Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Horns of the Dilemma

Lots of folks back east they say
leavin' home most every day
hittin' that hard ol' dusty trail to the California line
across the desert sands they roll
gettin' out of that ol' dust bowl
think they're going' to the sugar bowl
here's what they find.
The police at the port of entry say
you're number 14,000 for today

If you ain't got the do-re-mi girls
if you ain't got the do-re-me
well you better go back to beautiful Texas
Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee
California's a garden of eden
it's paradise to live in or be
but believe it or not you won't find it so hot
if you ain't got the do-re-mi.
                                       Woody Guthrie

Facebook is probably evil, but it's no use. I'm addicted to it now, and it's all Standing Rock's fault. Before I went there I never used Facebook, didn't know how it worked and couldn't have cared less. But Facebook was where all the vital information was being shared by activists, for keeping out of trouble, for getting into it, and for everything else. People will chatter, you know. It's endemic to our species. We can't shut up, and I guess we figure if we chatter enough we will occasionally "share" something useful. It's no surprise, then, that Facebook fits our shotgun approach to inter-personal communication like the glove it was craftily designed to be. Apparently I was no different than anyone else. Clearly, I couldn't escape. So in the interest of due-diligence, I started in, learned my way around (sort of) and now I can't quit. Another well-meaning activity gone awry, like the opioid crisis...

...but never mind. Here's the thing: I occasionally see posts on Facebook from a distant cousin of mine (B.), like the one below. They're usually from the same far-right website called "Conservative Nation". I must be a "friend" of hers (or something.) I get them about once-twice a week, I see them, and am appropriately-appalled. "How could anyone..." I start to think, and then I know, or think I do, become more appalled, and scroll down and away from the ugliness that lurks so close to every dark heart closely related to ours. I know, I could "unfriend" her, but I "secretly" find it fascinating, really, seeing what some people actually believe and then doing mental gymnastics trying to figure out how they could possibly and then, scrolling away, away, as far as I can, and then repeat. That's the goddam thing about Facebook. It's as much an exercise in self-awareness as anything, which is unsettling.

And that's why I saved this one. The backstory is that my distant cousin, B., is the offspring of our original "Okie" cousins, my mom's actual cousins who literally ran away from starvation during the Dust Bowl with the clothes on their backs, some family heirlooms, and a pretty nice car compared to some of the Dorthea Lange jalopies that have been burnt into our national memory about those years.

As Woody Guthrie alluded to in one of his famous songs (above), the Okies were not met with kindness at the border where Route 66 threaded into the California desert at Needles. The governor had set up roadblocks at all such ports-of-entries, illegally siccing the state cops on them, cynically giving them a number and telling them that they had choices, just like anyone else. They could either camp in the hot desert with their families and starve some more, or go home. Our Okie cousins somehow got through, probably because they could give the address of family already living in the state, and landed on my grandparents' ranch in Central California. They were given work and a place to live by my grandparents and great-grandparents who had been in California for decades by then, and this has been part of our family narrative for the next 80 years. "Okie" was a dirty word then, a fightin' word, but our family, who had been in California longer than many of the bigots of the day who insisted on such distinctions between "us" and "them", ignored the bigotries of the day. Because of their kindness, in other words, and humanity, our cousins (mostly) survived and eventually thrived enough to produce my distant cousin who now finds it necessary to post far-right screeds like the below. This is the family-history I grew up with. Naively, I thought it was hers, too. 

We've all been buffaloed, once again. I wish Woody Guthrie were still around to nail it, but I guess we'll have to settle for Taylor Swift-style coming-of-age spectacles instead. Anyways, I worried on it a little bit, then, since I had some pictures in my files to do the visual, I thought I'd make up this (I hope) funny little collage.

Note to angry people: Watch your mouth. Someone may take a picture of it.

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