Tag Archives: essay

Teaching Our Kids to be Violent

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Teaching Our Kids to Be Violent

I’m in a very busy outside restaurant on the plaza in La Manzanilla, Mexico.  To the front and side of me are two long tables filled with 13 adults, children and teens who seem to be members of the same family.  When I first entered, the littlest girl in the family was sitting on the lap of her auntie or her mom, mugging for “sorta selfies” taken by her mom/auntie who was using some app to horribly distort the photos.  All were laughing uproarously at the monstrous images.

Then the child moved to the end of the table, where someone had removed the long cellophane-plumed toothpicks that had held their sandwiches together. Grabbing two of the toothpicks, she proceeded to jab the pointed end of one of them into the arm of one of the young women at the table. 

Waiting for chastisement, I was sorely disappointed, as what I imagine to be an auntie giggled and then grabbed the other toothpick and jabbed her back. Back and forth they went, all of the adults at the table smiling and laughing as though it was the most adorable little performance in the world.  In time, the child went down the table, jabbing with more enthusiasm each time, moving to the other table where eventually she jabbed so violently that the adult slapped her.  She slapped the adult back and a slapping match ensued.  Everyone watched, smiling, giggling. Such an adorable child! 

She moved away from the slapping match and sneaked up on a more elderly member of the party, approaching her from behind to take a hard jab with the point of the toothpick into the flesh of the woman’s upper arm.  The woman jerked away in surprise, slapping at the arm as though she believed it to be a wasp or bee sting.  This brought great peals of laughter from the other table and the child returned to it to take her bows.  

At no point in this crazy string of behavior did any adult ever censure the child or display any emotion other than enjoyment and approbation. I, on the other hand, was totally horrified.  What they were teaching the child was fairly obvious.  They  were well-dressed and sophisticated-looking, modernly dressed—like city folk come to the beach who didn’t actually want to get sand between their toes.  The voices of the seeming other half of their party at the nearby table were louder than theirs—very loud, in fact, to the point that even some Mexican customers accustomed to the general noise of Mexico were glancing over in surprise. But the table where the child sat seemed more refined–in the level of their voices if not in their surprising acceptance of the increasing violence of the formerly angelic-looking little girl.

Was she the heir to a vast cartel empire? Was this part of her education in ruthlessness? Was their glee at her monstrous appearance on the smart phone just a hint of the monster child they would raise to carry on the family business?  As most scenarios begun in restaurants and other public places, this is a story whose ending I will never know. I leave it to your imagination to come up with an ending for yourself.

But I could not help seeing it as a small metaphor for the violence in films and games and sports entertainment that our kids are submerged in every day.  It seems as though movies and TV are resorting to ever more violent and extreme cruelties to keep our interest. War and murder are not enough. Sadistic twists and torture are called upon to keep the audiences and thereby swell the coffers of production companies and advertisers.

Years ago when violence first reared its ugly head on TV, we were told that it was a fantasy that would have no effect on children, but if we look at the world around us, I think this is an assertion that has been proven to be false. As some in our society grow ever more affluent, we grow increasing more dependent on entertainment to distract us from the reality around us, and part of that reality seems, sadly, to be that we are teaching our kids to be more violent.

 

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Lava

I saw this wonderful tirade by Audra Alexander on a friend’s Facebook page. I tracked down the author, who generously gave me permission to run it on my blog. Since there was no button on her blog to do so, I couldn’t “reblog” it, so here it is in its entirety. I hope you visit her blog, URL given below, to tell her what you think !!!! I think she’s captured perfectly and in an entertaining if irate fashion what is going to happen when Kavanaugh is confirmed:

Lava

Kavanaugh is going to get confirmed, we all know that. A lot of women will be very angry. Some might even take to the streets. But this won’t be the tipping point. There won’t be a tipping point, there never is. There will just be the subterranean lava flow of women’s anger – slow, blistering, savage and inexorable. We’ll go to bed angry, we’ll get up angry, we’ll drink our coffee and fix the kids’ breakfasts angrily, we’ll drive thru car line and to work angry, our male colleagues will ask each other if we’re on the rag, we’ll eat silent lunches with rage and we’ll pick up groceries on the way home with vengeance on our hearts. We’ll kiss our partners and our kids goodnight wrathfully. We’ll cry hot, silently screaming tears in the middle of brushing our teeth. We’ll go to bed angry. We’ll get up angry…

Nothing will seem to change for you. But the mother of a 32 year old man will suddenly snap at him to “Grow up!” when he complains that he’s pretty sick of frozen dinners lately. That quiet chick 3 cubicles down will show up out of nowhere and tell a gathering of dudebros that she’ll report them to HR if they don’t shut up. They’ll call her a bitch under their breath as she turns around, but she won’t care. The teenage daughter will ask her dad if he’d still find it funny if she was the punchline in his favorite joke. He’ll scold her for talking back and look at his wife, who will look back and say nothing. Another daughter will say nothing to her father – ever again.

The anger will shift, seismic but unseen. Before the lava used to burn us to ash on the inside. It’s bubbling over now. Enough of us have ripped open our bodies to let the boiling soil of our lives out that the heat itself causes fires. Sure, you can put one or two out at a time. A single flame is easy to catch. But the lava is elemental and everywhere. Kavanaugh will be confirmed. And in less than a generation he’ll be a petrified ash fossil, frozen in a rictus of agony in the new Pompeii. Nothing will seem to have changed, until it’s too late. The lava of our anger is going to cover the earth and bury you.

Here is her blog.  Check it out!  https://scarletvirago.com/2018/09/28/lava/

Play Date

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Play Date

 

My sister’s house has sold and they are cleaning out her attic. My niece and I make one trip more and I find my old dollhouse, collapsed, in the garbage can. I take the pieces out—some of them—and stash them in her trunk. I’d thought them gone forty years ago when the tornado took the roof off my parents’ house, but now, here they are like the leaves of memory blown miraculously back to me.

When she sees I’ve taken them, my niece asks what she should do with the dolls she found in the back recesses of her mother’s attic storage room—the one I hadn’t got to on my last visit—perhaps because of the roofing nails sticking through the wood which made reaching back behind the eaves a physical danger.

I find them where she has stashed them In a suitcase in her garage, and when I open the case and see the first doll staring up at me, I think it is a “find” from some antique store, like the dishes in my sister’s China cabinet or the tiny figures on her shelves. One rubber arm, sticky with age, has burst open and streams kapok like a froth of bleached and fermented blood. Other limbs have decayed to nothing but empty puddles of congealed rubber. Only the torso, held in place by a sagging pink fancy gown; and the face, stained red in places from some surface it’s been pressed against for too long, are still intact. As I lift the first doll from the suitcase, the other doll—the size of a toddler—stares up at me, one eye unhinged, her hair in pigtails sealed with rubber bands. When I lift her by one arm, her head turns, her legs pump and I realize this is my Ideal walking doll. When you raise her arms, one at a time, she walks toward you and her head swings, side-to-side. Hard and beautiful, she was not a doll to cuddle and she would not sit. She stood propped up against one corner of my room, rarely played with. What, I wonder, has happened to the bright blue dress she wore? Then I look closer and see that she’s still wearing it—faded to paleness even in the dark. What is here is original—her hair, her limbs, her dress, her petticoat—but her shoes and socks have been lost to another little girl, perhaps, or have jiggled off in some trunk and been left behind.

I’m 1500 miles away from home, yet I load the child-sized dollies into my boyfriend’s trunk: my sister’s doll in it’s fancy pink floor-length formal, my doll with her eye gone wild in its socket. They won’t make it home to Mexico in my suitcase this time, but it is impossible to leave them there in the suitcase to be thrown away by someone who has no memory of them. They are not collector’s items. They have been too neglected in their lives since they stood propped up in the corners of our rooms, then in the corners of our closets, the basement, my sister’s trunk and then her attic 800 miles from where they called us their owners and stimulated our imaginations to the extent they were able.

They’ll now reside in my boyfriend’s garage in Missouri until the time comes when I can carry them back in an extra suitcase or he can mule them down for me. If they were miniatures, I could include them in a retablo or a memory box, but each head is larger than the largest assemblage I’ve ever made. The closets of my house are full and overflowing, as are the wall-to-ceiling cabinets in my garage and studio and every area of my house where I’ve had room to build a closet. But I must use them. Give them some purpose for still existing other than to fill up room in some box on some cupboard shelf.

I imagine a memory box of gigantic proportions and suddenly, I have to make it, even if it takes up all the work room of my studio, and I start to plan how I could take my own doll back with me and what I’ll have to leave: the case of books that I’ve just had printed or my clothes or all the cartridges for my laser printer? If I wear a baby carrier, will they believe it is my baby, sound asleep? And what sensation will I cause when I try to stuff her into the overhead rack?

When I start to plan what else will go in the memory box with her, I remember the metal dollhouse sides and suddenly, I’m planning another trip back to Missouri, where I will make the mother of memory boxes—four feet square—and I wonder how my boyfriend will react to this and what I’ll do with it when it is finished. But somehow all these practicalities do not matter, because this dolly, relegated to corners for its whole life, is finally going to get played with!!!

This is a reblog from a 2014 piece. Since their prompt was “Play,” I’m reblogging it for the Ragtag Daily Prompt.

This is for Marilyn–not a poem! Written over three years ago, it predated the “Me too” movement, but fits right in with the climate today of”one step forward, one step back.” Which will it be by the end of this political “reign”? Hopefully, if a woman winds up on the moon it will be literally and not figuratively.

For Ragtag’s “Moon” prompt.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

“To the Moon, Alice!”
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On “The Honeymooners,” Ralph Kramden (played by Jackie Gleason) had a phrase that those of us of a certain age can’t help but remember.  “To the moon, Alice, to the moon!” he would rasp at his wife (played by the inimitable Audrey Meadows) whenever he had no less predictable comeback to her never predictable jibes. Of course, the idea was that this was how far he would knock her.  An upraised fist often accompanied his threat.

The audience, of course, would roar.  So hilarious this empty threat, for America knew that Ralph would never make good on the threat. Even Alice never flinched–supposedly because she, too, knew those words signaled an empty threat.  But underneath those words and the fact that viewers found them to be so hilarious, was the idea that such threatened violence was funny–and, somehow, that such treatment of his wife was a…

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Love Letters to Bad Men by Gloria Palazzo

I love this piece written by my friend Gloria Palazzo, pictured above.  She doesn’t have a blog but has given me permission to present it here:

 

Love Letters to Bad Men

I love Bill because he tried his best to be a good father. He worked long hours to bring home money. He taught me how to ride a two wheeler. It was an old green one with fat tires and the boy who owned it got killed in the war. Bill  called me, “Hatface.”  He said I looked good in the ladies hats he made in his factory.

I love my mother’s second husband, Albert, because even though he was not a nice person he took good care of my mother while she was sick with Alzheimer’s.

I love my half brother Ted because he is very kind, He is also very big and even though he is so much younger than me, because of his size and teddy bear gentleness, I can make believe that he is the older brother I always wished I had.

I love my first boyfriend Ronnie Unger because his parents brought him to Rockaway and he used to keep me company while I baby sat. I was twelve and he was thirteen. When the family returned the following summer, he still liked me. I was surprised.

I love Henry Nellon because he used to sit on the railing on the boardwalk and smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes. He was seventeen and looked like James Dean. I was fourteen and taught myself to smoke just so that I could ask him to light my cigarette. I still loved him even after he told me that he loved this red head who I thought was ugly.

I love Jimmy Corrigan because his sister introduced us and he became our high school president. We were so popular that the kids on the bus saved seats for us. His parents did not approve of me and so he stopped coming around. I went to his house on Halloween and they didn’t know it was me behind that silly mask.

I love Robert Hutter because he was the smartest student in his class and he was studying to be a brain surgeon. He bought me a dictionary for my birthday, I once sneaked out of my dormitory to go with him to watch Syracuse and Cornell play football. He slipped out of my life but surfaced in my thoughts every day for eleven years.

I love Jules Schussler because he is the father of my children and because his mother was a great cook. He helped me to escape my home because I did not have the guts to run away. He was a good dancer and taught me to dance the Mambo. He also had an infectious laugh.

I love Steve because he was my first baby. He is very handsome. When he started to walk he looked so cute waddling around with my big old coffee pot. He didn’t like toys. Only the coffee pot. I once heard his brother say he was a chrome magnum. I do not know what that is.

I love Robert because he was a beautiful baby with big blue eyes and curly blond hair. He looked like an angel, but the devil got into him for a while. It was in the form of beer, marijuana and pretty girls. Later he became the best driver that UPS ever had. My grandson Jason calls him dad.

I love John because he was my last baby. He was such a good baby. His dedication to his studies and his devotion to me were a treasure. His affection and loyalty kept me on a sane course when everything around me seemed to be falling apart.

I love Fred Hollis because he taught me how to drive long distances in a big truck carrying heavy machinery. He also taught me how to put a worm on a hook, catch a fish, unhook it, clean it, and then fry it up right there on the beach and savor the solitude of togetherness in nature.

I love Jim Palazzo for all the right reasons. He adored women. He also liked them. I carried acres of sadness and anger when we met and he taught me to love and trust with truth and honesty. Thank you, Jim. And thanks too for the name, PALAZZO.

I love Dell Krietel because he lifted me right out of Walmart’s where I was demonstrating Kodak cameras. We made love the way it is described in steamy novels. That was one hell of an awakening. The affair lasted 3 months, but the residual lingers on.

I love Perry Frankland because he was funny and very rich. We met by chance in Bimini where we enjoyed a three day love affair. It was supposed to end there, but it didn’t and we hop scotched in Tampa society for two years. Fate separated us when he didn’t recover from surgery. His death shattered my dreams but be continues to visit me every time I see a butterfly.

I love Archie because his wagging tail and loving eyes never faltered even though he was often scolded for messes and spills. He pawed his way into our hearts and barked dutifully to protect us.

My last great love leaves a trail of smoking dust and jagged tears as this broken heart tiptoes, ever searching for just one more “bad” man.

 

Love that this piece pretty much becomes Gloria’s autobiography.  I challenge anyone who might be interested to write their own piece of this type—a love letter to bad anything: food, pets, relatives, hats, choices—you name it.  If you do, please post a link in the comments below.

Bought but Never Sold

You’ve probably all seen this very gracious editorial in The Star (Canada) that is a response to the recent visit of some Americans’ president, but just in case, I’m representing it here:

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/06/12/dear-america-come-on-up-we-still-like-you.html

It shows that there are still some gracious, generous commentaries left in our charged-up world. And that the whole world doesn’t hate us for losing control of our country, somehow. Some of us are trying to get it back again. Bought but never sold!!!

Planning Meeting at the Senior Citizens Center

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Concerted: contrived or arranged by agreement; planned or devised together. A concerted effort: done or performed together or in cooperation.

Planning Meeting at the Senior Citizens Center

Has anyone else noticed that it is much harder to make a concerted effort after the age of 65?  Plans somehow get skewed, no matter how much harder we try. One person forgets the meeting. Another is ill or merely having an “off day” and can’t get out of the house.  Yet another shows up but has forgotten to do the tasks they have agreed to do. Once at the meeting, one or two people can’t hear. Another is dealing with a phone call that has just come in on her cell phone.  Two others ignore their calls but either can’t figure out how to turn off their phones or actually don’t hear the drone. 

The leader of the meeting keeps forgetting the last word of her sentences,  but luckily her friends are accustomed to this and they take turns filling them in for her. When she switches to a power point demonstration, the pictures seem to have turned themselves upside down and the man switching to each new photo has problems coordinating them with the vocal cues.

Several who can’t see move forward to a seat closer to the screen. A man in the front row falls asleep and everyone is distracted watching him as his head bends lower and lower. His next door neighbor wonders at what point she should put an arm out to catch him lest he pitch forward onto the floor. 

The meeting seems to go on for longer than usual and at five minute intervals, women work their ways from wherever they are situated in the rows of seats, past the stiff legs of those they must pass on their way to the aisle, trying not to stumble over feet whose owners seem unable to shift them far enough out of the way. Their panicked eyes and the speed with which they move reveal that they have waited a bit too long to begin their journey.  This serves as a lesson to several other women who rise and work their way out behind them.  As each in the group returns, at least one other audience member stands to work her way out in the same direction.  Occasionally, a man just leaves for a short stroll out into the garden. Everyone finds this suspicious.

Neighbors ask neighbors to repeat what was just said. Questions are asked that have already been answered minutes before. Men make suggestions that are widely agreed with, to the chagrin of the women who have made the exact same suggestion earlier in the discussion with no response.

There is a disagreement and one of the participants remembers that it is time to go home to feed her dog.  Another person wants to get home before dark. Another has arranged for a taxi that will be there in five minutes.

Meeting adjourned.

If you are looking for a daily prompt, try this one.  It posts daily, is easy to post your answer on and stays active for a month.  The Daily Addictions prompt today isconcerted.”