The last couple of weeks, there have been several moments, when I was caught up short by how grateful we could be. I am an avid reader and it plays a huge part in my education, and my opinions, based on my education. Traveling to many interesting countries: China, Cuba, Ecuador, England, France to name a few, have also changed many of my perceptions. Even traveling to different states, has been an eye opener, as we are such a big country, with so many different cultures of our own.
I will never forget, as a young woman, who was raised in a God fearing, gun carrying, anti-abortion family, driving a brand new pickup truck, off of the interstate, on to Lake Street in Chicago. I and my friend were the only two white people on the streets. All of the advertisements had black people in them, everything seemed different. When i reflected on the trip, it changed me; it didn’t change my opinions of issues, but I understood that we are a complex country, and that there are different opinions than my own, because other people’s experiences are different than my own. What I find interesting, is that as I age, as my experiences change, my opinions, while not entirely changed, have modified.
I read a book last week called A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape From North Korea. While I have never been in either of the Korea’s, it brought back memories of Cuba and thoughts of conversations with Cuban people. I was in a salon receiving a pedicure one day, and was visiting with the woman next to me. I remarked that we were going on an educational tour to Cuba, through my alma mater, the University of North Dakota. She said to me, “I think we should just leave that country alone, in it’s natural state.” I about choked. I said to her, “It is a country with great culture, but people are giving up their lives, and their children’s lives to leave.” I had to choke back my dismay, and probably didn’t do a very good job of it. Cuba is not a zoo, to entertain us when we want to see how people lived in the 50’s. Cuba and North Korea are Socialist, ha! Communist countries, where they were promised wonderful things and ended up getting nothing that they were promised. Nothing.
Masaji Ishikawa tells us about his mother, and later his wife, going into the hills and picking weeds to cook to try and survive. Stealing food from the animals, boiling bark, being so constipated from the horrible diet that they had to dig their own feces out of their bodies, with their fingers. I’m sorry; I know that’s more graphic than what you needed. We can’t sugar coat socialism and it’s rapid fall into Communism. We can’t close our eyes and pretend that they are these cute, eccentric countries that we can ogle like the lion in the zoo. If the lion were allowed out, he would be dangerous, so is Socialism.
Two conversations with Cuban people have stuck with me: One was with a Cuban woman I met, on the flight to Cuba; she told me how glad she was that some of her family members were able to live in Florida, because the schools were so wonderful.. American schools wonderful? Yes, she was adamant. She had been a teacher in Cuba and was so impressed with our schools. Another conversation was with an Uber driver, who was also Cuban. He talked to us of his hatred of Socialism and that he liked Trump. He offered the information, I didn’t coach him. I was surprised honestly, but couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are to be Americans.
On the heels of reading this book, my husband and I went to the movie Darkness last night. It is the movie about Winston Churchill, right as Dunkirk was happening. He became the Prime Minister in the darkest of times, as Hitler was getting ready to invade England. He was dislike by everyone, including the King, and Churchill’s own party. He couldn’t seem to control his emotions very well, and said a lot of things without thinking first; does that sound like anyone we know? I saw many correlations between now and then. There were conspirators behind his back, as much in his own party as the others. Corruption, greed, selfishness, time doesn’t make us much smarter or our souls any less black.
I was at the Salvador Dali museum in St’ Petersburg Florida. So many painters, writers and designers of that time, were eccentric, and the opium was plentiful. If they weren’t using drugs, many of them were alcoholics. After seeing Darkness, I thought about how horrific it was in Europe during that time. Between WWI and WWII, and in the aftermath, there was chaos. I can’t imagine what the people of Europe were going through for at least two generations of peoples. What they saw? What they experienced? They understood that their lives could be snuffed out in a unexpected second; they needed to forget. It is understandable that in there attempts to explain their feelings, or to express their fears, they reached out to substances opening them up to abusive use.
Many people in our country feel fear, get caught up in the drama of over sensationalized politics, have a sense of doom and gloom. We are blessed; we have never gone through what Cuba, N. Korea, Europe have had to go through. Individually we have had our traumas and our losses, but if we look to others, we can be grateful; we have survived; we will survive. We can gain wisdom, modify our opinions, educate ourselves and be grateful….