Stroking, no.

    2. All this hugging and stroking needs to be toned down a bit fellas or you'll be up to your eyeballs in enraged fundies.

      Oh, and Jim...Amen!

  20. "Maybe it’s because you only listen to people who tell you to be afraid, dimwitted small minded fearful haters who make a profit on your fear, folks like Ted Nugent and Allen West and Sarah Palin. Maybe it’s because you only listen to people like Rush and Glenn and Sean instead of actual scientists, engineers, economists, or people who have actually gone more than fifty miles from where they were born, people like me for example."

    I have a brother who turned up the lone conservative in the family; because he has a job where he drives a lot and can listen to Rush and the local conservative radio line-up. I had to unfriend him on FB because of a couple of hateful illiterate rants that were embarrassing to me.

    If this is the case, and I think it is, how do we change the voices? Get outside of Fox News and conservative radio, and there are some brilliant people out there. People like you who inform, and really make you think. Or are we screwed by the billionaires and media consolidation in this country? Or were these people's recessive gene for narrow-mindedness and stupidity something that manifests itself later? Can we chain them up like the scene in Serenity where Mal makes the Operative watch the evidence of the Reaver destruction? When do we get to have an intelligent conversation in this country? When do we get to move this country forward?

    I am so thankful I followed that link to your site from some poster on Huffingtonpost 2 years ago; you are the best commentary I get to read or listen to anywhere. Thank you for this post, and thank you for sharing your world to a broader audience, I just wish it was the size of Fox news viewership.

  21. Yeah, what Eric said. We both know how long this one's been brewing. Excellent job.

  22. This is so powerful and thoughtful. It made me examine one of my once-close relationships.

    I wonder if 911 and its aftermath is predominantly to blame. 911 terrorized most of us for awhile. I'm thinking of one friend in particular who couldn't understand why people stopped obsessing about 911. While we lived in PA, we didn't live very close to either the PA or NYC site and we didn't know anyone personally who died in the attacks. It was a national tragedy, but we were relatively unaffected. So life at work, and home, and school went on as usual after a week or so, but this friend couldn't let 911 go. I remember suggesting to stop reading about it and stop watching the news to help decrease anxiety even early in the aftermath. Unfortunately, because the rest of us had moved on, AM talk radio and Fox became a refuge for this person. Later, because I found Bush's cowboy good-vs-evil rhetoric offensive, Congress' Freedom Fries nonsense stupid, and the Patriot Act frightening, I was labeled "unamerican." And a 40+ year friendship started deteriorating.

    Thanks to your post, I see this personal situation much more clearly. I really appreciate it.

  23. Jim, I am so glad I found your blog. Your writing is clear, humane, funny and profound. I just want to thank you for taking the time to express these sentiments, shared by so many I know of but so concisely expressed by you. Keep up the good work!

  24. I always get excited when I see a new Stonekettle post up- grab the coffee and shut off the phone. I fully expected to do some wooting again today. But instead you made me cry. I, like many others here it seems, have been through this scenario myself. Too many times.

    Excellent post, Mr. Wright. Thank you.


  25. This is a fantastic post. My mother wants to know why I don't go to class reunions. The next invite I get, I'm going to print this out and mail it back in the RSVP envelope.

  26. Jim,

    Thanks for this fantastic post. I've lived through this, too, with old high school friends & family members. It boggles my mind how intolerant some people have become in our society today. Sad, but true.

  27. Jim, as I wipe the tears from my eyes, I must tell you that you have just articulated my own deepest feelings and pain for the friends and family I have encountered in my almost 1/2 a decade of living on this planet.

    Thank you.

    While it is unbearably depressing and frustrating at times to see what has happened to America's values, outlooks and morals, I am still fighting to bring us back to what we once almost were, and could possibly be.

    Onward and Upward. Hoorah.

  28. I've had to say to friends, on all levels of the political spectrum, "Did you always HATE so much? When did you learn that? You used to be happy, to believe in things. Where did that go?"

    Maybe I've changed, somehow lost an 'edge' of anger I was supposed to have like a good little Gen-X-er, but I don't understand how everyone around me can just be so mad and scared and ugly all the time.

    The question they can never answer for me, these mad frightened people I used to know, is "What do you want us to be? Forget about what you're afraid we're becoming, and tell me what you're *building*."

    They never know. They only know that it's going to be better because it will be different, because 'these people' will not be making their disgusting choices -- whether 'these people' are liberal or conservative, gay or straight, black or white or women or men. The problem is always that 'these people' are ruining everything, but the answer never seems to lie in what a beautiful thing we can build together.

    This is a good post, and I will bookmark it.

    1. Rowan, I think you hit the nail on the head.

      We are not building anything. We used to have aspirations--getting to the Moon, getting our kids an education, conquering health maladies or inventing the next new thing after radio and TV. Not so much anymore.

  29. Thank you, I feel less alone when I read your blog and most of the comments. Palmer, Alaska can be a tough place for a "leftie." Have you commented on ALEC yet?
    Really do appreciate your thoughts and perspective, Thanks again.

  30. Jim, you have an almost magical talent for speaking the truth in a way that engages everybody.

    Home run.

    Well done again, Sir.

  31. Thanks for your thoughtful post, as always, Jim. I'm a child of the 60's/70's and grew up near D.C., witnessing the marches on Washington for civil rights, Vietnam, women's rights. I remember at the time feeling both a tremendous patriotism and a sense we were moving toward a better world for everyone--and felt that if that wasn't what America was all about, then I didn't know what was. My dad (Navy, WWII) moved from fairly conservative to quite liberal over that time period and I wonder what he would make of today's politics if he were alive. My oldest brother (Navy, Vietnam, POW) has gone from moderate conservative to Glenn Beck conservative, and I have to keep our occasional conversations on the apolitical. But I also recall just how divided and nasty the politics were in the 60s and 70s, how labels and hate were flung around, and how the politics ripped apart families. So I wonder if today is really all that different from any period, or is it just that the fear-mongerers have arisen again? I do live in something of a liberal bubble inhabited by some incredibly intelligent and amazing folks doggedly doing good works for their communities, the planet & future generations, so in that I take heart.

    1. Correction: (Naval Reserve, WWII)

  32. I said....damn!! That's some a good writin and a storyian.....
    David Brooks, Tom Freidman and Andy Sullivan couldn't do half as well locked up in their summer cottage's in the Hamtons for a month of sundays, and they are fucking millionaires.
    Guys like you (who played guitars) are the reason I never finished learning how to play the guitar: What was the point?
    Oh well, keep it up, I will be forwarding this to a hell of a lot of people....
    P.S. This is about as glowing a review as I have given to a blogger in the 12 years or so I have been reading blogs...so no faint praise here.

  33. Thank you for writing this thoughtful, moving post.

    I have often wondered who stole those adventuresome, curious, loving, generous and courageous people I used to know, and replaced them with an alien species that speaks English, but whose words and beliefs I cannot understand.

  34. And it hurts so much when you didn't see it happening right in front of you. When there wasn't 10, or 20, or 30 years between "I love you, man" and "You are no longer welcome in my house" but just a few days. "I was your best man, but..." and "We were best friends, but..." change to "You voted for Obama!" and "You believe in abortion!" as if those are the two worst things in life a person could do. And it happens seemingly overnight.

    How did I not know that's where he was? Could I have changed it if I knew? And it hurts so much...

    And then you get over it, and keep doing the right thing.

  35. I don't envy you folks trying to assimilate these schisms in your life. One I've never had to deal with. I went to a predominately black high school, and a historically black university. My family for the most part is predominately black (although there have been some intermarriages). Uniformly throughout my family we're liberal and Democrat. Our family discussions resonate with a history of understanding that Conservatives and Conservatism as an ideology are not compatible with the Black experience. We equate ALL conservatives with wallace, maddox and the rest of their ilk. Whether or not they were technically Democrats or Republicans by party, in the south in the 50's and 60's they were what they were. And my Uncles and Aunts and parents and cousins remember what these people stood for. And recognize IMMEDIATELY what they STILL stand for. It's no mistake that Klansmen and Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists when they run for office, run as Conservative Republicans.

  36. Very moving post. You are usually very funny, but this one was so serious and heartfelt. I know a lot of people just like this, many in my own family.

  37. Damned good post, Jim. One of your best, if not THE best. I guess it just proves that "You can't go home again."

    I too have been saddened to see friends and family as other than I remembered. In addition, it really, really offends me that these self-declared "True Patriots, True Americans, True Christians" (not necessarily friends and family) are anything but.

  38. Wow Jim (Can I call you that? It's my first or maybe second visit). You put down on paper...well, on monitor, the thoughts that have been hounding me, and me alone -- I thought, since...well since I "reconnected" on Facebook. This was a masterful piece that captures these times, and the changes that have led us here. Bravo!


  39. Amazing as always. I wish I could get a few of my lost soul friends to read this but I know they will not. They will say I am indoctrinating them. So sad. Keep up the good work!

  40. Jim,
    Been reading your posts for about year now and I believe its (about) time join the fun. Seems as if a common thread running through these comments is that not only do we all have such a friend, we're finding so damn many. I just today received word of my 45th high school reunion, and I believe I will plunge into this pond, where memories meet reality. Last one was the 25th....so many could have stepped out of the yearbook; politics was not a big topic. This time, we'll see....

    One fellow grad and I keep tabs somewhat, having also been through grammar school together (oh, high school was Catholic, drawing from a wide area); West Point '71 grad, spent a good part of his 20 in Europe assigned to NATO, preparing for the Soviet invasion... anyway highly educated and a huge Palin fan....go figure.

    For the record, if there's a care, I stumbled on the Station upon searching for Pat Tillman information. Let's just say, I was most impressed with your exposition; and then read every one of your epistles.

    I know....got off subject, but let me say you have put words to thoughts I've had, but was either too preoccupied, or too lazy, probably the latter, to do much.

    Joe Z

  41. Oddly enough, I have lost so many friends and family to this "syndrome" that when I meet someone I knew long ago, who hasn't gone to the dark side, it is a pleasant surprise.
    I had to return to the backwater where I grew up about a decade ago, and it is so painfully ignorant and red here that, I plan to leave as soon as family obligations will allow.
    I have many old friends who live elsewhere, that I correspond with, who are bright, progressive and enlightened...but few where I actually live, due to my stubborn refusal to go to sleep next to the "Fox pod".
    The division bell is ringing very loudly these days...

  42. It feels like one of those old Star Trek TNG episodes where they've done something wonky with the time stream or alternate reality or something. You look at that person and they look the same...but then Rush Limbaugh's rhetoric pops out of their mouth and you start looking for the alien parasite that's taken up residence in their brain stem. One quick phaser stun and we're back to normal...right?

    Unfortunately not. It's so hard to let go of the person you used to know; almost like they died and someone else inhabited the body. I think that's why it feels like grief - because it is.

  43. On the other hand, I didn't used to "know" you, or you I, yet here I am and ever so grateful to have discovered a spark of hope. Your writing is amazing...you are able to enrage us, concern us, help us stand strong, and amuse us. I share it with everyone I know. You deserve to be famous, if that is what you want. But I suspect you are pretty content right where you are, and you definitely deserve that!
    Shine on!

    1. You deserve to be famous

      I'm about as famous as I can stand at the moment.

  44. Wow, I wish I had known you when, we'd still be friends. But really, I'm so grateful to have found your blog. I thought your piece with the graph on liberal/conservative and the slide to the right was the best thing I've read. I reflect back on that constantly. Then you write this. Once again exactly what I've been feeling for a decade now. Jim, I respect you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  45. Jim... I didn't know you back when, but I'm glad I've discovered you now. Beautiful post! Thank you!

  46. Thank you, thank you. This is not just about a particular friend. It's about the America we once loved and trusted enough to go out on the streets of Selma or Washington or Austin and scream "No! You're wrong! This is NOT how things are supposed to be!" because we knew that, fundamentally, America WANTED to get it right, and we really expected America to do so. Now the country is overrun with strangers, and it is very, very sad.

  47. By the way, you are obviously a skillful and thoughtful writer. Whether that means you should break your heart trying to write a bestseller or something of the sort is another question. In the event you do "novel up", however, I shall certainly be interested to read same.

  48. Replies
    1. Dang it, I'm signed in under "BunnySlippers"

      Oh well, I said what I came to say. Nuff said.

  49. Damn, Jim.

    How'd you know? Dax found me on Facebook about 3 months ago. He couldn't keep me sane in '72 ... but he kept me alive. Now he wants me to help him keep "that fool" from the whitehouse and put a white man back in.

    I wish I'd stayed lost.

  50. Jim,

    FWIW: You are the patron saint of my Id.
    ; )

  51. In my case, I'm the one who changed. Well, I underwent a major change, a change of religious views, in the middle of high school. I admit, for a while, I was a little bit of an ass with respect to anything religious -- I felt as if I'd been lied to for the first sixteen years of my life. I'm now mellowing out a bit more, coming to terms with faith.

    Then, some months ago, I posted a short paragraph suggesting Obama's success may have shown the Tea Party what is possible in the Internet Age, inspiring what they became, and a high school friend jumps to their defense, when I wasn't attacking them. I was then placed on the other side of the table, but it didn't bother me. That's another thing about me, probably not a good thing: I seem to let friendships go with ease.

  52. I was pointed toward your writing a few months ago. You just keep improving week by week. Keep up the good work and keep getting better and I'll keep waiting for your next installment wishing you were a little more prolific. Best wishes.

  53. Excellent post, Jim. Because I'm human, with all the failings that entails, my first knee jerk reaction is to find who is to blame for the state of things and choke it out of them. Of course, that's counterproductive but I'd sure feel better for a little while. But then I'm presented with this feeling that maybe those who can't separate truth from fiction and have been led around by the nose just don't know any better.

    I'd like to think that as adults, we can all be civil to one another. It seems we used to be able to. But I believe the brainwashing the right-wing media has been dishing out is aimed purposefully at those most susceptible. Lack of personal responsibility is the main culprit but the hate media (my first choking victim) is a major contributing factor.


  54. This post is profound. I want more people to read it. At the risk of having badgers set on me I am going to link to it in a post on facebook. With your permission I would like to post a recommendation and a link on my blog at www.thestarsarenotmadeoffire.blogspot.com I receive no compensation on my blog and my blog is a pretty humble affair, but this is the best I can do to spread word of your post.

  55. I've read this one 3 times and still can't believe it is where we are. The saddest thing is when it is family - and this I have first hand. We can't stray past "how are you - did you enjoy the show - and how are the grandchildren". Anything else and we would no longer be a family. It isn't religion & it isn't science - it is the economic policy of right vs left.

    I saw my "financial" guy last week - he was discussing goals and wanted to know if one of my goals was to minimize tax - I said "not by a long shot - my mom taught me the more tax you pay, the richer you are". probably just as well she's not around to see how all that has changed.

  56. Jim and Everyone - Seems once I reached fifty or so I noticed that I had become selfish and protective of what I feel as "my stuff". My stuff includes my wife, cats, truck, books, belief in what I feel is right, etc. I am selfish of my time and personal space. I have lost most ability or patience to listen to many other people who traveled a similar path, but developed a different and alien viewpoint to mine. I plead guilty to being close minded to closed minded people.

    I don't understand how brothers in arms who have soaked in the carnage, horrible deadly mistakes and the suffering of "collaterally damaged" innocent lives, can develop the black or white attitude that war is always the first option. I have no patience for the binary opinions of otherwise intelligent people, when they recite rote dogma from the hard right or left in response to some ambiguous event or statement. What sort of decision process is in play which develops hard, unyielding attitude as opposed to balanced consideration of things?

    I think it has to do with time. Remember when conducting research before the internet, the hundreds of 3x5 cards hand written with evidence, findings, citations noted after reading books and journals laboriously hunted down in a card catalog. It took so long to find information and weave it into an essay, which once "handed in" you could defend face to face with your prof. Before smart phones or email or digital communication, it took comparatively enormous amounts of time and effort to transmit, receive, validate then absorb voice and text information. Even 20 or 30 years ago we had the advantage of time to consider what we heard or said or wrote (on a "typewriter") in response to tasks or stimulus.

    There have always been people with different opinions, but I do remember conversations with them a couple decades ago. The back and forth interaction, if not acceptance of varying views on politics, life, war, Ford vs Chevy....you know, important shit. My point is about the compression of information transfer into data rates that are too fast for humans to process. We are barraged with incessant images and shouty voices from "news" sources, politicians, pundits, holy men, advertisers, etc that never, ever stop promulgating content for the consumer.

    There's no more information offered to the public anymore, it's all "message" designed to stoke a reaction from a targeted audience. Few people that I deal with respond to events and information anymore by accepting input, considering the value or import, and then making a decision based on a constantly evolving resolution based on learning and consequence. It seems that most people that I deal with have evolved into reactive machines with an ON or OFF switch to accept input, briefly weigh it against preconceived bias, then select the course which reinforces what they already assume "feels right" to them.

    I am not a nice man, but I am a good person. I like to think that I give folks the benefit of the doubt when supporting differing views. But, there's just no more time in my life for new style, in your face, black or white, screaming invective that ALL liberals are fetus eating, Communist traitors, who HATE REAL AMERICANS. Or, that all conservatives want to march grandma to the Soylent Green plant, or run over the poor in their Hummers and frack your groundwater to squeeze out the last BTU of God's hydrocarbon gift to REAL AMERICANS. There's just not enough time to listen to all this bullshit.

    So many people (some of my siblings included) have taken the path to become non-thinking receptacles and mirrors for the broadcast spew from TV, radio, pulpit and politician. I don't know them anymore either. Sucks, but I have my own stuff to worry about.

    Thank you for your excellent and thoughtful posts Jim. Tommy D

  57. I want to check "Woot!", "I cried" AND "You are my God!", please.

    I don't know when it became the thing to do the revile intelligence, expertise and experience, nor when people began to decide that they knew more about battles they never fought and burdens they never shouldered, than do those people who DID fight those battles and shoulder those burdens. Some days I want to lay it down and give up the fight. But now.... a little less so. So, thanks.

  58. After reading this, I am wondering to whom of my "friends" I couldn't send a link to! AWESOME. Keep up the good work.

  59. Straight through the heart.

  60. Jim
    The piece hit me hard at the start ("I met my old lover in the grocery store") - and developed into something even sadder and more thought provoking.

    A couple of comments have pointed to something:
    Are we in danger of all becoming 'the people our parents warned us about' ( to quote Jimmy Buffet) ?
    Just above this, someone said "Since I've reached 50 or so.." And I certainly find own self resembling that remark. Is it age/mileage that turns us cautious, judgmental, impatient?
    Maybe being set adrift on that ice flow is just what we deserve?

    Thanks once again (publicly this time).
    Although an old well loved book and a glass of brandy while wrapped by the wood stove is looking better and better...

  61. Excellent Story Jim. Oddly enough, I had a different take on the message. I thought you were asking people to look in the mirror as they read....

  62. HiJim. A good friend (one of few)sent me the link to this post. We see each other to rarely these days, but still think the same as we did back when. I see so much of what you wrote about and truly wonder. Thank you so much for articulating so well what I have been unable to say. I think if we had ever met in the service, we would have got along. I also read the bit about the Savings and Loan Troll and raved inside. I was a Medic with the Canadian Military, always in the field, not Hospital Duty. I respect the fallen HM3 and the choice he made. I honour him for his Bravery and I thank you for your wondrous insight

  63. That's one of the saddest things I've ever read... and I can completely relate to it. :(

  64. Wow,this really brings it home as I think we all have had this experience on Facebook when we connect with old friends. I have a couple now, one who was always a bit of a charming crackpot so now he's a tea party guy, and another who just blocked me because I posted a link to one of your blog posts (heehee). Which says more about him than words ever could.

    I honestly think the operative thing here, Jim, is change. Dizzying change. People like me or you embrace it as part of life. It's thrilling, exhilarating sometimes, keeps us on our toes, exercises the best parts of our brains, and keeps us young. I can't even imagine the world I grew up in anymore...devoid of cell phones, the internet, and instant travel. Hell my car is a ode to technology with navigation, search, uploadable music and instant access to help at the touch of a button. But some people find this all very, very frightening. And that's where this attitude comes from.

    I was on a train the other day and noticed this man sitting across from me. He had a wedding ring on but was obviously gay (I have great gaydar :). And at that moment epiphany struck me. How and the hell is anyone supposed to sort out who is if "they" can be exactly like "us"? What happens when my granddaughter marries a Mexican? Will my grandkids look like me? (I used grandkids on purpose). I can't even buy a car anymore...what's this thing in the middle I have to use to control the AC? How do I use that nav system? Give me a map! I can't use a computer, I can't see those, what are they, icons? Fear. All fear. So older people (and some younger ones who ought to know better) not used to such dizzying change hunker down, listen to talk radio, and doubt all this science because *it's what led to all this dizzying change in the first place*. And the world is becoming polarized between people like us, and the people who can't handle the change. And it's up to people like us to keep the Huns from taking over once again, which is why your blog is a light and something to keep going. Because complacency kills, as we used to say in skydiving. And like Max Plank said, science moves forward one funeral at a time. These are the times we live in now.

  65. OK. So we're in the contemporary Dark Ages. Let's pretend we hit bottom. How do we bring back the Age of Enlightenment that inevitably follows when the masses have had enough of FEAR? Let's start by pretending our friends still have a few embers of who they were and will eventually come out of this temporary insanity. Lets pretend that our older folks grew up in a time when there were three national channels that didn't dare air the crap that passes for 'news' these days as they would have lost their audience to the competition in a NY minute. There are now 800+ cable stations! All vying for the same eyes, so they try to bring them into the tent with the most outrageous crap they can find! Your folks (and mine) watch Fox news because it most closely resembles what they used to watch in the Walter Cronkite days. It is formatted that way for that purpose. They still believe in the veracity of Fox reporting because they would have never doubted what Walter was saying. So give them a break, they have been conditioned. How do we uncondition them? That age was a reading generation. Find them a few select books to help them revisit recent history (Russell Baker has an excellent book about the Bush dynasty, good eye opener and place to start). I got my 80+ yr old father to start thinking again after I got tired of the political spam he kept passing to me. It's taken time, but it's working. he's now got his buddies reading. So have a little patience with the older crowd. Now for age 50 and under. As above, there's nothing like education and an open mind. And facts. When you start hearing the rhetoric and the jokes,
    give them a 'Really?". Ask for the facts. You'll find with a few exceptions, most have a working knowledge shallower than a used car salesman. But that means you have to know your facts. I live in No Florida, about as pig-headed Republican as you can get. Or so I thought until I began questioning some of the rhetorists. In many cases, I found out it was a shield, a facade. They had become like the little chameleons we have running around here. It was protection for their job, church, club. But when you get close, and alone, and question the soundbites, you start finding that they are starting to question what they used to believe. How many of you have heard "It doesn't matter what party's in their!". That's the beginning of the end of the Dark Ages people.
    Time to get positive, time to rebuild. Read Stephen Ambroses "Citizen Soldier". It is about why the US won WWII. As a standing army, we were the worst group of soldiers ever mustered. But once we were in the field, we were unbeatable. Because we improvised, we were independent thinkers. We thought our way around the impossible situations. That American spirit is alive and well. I suggest that this next Age of Enlightment will be one centered on Energy this time instead of Art. Embrace and support this alternate Energy movement. Ignore the naysayers. Do you think all those beautiful works of Art would have existed if the artists kept paying attention to the mother church? I think it's time we shut off the sound of Mother Oil, and give full support to all the new ideas on energy, agriculture, exploration, etc. It's time to Love Thy Neighbor again, even if he's not ready for it. My two cents. PS. Jim, keep wriitng, keep writing, keep writing. Duff

    1. Wow, Anonymous, you need to keep writing, too. Thanks for the inspiration.

    2. Thanks for that comment about Stephen Ambrose's "Citizen Soldier", it struck a real chord with something I've been mulling for a while now. I just missed being alive during WWII, but I grew up on documentaries about 'How we Won the War'. One theme that ran through them was that we weren't a nation built on theory but on pragmatics, 'what works'. We solved problems because we weren't blinded by percieved wisdom but could see through to the original and practical route around those problems. This didn't appeal to my somewhat abstract nature, but I could see the power in it.
      Now we seem to have slipped all the way past 'theory' down to 'dogmatism', which I think of as a theory that ignores the facts. How could our culture have changed so much in such a short time?

  66. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgoapkOo4vg

    PS. For those of us that remember putting our heads between our legs and kissing our asses goodbye during grammar school nuke drills cause the 'Russians are Coming', look at the above video. If you can't get hope and love and inspiration from that, from what those people have been through, and where they are now, then you might as well book yourself into the doom and gloom nursing home. The cats out of the bag in the good old USSR, it's not going back in, and we aren't far behind. Have a great week y'all, Duff

  67. Thanks. This so expresses much of what I have seen and heard over the last few years. Thank you.

  68. I apologize for being a little late to the party but here goes!

    About five years ago we moved to be closer to our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons. Had been farther away for almost 20 years. What an eye-opener that turned out to be, - but in the best possible way. My wife and I are in our 80’s, probably about as liberal as ones of our age could be, and often wondered if our examples would rub off on our son. What we discovered is that they have even gone beyond him to the next generation.

    #1GS is in college, GS2 is about to go. Several years ago, GS#1 met a fellow HS student, born in the US of an immigrant mother who had fled from Central America where her family was being slaughtered. His mother has since died and he was being passed from relative to relative and living in a neighborhood where he could be easily corrupted into a street life existence. GS#1 spent two years tutoring this young man in calculus and advanced math to the point where he was able to get an engineering scholarship at a state university where he is now excelling in his studies. It was a combination of the efforts of our grandson and the guidance and support of our son and DIL that has kept this young man from becoming just another negative statistic. And he understands how fortunate he has been and promised some day to repay them for all their efforts. But our DIL simply told him that he owes them nothing but in the future if he finds someone in similar straits, his help for that person would be all the payback they would need.

    Not to be outdone, GS#2 brought home another student from his school whose mother has severe mental health problems and although she is covered for treatments her son was pretty much left to himself to find his way. In fact, son and DIL discovered that he was actually living in his car. With GS#1 away at college, they invited this young man to stay with them temporarily. This arrangement has been in effect for almost 2 years but is about to end as this young man heads off to college courtesy of a special scholarship DIL found for him. He applied for it and is now about to take his next step with a tuition grant covering all four years.

    So Jim, I guess the moral to the story is that even though many people might fall into the category you described, a few are so un-self-centered that they actually see the benefits of helping others find their way in a difficult and unpredictable world.

  69. Jesus Fuck, Jim.

    I know there's a little box up there that says "I cried", but what I mean is I actually had tears in my eyes for the last quarter of this.

    Well done, Chief Warrant. Very well Goddamn done.

  70. Outstanding would be a giant understatement! You have observed life well and your ability to put your thoughts on paper remind me of Jack London and John Steinbeck. Delightful!

  71. There is no way Mitt Romney will pick a female for his VP. His Mormon roots run deep and women are considered secondary in his world as in all other religions seeking to expand their influence. What we consider fundamental sects of many religions have never moved beyond the expansion model. Fundamental religions are “stuck” in their early origins and appeal to people who are unable to progress. Religions in this mode show a paternal power base and female roles are designated as wholly maternal.

  72. This has happened to me so many times since I got into social networking. I grew up in Alabama, but while the rest of my community was living in the same 30 square mile radius, I went away to college on scholarship. When I was done with that, I joined the military. I've lived in several different states and a couple of different countries, and I've visited many many more. As far as Facebook was concerned, I was pretty late to the game given that I was spending much of my time working and my precious off time was spent with my husband and daughter or trying to catch up on sleep. When I became a civilian again, I had a lot more time on my hands and was able to reconnect with many people I haven't seen for many years. I don't remember changing. They claim I have. But I don't remember them being so hateful or bigoted either. Sure, people in my family have always been that way and always will be that way, but I'm pretty sure my friends were good people. So maybe I don't remember right? In either case, it seems that I've become the bad guy. I served my country honorably for the better part of a decade, but I'm the bad guy. It makes me want to leave again, but this time stay gone permanently.

  73. Thank you for this post and your many others. It reminds me that I'm not going insane. That I'm not the only person who feels a great divide has grown over the years, and that the right end of the bell curve has grown considerably thicker. I sent you a FB request, and FB in their infinite wisdom has seen fit to not allow me to send a message along with it. I hope you accept it, and if you ever find yourself in the SF area, I'd be happy to show you our fine selection of Irish pubs.

  74. Ricky Nelson said this as well in Garden Party!
    It's sad that folk from our past mis remember us, but well
    Thanks for saying this!

  75. Great post.

    I have one question about this sentence:
    Maybe we stood the watch together on some Cold War cruiser off the coast of Africa

    What does it mean to stand the watch?

    1. For me it meant standing on the end of a Norfolk pier from midnight to 4a.m. in 30 degree weather with a 35mph wing blowing freezing rain all over me just to make damn sure nobody stole my Uncle Sam's brand new air craft carrier, lol.

  76. Parent-In-Law over school bond vote: "Why should I have to pay for those peoples children?" Knock me over with a feather. I just stood there gap mouthed for an eternity it seemed. Finally I just said "I'm very glad that a lot of people at the time didn't think that way when your son, my husband, was going to school.", and walked away.
    I also have friends I grew up with, that I no longer can hold a conversation with in a civil manner. It is one of the saddest things to deal with as I age. Getting older means people you know die, but sometimes their bodies are still walking around inhabited by something from an alternate dimension.

  77. Please keep writing. I'll keep reading.

  78. This is sad, but I think that it is just an effect of growing older. We don’t have such an extreme political polarisation in the UK, though it may get there. However, I’ve seen it in other ways. There were guys I grew up with who were like brothers. We watched each other’s backs when crap came down. We laughed and got drunk together, and listened to each other’s problems. One was best man at my wedding. Yet we’ve grown apart. They gradually became less and less like the people they used to be, with us disagreeing on more and more subjects.

    One, for example, bollocked me for saving a woman from a beating on the street, on account of the risk. He thought that I should have walked by. However, I remember the younger him would never have walked by, and would have been contemptuous of anyone suggesting that he did so. I merely told him that if you can act, and don’t do so, you’re as culpable as the person committing the act and that I, for one, wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror each morning. Once he would have agreed with those sentiments. Now he didn’t, though he did have the good grace to look uncomfortable, and possibly even ashamed, when I mentioned ideals that we once both held. However, the writing was on the wall for that friendship, even though we met in childhood.

    Others, for example, used to have a more caring view of other people, but have now moved into the ‘hang and flog all scroungers’ field of political philosophy. I became the one at fault, the fool – I should, they reckon, grow up and get real. One gradually became notably racist, which he never was when younger. So with all of them, things eventually drifted until we no longer had things to talk about, other than the past, or points on which to agree. Then there’s an American ex-girlfriend. A lovely lass, and very caring when we were together. She’d had a rough life, really starting at the bottom, so appreciated the problems. We had similar views on life back then. The relationship ended, but we remained good friends. However, over the last few years her views have become more and more Tea Party, until we could agree on nothing political. Eventually she unfriended me on FB.

    I don’t think that it is me. Many folks have said that, out of all the people they know, I’ve changed the least. I still hold onto the ideals and beliefs that I had then, some of which my parents taught me. Those guy’s parents taught them similar ideals; they just seem to have forgotten them or regard them as outmoded or foolish. By contrast, I won’t forget them or abandon them, even if the whole of the rest of the world adopts the same beliefs. I’m now teaching them to my daughter

    Still, I learnt back when I was 10-11 to never look back. For a while you bob along together, and it seems that it will go on forever. However, the current is slowly carrying you away from each other and, as time goes on, you’re having to shout louder and louder over the distance. Eventually all there is, is silence, and all that you have is memories of who they were. And perhaps it is better that way, because if you try to go back they’ll be somehow diminished, less, sadly changed or unrecognisable when you revisit them. At best, you’ll be like some I’ve seen, getting together for a drink to remember the good old days, but with nothing left in common except that. More likely though, you’ll find that there’s no longer any place for you – perhaps, in part, because you remind them uncomfortably of who they were, and who they could have been. But perhaps it is also just the result of time.

  79. I don't comment too often, and the few I have felt the need to add a word to have been short & sweet (usually just a thank you for being you). I know I've already professed Chad & I are madly in love with you, but if I had read nothing except this blog alone, I would love you now anyway.
    I seem to have the opposite, but same dilemma on my hands as I've gotten older. Every one of the people who have either stumbled onto my page or actually found me on purpose seem to say the same thing, "You have not changed one bit! I love it!". I still don't know if they truly mean it as a compliment, or are just acknowledging what I already know...that my "views" of the world, and the people in it, have truly changed very little from the age of about 12 to this much traveled,seen enough to know, 40+. I know that would seem hard to believe, but I was actually very close at 12, to the mean, impatient with ignorance, not going to put up with your bullshit, bitch I know myself to be now. I have almost no use for my actual "blood" family (who, if they DID bother to vote, would probably vote for whoever Fox News told them to. Yeah, it's that bad. ~sigh~) now that my mother is gone. She was the only one who loved me for "me" and used to tell me she had actually tricked my dad into having me (the baby of 3 girls) and I was born just for her, to be her "voice" since I had the balls to just say whatever I was feeling & if you didn't like it, well, it sucked to be you, quit listenin'. She (along with my son & hubby) are the only family that love me for that particular quirk.
    The problem I seem to be having is not knowing where in the hell these STRANGERS that used to be "friends" (mostly from middle & high school) came from! I get that you can't choose your family, and we've all agreed I'm the mailman's kid (I wonder if he had bunches of tattoos too? Hmm...), but I don't understand HOW people can absolutely be a totally different person inside even after 20+ years! I know, of course, some opinions and outlooks on life will change and so on, but it's like I never knew any of them at all! I think maybe I just didn't pay as much attention to them as I thought back then? It's very strange, but this blog brought it all to mind. Not sure if that's a good thing either, but I did get quite a few thoughtful moments, and those I always enjoy. Thanks.

  80. you should write a book on anything, I'll read it. another well written and thought out essay!
    us clever Apes have a problem with the passage of time and the changes it brings to other people, places and ourselves. always has been always will be. and so it goes...

  81. I just found your page, and am blown away by this piece. Thank you.

  82. So I'm really late to this party (where has Stonekettle been all my life??) but I still feel compelled to comment on this. I noticed after perusing some of the comments here that I am definitely not the first to be saying this but I still want to exclaim how thankful I am that someone is out there writing this, exposing what is going on, and really calling people out, even when it's people we used to know to be something so different. My experience with my father is apparently very similar to many other posters. Although we didn't have a supremely great and close relationship when I was younger, we now have barely any because of his "views". Honestly I can't even remember my parents ever talking at all about politics or religion growing up but all of a sudden he's a staunch, right-wing nut job. He is a devout Fox News/ O'Reilly follower and I KNOW that is where SO much of his bullshit comes from. I always remembered my dad being the scientific sort of person and now he's a climate change denier (and possibly even a creationist - I haven't asked because I'm afraid the answer will create an irreparable divide between us). This essay REALLY hit home for me. I was in tears. Some of the tears were shed for the general sadness I felt over things like the boy scout troop leader paragraph (sickening) and some over the more personal loss of my father, who seems to have morphed into someone completely different. Thank you Jim for saying so eloquently what so many of us have noticed and are feeling.

  83. You used to be fearless, but somehow you ended up afraid all of the time. Afraid of everything and everybody, afraid of change, afraid to hope, and afraid of anybody different, people like me for example. You live in the freest nation in the world and in a time of nearly unlimited opportunity, you have enough to eat and a warm place to sleep and unfettered access to endless information, you’ve got fresh water and healthcare and a sanitary place to take a shit without it ending up in your food supply and you’ve got all the goddamned guns you can afford. Your worst damned day is better than what ninety percent of the world’s population will ever experience, ever, in their entire miserable short brutal lives. But you’re still afraid. Maybe it’s because you only listen to people who tell you to be afraid, dimwitted small minded fearful haters who make a profit on your fear, folks like Ted Nugent and Allen West and Sarah Palin. Maybe it’s because you only listen to people like Rush and Glenn and Sean instead of actual scientists, engineers, economists, or people who have actually gone more than fifty miles from where they were born, people like me for example.

    I actually know people like this now. They seem to be so afraid all of a sudden.

  84. I read the comments about Scouts, and have both sadness and hope.

    Sadness that such things ever happened to one of the best organizations I've been a part of (Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow in 1983).

    Sadness that there are members of my son's current troop who resemble this... Drill baby, Drill, driving their massive pickup truck and complaining about Socialism, while still claiming to profess Leave No Trace.

    Happiness that I think the organization is SLOWLY turning a new leaf. It probably helps that I live in an area where a LOT of people work in Tech (and tech hiring seems to favor better education and acceptance of differences).

    But yeah, I've also seen a couple of names come up from back in high school, I look at their Facebook profile and posts, and say, "Nope. No need to waste time re-acquainting myself there." As you've said, there's no point in engaging some of these extreme thinkers.

  85. Coming late to this party... I love this post, you are a most eloquent, wise and amazing writer. Thank you so much for this post... It totally describes the experience of my dear husband, who is a retired Navy Chief ET... Blessings upon you.

  86. You, dear sir, give me hope. Thank you for this. Thank you.

  87. Matthew Brandon CollierNovember 6, 2018 at 3:29 AM

    As one of the youngin's born in the mid 80s, I'm sad to say that earlier this year, I too found this happening to me.

    I knew this kid back in my youthful bliss in California, went by JT. We originally met in elementary school, and just sort of hit it off. Playing pretend, hanging out, playing videogames. Politics? Psh, we were kids, it was the 90s; furthest thing from our minds at the time.

    Time passed, and we parted ways due to circumstances beyond our control. Time passed, and I never forgot the last time we spent together, as 14 year olds (or was it 15? things are fuzzy on this part). We had three days together, doing what we loved doing together. Playing games, play-acting cool sci-fi scenarios, and just hanging out.

    I wouldn't see or hear from him again for nearly two decades. And all that time, every so often, I'd always wonder what was going on with my good friend JT. What was he up to? Was he doing okay?

    Fast forward to 2014/15 (there's that confusion between those numbers again, dammit). Through my sister (who's always been friends with his sister), we reconnected on facebook. Didn't talk much, but he'd been doing well; went into the navy, and he's still serving to this day. Stationed in Guam right now (last I heard), married and expecting a daughter soon.

    His posts were usually just funny things, or updates on his life. And then 2016 came along. I didn't see much from him, but after the election, I saw more and more pro-Trump propoganda being displayed. I simply unfollowed; I didn't want to lose the chance of rekindling a friendship that I had held dear as a child.

    This year, however, the last straw happened. JT, out of nowhere, put up a huge, long-winded rant, entirely belittling everything he could. "I hated Obama, but I didn't eat tide pods to make the big bad President go away." Along with, "Anyone who disrespects the honorable President Trump by proxy hates every soldier in uniform." Trying to wrap my already dizzying head around THAT little morsel of mental gymnastics, I then got the coup de grace: "I'm hyper conservative, and I'll never live in communist California again, nor ever let my soon-to-be-born daughter near any of you on the left, because you on the left are all un-American and full of HATE!"

    A lump in my throat, a burning in my chest, I didn't respond. I unfriended immediately, and wondered where the hell the awesome guy I knew 20 years before had gone. Who was this stranger that had replaced him, so unwittingly (and ironically) ready to group myself and others as full of hate, and even worse, un-American? Never in my life have I called any fellow citizen, even those I strongly disagreed with in politics, un-American. It reeked of far-right conspiracy-wing nutjob. I even cried for a bit afterwards.

    "What happened?" I thought, shaken. "Where's my friend??" And yet, I knew the best thing to do was to drop a connection that could now never be rekindled. What hurt wasn't that I had to do it; I've dropped toxic people like bags of bricks plenty of times in my life.

    What hurt is that I had to do it to someone I wanted to reconnect with, and be friends with again. Now, thanks to his own self-absorbed far-right lurch, I'll never get that chance. I don't know who this man is, but I do know the cool kid I knew back then is long dead.

    I know this pain all too well, and I'm far, far younger than you, Jim. Still, thanks. It helps to know that I'm not the only one, even generations apart, to experience this.


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