Saw a thing on facebook promising this could change the way I think. I couldn't click on it. It looked like something like a hugging contest. Something unexpectedly sweet. I couldn't go there, whatever it was. The intro that it's about changing the way I think did it for me. Not that I reject having the way I think changed. I'm always open to adjusting, fine tuning my thinking. I already know my thinking is based in illusion, mixing details, facts, trends, beliefs I'm unaware of, connecting the dots in my head into a skyscraper of cards. Every card a bit of misinformation, inaccurate details, images arranged into a construction composed by my own attitude toward life. What does some person on facebook who never heard of me know about my thinking? The presumption that I think a certain way is what turned me off. How does that person know I don't already think the way he's making a case for? And what if I don't? I'm half tempted go take a look at what it has to say, but refuse to. It brings to mind somebody saying a sentimental act of common decency restored their faith in humanity. Every time I hear it, I think, but cannot say, If that's all it took to restore your faith in humanity, it must not have taken much to lose it. The American madness to change other people's thinking is totally out of bounds in my way of seeing plain decency. The church I grew up in tried to convince me it was my duty to browbeat everyone I know about changing their way of thinking to the only way, the right way, the way the preacher at the church thought. I wouldn't want to lay that on anybody, God as Fear and Punishment. I had to shed that mind. It took fifteen years by school education and self-education by reading and paying attention to the people I know.
Since childhood, I've wanted through the course of my life to know people from different backgrounds, social circumstances, from the poor to the rich, from religious to non-religious, from pastoral people, who live by supposed-to, to ex-convicts and foreigners, Yankees too. I've been fascinated by the varieties of humanity since as far back as I can remember, always interested in people of different cultures, different nationalities, different races, different languages. I even like knowing cops. I believe our Sparta town police, now, are honorable people. It hadn't always been that way. My best friend through grade school was American-Mexican. He was as American as I was, but he was Mexican. My mother worked sometimes in a TG&Y store as accountant. We'd go pick her up after work. A Mexican girl in high school worked there, Juanita. I loved Juanita. I still love the name. She knew that Mitchell was my friend. I loved the Mexican in her. That she was Catholic fascinated me too. I was like a l dog following her around listening to her talk. I asked her once to say something in Spanish. She asked what I wanted her to say. I couldn't think of anything and we laughed. I had Mexican friends all the way through school. I didn't care that it made me suspect to the other white kids. The Mexicans were far more interesting to me than the white Baptist kids. I also did not like the way they were shut out by the white kids. I extended myself to them, wanting to know them, appreciating them as themselves, liking them especially for being different from the suffocating pride of whiteness. White arrogance toward people I knew to be valid human beings made me ashamed of my white privilege.
In the Navy, my friends were the black guys. I was on an old WW2 destroyer that was sold to Brazil soon after I was released. It could run, and it could ride the waves. It took a 90 degree roll one night and uprighted. I loved how the ship rode the waves. In the very worst times when three-quarters of the crew were out with sea-sickness and and puke was everywhere, I kept on going, thinking to self I'd pay for this ride, and it's paying me. I loved it, walking down a hallway bouncing from wall to wall using upper arms for bumpers, going up steps and stepping down what seemed like three feet to step up to the next step, I didn't like the aroma of puke everywhere, on my clothes too, no avoiding it, but I refused to give in to sea-sickness, because riding the waves was my reason for choosing the Navy to stay out of the Army. I loved riding the ocean. The ship had a dozen or more black guys. I liked them the best and enjoyed social times with them. They were people just like me and the other white guys that called me nigger lover. My closest friend on the ship was Muslim, from Boston. One of the guys on the ship from Texas had a cousin who was going with Joe Tex, then a pop singer on the radio. Going onshore, I always went with my black friends. They were the most fun. The white guys went en masse to the sailor bar to drink as much beer as they could and talk big man talk about pussy. With the black guys I went to jazz clubs. They knew where these places were. Had some great jazz club experiences in Europe along the Mediterranean. My friend, Ameen, played jazz piano on the order of Ahmad Jamal, and jazz vibraphone, vibes. We'd go to a club, enjoy the music by good musicians from all over Europe. During intermission he'd introduce himself to the band, we'd drink with the band and talk. Every time, the piano player asked him to play some tunes. His courtesy was never to play more than two.
After being acquainted with a fair variety of people, weary of racial tensions, I committed to a white working class community of mountain people, a real culture. As a white dude, I felt most at home among mountain people. I found my grandmother Worthington in them. From early years in these mountains unto now I feel in the mountains as in grandmother's arms. The attitude was hers, the philosophical mind was hers, the colloquialisms were hers, and the feeling was hers. I didn't learn until I'd been here a quarter century that her parents moved to Kansas from east Kentucky, Pulaski County, not long before she was born. Her older brothers and sisters grew up in Kentucky. She grew up in a mountain home, in Kansas. She married a boy whose parents had just moved to Kansas from Ninemile in eastern Tennessee, Bledsoe County. After living here feeling at home in mountain culture as nowhere else, I learned I've got hillbilly blood, lots of it. It was one of the happiest moments in my life to learn I had hillbilly blood on the Worthington side. Great-great grandpa fought for the Confederacy and survived. One of his brothers didn't make it. I felt closest to grandmother in childhood as to any relative. She was my home base. I had fun telling my sisters in Kansas they had hillbilly blood. Throughout my life, I've regretted the divide between races, religions, nationalities in my country. In the grocery store a couple days ago, a black man I'd never seen before came up behind me in line with two items. I invited him to go ahead of me. He was so surprised he looked suspicious, backing up a step. He declined. I said, Go ahead, I'm in no hurry. He did and spoke his gratitude. Mary at the register said that was nice of me. I said, I can't stand to unload my buggy with somebody behind me who has two items. What's the rush? Then realized it was "nice," unexpected, because he was black. I've done the same for white people and got no notice.
max ernst himself