Unlearning Mt. Rushmore: Legacy of Injustice

I just downloaded the late Howard Zinn’s masterful A People’s History of the United States. You might say I’m divesting myself of the whitewash of American history handed down to me by a white culture.

As I write, Trump plans to visit Mt. Rushmore today, July 3, replete with flyover and fireworks, 7500 lottery selected attendees not observing social distancing, few wearing masks.  It sits upon sacred land, 1200 acres, stolen from the Lakota in violation of the Ft. Laramie Treaty (1868) following the discovery of gold in the Black Hills.

We know about Washington, Jefferson and Teddy. I didn’t know Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Dakota in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862, the largest mass execution in American history, following their uprising. In the aftermath, the Dakota were expelled, their lands seized. Subsequently, the bodies of the executed, buried in a mass grave, were exhumed and used for cadavers.

The sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, held racist sentiments and was previously known for his earlier contribution to Stone Mountain (he was dismissed from the project for his competing interest in Rushmore) near Atlanta with its gargantuan effigies of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis.

While not a member of the Ku Klux Klan, he supported their views. In one of his letters, he complained of a “mongrel horde” contaminating the “Nordic purity” of the West. In another, he wrote of his successor at Stone Mountain, “They got themselves a Jew.”

–RJoly

A Brief Life Lived Well: Kevyn Alcoin’s Testament to Beauty

You probably never heard of Kevyn Aucoin. I hadn’t either till just recently. How many good people we miss in the stream of life, despite the myriad strands of humanity linking all of us.

Kevyn became famous as a celebrity makeup artist to scores of celebrity women like Cher, Madonna, Whitney Houston, and Liza Minnelli. As an artisan, for that’s what he really was, he sought not to hide blemishes, but to put women in touch with their inner beauty, empowering them. As he put it, “Beauty is about perception, not about makeup. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can’t put on makeup, or dress yourself, or do your hair with any sort of fun or joy if you’re doing it from a position of correction.”

The journey was never easy for Kevyn, who discovered he was gay at age six. Viewed as different by classmates, he was often bullied and sometimes beaten.

In those days, not really so long ago, women felt uncomfortable having a man do their makeup. Ultimately, as happens frequently, his talent made room for him and he became legendary. He would write several salient, greatly in-demand books on makeup, do TV interviews, and make cameo appearances in several TV shows.

Kevyn persevered daily, though suffering chronic back pain from earliest days, and was later diagnosed with a rare pituitary tumor. While the surgery removing the tumor proved successful, Kevyn’s acute pain continued. In 2002, age 40, he passed away, succumbing to liver and kidney failure from acetaminophen toxicity.

You may like viewing a nearly two hour video documentary, Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Alcoin Story or reading Kerry Diamond’s memorial biography, Kevyn Alcoin a Beautiful Life: The Success, Struggles and Beauty Secrets of a Legendary Makeup Artist.

I wanted to share Kevyn with you, as I found him inspiring in his courage and tenacity, often against all odds, and I think you will too. I leave you with his memorable words for living life in every circumstance:

“Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”

–rj

And a Child Shall Lead Them

Image result for greta thunberg

Today, May 24, was another walk-out-of-school day for thousands of children in 110 countries, urging their governments to take quick and meaningful action to avert environmental catastrophe. If only the politicians, and us, for that matter, would listen.

It’s certainly, if nothing else, gotten the climate crisis considerable media attention. Of course, it’s 16-year old Greta Thunberg of Sweden who started it all and is featured on the cover of TIME’s current issue as one of the most influential young people in the world. Just nine months ago, Greta stood alone outside the Swedish Parliament, carrying a sign proclaiming SKOLSTREIK FOR KLIMATET (School Strike for Climate).

Seemingly a brave, but naive and futile gesture of a teenager, it’s become a planted seed grown into a world-wide groundswell of young people taking climate change seriously. And why shouldn’t they, since their generation and their children will be affected most?

I like the way she articulates our crisis: “I believe that once we start behaving as if we were in an existential crisis, then we can avoid a climate and ecological breakdown. But the opportunity to do so will not last for long. We have to start today.”

In March, Greta’s singular protest kindled an estimated 1.6 million young people turnout, encompassing some 133 countries.

Seems she’s even converted her own parents. Both have followed her into veganism as a way of contributing less CO2 and methane into the atmosphere. Greta’s mother, an opera singer, now travels by train rather than by air. Greta would probably love speaking in America, but since there’s no train track across the Atlantic, guess she’d have to resort to a freighter; that is, just so long as it wasn’t carrying oil barrels.

Imagine my surprise that not everyone admires this green movement Joan of Arc, one commentator dubbing her a “millenarian weirdo”:

It actually makes sense that Ms Thunberg – a wildly celebrated 16-year-old Swede who founded the climate-strike movement for schoolkids – should sound cultish. Because climate-change alarmism is becoming ever stranger, borderline religious, obsessed with doomsday prophecies (Brian O’Neill, wattsupwiththat.com).

I should point out that O’Neill writes for a smart aleck anti-climate change blog, so I can’t take him seriously, given the estimated 97% of scientists who embrace the reality of climate change and the humans factor for its origin.

Others use Greta’s Asperger’s Syndrome against her in myriad personal attacks, mocking her monotone delivery and fixed stare. I like Greta’s nimble response: “Being different is a gift.”

My heart pounds for you, Greta! I have friends who exalt in nature, yet never join that needed protest to universalize our climate crisis into action that saves both nature and ourselves.

You’ve been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Is there anybody more deserving?

–r. joly

A weekend Romp with Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, 1968

My  daughter has been visiting us the last several days in connection with her Amazon conference in Albuquerque. Since we moved to Santa Fe from Kentucky last July, she’s been curious to see what drew us here, so we’ve been showing her Santa Fe, “the city different,” and nearby vistas like Bandelier National Monument with its splendid canyons and Pueblo artifacts.

Saturday, we took in the local Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, truly a best buy even at $13 a ticket, housing a generous number of her paintings, so many in fact, that the museum rotates their display. Founded in 1997, the museum lures many visitors, heedless of the calendar, and includes videos and lectures reviewing her life and artistry. It also serves as a major research center of modernist American art.

While a deservedly famous artist, initiates may find O’Keeffe often beyond reach since much of her work is abstract. As she tellingly phrased it, “I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at—not copy it.”

O’Keeffe’s considerable achievement—more than 2000 paintings— can understandably overwhelm. The consummate artist, it seems she devoted nearly every waking hour to her art, mastering many sub-genres, i.e., oil, charcoal, water color, and even with these, ever evolving.

Though I came to know her like many others as a landscape painter, flowers were a favorite subject and she would return to floral themes throughout her life. In all her art, whether of flowers, architecture, or rock formations, she concerned herself with extracting the minutiae hidden to most of us:

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.

While not professing any creed, an essentially spiritual essence endows her canvas reminiscent of her beloved Goya, a sense of fusion between self and landscape, the ephemeral tempered by infinity, the primacy of sentiment over reason.

Unfortunately, as she aged, her vision progressively deteriorated as a result of macro-degeneration, ultimately reducing her to peripheral vision and compelling her to seek help in mixing colors. When the time came that she couldn’t paint, she turned to clay sculpturing, molding what she could know longer fully see.

On Sunday we took the ninety minute road trip to Ghost Ranch, where she spent her springs and summers painting just maybe New Mexico’s most exquisite red rock mesas:

Such a beautiful, untouched lonely feeling place, such a fine part of what I call the ‘Faraway’. It is a place I have painted before … even now I must do it again.

Ghost Ranch, locale for a number of Hollywood films and now a Presbyterian USA retreat center, tumbles across 21,000 acres.  It had been formerly a dude ranch hosting the wealthy.  O’Keeffe purchased twelve acres of it in 1940, now off limits to visitors.

You can, however, see her winter residence, owned by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, fifteen miles down the road in nearby Abiquiu. A designated historical site, O’Keeffe purchased the dilapidated 5000 foot colonial Spanish compound in 1945 and devoted three years to lovingly restoring it.

Image result for georgia o'keeffe abiquiu house

Her principal residence and studio, she lived here for 39 years, often painting from inside her bedroom window looking out on the Chama River valley.

As an adjunct to your visit, I’d highly recommend Lynes and Lopez’ fulsome Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu. The tour lasts about an hour, costs $40, and includes her large garden. Yes, she excelled at this as well! It’s a tour Karen and I await eagerly.

O’Keeffe first visited New Mexico in 1929 at the insistence of Taos art patron Mabel Dodge Luhan and, like so many other artists, fell in love with its stark landscape and ubiquitous solitude offering space from the constraints and snobbery of the New York artisan community to paint freely, returning seasonally for twenty years before making the state her permanent home in 1949 three years after the death of her husband, the renowned photographer and art connoisseur, Alfred Stieglitz.

She died on March 6, 1986 at age 98 in Santa Fe’s St. Vincent Hospital, her ashes scattered at her request on the top of Pedernal Mountain, a beloved vista she viewed daily at Ghost Ranch and frequent subject.

On our way back to Santa Fe, we took lunch at the charming Abiquiú Inn. A few steps away, you’ll find the recently opened O’Keeffe Welcome Center with its helpful staff, where you can book your tour and purchase O’Keeffe mementos.

–rj

 

NFL Hypocrisy

The media has been all over this story of Sunday’s NFL response to Trump’s
provocative tweet that NFL team owners should fire players who don’t stand proud when the national anthem is played: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He’s fired.”

Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell got in his licks at Trump, responding that “The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture.”

All fine and good, but the NFL’s last minute conversion to players’ right to freedom of speech reeks with blatant hypocrisy. In July 2016, six Dallas police officers were killed in a sniper ambush. As a symbol of community support for police officers, the Dallas Cowboys asked permission from the NFL to wear a helmet “Arm in Arm” decal. The NFL refused. Where was the “unity” then?

Meanwhile, NFL teams continue to discriminate against free agent Colin Kaepernick, who started the take-a-knee protests during the anthem. Quarterbacks have been subsequently signed without ever having thrown a football in an NFL game.

Now’s the time for NFL teams to walk the talk and return this former Super Bowl quarterback with a 90.3 rating to the playing field. Sooner of later, some team’s going to suffer an injured quarterback. Voila!

–rj

Love for All Seasons

 

I hope that I will be the last victim in China’s long record of treating words as crime.” Liu Xiaobo (1955-2017)

China isn’t usually a quotidian staple of the Westerner’s mindset. Let’s face it: our culture operates in Eurocentric mode, which may ultimately hint of a latent bias unrecognized in ourselves, a sense of smugness that they’ve little to offer us, save maybe for bargain-priced goods at your local box store.

Sadly, the death of leading dissident, Liu Xiaobo, on July 13 of this year from liver cancer was inevitably passed over by most Westerners and the media, which is a pity, for he graced our earth with a loving compassion, championing basic values promoting human dignity and the sanctity of individual lives.

A writer, poet and literary critic, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010. Unfortunately, his chair at the reward ceremony in Oslo would be empty. A year before, he had just begun serving an 11-year sentence for sedition against the People’s Republic of China. An outspoken critic of the Communist government, he campaigned for freedom of speech, free elections, and basic human rights.

If you google his name, you’ll find numerous links to salient quotations that speak to the decency of this man, who lived life courageously, and at ultimate cost, for his outspoken criticism of Beijing’s ubiquitous hegemony.

Among his quotations, I like this one best for its vibrant reiteration of one of humanity’s most requisite needs and fundamental rights:

Free expression is the base of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth.

We live in a time of understandable exasperation with a new Washington regime, with many calling for shutting down views they find untenable, if not despicable. We find truth, promote dignity, and enhance human freedom, however, when we allow discussion in the market place of free exchange.

I don’t want to be under the aegis of thought police, whether Right or Left, and I don’t think you do either. I’m suspicious of all peripheries.

Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, is also a remarkable denizen in the portals of courage. Gifted poet and photographer, she married Liu in 1996 at the time of his incarceration in a reeducation labor camp for having urged peaceful diplomacy toward Taiwan.

Inveterate in her love and loyalty for her husband, she paid him a prison visit shortly after the Nobel Prize. Subsequently placed under house arrest, the government denied her access to cell phone and Internet use, while permitting only a handful of approved visitors.

Presently, we don’t know her whereabouts, although the government says that she’s free.

Two poems presented here pulsate with the salient love they shared as husband and wife and are especially moving in that they were written in contexts of extreme duress.

The first is “Morning,” which Liu penned before 2000 and dedicated to his wife; the second, “Road to Darkness,” Lia wrote shortly before her husband’s death. Both poems have been translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and appear in the current issue of The New York Review of Books (September 28, 2017).

The poignant irony is that these two stalwarts of freedom are unknown in China, all mention of them having been scrubbed from social media.

                 Morning
–For Zia

Between the gray walls
and a burst of chopping sounds,
morning comes, bundled and sliced,
and vanishes with the paralyzed souls
of the chopped vegetables.

Light and darkness pass through my pupils.
How do I know the difference? 
Sitting in the rust, I can’t tell 
if it’s the shine on the shackles in the jail
or the natural light of Nature
from outside the walls.
Daylight betrays everything, the splendid sun
stunned.

Morning stretches and stretches in vain.
You are far away__
But not to far to collect the love
of my night.

            Road to Darkness
For Xiaobo

Sooner or later you will leave me, one day
and take the road to darkness
alone.

I pray for the moment to reappear
so I can see it better,
as if from memory.
I wish that I, astonished, could glow, my body
in full bloom of light for you.

But I can’t make it except
clenching my fists, not letting
the strength,
not even a little bit of it, slip
through my fingers.

She showed us the way: Reflections on Mary Tyler Moore

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 08: Actress Mary Tyler Moore attends NBC's taping of 'Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America's Golden Girl' at Millennium Biltmore Hotel on January 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 08: Actress Mary Tyler Moore attends NBC’s taping of ‘Betty White’s 90th Birthday: (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

A few days ago we lost Mary Tyler Moore, not only an icon from the entertainment world, but a remarkable human being blessed with talent, beauty,  and an infectious smile.  Endowed with relentless fortitude, she survived for so long the debilitating carnage diabetes often inflicts upon its victims.

She wasn’t just a talented actor (seven Emmys and an Academy Award nomination), but a real-life hero, setting an example for all us.

You’d never have surmised from her TV dominance in the 60s and 70s (The Dick Van Dyke Show) and (Mary Tyler Moore Show) her raging battle with diabetes, which ultimately would take her life.

Diabetes can occur as Type I or Type 2. In the former, your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin and you have to resort to insulin injections several times daily to survive. In type 2, your pancreas produces insulin, but either not enough or the body just can’t utilize it efficiently.

Both kinds are progressive and incurable, though with weight control, healthy diet, medication, and frequent exercise, you may be able to manage it, forestalling its many potential complications such as heart and kidney disease, blindness, infections, amputations, and even dementia.

Moore was diagnosed with diabetes Type 1 at age 33 in the course of blood work connected with a miscarriage. In her 2009 memoir, Growing Up Again, she would detail her forty year struggle against this insidious illness, donating the book’s proceeds to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which she served as International Chair for many years. “I want others to learn how I fell down and how I picked myself up.”

The truth is she had been doing this her whole life. We never really know what life has in store for us, as Oedipus learned in Sophocles’ monumental play of 2500 years ago. For some of us, our fate can seem especially unfair in its harshness and singularity, raising the perpetual inquiry, “Why do good people suffer?”

Moore’s mother was an alcoholic, and so was Mary until she overcame it, prescient of her valiant struggle against a much bigger adversary.

Sometimes we find consolation in another parent, but Dad proved both distant and unloving.

Then, in what breaks a mother’s heart, her 23 year old son, Ritchie, died from an accidental gun shot to the head.

She would have two unhappy marriages, until finally striking happiness in her 33 year marriage to cardiologist, Robert Levine.

In 2011, she underwent brain surgery.

Though she lived to age 80, she might well have lived longer, and happier years, had she been free of this debilitating disease. In her last several years, she suffered from declining vision, kidney and heart issues, and Alzheimer’s.

In her final days, she had come down with pneumonia, a frequent consequence of a diminished immune system, and was on a respirator for a week.  Ultimately, she was removed from life support.

 

With Bernadette Peters
With Bernadette Peters

Short in stature and slight in build, ever humble and always compassionate, she fiercely loved both people and animals, practiced vegetarianism, and gave time to both diabetes and animal advocacy.

Just how did she manage to cope so long and so bravely against her antagonist”? What lay behind her heroism?

In mindfulness therapy, there’s an acronym known as RAIN that may explain how she did it, giving hope to all of us in life’s hard places:

R—Recognition
A—Acceptance
I— Investigation
N—Non-identification

R:  Initially, Moore hid her illness.  Later, she  made it known.

A:  She allowed it to be what it is with all its dissonance in both mind and body.  Mindfulness doesn’t contend; it listens.

I:   She explored methods of ameliorating it through diet, exercise, and medication and ways of nurturing others with like illness.

N:  We are not the sum of our emotions and thoughts.  Our  real Self lies beyond and can provide cognitive catharsis.  Acknowledging her fate, she lived outside the parameters of self-absorption in unstinting, compassionate activism, promoting awareness and hope for her fellow sufferers.

Thank you Mary, for the nobility of your life, its example and inspiration; its quiet dignity, yet marshaled bravery in the darkness of the night.

—rj

Before Surgery Reading: Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small

I’ve always loved animals. I can’t say where it comes from, but maybe it’s in the genes. Both my nieces exhibit the same trait. Currently, I’ve been reading James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. If you’re old enough, you may have seen the BBC rendition back in the late 70s and into the 80s, ninety episodes in all. It’s good reading for me, given the sciatica pain that’s turned me into virtually an invalid replete with cane these past five weeks. Now comes surgery at dawn tomorrow.

Herriot’s work is much more about human eccentricity than animals and delivers dependable relief beyond medication to me in its rich mix of humor and humility garnered from thirty years as a 24/7 veterinary surgeon in the hollows of England’s remote Yorkshire country, regionally fictionalized, like Hardy and Faulkner, as Darrowby.

I had missed out on the BBC series, but came upon Herriot’s work providentially with a chance to download his works in one sweet bundle at just $2.99.

By the way, James Herriot is a pseudonym for James Wight (1916-1995). A devoted fan of soccer, he took the name from a soccer goalie named Jim Herriot.  At the time, tooting  your own horn in professions like law and medicine was considered bad form.

I hadn’t realized Wight was a prolific writer of animal stories for children as well, although a good many of his adult stories can be read that way.

I love the outdoors and sorely miss being out in my garden, hoe or weedeater in hand, accompanied by the fellowship of fauna and flora busy in their pursuit of life. Herriot reminds me of my lost bliss and kindles my enthusiasm to get it back.

I’ve found no one commenting on Herriot’s keen writing skills and the focused observations he brings to his narratives, earmarking him as one our better nature writers. Take this passage, for example, describing the artistry of a night wind in shaping morning’s wintry landscape:

But as always, even in my disappointment, I looked with wonder at the shapes the wind had sculpted in the night; the flowing folds of the most perfect smoothness tapering to the finest of points, deep hollows with knife-edged rims, soaring cliffs with overhanging margins almost transparent in their delicacy.

Busy in his profession, we’re fortunate Herriot got down to writing at all, beginning at age 50 and, initially, not garnering any attention until we Americans put him on the map.

I wish I could have met the man, first rate not only as a writer but, more importantly, as a sensitive man of science endowed with empathy for all creatures great and small.

–rj

A Life-Changing Quotation

Every once in a while, I come across a quotation that really stands out. I like this one, though I don’t recall exactly where, or when or how I came upon it, but thought you might like it too:

Did I offer peace today?

Did I bring a smile to someone’s face?

Did I say words of healing?

Did I let go of my anger and resentment?

Did I love?

–Henri Nowen (1932-1996)*

Nowen*Nowen, priest, theologian, and author, lived the life he preached, loving others, and writing some 39 books, translated into thirty languages. His most famous book: The Return of the Prodigal Son.

–rj

 

 

 

Snobbery’s Menace

0f42ae99-9c8e-38c1-96bd-8806ca19dd1d

Politics can be a mean way of life, filled with scurrilous attacks on opponents, replete with prevarication, and downright lying. I stay away from it, as much as possible.

Case in point, just the other day former Vermont governor and one time seeker of the Oval Office, Howard Dean, took a shot at Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, commenting on MSNBC’s Morning Joe: “The issue is, how well-educated is this guy?”

Walker, who may throw his hat into the ring for the Republican nomination in 2016, dropped out of college almost at the finish line in the spring of his senior year to join the Red Cross.

Our Constitution, however, lists only three prerequisites for our nation’s highest office: natural born citizen, at least 35 years old, and a minimum of 14 years lived in the United States.

Maybe Dean and others of his stripe might want to try amending our Constitution to secure their elitist government.

I would contend our government is just too elitist as it is, an oligarchy of power interests distanced from the vast majority of working Americans, three quarters of whom don’t sport a college degree.

I would also question the underlying assumption that a college degree automatically confers knowledgeability on anyone for any job.

I was a prof for 40 years and I can tell you first hand my students learned best, not from books or lecture, but hands-on. That’s what internships are all about, Dean, and you of all people, a medical doctor, should know this, since M. D.’s do a year of internship followed by several years of residency.

I have to confess I made a lot of dumb mistakes as a young prof despite 10 years of college before I was really fit to step into the classroom.

I would like to ask Dean how it was, judging by his own maxim, he was suddenly fit to be governor having trained to be a physician. That’s a huge gap. Maybe Rand Paul can help us out here.

My father had only an elementary school education, dropping out of the public schools like so many of his generation in the pre-World War I years. Like several of my uncles, he worked as a leather tacker for all of his working life in a brutal environment of body-sapping humidity and toxic fumes in one of the most deprived areas of Philly.

But for all his lack of schooling, he was one of the wisest men I’ve known across a life time, intuitive, and possessed of a healthy dose of skepticism whenever the facts didn’t seem to line up.

Not only do I owe my love of baseball to him, but the importance of being aware of what’s going on the world. The TV evening news with John Cameron Swayze or Douglas Edwards was time out and you’d better not be talking while they were on.

Every Sunday morning, he’d send me up the block for the Philadelphia Inquirer, just a dime then (imagine!) and split the newspaper with me on my return, which I’d eagerly devour, sprawled out on the floor. At 10, I was fully aware of a new war in a far off place called Korea, and spell bound by the firing of MacArthur not long after.

I remember his love for Winston Churchill, who had warned the West in the early thirties of the menace of Joseph Stalin.

My father was always slow to swallow the government line, speculating that we might never really know the facts behind that “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor, a surmise that historian John Toland’s recent book. Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath, lends credence to.

I take offense when the snobs start wagging their tongues, the privileged lording it over the common herd, whether in the political area or anywhere else

Money, celebrity and, unfortunately, education–one of the most rampant bastions of elitism– can become divisive weaponry in putting down others to boost yourself up.

Or to efface those opinions you don’t like. Dummies!

Snobs always want to impress. As Virginia Woolf put it, herself a snob, “The essence of snobbery is that you wish to impress other people.”

I like best how one of my favorite authors, D. H. Lawrence, who came from miner stock, defined it: “[Snobbery] is the desire for what divides men and the inability to value what unites them.”

Ah, let me call to mind just a few names of those from a humble way of life, without college diplomas, who have made a positive mark upon the world. You just may be surprised:

In Science:

Thomas Edison

George Washington Carver

In Business:

Henry Ford

John D. Rockefeller

Steve Jobs

Mark Zuckerberg

In the Arts

Thomas Hardy

Mark Twain

William Faulkner

Vincent Van Gogh

William Shakespeare

In Politics

Andrew Jackson

John Glenn

Winston Churchill

Abraham Lincoln

These are my heroes.

These are my greats!

My favorite people also spring from everyday people I’ve known who never did a mean social thing in their lives like dismissing others for their lack of money, possessions, or the right diploma; or practicing a trade; or for being Black, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, or gay; or because their political beliefs don’t mesh.

I measure people by a different yardstick: people who inspire with their kindness and compassion, from every walk of life, whose praise comes from the mouths of others and not their own; whose intelligence makes room for them to lead; who, to go back to Lawrence, unite rather than divide.

I like Shaw’s wisdom in his play Pygmalion, where he has Professor Henry Higgins put his finger on what makes for good manners–not whether what you do is in itself good or bad, but that you behave the same way towards everyone.

I must warn, however of another kind of elitism that has taken vogue, of a pride in defiance, or smashing icons for its own sake; a snobbery of rebellion where even norms that have given life grace, and with it, expectancy, are trampled upon in a frenzied allegiance to a vulgarity of self-indulgence of antinomian hue.

Snobbery is a way of life that will always be with us, but you and I, forewarned, needn’t embrace it and, by doing so, gain so much more.

–rj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: