A Tale of Two Americas

A few years ago, my high school planned a class reunion, and my friend Pam shared with me an experience she had serving on the reunion committee with some of my former classmates.  A mailing list of students’ contact information had been passed amongst the committee for verifications, corrections, and assurances that all of the class members from my graduating year had been included.  At one of the final meetings before the invitations were to be mailed, Pam noticed that about twenty names had been marked off the list.  Pam knew these individuals to be classmates; several of them were individuals with whom she had kept close contact through the years, so she was not sure why their names had been removed from the reunion mailing list.  When she asked the committee about the deletions, another classmate Sharon, a popular girl from our class, acknowledged that she had marked out the names.  When Pam asked why, Sharon’s responses ranged from, “They never liked me in school,” to “We didn’t get along,” and “She would whisper about me behind my back in Chemistry class.”  Both Pam and I were appalled that Sharon, an intelligent, college educated woman now working in a lucrative field, would even find it acceptable to take it upon herself to disallow former students from attending their own class reunion simply because she felt they did not like her.

I’ve thought a lot about Sharon’s actions this week while watching the results of the Presidential election unfold; the blatant disregard with which Sharon treated a segment of my graduating class mirrors the way in which the GOP has ignored a significant population of American citizens.  In a rather unfathomable way, Republicans appear to have pandered entirely to the (Christian, heterosexual) white male vote, pretending that all others living in the country simply did not exist, or at the very least, did not represent a large enough faction of the voting public to matter.  By ignoring the needs and issues of these other groups—and in many cases attacking them—the GOP essentially ignored these individuals’ rights as citizens, just as Sharon uninvited those fellow classmates that she didn’t like, solely because she felt empowered to do so.

The repercussions of operating within such an insulated world-view became clear on election night, however, when (according to exit poll results) despite capturing 59% of the white vote and 78% of the evangelicals, Mitt Romney lost his bid to be president.  That’s because America’s minority populations, comprised of blacks (93%), Hispanics (71%), Asians (73%), and women (55%), combined to form a collective majority that backed President Obama and garnered his reelection.

This new majority, if you will, represents the rest of America that Republicans either have forgotten or wish they could just ignore.  For at least 30 years, the Republicans have run on platforms that catered to White America and the Christian Right and were often successful in their campaign bids because of it.  However, the growth of minority populations, especially that of Hispanic voters, has significantly offset the voting power whites once held.  Republican dissatisfaction over immigration laws, coupled with Romney’s comments that “illegals” would have to “self deport” are believed to have further decreased Hispanic support for the GOP below margins that even John McCain received in 2008.  Republicans also lost the support of women for its recent attacks on their reproductive rights, due largely in part to the bizarre comments of several Tea Party extremist candidates concerning rape and abortion.  Attacks on other social issues such as marriage equality also damaged any connection Republicans might have made with minority groups, as both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan expressed a desire to block equality measures that would guarantee gay Americans the same rights as heterosexuals.

After the election, a number of the more sensible Republicans seemed to understand the GOP’s problem; Meghan McCain, daughter of 2008 presidential nominee John McCain tweeted on election night, “My party has to evolve or it’s going to die.” The following morning on MSNBC, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele noted that without the inclusion of these minority voters, the Republican Party would cease to exist, and when speaking with Reverend Al Sharpton on Thursday evening, McCain reiterated the need for change within the GOP, remarking that their unpopular position on social issues had cost them greatly in recent elections.  She also said that Republicans had to stop catering to “old white men” because they are no longer the voting majority.  McCain’s calls for evolution appear to be ignored by louder voices within the party, however.  Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Laura Ingraham, for example, have all stated that rather than move to the center on such matters, the Party must shift farther to the right and offer up candidates who are more rigidly conservative and Christian in order to reignite its base.

The problem with this strategy is that the current Republican Party base consists of a voting group that by 2016 will be even smaller than it is now.  The America we live in today is not the same America that existed when Ronald Reagan took office; it’s not even the same America that it was in 2004 when George W. Bush was reelected.  I remember telling a friend just after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 that the large turnout of minority voters that year would prove to these individuals that they do, in fact, have saying power in this country when they come together.  I believed then, much as I do now, that as they realize their own force in the country to sway elections and have their voices heard, America will see even stronger voter turnouts from minorities.

Therefore, I agree with Meghan McCain that for the Republican Party to survive, it must evolve.  But evolution does not mean simply parading the two or three token minorities who have ascended within the Party.  In several interviews, various GOP mouthpieces touted Marco Rubio and Susana Martinez as evidence of Republican diversity.  The problem, though, is that those were the only two names that kept popping up in every interview I saw.  If these are the only two people that Republicans can name to prove diversity, then the party can’t be all that diverse.  And having these members on hand also should not be enough to satisfy voters.  If Republicans hope to survive, they truly need to adjust their stance on a number of issues; I’m just not confident they will be able to do that in the next two to four years, especially when so many of the GOP’s current frontrunners have built their political careers with the support of the extreme right and the recent comments of Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have implied that it will be obstruction-as-usual after the Inauguration.

I’m not sure how the GOP plans to survive with this continued outlook; perhaps they foresee more gains in the midterm elections of 2014, but if the current voting base remains invigorated, I believe they stand to lose far more than they will ever gain with this strategy.  They have to realize we are all here in the country now; it’s not just the Grand Old Patriarchy anymore, dictating to everyone else what will and won’t be done.  They no longer have the authority to disinvite us from our own country just because they don’t like us or fear we won’t get along with them.


Travel Diary – Scotland 2006, or Unexpected Events

A few nights ago, I found myself thinking about those times in life when unexpected events occur, and I couldn’t help but recall my vacation to the U.K. a few years ago.  I thought I would share an excerpt from my journal recounting that experience:

Having participated in my first international conference in Stirling, I decided to remain a few extra days in Scotland to tour a couple of the larger cities.  While in Glasgow at an internet café, I reconnected online with a Scottish chat-mate I had made before leaving the U.S.  We had discussed meeting but had never made firm plans, but during our exchange on my final day in Glasgow, we made arrangements to meet the following evening in Edinburgh, the next stop on my Scottish tour.  The June springtime would mean hours of daylight for my cyber pen pal to show me around the city.

The next evening, to my chagrin, I sat upon the bed in my shabby hotel room on Princes Street waiting for my friend’s call, when I saw a note slide under my door.  It was from the front desk:

Mr. McKellar regrets that he will not be able to meet with you today.  He trusts you will have a pleasant holiday in Edinburgh.

Disappointed, I rang his mobile, but no one answered.  After trying unsuccessfully another time, I decided he was now avoiding me, probably ashamed for having stood me up.  Determined not to let such triviality ruin my first night in town, I headed off on my own, down the street and around the corner, where I had spied a few pubs earlier in the day.  I selected a bar inside an older building (but then, aren’t all buildings in that part of Edinburgh older?), although the interior was quite modern:  a mixture of clean white walls and dark black tables and chairs.

I sat at the bar and, being an amateur drinker at best, ordered a generic beer—I’ve never been one to enjoy anything dark or stout—when the gentlemen a seat away from me suggested I try the brand that he was having.  I obliged, and my concession led to a lengthy but quite enjoyable conversation with the young man.  He had just returned to Edinburgh from a holiday in Greece where, based upon the golden brown hue of his sun-kissed face and arms, the weather must already have been much warmer than the brisk Scottish climate.  He spoke of the Greek warmth in terms of centigrade, and I smiled and nodded, pretending to know how the numbers might relate to my own, rather American knowledge of Fahrenheit temperatures, all the while never wanting him to stop talking; the lilt of his voice I recognized as being unmistakably Irish and so unique amidst the array of Scottish brogues I had for days encountered.  His browned skin and dark features belied the expectation of ginger hair and freckles often thought to accompany such an accent:  Black Irish and handsome, he continued his tale of Greek adventure through another round of drinks and our relocation to a corner table at the far end of the pub.

The last light of the Edinburgh evening faded to darkness, and we continued to chat, becoming all the more cozy in our positions against the banquette, as I—the less experienced drinker—grew tipsier with each round of drinks.  By the time he leaned forward to kiss me, I’m certain my eyes were (at least) slightly glazed over, but I took delight in his advance.  Ever the tourist, my camera captured the moment after, with the young Irishman still leaning in closely against me, and the now empty glasses signaling an end to our perfect but impromptu first date.  He insisted on walking me to my hotel door, and on the way we made plans to meet the next evening, as soon as he could leave work.  He wanted to give me a small tour of the city, for I would return to London the morning after.

Outside my hotel, our embrace lingered rather longer than that of strangers; several deep kisses later, he had followed me up the steps of the Royal British Hotel and into my room, where the paper-thin mattress of the tiny single bed proved initially awkward for both our bodies—a complication soon negotiated.  I remember hearing the early trucks outside my window, making their morning deliveries, as he slowly dressed and exited the room.

He came round the next evening, shortly after five o’clock, and we struck out from Princes Street in the direction of Edinburgh Castle.  Our conversations during dinner proved as lively as the evening before, and we used my final hours of Scotland’s daylight exploring the streets that seemed to fall somewhere in between Old Town and New Town.  The setting sun blazed on our faces, Edinburgh Castle hovering shadeless above and in the distance, when we happened upon a hidden churchyard somehow shielded from the strongest light.  We followed a curious path that led us to a small graveyard behind the church.  Patches of pale blue flowers grew all around, and my handsome tour guide insisted I photograph one cluster in particular.  I obliged, though my shoddy camera would neither properly accommodate the strange lighting nor my nervous handiwork.  Still, he was satisfied.  We kissed there amidst the blooming flowers and ancient gravestones before journeying back in the direction of the hotel. 

As we walked through the Princes Street Gardens, we happened upon a céilidh in the open air theatre; we stopped for a moment to observe the dancers, comprised mostly of elderly people, moving about happily in time with the traditional music that filled the air.  When, finally, we turned to go, he took my hand in his and held it throughout the remainder of our stroll through the park. 

When we resurfaced on the sidewalk of Princes Street, I felt a small sense of dread, knowing that we would soon reach the door of my hotel and our second date together would have to end.  I took the sudden slowing down of his pace to mean he felt the same.  We made small talk and discussed American television, but as the hotel drew closer, the conversation turned to an exchange of contact information and the possibility of future visits.  We parted just outside the hotel entrance, where our prior evening had been intended to conclude, and I stood half-inside the door as I watched him stroll back up Princes Street, this time without me, the fading sunlight shining brightly against his dark hair before he turned a corner and vanished out of sight.  Certain that the past twenty-four hours had been much more exciting and unexpected than if my (former) friend had not stood me up, I climbed the flight of stairs to my hotel room contentedly, but with less eagerness in my step than the night before.

Confessing My Secret Disorder

So many times, I read success stories about the struggles people experience and how they overcome them.  I think people find it easier to discuss the challenges they face after they have mastered them; that seems like the time when people seem most ready to divulge their problem—once it has been conquered.  I face a challenge that I haven’t managed to conquer yet, but I think it’s important to share it because I’m not sure many people even give it much consideration or take it too seriously; I know I didn’t consider it to be serious problem until I fully accepted that I suffered from it.  I have social anxiety, and for years it has complicated my quality of life.

I was more or less officially diagnosed with the problem not too long ago, but I have been aware that I suffered from a social phobia since I was in high school.  I remember (rather vividly) taking a date to the movies and waiting in line (in the middle of winter) to go inside the theatre.  I don’t know what triggered the anxiety then, but I broke out into a terrible sweat—so bad that my hair was wringing wet in what seemed a matter of seconds.  I couldn’t really concentrate on what my date was saying to me, and everything just seemed a blur because all I wanted to do was get out of the situation as quickly as I could.  After a number of incidents similar to that, I began to withdraw quite a bit from much social interaction, and I have been somewhat reclusive ever since.

In college, I began to go out more and interact with friends, but only when in small groups and in settings where I felt familiar and secure.  I actually thought by doing this that I had overcome a lot of my social phobia on my own.  I no longer felt so panicked that I couldn’t think clearly nor did I break out into sweats, but people would often ask me, “Why are your cheeks so red?”  I’m still asked that even now, on occasion, when I venture out to meet up with friends.  I usually say it’s the ruddy cheeks from my Scottish heritage, but the truth is, I suppose it stems from the social anxiety.

The feelings I have related to the anxiety often seem as impossible to control (and predict) as my blushing, and they significantly impede me from participating in a lot of activities that I would really like to do.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have let friends down by backing out (sometimes at the last minute) on meeting up at a bar or nightclub, sometimes even just for dinner or drinks, because my anxiety kicks into overdrive.  I don’t even consider the form of social anxiety I have to be debilitating (I have no fears or hesitation with speaking in public, for example), so I can’t imagine what people who have more serious cases than I do must go through.  But I know the daily difficulties a person with this problem faces and the embarrassment it causes.

A lot of my friends think I enjoy being a homebody, and I have probably done a lot to perpetuate that idea of me rather than explain about my social anxiety and why I have it.  I honestly don’t know all of the reasons that the problem came about, and the ones I have come to realize are extremely private and too personal to share with everyone I know.  That makes it harder to communicate why I might be uncomfortable meeting up at an unfamiliar setting or going somewhere that I don’t know all the people, so I am very guilty of telling friends I was just staying in for the evening or I wanted to catch up on my DVR that night.  The truth is, I most often would like to get out of the house and do something, but I am struggling with my anxiety and worry it might become an issue if I try.  I have often even convinced myself “you’re going to this!” and showered, changed, and headed out to the venue only to drive there, pass by it, and circle back home because I have convinced myself during the drive that I have no business being there.

It is absolutely the most frustrating feeling I have ever experienced in my life, and even though I want badly to conquer it, it’s a daily struggle that seems constantly to change.  Some days, I think I can go out and have a great time and I do; other days, I wake up thinking there’s no way I’m going to leave the house today.  I know this problem has cost me a lot of wonderful time and experiences with friends, as well as friendships and relationships because I appeared a flake or uninterested in meeting.  I have made some strides in overcoming it, though, but it’s a constant challenge that I deal with and am working hard to improve.

I know I’m not the only person who suffers from this, and I believe that in sharing, I am helping myself a little by opening up and putting the information out there.  Maybe “outing myself” with the problem can somehow propel me to be more social, even if it’s painful at times.  I’m also sharing this to let others who struggle with social phobias see what someone like them experiences, and I hope this will also help those who are fortunate enough not to have a social disorder understand what their friends with these anxieties might be going through.

Hellboy Sure Isn’t Sandman

I discovered comics (or graphic novels) late in life.  I never really enjoyed them as a child; I think it was because either I felt forever confused about which panel to read when or I never felt satisfied that the story would end after only a few pages, and I’d have to wait another week or more before I could obtain the next installment.

I dismissed comics entirely all through my teen years and never really gave them another try until I was in grad school.  The professor for whom I did graduate research taught a class on Art of the Holocaust, and she recommended I read the graphic novel MAUS.  I bought the story soon after that and found myself completely absorbed in the tale.  I found the story so moving and filled with great discussion points that I ended up including it on my own syllabi.  Afterwards, I thought I wanted to give comics another try, so I went out and bought another comic (one that, now, I cannot even recall).  I became instantly disenchanted, realizing that the comic’s story did not compel me in quite the same way as MAUS had.  I once again abandoned any thought of reading comics or taking them seriously, thinking that MAUS had been a fluke for me.  I didn’t think I could ever find another graphic novel series that I would find interesting.

Then, during my PhD program, I took a class in which I was assigned Understanding Comics.  I felt so annoyed by the assignment that I put off reading it until the night before class.  I was amazed by how informative the book was, though.  It truly gave me a new outlook on comics and how to perceive them.  Reading the book and discussing it in the class pushed me to give comics another shot; my only problem, however, was that I did not know what to try.

And then, I remembered Sandman.  My friend Jennifer had recommended the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman for several years, and I had put her off each time, telling her that comics just weren’t for me.  But after my positive experience in my graduate class with comics, I stopped by the local Borders and picked up the first volume.  By this time, the Sandman series had been long completed, so I knew I would never have to wait weeks on end to discover the conclusions to story lines.

I sat down that evening to read Sandman, and I don’t think I put it down until I finished it.  After completing the first volume, my time was spent going to the bookstore, purchasing the next volume, and devouring it the minute I got home with the collection.  In no time, I had read through the entire ten volume series and the two special editions.  

The characters of Sandman were so fully developed for me; the storyline was very taut, and everything had a purpose.  Situations that took place in the first or second volume would arise again in later volumes.  All the components of the story worked together in a masterful way; in many ways, I thought Gaiman might have developed the plot and worked out every aspect of it from start to finish before he ever began writing:  that’s just how well-crafted the storyline is.  Gaiman also gives the characters a true sense of life, a history, a believable dynamic with other characters–none of which I had ever encountered in other comics.  The stories in Sandman are so great that I’ve reread them all several times now.  I think the volumes Brief Lives and  The Kindly Ones stand out as all time favorites.

Unfortunately, my love for all things Sandman has created problems for my being able to enjoy other comics or graphic novel series.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I’ve also asked friends for suggestions, but no one has been able to direct me to a series quite comparable to Gaiman’s work.  I did enjoy Red Son Superman, but that was a brief volume.  I gave several of Alan Moore’s works a try, but sadly, none of them held up for me–in most cases, I found the heavily altered movie versions of his graphic series more enjoyable.

Recently, I seemed optimistic about the Hellboy series.  I had seen both the movies–ok, the second movie was a total stinker–but the first film held all the elements that I thought could lead to a Sandman-like series:  a brooding hero struggling to make sense of himself; a sinister villain challenging Hellboy to discover more of his true self.  Needless to say, I had high hopes.  To my chagrin, Hellboy didn’t stand up to my Sandman expectations.  I really wanted Hellboy to succeed, but too much of the story was missing.  It read superficially; it lacked the questioning of motives and identity that had been so prevalent in Sandman–even prevalent in the movie version of Hellboy.  Halfway into Hellboy, I found myself not even caring about the situation at hand, but I was determined to finish reading, just in case the author might give me a glimmer of hope that more development occurred in the second volume.  But, nothing of the sort prevailed.

I’ve become disenchanted, once again, with graphic novels.  I’m beginning to worry that Sandman might have ruined my chances of ever enjoying other graphic series; maybe I read the best first and nothing else will compare to it.  I hope that isn’t the case, but I’m obviously not a seasoned reader of this medium.  If anyone has suggestions for me, I’d sure like to give them a try.

Food Stories and Orange Sesame Chicken

Orange Sesame Chicken over rice

Are there stories behind the food you cook?  Perhaps when you prepare a dish, or maybe even when you order a meal from a restaurant, do you find yourself reminiscing over the times in the past when you’ve had the same meal?  I’m not really sure that happens every time, but I do believe food and cooking tie into a lot of our memories from life.

I watch Food Network Star in the summer with my friend Keith, and we always make fun of the judges who insist the contestants tell a story relating to the dish they prepare; oftentimes, the “food memory” comes across as total BS because they think the judges want to hear a sob story about how a person made this dish with her grandmother, and this was how she first learned to cook.  (Really, the show most times is an utter train wreck, but that’s the joy we find in watching and rolling our eyes with every contrived episode.)

I had an episode of the show playing when I started making my Orange Sesame Chicken dish, and it definitely made me wonder if there are any stories behind what I’m making.  The dish itself is a variation of a recipe I found somewhere online because I’ve always liked the Orange Chicken they serve at PF Chang’s, but it always seems too dry.  As I began cooking, though, grating my orange and squeezing the juice into the pot, I thought about the first time I had Asian food.  It was actually the first ethnic food I’d ever eaten.  My mom had always been a finicky eater, so we typically had the modern American fare at home.  She was never really willing to try anything or experiment with food, but I think that was mostly because she honestly didn’t know how to cook very much.  Growing up, the only homemade dishes I can recall her making were barbecue chicken or cubed steak with mashed potatoes (my mom’s best dish, by far) and macaroni and cheese.  (I’m gonna totally ignore the fact that my mom’s idea of mac & cheese was out of the Kraft box here).  She could also make a decent homemade spaghetti sauce, but she’d gotten the recipe from my dad’s mother.

My grandmother, on the other hand, was completely different from my mom.  She loved to try new foods and was an amazing cook.  She loved to bake, and most of my earliest memories of her involve her in the kitchen.  When I was a kid and she made cornbread, she would sit me on the counter, wash my hands in the kitchen sink and put all of the ingredients for the cornbread in a large bowl that she sat beside me so I could mix it up…with my hands! I thought it was the most awesome thing ever to get to play in the food at the same time I was fixing it.  (Is that a Southern use of the verb ‘to fix’?)

As I got older, I don’t remember cooking with her like that.  My grandfather died when I was 6, and I think after that, she cooked less and less.  I do remember, though, when I was in 10th grade, I had to do a project for my Geography class on Greece, and students got extra points if they brought in food that originated from the country, so I talked to my grandmother about making baklava.  We spent a Saturday afternoon preparing everything together, and even though neither of us had ever made baklava before, it turned out really good.  She was always great with sweets, though–especially cakes and breads–so I knew it would be a success.  She died when I was 18, and this memory is one of the most vivid ones I still have of her, even today.

After the baklava, I don’t remember her cooking all that much except for sweet dishes.  When I visited her (which was almost every weekend) we would almost always go out to eat.  That’s how I experienced Asian food for the first time.  She took me with her neighbor to the Dragon Den.  I think I may have been 12 or 13 at the time, so you can imagine how exciting & cool I thought a place named Dragon Den had to be on the inside.  Well, sadly enough, Dragon Den had no dragons except for one artsy one that hung on the wall above a very cool waterfall.  I think my disappointment continued from there because I really didn’t know what to order, having never been to a Chinese restaurant before, so I got the same thing as my grandmother.  Big mistake! How was I supposed to know she was having an all-vegetable dish.  When I left, I said I’d never have Chinese food again.

But I did, of course.  When I got my first job (working in a government office as a file clerk to put myself through college), I went with the office Lunch Bunch–back to Dragon Den, no less.  This time, I had a better idea of what to order–something fried with sauce.  I am from the South, after all.  The sweet & sour chicken was amazing, and after that I was sold on Chinese food.  In fact, Asian & Ethiopian foods are probably my favorites.  I could probably eat them every day and not feel I was missing out on very much.

So, I suppose some foods do have a memory (of sorts) attached to them.  And guess what? Mine even included a story about my grandmother, the first time I made something with her, and the passion we shared for cooking, just maybe not the way the silly judges of Food Network Star might have wanted it laid out for them.  But I do think my grandmother would have tried my Orange Sesame Chicken.  She would have probably wanted more vegetables in it, though.

Orange Sesame Chicken Recipe

For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • zest and juice of one medium/large orange (some pulp if you want)
  • 1/4 c. white vinegar
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 Tbl soy sauce (I prefer the lite)
  • 1 c. brown sugar (packed if you want sweeter, loose if not)
  • 1 tsp. ginger (fresh minced or ground)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbl. chopped green onion (optional but it definitely adds color)
  • 1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (1/4 if you don’t want it very spicy)
Combine everything above in a sauce pan and let it come to a boil.  Then set it aside to cool.  Reserve about 1/2 c. of the sauce.
For the chicken:
  • 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken (breast or tenders) cut up into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 Tbl. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbl. water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
After you slice up the chicken, place it into a quart-sized freezer bag and pour into it the 1/2 c. of sauce you reserved. Be sure the sauce has completely cooled before doing this.  Then place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for anywhere from 4 hours to overnight.
After chicken marinates, drain the liquid from your bag and then drop the chicken into another bag (I use a gallon-sized one for this) that has the flour, salt & pepper inside it. Shake it all up to be sure the chicken is coated well.  Once it is, you can either deep fry the chicken in a friar or dutch oven filled with vegetable oil, or you can shallow fry the pieces in some light oil and a cooking pan.  Once you’ve done this, place your chicken on paper towels to dry.
Pour your sauce into a large pan and reheat it on med-hi heat.  Once it’s hot enough, pour into it a slurry of the cornstarch and water, and stir this with a whisk until you see it thickening up.  As soon as it’s thickened up, drop the chicken in and stir to coat the chicken and reheat it if it’s gone a little cold.  Once everything is back up to temperature, serve the chicken and sauce over rice (fried or steamed) and sprinkle over with sesame seeds.  I like to toast my sesame seeds before sprinkling.  Enjoy!

Tough Cookies

I honestly didn’t think much about the Oreo cookie advertisement celebrating Gay Pride until I started reading all the negative press extending from it.  I saw the ad; I thought it was a nice gesture.  As always, some hate group would threaten a backlash.  I suppose a person gets used to some form of protest, possibly even becomes desensitized to it.  But then, a few days ago as I was reading through friends’ posts on my Facebook wall, I happened upon someone’s status update that read (in all caps):  NABISCO FOODS:  OREO…YOU DISAPPOINT ME…

I paused for a moment when I read the post, and I wondered if the writer was, indeed, referencing the Gay Pride ad. However, as I read through the comments to her post, I gathered that her other friends had assumed it was the Pride ad that had disappointed her so.  She never responded to the post to clarify, but given the timeframe of the post, I’m relatively certain the ad triggered her Facebook reaction, which definitely surprised me.  She and I had been friends in high school, and although we haven’t spoken much since then, aside from an occasional Facebook exchange, she had always seemed openminded and accepting.  In retrospect, perhaps I was too assuming of her position.

For several days, her comment weighed heavily on my mind because I could not decide how to react to it:  should I leave a negative comment on her post?  Should I unfriend her?  Should I just ignore it?  I also waited because I didn’t want to let my anger or frustration be the driving force of what I had to say.  My initial reaction to her post would have been a smarmy comment, taking a shot at her self-professed Christianity.  I thought of writing “yes, how disappointing that a company would want to offer a gesture of support and acceptance to another group of human beings.”  (I still may write that, actually.)  But the more I considered it, the more I was uncertain about the best approach.

Then, today, as I was perusing my wall posts again, I saw that she had posted some new photos taken over the weekend.  The pictures were of your typical family photos:  her daughter riding her tricycle in the yard; she and her husband standing side by side, holding their infant while their two toddlers clung to their legs; pictures of her mother playing with the children on a swing.  In all of the photos, my friend was smiling; her husband smiled.  They seemed happy.  They were a family.  I was happy for her.

But then I felt disappointed; here she was proudly posting her photos of the family she had made over the last 12 or 15 years since I last saw her, but she feels so threatened by the possibility that I, too, might wish to have a family of my own that she objects to a rainbow colored cookie presented to show its support of me and other people like me.  I don’t understand where the fear or the hatred comes from or how a gay person’s happiness would infringe upon what she has in these photos of her family.

I don’t care to get into a deeper analysis of her objection to the ad based on her (misguided) Christian principles, either.  I’m just disappointed to discover that someone I’ve thought of as a friend since I was around 14 years old can make a 6 word post to Facebook that completely changes my perspective of her.  Perhaps without even realizing it, she has alienated a friend, and all because of a photo of a cookie with 6 colored layers of cream filling.   I wouldn’t deny her the opportunity to be happy, or the right to have a spouse or have children, but if she can’t even tolerate an ad for gay pride, then how could she ever tolerate me?