Monday, August 2, 2010

The roles that common sense, books, and family played in my life

Just a few comments will always stimulate still another discussion in my mind. Having been born in a state where one church (Mormon) was so dominating, I naturally gave a great deal of thought to religion. But my father's problems made him an even more dominating presence in my life since I thought the well being and continued survival of the family depended on him. If we lived we would fare a lot better, if he died while we were still children, dire poverty faced us, as he would not have left much at all had he died in his early forties.
Whether I believed in the religion was not going to make a big difference in my life. Instead I thought reaching my father was critical. He operated entirely outside the church as did his father, so I was in a sense raised outside the church. He and his father resisted being a part of the church, even though neither made any fuss when their wives went to church. They were the bread winners with the cattle ranching both did to earn a living.
I did not see that either one of them were Christian men either, that is had any beliefs about Jesus one way or another. They were what I call free thinkers. They set great store by books and newspapers. They both paid for their children to go to college. They both subscribed to the Salt Lake Tribune that took a couple of days or so to reach our town. My mother took many magazines which my father read especially if they covered current events, which included Life, Look, Reader's Digest,and other such magazines. My mother was always buying books, some of which my father read. I felt a great deal of encouragement to read everything that my mother brought into our home, and as soon as I went away to school I checked a pile of books out of the public library constantly as well as accessed the school libraries.
I soon perceived away from home that book reading on the scale I was used to doing it was not common among the students. I had to wait until college years to find similarly inclined students. I ran into very few in high school. One of the reasons for this being I thought was that the religious leadership encouraged the active members to read books that were either put out by the church or met their seal of approval. I, on the other hand, read indiscriminately. What ever problem was troubling me I would always try to find books covering the subject so I could see if anybody else had good ideas I could try.
This was particularly true about my father's severe problem with alcohol and also with his bisexual problem. Everywhere I went I would be intensely aware of other people I thought were struggling with the same thing. I was drawn to theater and literature because of the gay element of society they attracted. I would pour over books that even mentioned the problem. I heard in college that the French writer, Andre Gide, had a similar problem so I would read his books if I could find them, because he did indeed write more frankly than most American authors did. I read Proust's Remembrance of Things Past because it was recommended to me by a brilliant student who I thought was conflicted like my father. He did not choose to talk about it as most didn't who had married and had children. It was very rare for anyone to 'come out' in Utah. The disapproval generated by the religion among other things was too heavy. A lot of it was just the times.
There were a number of English authors who were illuminating on the subject--the brilliant novelist, E.M. Forster is one. He wrote Passage of India and Maurice which was about his homosexuality not published until after his death. Vanessa Regrave, the famous English actress, wrote a memoir about her struggle to accept her father's bisexuality. He was the famous actor Michael Redgrave. I certainly related to any daughters who might have had a father similar in any way to mine.
Christian churches, so many of them, used passages in the bible to justify severe disapproval, which I thought could not possibly help a person predisposed toward suicide, as my father was.
I thought it was not right to drive anyone inexorably toward suicide who I came to conclude could not have helped those feelings from emerging due to a number of causes.
So I did not think that the churches dealt with this problem as wisely as was necessary. It was just too easy to interpret statements in the bible to fit one's own disapproving opinions. The condition is disturbing, so many are tempted to find justification for rejection and even persecution.
I saw having been born to one as a reason to find another way, and to promote study and understanding of all the factors that might lead to a person being so conflicted.
What compounds all the difficulties is the fact that early molestation and influence while very young might play a role. Molestation is definitely wrong, but when the molested child or teen develops those feelings then great care must be taken not to punish someone for for feelings that have developed as a result. I know from being molested very young how deeply disturbing adult sexual advances can be to a child. I became convinced that boys in the family ran a lot bigger chance of being molested than I did, since I did boys' work which was how the molester had easier access to me. I suspected my father had been influenced in this direction at an age when he was powerless to do anything about it.
He might have victimized others who were underage at another point, but he had started, I became convinced as a victim, so child molestation needed to be studied a great deal more. That made a lot more sense than biblical condemnation.
I know that the women in my family were all too unaware of molestation that might be going on. My mother never detected that I had been molested and was concealing the fact. I did not trust any adults enough to confide in them. I did not think they would handle it right, and I was sure that most of the boys were even more loath to tell anyone about what had happened to them of that nature.
So I saw the big job of prevention as far as parents were concerned involved becoming more aware of what might be going on around them that could affect their children.
I loved my Grandmother King dearly, but I thought she hardly knew a damn thing. She could not even tell when my father was drunk! He lied to her constantly. He would lie to anyone if they believed him! My mother read a great deal more and she was a much more aware woman than my grandmother, but she was very ignorant on the subject of homosexuality. Mistake!
She did not know enough about child molestation. In fact she even implied later that she had been molested, but she did not believe that relatives should be denounced for it, so she kept quiet?? What was that all about? Who might have a better chance to molest a child than a trusted relative?
So I saw child molestation as something that parents should be a great deal more aware of since I just could not get this information told, and was in fact, desperately trying to surface it someway while in college when I ended up going to a psychiatrist and being incarcerated. By that time he viewed my efforts to surface this as evidence of a very disturbed mentally ill person. Well, I was disturbed all right but highly indignant at being incarcerated against my will and threatened with electric shock. That experience all went bad before I was through with chronic fatigue syndrome kicking in that had started as a child and a near death experience that partially disabled me. I was a good deal more damaged physically when I came out of the hospital even though I had finally told someone I got molested! Did I about have to die to get it told? Apparently.
So actually I could not see that whether Jesus was God incarnate or not made much of a difference in my life. I didn't think it could be proved anyway. What was important to me was whether people could be relied on to use the thought process when dealing with major problems I was dealing with.
Religion has been accused of affecting the thought processes adversely, for good reason I think. For example the prophet Joseph Smith made many claims that the Mormon church has had the difficulty of trying to convince people are so in order to spread the gospel throughout the world. I would say that people who would be most apt to believe in fairy tales are the most susceptible. Educated people, no. So is education a bad thing?
More knowledge is not a bad thing in my opinion even when it causes people to doubt church doctrine. I do not regard more book learning as detrimental to human beings. Books are probably the best way there is to disseminate knowledge, to get people to think for themselves. And to learn about many complex and disturbing conditions people must deal with. I do not think that religion is necessarily the only way to teach right and wrong, but it has long been regarded as the best way. Yes, if learning and book reading are not restricted by the religious. I see religion as very useful in certain areas but only if the religious are open to the necessity of using common sense and the thought process in applying all religious principles. In that case, the religious are less apt to use the bible to promote discrimination or rejection, but rather to encourage understanding and acceptance of what people cannot help.
Life is very complex. The thought processes are necessary to handle it. We are born with brains for a reason, to help us study ourselves and our surroundings so we can survive and even do what we want to do with our talents and minds. Do what has been proven human beings can achieve.

I chose the above header by Connie because cattle ranching is how my father and grandfather made their living.

1 comment:

Have Myelin? said...

Reading your posts is like reading the great american novel with interesting characters until you realize it's real life....

You have such a way with words. I forget it is a blog instead of a novel.

And you are so right, life is very complex.


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