Amber Waves

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I so much want that image of America to be true:  spacious skies, majestic mountains, fruitful plains.  I so very much want sister/brotherhood to be crowned by grace and goodness.  I do not want this as a cover-up for the wrongs that have been or are still being done to native peoples, to slaves, the poor, the desperate refugee and to the land itself. I want it because I cannot give up on the dream of liberty and justice for all, of a country in which differences can be celebrated and where everyone’s potential can be realized.

This American Dream.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to benefit from it, whether by chance of birth, gender, financial status, majority race or religion, need to acknowledge that for many others it has been a nightmare.  We need to understand that our privilege has ridden on the backs of others.  But this acknowledgement cannot be an excuse to wallow in guilt or throw up our hands in defeat.  Rather, it should guide the way to reconciliation, and to a renewed commitment to the ideals that, if made into a reality for all, really do make this country great.

We are struggling so much during this time of division and hostility in our national life to hang on to this dream trying to figure out how to balance and acknowledge so many critical needs.  It is very hard not to become so distraught at the daily antics of inept leaders who do not have the courage to stand up for the good of the country that we forget that it is us, we the people, for whom this nation exists.

We can all do something, and even if it seems too little, or too insignificant, do it anyway. We can make phone calls or send e-mails on a regular basis to our elected officials so they don’t forget they are accountable to us.  We can gather the courage to speak to friends, relatives or co-workers if they express opinions that are prejudiced or make hurtful and damaging comments to others.  We can tell the Pakistani clerk at our local convenience store that she is welcome in the community.  We can listen with an open mind to African-Americans, immigrants, Appalachian coal miners, and struggling single parents when they tell their stories.

Even though it may seem so, we are not on the Titanic after striking the iceberg.  But still we have to choose the role we will play. Will we be the privileged ones pushing others out of the way to jump into the lifeboats? Or the musicians trying to provide comfort even in the face of certain death? In an attempt to save ourselves, will we run past the gate holding back those labeled less important and undeserving, or will we stop and work together to break it down?

 

 

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 8/16/17
Inspired by Daily Word Prompt:  grainy

True Conversations, Creative Use of Words, and Verbal Stupidity

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It’s no surprise that people who love to write, (whether they are high level journalists, published authors, or–like me–a freelance wanna-be) are fascinated by words. It is a great delight for me to learn of the creative ways the human brain formulates verbal expression.  I love to share with native speakers of languages other than my own, and learn the colloquial expressions we use for the human experiences and emotions we share in common.  A good pun, sentences that convey an idea with depth, and a tongue-in-cheek use of words to soften a message are all a delight to me.

Anyone who has spent time with a child through the language learning years has seen verbal creativity first hand.  When our children were young, their sandwich bread had to be trimmed of crust because they didn’t like the “bark.”  When our son was just learning to identify letters, his dad pointed to a large store sign that looked like this

R I C H ‘ S

and asked him what the letters were.  “R,” he said with great confidence, but paused, clearly confused by the next one.  Then the creativity kicked in:  “Line, C, H, curve, S,” he announced proudly.

One of my most difficult experiences is those moments when I cannot recall a word or a name.  It frustrates me greatly, but there seems to be a similar creative process in my aging brain by which I can retrieve or somehow modify and find a different word in order to express myself.  When my mother was in her late 80’s, she was watching the birds at the feeder in her yard–something that she had always loved to do.  Squirrels are notorious for robbing these feeders and trying to outsmart them is like protecting a bank from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

My mother started to say something to me, then hesitated, the look on her face making it obvious she was searching for the right name for that animal that was stealing food from her beloved birds.  “Look,” she finally said, “the bandit is at the feeder.”

I can only speak for myself, but am guessing that most people who enjoy creating word pictures or verbal symphonies, and write because they love to communicate through the written word experience frustration over improper word use and statements that clearly indicate the speaker has no real idea what the word means.

Yesterday there was an advertisement for a personal injury law firm on television, which loudly announced:  “Accidents often happen without any warning!”  Isn’t that pretty much the definition of an accident? Are warnings given if the accident was planned?

I have collected some snippets of conversation to share with my fellow word fanatics. Some are creative, some demonstrate a bit of stupidity, but all of them are real conversations that I either overheard or in which I was a less than enthusiastic participant.  Hopefully, they will provide some humor to brighten your day.

Son:  Dad, could you possibly lend me some money?
Dad:  Sorry, son, but the well is dry.
Son:  (two days later when father drives up in a new car):  
     Dad, I thought you said the well was dry.
Dad:  Well, actually, the well isn't dry, 
      but your bucket definitely has a hole in it.
Customer at Pick-Your-Own Strawberry Farm: $2.00 a quart!! Are you kidding?
           The farm down the street is selling them for $1.50!!
Farmer:    Why didn't you pick them there?
Customer:  He's closed because he sold out.
Farmer:    When I'm sold out, I'll sell them to you for $1.00!
Grandma:  Your friend is not very bright.
Grandson: How can you say that, Grandma? You only just met him today.
Grandma:  A stranger sits for a while and sees for a mile!
Car Nut:  It costs $30 to get into this show?  That's a lot of money.
Beleaguered Ticket Seller:  Yes, but there are at least 70 cars,
           and you can stay as long as you want.
Car Nut:  Can I just go in for a few minutes and see if there are any cars
          I really want to see? If there are, then I'll buy a ticket.
Judge Judy:  So, you were driving the car?
Defendant:   No, I wasn't driving, I was backing out of the parking space.

A confession about being a word snob:  I am one.  My snobbery is usually quiet and unobtrusive.  I don’t say much out loud, but someone with really long fingernails is clawing at my internal chalkboard when confronted with the incessant use of “like” and “actually.”   Human language is so rich and evocative and it saddens me to witness the popularity of making a statement in 140 characters, tweeting inane or hurtful comments as a substitute for true dialogue, or language reduced to “one-size-fits-all” statements such as “have a good one.”  I’m thankful to be part of a community of people for whom the written word is still something worth pondering over and delighting in, and crafting a well-written story is a delight.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 8/15/17

 

Friends?

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I’m always very pleased to see that readers are checking my site even when I haven’t posted anything new for a while.  I used to try to follow the common advice about posting frequently–every day being the gold medal standard. Usually, though, I didn’t even earn a silver or bronze.  I come from a long line of tight-lipped Yankees, whose motto is “If you can’t improve on the silence, don’t break it!”  

There are clearly enough people around who have something to say about everything and anything on a daily basis, so I don’t feel much pressure any more to add to the incessant background noise of our modern lives.  Today, however, is an exception, thanks to my recurring irritation with devices.  To be more specific, it’s not really so much the devices themselves that irritate me, but the way whoever is in charge of this matrix tries to make me believe that they personally know me, really give a damn how I am, what I did 5 years ago, and whether I will remember to take my umbrella today because it’s going to rain.

Several years ago, when my brother was a newbie on Facebook, a pitiful message (cue the violins and break out the tissues) popped up on my news feed saying “Steve Crofter doesn’t have any friends.  Suggest friends for Steve!”  Let me set the record straight here. Steve Crofter has more friends than most people I know.  He makes friends with the mailman, the clerk at the local store, the curmudgeon next door and the recluse old lady who lives down the street.  He doesn’t have that many friends on Facebook because he’s busy making friends in real life and real time.

A few weeks ago, my morning started with another Facebook announcement:  (Cue the trumpets and give an enthusiastic drum roll, please…)

You and Steve Crofter have been friends for five years!!  

EXCUSE ME?????

Steve Crofter has been my youngest brother since 1953.  I wish I could claim that we have been friends for 64 years, but unfortunately my two brothers and I wasted time during our childhood years picking on each other and playing “two against one.” Thankfully, however, and due in large part to the fact that Steve is a natural-born peacemaker, in our adult years the three of us have become fast and loving friends.

Yesterday at 9:28 AM,a notice appeared on my Facebook feed that said:

“cultivatingdignity.com has 1 new post share and 1 new post like.”  

All day I basked in the happy knowledge that even when I wasn’t inspired to produce a wordy gem to post on my blog that due to the ever-present cyber world, I was still popular!!  So imagine my distress when checking Facebook (just one more time, honest) before going to bed, this notice slapped me in the face:

“cultivatingdignity.com didn’t get any new post shares or likes this week.”

Damn!!  Now rather than drifting blissfully to sleep, secure in the knowledge that my readers have not forgotten me, I have to toss and turn trying to figure out where things went wrong.  Maybe the Facebook week starts on Sunday evening, say around 8PM.  That would mean that the 1 new share and 1 new like were true last week, but so far nothing this week.  But that can’t be the case, because even if the week starts on Sunday night, surely they wouldn’t smack me down so quickly.  Wouldn’t they give me at least a few days to see if I can rise to the publishing standards I’m supposed to meet? Isn’t Facebook my friend?  Don’t they really care about me?  Isn’t that why they say good morning to me every day and warn me about the weather conditions I might have to face?

Look, even an old lady like me can appreciate the usefulness of Facebook and other social media.   It is a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends who live long distances away or to share news and information with many people without the necessity of making numerous phone calls.  I also know that it can provide critical information to people in times of political crisis or natural disasters.

Image result for man behind the curtain ozMaybe I am living in the past, but I am really irritated by this attempted personification of software and computer programs.  I never want to forget that friends are live human beings with whom I can have a conversation over a cup of tea, who can laugh with me when I am joyful and wipe my tears when life knocks me to the ground. And sorry, Facebook, no offense, but you are not my friend, and the man behind the curtain is not either.