More than a change of address

The journey from Indianapolis, Indiana, to the town of Indianola, Iowa, is turning out to be more of a culture shock than I thought it would be.

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Flags line the streets of the neighborhood my parents, and now I, for the time being, live in.  This makes me feel so uncomfortable, but I wonder about the intention.  This probably means different things to different people.

I think the most common idea is this represents pride in the United States.  There were times when our country embodied a number of admirable ideals, none of which were perfectly implemented, but resulted in a better society, for white people, than many other countries.   Especially compared to those with repressive governments and intolerant ideologies.

But even those ideals were tarnished from the beginning, with the institution of slavery, and the genocide of Native Americans, and theft of their lands.

Unfortunately we have been moving even further away from those ideals, as corporations and the rich corrupt our governing institutions in a dramatic way.  And with a growing nationalist, white supremacy movement.

All of this is especially tragic at a time when global cooperation is crucial in order to address our environmental crises.

Pride in the idea of the United States becomes a problem when that promotes the idea that our country has the right, or responsibility to police the world, and to consume resources to a much greater extent than others.

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Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington, DC

 

“The spiritual energy of the Path uses justice and patience to prepare your spirit. “This is the Path of the Knight: A path that is at once easy and difficult, because it forces one to set aside trivial things and chance friendships. That is why, at first, many hesitate to follow it. “This is the first teaching of the Knights: You will erase everything you had written in the book of your life up until now: restlessness, uncertainty, lies. And in the place of all this you will write the word courage. By beginning the journey with that word and continuing with faith in God, you will arrive wherever you need to arrive.”

Coelho, Paulo. Warrior of the Light: A Manual (p. 82). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

5 thoughts on “More than a change of address

  1. Being an ex pat, as we who have left the US to be citizens of the world, are often called–it Jeffs remarks give me pause to reflect on what it meant to be a child, growing up in Oskaloosa, Iowa. My brother and I were the only children in our school to not participate in the buying of war stamps and we would have to face the humiliation of being referred to as “commie lovers” “nigger lovers”. One day I stole some coins out of my mother’s purse so I could buy those awful stamps. My brother heard about it and took me by the ear and gave me a not so loving smack on my fanny. “Eleanor, be proud of your Quaker heritage and a father who stands up for the little guys. Stand side by side with me when we salute the flag and know that our allegiance is to God, who is on the side of all people who are oppressed.

    Imagine waking up in the night to hear loud angry voices in our small living room, for even though my father was President of William Penn College, he refused to live in the President’s mansion and turned it into an interracial house for students and teachers from all over the world. Penn was known as the “technicolor” college in those days. We lived in a tiny bungalow about a mile from the college and had little money, for my father insisted on being paid the lowest salary on the faculty. The men were threatening to do something violent to my father –like disappear his pretty little daughter and do her harm. I knew they meant me and I was terrified! A few nights later a cross was burned in our front yard and Daddy told us it was the Klu Klux Klan–and no fairy tale could ever been as scary for me. I would have nightmares of hooded men carrying torches for many years to come. I never told these dreams to my parents.

    When “Song of the South” played in the local movie theater, my father made an appointment with the owner of the theater to protest the showing of this movie, as it made Blacks look like dirty uneducated and stupid people who liked being slaves and servants. The owner told him to go back to his ivy towered college and keep out of the town of real patriots.

    I was a Girl Scout and when it was time to sell cookies, my father suggested I go to “Shanty Town” on the other side of the railroad tracks, and sell my cookies to the Black Americans who lived there in shacks with dirt floors. I knocked on Richard’s door and when he opened it and saw me standing there he smiled big and yelled for his Momma to come and meet Eleanor, the girl in his class who loves colored folks. The next day he came up to me at recess, and said tearfully that he understood why I could not be his girl friend, and it was because of a word that began with the letter C. I blurted out, “Why Richard, you aren’t a Communist!” It was years later that I would remember that scene and finally understand that the word was Colored, not Communist.

    Many people in Iowa Yearly Meeting Conservative know the rest of this historic and somewhat tragic tale. My father was fired and “tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail”–was the way he put it to his children, though that did not literally happen. People like Irving and Mary Smith from What Cheer and IYM Conservative and Ives and Iola Cadwallader of First Friends Church were the biggest supporters of my family. Penn, in those days, educated the young people from both Yearly Meetings and there was much good dialogue between the two kinds of Friends. Not sure whether that is still true, but I do know that thanks to Roy and Martha Hampton and the many students who believed in what my parents stood for, and the Conscientious Objectors who remained life long friends–went to the President of William Penn and asked to have my father’s portrait reinstated in the entrance hall of the performing arts building. I intend to go and see if it is still there this summer–for I do want to revisit the town of my childhood. I wrote an essay and it was read at the Big Reunion of the years when Cecil E. Hinshaw was President of William Penn College–written from the perspective and in the voice of a nine year old girl. I no longer have that essay, though I could probably recreate it with a little help from some of us who are still living. I certainly would look forward to visiting with many of you who do remember well those exciting days which changed the lives of all of us–and surely the world. Time to march forth again, Dear Friends! And Jeff, leave the flags and keep looking for ways to be proud of being an American. If anyone can do it, you can.

    I do have to say, that the Penn football teams name “The Fighting Quakers” did seem like a contradiction in terms and I was most embarrassed to hear my pacifist father yell out to “Knock ’em dead, boys!” Needless to say, Penn College did not have a winning team in those days, for which the townspeople did not forgive my father! I remember so well at Scattergood the cheer that students made when we would play opposing teams in soccer. The players would sing “Ring Around the Rosy, Pocket Full of Posies, Ashes, Ashes, We ALL Fall Dead!” Was that your idea, Ben Boardman?????

  2. If I am not mistaken, my grandfather, FC Stanley, replaced your father as interim president. He had taught chemistry and physics at Penn for years. He passed away in fall 1949 less than a year after his appointment.

  3. One more note…Eves and Iola Cadwallader (she still lives is Osky, Eves has passed away) provided the music at my parent’s wedding on the Penn campus in 1948.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this follow up, for I had no idea. We moved to St. Louis and Dad worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation and began the long struggle to integrate swimming pools, restaurants and movie theaters. Eves and Iola were my surrogate parents while I was at S’good. I hope to look her up when I am there in July for the reunion and Yearly meeting. Her brother in law (John Harvey) was the minister of First Friends in Osky and her sister Wanda was the telephone receptionist at Earlham College for many years–and another surrogate mother. .

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