It’s the age-old question, supposedly first posed by Freud.  It seems that now our political parties are asking the same question. ..and getting different answers.   Recently Ms. Rosen, a liberal leaning commentator, made the comment that Mitt Romey’s wife “had never worked a day in her life”  in reaction to Mrs. Romney’s own  comment that women were more interested in the economy  than personal rights related to birth control or abortion (though I always thought of those as economic in their own way).  Now we women all know what  Rosen really meant…that Romney’s wife never worked a day outside the home…never had to answer to an employer who determined her health insurance policy and what it covered or  had to give approval for her time off (with or without pay) to care for family or herself.   But there was an immediate reaction from  stay-at-home mothers and even the  White House that, of course, child care was work and worthy of respect.

I would never deny that being home with  children (small ones especially) is not work (it’s easier when they finally go to school), and that an outside job might even be a welcome escape from the demands of child care at times.  I’ve experienced both situations.  The first year after my husband had a new job and I didn’t, I was home for the first time in my life, full time with my  2 youngest children (I had always  been home with my children  two months in every summer because I was a teacher.)  It was work, but nothing like the pressure filled days of balancing home and career when I was working outside the home as well.  In fact, it was instead a real vacation for me to be home that year.  I was able to determine my own schedule most of the time. To have time in the day to form friendships with other women over coffee as our children played; to  take the kids on outings to the park and to play with them; to be involved in activities of my oldest daughter in high school; to do the kind of gardening, canning, baking, etc. I never had time to do when I worked outside the home.  However, the worst part of not working was economics-  less money all around.   And I felt less able to justify spending money on myself or things I needed.

I doubt Mrs. Romney ever had the worries about money as I did when I wasn’t working.  I doubt she had to worry what taking time off with children would mean to her retirement. I doubt she had any trouble getting or affording child care when she needed time for other acitivites or even herself and her husband.  And did she have a large garden and do all the cooking for the family as I did..and her own cleaning. etc when she was home with family?

Mrs. Romney not only hasn’t experienced what its like for most women to juggle career and home;  she also doesn’t know what it’s like for most women to stay home with children in a reduced financial situation. She doesn’t understand the economic pressures most women are under- married and single.  It’s a luxury to be able to stay home with children.   I’m not saying her life has necessarily been easy, esepcially since she deals with M.S.  But at least she doesn’t have the economic fears most women with M.S. have.   She’ll have support – even if her husband would leave her.

What do women(at least the majority) want?  They want equality in wages and promotions when they work.  They also want reasonable support in caring for children and other family members when they work.  They want the right to  appropriate health care and to choose whether or not to have another child.  They want decent retirement plans.  Most of all – they want choice in so many ways.  One of the reasons some women give for staying at home with children when they would rather work is the high cost of childcare.  They find they can’t make enough money at their jobs to pay for it.  Thus they do sacrifice their career record ( that does affect  career advancement personal retirement) when they have children.  My oldest daughter put off having another child until the first one was kindergarten because of the cost of care.   While a few men stay home to care for the children, they are still atypical, and they are also making an economic sacrifice when they do.

If being home with children is so important, why doesn’t the Republican party recommend legislation to have such time spent as credit toward retirement. Would the gov’t ever pay a woman or man to stay home with the children for even one year?  Would the “family” oriented Republican party recommend that?    Most of the lip service given to the importance of stay-at-home mothers is just that– lip service.

Why did Mitt Romney insist as Gov. of Mass that women on welfare go to work when their children were 2 yrs of age to convey a strong work ethic?  Is the luxury of staying home with children only for rich families like his?

And if, indeed, it’s the economy,  how will the  Romney  policies improve a working woman’s lot?

I learned long ago that the party most likely to support my needs and interests is not the patriarchal one but the more empathetic one – It’s part of the reason I and many other women are Democrats.

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Has a grammar Nazi ever attacked you?  I’m talking about the personal friend, stranger, child, etc., that corrected your grammar while or after you were speaking.  And how did you feel about that?  Grateful?  Embarrassed? Insulted?  Miffed, would be my response. Nothing is more irritating than a “smart -A” kid, who has just learned “proper” grammar,  correcting an adult.  The child should have learned respect for adults first.   Though an English teacher, I   would never correct someone in a purely social situation.  I might correct my child or husband or someone I cared about who I feared would harm a career or social position if the habit persisted, and even then, only privately.  In everyday conversation, I’ve certainly ignored formal rules in speaking or simply didn’t stop  speaking to work out the subtleties of grammar.   Sometimes I’ve made “mistakes” deliberately.   Grammar Nazis exemplify the old saying, ” A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”  They think one way suits all situations. Not so.

In studying English language in more depth, I came to realize that there is not just one manner of speaking, and even writing,  appropriate to all occasions.   We have all sorts of regional and social dialects that fit different situations, and in my opinion, make language much more interesting.  The most skilled user of language can adapt to fit the situation appropriately.   Writers of fiction, especially must develop an ear for the spoken word.  In the preface to Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain made note of the number of dialects he had used.   Of course, a person who wants to indicate  an education, should definitely learn both formal and informal standard English because these are expected in certain situations (and the informal is always safe in conversation).    For that reason, these are stressed in school and teachers are expected to correct students, especially in written work or public speaking.

On the other hand, the country singer and the rock-n-roll artist who “ain’t got no lovin'” is fitting the style.  And songwriters break rules all the time in order to create rhyme  or a common touch to the words.  That’s poetic license.  The star athlete in an interview who says “axe” for  “asked” obviously hasn’t  found it necessary to drop a learned pronunciation in order to be successful in sports but may need to change if a sports announcing career is desired.

Spoken language is continually changing, though the formal  written language changes quite slowly because it is essentially a “frozen” dialect taught in school.  The origin of “ain’t”  show that at one time it was a perfectly acceptable contraction for “am not” until someone with authority decided it was not.  “Aren’t I” still seems awkward, doesn’t it?    My parents said “it don’t” and “punkin'”for pumpkin, etc. but they didn’t ruin my education.  What counted was that they loved me.

So, all you grammar Nazis,  remember  in social situations to consider the person’s character as more important that his or her speech .  Save the criticism for yourself or, if you must correct someone, do it in private and with kindness.

acedia.

Wiki defines acedia as a state of torpor – of apathy and indifference, a lack of caring associated with the deadly sin of sloth. It can resemble depression and at its worst leading to suicial state of mind.  Kathleen Norris writes of her own struggle with acedia, tracing it throughout her own life and that of the monastic community.  She sees it as an affliction of the spirit, the soul.

Have we not all experienced this state at some point in our lives?  For most of us a day in which we just do not feel like doing anything at all.. of withdrawing from the world…where even the effort of the smallest task overwhelms us.   It is a sort of world weariness.  For most of us, it is temporary but it can become a pattern of life.  It can be self propagating.  Ennui can lead to more ennui.  In me it seems to involve a sort of inner talk…no one cares, why should I..what worth is one person, what difference does anything make, etc.  It’s the couch potato at its worst where nothing gives us joy…and yet it is a kind of restlessness….especially of the spirit..a spirit not at peace.

We are a nation that has increasingly complained of depression – a nation reliant on all sorts of pills to lift depression.  I found one citation by Norris interesting in referring to the practice of psychiatry.  At first psychiatry practiced emotional counseling without chemical means but now it practices too much reliance on chemical means without the emotional counseling.   At one time religion was the primary source of emotional counseling…not that it often worked.  In fact it was often abused and made a condition worse.   Yet, to discount the spiritual seems to discount something extremely iimportant to the human psyche.

I believe much of the Bible is not factual, especially the miracles.  Much is myth.  We cannot prove there is a God;  we also cannot prove there isn’t although we have no scientific evidence of one.   Nevertheless, in a strictly atheistic world,  there seems to be a denial of any meaning to life except the reproductive one of keeping your species going after you are dead.  A short story by Ernest Hemingway is about a boy who finds out the ugly truth about a father he worships (My Old Man). The story ends with the boy saying, “Once they get started, they don’t leave you anything.” While it’s about that passage into adulthood with all of the illusion of childhood shattered,  it’s also a profound statement about the loss of faith.    Norris’s husband did not believe the Bible it was true in the factual sense even though he’d had a Jesuit/Catholic upbringing.  He also suffered debilitating depression at times.  Was there a connection?

I feel we must have some new sort of spiritual life…that churches must “evolve” into nourishing the spirit without the necessity of belief in myth, that they must come to a kind of truthfulness…an adult understanding.   St. Paul wrote – when I was a child I thought as a child, but now I am become a man I must put away childish things.  The myths we tell children to assure them and ease their sense of helplessness  are not the myths we should continue in as adults.

Like Paul I say, I believe… help me with unbelief…and the belief is that there is more to this life than just an animalistic survival.  Otherewise is not acedia reasonable?

Recently I picked up a book called The Political Mind by George Lackoff at the local dollar store. It was written before the election of Obama, but it makes sense out of something I had a great deal of trouble understanding: Why would people vote against their own best interests? To rephrase that – why are people irrational. Why would a person of moderate means be against government programs to most likely benefit him or her the most?  Why do the governors of states such as S.D. and Nebraska(red states) who receive much more federal aid than the tax revenue they return seem to  be opposed to federal aid in their support of budget cuts on the federal level?

Lackoff, using scientific knowledge of how people think and their subconsious thought as well as the influence of cultural myth or story, has an interesting explanation. We tend to buy into certain patterns of thought: one ingrained in much of our society is the patriarchal one — the strong father image. Perhaps that explains why this country has had no female Presidents even though countries we consider far less advanced have. I’ve often wondered why the a number of the conservatives  esp. the southern “tea party”  seem to reject the idea of evolution, yet seem to love the idea of “survival of the fittest”, an element of evolutionary thought that frightened its Christian opponents such as Bryan in the famous Scopes trial. Perhaps this view is also a response to the “rags to riches” stories– that success is somehow equated with one’s hard work and character when reality will show that no one is a self-made “man”. Warren Buffett himself said he was lucky to be born with a gift for numbers in a time and culture that rewarded that talent.
Lackoff  describes an essential difference in the philosophy of our current political parties.  He sees Democratic philosophy as tending toward the empathetic – more concerned with the welfare of all. Current Republican philosophy tends more toward the legalistic (reward and punishment): rewards to those who deserve it and punishment to the others…the deserving supposedly being the talented and hard working. (Perhaps that is why there is a resurgence in Ayn Rand  among some conservative youth. It is understandable that a young, talented, ambitious,and self-centered youth might want to believe that..but no one is young forever..and no one can predict what life may bring. Experience teaches the wise the truth of reality). Furthermore, the public is subject to the subconscious emotional conditioning aroused by certain words (why did Republicans compare the budget of a government to a family….because family resonates with the ordinary person when a government is much more complex and far reaching).

Lackoff also points out that no matter what (except at the very extremes of party)people often hold opinions inconsistent with the party’s usual view or even their own.  And so Democrats want Obama to be a STRONG leader (patriarchal) in the “showdown” with the Republicans rather than a compromiser.  There is that famous Tea Party sign shown on the internet – Don’t mess with my social security .   A staunch believer in government staying out of people’s lives is against the legalization of abortion (gov’t staying out of personal lives).   A staunch believer in legal abortion opposes the death penalty.  Citizen would never think only the wealthy should have access to police or fire protectiong — that is a public service we want our taxes to support — but yet so many abhor the idea of a national health system…even though that may be even more important in protecting the lives of citizens that a police force.  We are more likely to need health care to survive than to die from violence.  A citizen opposed to government welfare is the first one to apply for disaster funds when his house is destroyed in a tornado or flood.  Some of my friends who applaud the idea of cutting social programs to balance the budget and lower taxes would most likely be the first to seek aid for an elderly or disabled family member or a friend in that position.  Underlying these inconsistencies may be both the rational and the empathetic as well as the self-seeking.  We are a bundle of contradictions and it is important that we see this in ourselves.

Lackoff notes that Democrats are too focused on appealing to the public’s rationality– reflecting the ideas – the focus on reason of the Great Enlightenment that began this country.   Republicans have been much more effective in getting at the subconscious and playing on the treasured mythical stories of our culture.

He believes a true democracy must be concerned for the welfare of all of its people if it is to survive as a democracy.  He fears the current trend – he calls it immoral – toward a society with a vast divide between the ultra-wealthy and the middle and lower classes, for vast wealth transmits into vast power, which in itself threatens democracy and the very potention for opportunity for all.

Yesterday was spent cleaning out a giant chest freezer (big enough to put a body in easily) – an International Harvester at least 40 years old. It was purchased by my husband before we married – most likely at an auction in S.D. After we married, we moved it to a garage and then to a basement. After we moved to Nebraska, it sat in an outdoor shed — running all the time, until we moved it about 30 years ago into the garage of a newly purchased house, where it has resided ever since. Since it’s old, it does not defrost itself (and obviously was made before manufacturers realized the importance of built in obsolescence). About every five years, enough frost builds up to make me clean it as happened this summer. This process never fails to show me how much food one person can waste; I ended up throwing out a really big trash can full of food – outdated or freezer burned — most of it stuck to the bottom where I could never quite get at it. Some of the wasted food was the result of being unable to pass up what seemed like a bargain at the time. Some was purchased in anticipation of a meal that didn’t take place. Some came from a neighbor lady who gave me last year’s meat from her freezer because she was getting newly butchered beef. I should at least have used it for animal food. Mea Culpa. I am guilty of terrible waste ..and there are people starving in this world.
One year when my children were still children, I found a freeze dried parakeet in it. I’d forgotten I’d put it there in the winter after our favorite cat Skunk got it, promising the kids we’d give it a proper burial in the spring. Obviously, some of the waste was due to forgetfulness — forgot I had it.
And some was due to lack of forsight. I had to think ahead to thawing a package out to be able to use it when I needed it.
Each time I go through this process, I vow not to buy any more foodstuff of the sort until I have used up what I have. And each time I fail to fulfill this intention.
Subconsciously, I think having food on hand is a security blanket for me — left over from the way I was raised when food wasn’t so often easily available. Not that I ever lacked for food. But my familly always had a pantry with food — lots of canning contributed to it from my grandmother’s large garden. We didn’t have a freezer of our own then but we had a locker box at the local locker (or butcher) that was only a few blocks away. We never worried about being snowed in without food. There was always food available.
I hate being wasteful and I hate that I am just one example of a rather wasteful socierty.

Mojo told me this a.m. with a lot of loud barks that a big dog was walking unleashed in our neighborhood. He gets pretty riled up at that sort of thing; after all, he’s on a leash or in a fence and they are pooping on his property.
Makes me think about all the “big dogs” walking about in this country without a whole lot of restraint. We’ve got an oil company that wants to put its pipeline through western Nebraska right over an important underground water source…and it’s been quite a fight with the gov. playing both sides and two Republican congressman on opposite sides of the question. It also seems some of those “too big to fail” dogs haven’t been put on a short leash yet, and if they’ve got one at all, it’s mighty long. These are all likely to do a lot of pooping on us ordinary folk if something doesn’t change. Just heard that banks in reaction to limitation on what they can charge a business owner for debit card use are now planning to poop on the consumer using that debit card. Didn’t have a tight enough leash there, I guess.