Friday, January 06, 2006

When Republicans Attack!!

It all started out so innocuously. My mom gave my work email address to some relatives (let’s call them the Holbecks) who wanted to put together a distribution list for family news. I would have preferred that she give my personal email instead, but mom is kinda new to the world of email and I’m sure such considerations were outside of her realm of experience.

Well, they sure aren’t now.

The forwarding of bad jokes and puppy pictures was inevitable, I suppose. And I was prepared to put up with that to some extent. But then came an email from a cousin with an audio attachment called “The Ballad of New Orleans.”

It was vile garbage, full of references to government checks and looted Nike sneakers, and the racist message it contained was loud and clear.

At that point, my brother, my sister and I all responded back saying, basically, “I thought this forum was for family news. Please do not send any more attachments like this. And because I could be held accountable by my employer for what you send, please delete this work email address, and use a personal one.”

Some family background is perhaps in order at this point. The Holbecks reside mostly in rural Nebraska, and also in various other red state enclaves in the US. Now, I didn’t grow up in NE, although I DID grow up in a similarly bigoted and regressive shithole in rural Indiana.

But unlike so many of my classmates, friends, and neighbors, I had the good fortune to be born to intelligent and tolerant parents. Parents who worked for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign, and whose whole world changed when he was murdered. Parents who risked the wrath of our redneck local police and held NAACP meetings at our house in the 60’s. I remember when I was a little kid, being allowed to stay up just long enough to meet our guests, and then falling asleep looking at the cop cars parked outside my bedroom window.

I know, the phrase that springs to mind is “bleeding heart liberal,” and to that I say: HELL YEAH! I suppose I have the same sort of affection for that phrase that Jeff Foxworthy fans have for the phrase “you might be a redneck if…”

I am grateful every day of my life that my parents enabled me to overcome the fear and stupidity that I encountered from the white people of my hometown. And I am sad every time I think about my junior high girlfriend Sylvia, whose mom would not let her sleep overnight at my 15th birthday slumber party; a situation my mother was at a loss to explain to me at the time. All she could say was “to some people, certain things just aren’t done, honey.” And I remember being threatened with violence by some boys at school when I wanted to bring a black date to the Snowball Dance (and no, I am not making that name up). And I look back with weariness when I think about my high school friend Tori, a beautiful and sweet girl who became a cheerleader against all odds, only to suffer the humiliation of racial epithets yelled at her from the bleachers.

But back to Nebraska…

After my parents divorced, my mother moved back to her own childhood hometown in NE, and thus began my uneasy relationship with her side of the family. Visits to my mom’s house were always an exercise in patience, which frankly has never been my long suit. I found myself continually weighing the risk of alienation against the shitty feeling of swallowing all your principals for the sake of a family harmony. But the only thing I knew for sure from growing up in Indiana is that if you don’t speak out, then your acceptance is taken for granted. So I have learned to say, nicely, “please don’t use that word around me” and other like utterances. And the effect on the NE relatives had been mostly positive, and I took the resulting teasing about being just like my mom with a smile.

But now this.

I continued to receive the occasional infuriating email garbage in the forms of diatribes on the persecution of Christmas-celebrating Christians in America, and jokes about what an ugly cow Hillary is, blah blah blah. It was then I decided on a new strategy: to “reply all” to each offending email with a file or URL or even a sentence or two with my own point of view, adding that if they found it objectionable, then perhaps they could understand my position that we just stay off the tricky subjects and stick to family news.

I got two kinds of reactions, 1) people who told me I was full of shit, and by the way I sure didn’t inherit the Holbeck sense of humor, and 2) people who told me to lighten up and show some tolerance, and by the way I sure didn’t inherit the Holbeck sense of humor.

Tolerance. That’s pretty funny. Somehow, though, I don’t think they meant to be ironic.

See, tolerance is a one-way street for a lot of them. They want it but they can’t give it. They think there’s no harm in the occasional racist joke, but become infuriated when I poke a little fun at Jesusland.

So, after the latest email cartoon, this one a portrait of President Clinton pushing Monica’s head down under his desk (how fucking tired is that by the way?) and yet another request from my brother, sister and I that we 1) stick to family news, and 2) please not use our work email addresses, this is the response I got from a cousin:

Why did you give this email address if it is your work? You and your brother have some serious anger going on and should seek some counseling for some of your issues.
On another needs to be said that at least when you look back on the moral side of it, the Republican party has had a better record.
Consider both Kennedys (Marilyn Munroe) and Clinton (Monica) in the White House in the Oval office. You didn't see any of that from former Republican presidents. So there!!!!

I’d sent my email only to her, but she sent the above to the whole distribution list. And then this came in a separate email immediately following:

If you are at work...should you be doing personal emailing of any kind?? Get to work!!!!!!!

My brother replied, explaining that my mother had mistakenly given our work email addresses, and although he wasn’t sure who she was, to please respect our wishes. Then we got this:

You three are spending entirely too much time with personal emailing while you are at your important jobs. You guys are too much. I have a life to get back to. Put a smile on your face and cheer up for God's sake. And I hope you had a Merry Christmas too!!!

And then this:

Now that was funny. My email address was put on this list. We're long lost cousins...don't you know. Look at our last names. I just spell mine differently. Don't you have some work to do that's important to someone? I know I do....Hugs and Kisses.

My mother chimed in at this point, asking my cousin to lay off, and that she raised her kids up right and that she herself was sick of some of the opinions that were being expressed.

Then we got this:
If you guys don't mellow out I will be forced to attend someone else's family reunion this year. You take yourselves way too seriously. The Holbeck sense of humor has been lost with the passing of some special people. That's too bad. Better yet...delete my name from your list...this is a waste of time and depressing as Hell!!!!!
Let me tell you, every one of these was like a knife through my heart. My family doesn’t fight like this. We don’t DO this. But by this time I had given up on communicating with her, although I did draft an email that I never sent. Here it is:
How fucking dare you?

I had decided to ignore your emails because frankly, I don’t argue with people who posess no sense of reason. What’s the point?

But lay off my mom. What the hell is the matter with you?

Oh, and by the way:

Gerald Holbeck was my grandfather.
Marjorie Holbeck was my grandmother.
Wayne & Emory Holbeck were my uncles.
Virginia Holbeck was my aunt.

I miss them all like crazy and wish they were all still around today. I did not always agree with them but I loved them and they loved me.

Please never again suggest otherwise, you bitter, spiteful old bitch.
The most depressing thing about the whole affair is that none of the other Holbecks have bothered to come to our defense. I think perhaps that is because to their minds we have deserved it somehow, we have provoked this response with our leftie/PC ways and they guess we’ve been taught a lesson by this batshit-crazy keyboard harridan.

Because to them, they are normal, and my brother my sister and I are, and always will be, outsiders. We eat sushi, we wear “fancy shoes,” we hate Bush, and worst of all, we have transcended our circumstances, and to them that means we are uppity, and I suspect that at least some tiny part of them hates us for it.


Spooney said...

Some of those relatives of yours are jealous because you, your brother & your sister got out of there. They, for some reason (whether it be fear or something else) couldn't. Also that you guys live in a place where you can have your own opinion & live your life on your own terms. So yes they do hate you a little for it.
Why do you think my sister calls me Golden Boy? (although I know that she is happy for me) she is a little jealous of me for getting out of MA. She feels trapped there by family ties, on our side & on her husbands.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Well, you know, not everyone's a city mouse.

But honestly, I wouldn't presume to say that they want what I have.

But I think they're afraid that their way of life is inferior somehow, which is insane, but that fear colors much of what they do.

Jess said...

And here I thought "Golden Boy" was a reference to a certain shower you like to take, Spooney!

(And, yes, I'm kidding. Sheesh, can't take the Holbeck humor! That's right, Vikki... I'm your long-lost cousin!)

Seriously, though, that entry infuriated me! Apparently your cousin can say whatever she wants but when YOU express YOUR opinion you should seek psychiatric help?

MY cousin was sending me some similar email stuff a couple of years ago. I said "Please stop sending that to me, cause you're making me not like you anymore" and he stopped!

MY family is so damned liberal (except for cuz) that last Thanksgiving I found myself AGREEING with my cousin and arguing with my mom who apparently thinks rapists & child molesters should go free. (I'm exaggerating, of course, but sadly not by much)

In any case, unhappy people really are the worst, aren't they. Ya want to pity them but instead you REALLY want to slap them.

david said...

A fabulous post with a somber message. It hurts to be alienated from family, but sometimes, it's the choice you have to make.

Just tell them that you're living evidence of Intelligent Design. That should blow a few circuits.

vikkitikkitavi said...


I'm totally using that.

Thank you, baby.

Hill said...

"Living evidence of intelligent design" - LMAO.

Sorry to hear about the family woes. Lord knows I have endured them and have many a battle scar from the period of time immediately following my decision to marry a man who is half black.

The worst of it, though, was that I had alwasy thought that, of all my mother's flaws (which are too numerous to mention here), she was at least open minded. She had raised me not to "see color" but was, herself, unable to see past it, when the time came for her daughter to chose a life partner.

I remember feeling betrayed and disgusted and having to make absolutely clear that if she wished to be a part of my life from that point on, she would have to get used to the idea - fast.

Anyway, I won't babble on any more. I just wanted to say that I think it's great that you had the courage to stand up to your family and stick to your convictions.

Stay strong, sister!

dad said...

I understand why you are hurt, but remember, "the pig likes it".

RandyLuvsPaiste said...

I grew up in a similarly bigoted and regressive shithole in rural Pennsyltuckey (Lebanon County to be exact, next to Lancaster). I have no qualms about rubbing it in everyone else's face that I made it out and they stayed behind to breed. When they tell me I act uppity for living in CA, I tell them they're totally right.

Hey Red States-Thanks for sending California your best and brightest.

Bro said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
vikkitikkitavi said...

I am reposting an edited version of a comment from "my sis":

Yea, and I like the way she said "Bil... what kind of name is that?" Um... Just Google 'Bil (last name)' you dumb bitch and you will see what kind of name is that. That lady is a crazy-ass mo-fo if you ask me and embellishes all that is sad with a small town mind. She bleeds of stupidity and rampant signs of insecurity, yet she is so unaware of these things... how is that possible in this day and age? I don't get it... picking on the (last name) siblings in such an immature way does what exactly for her self worth? You were right sis, no sense flaming someone that is obviously so clueless, but I am glad you posted it here. I feel better already!

vikkitikkitavi said...

I am reposted an edited version of a comment from "bro":

I wouldn't call this Attack of the "Republicans", though I supposed they support the republican party without question.

These are victims of a type of social poverty that breeds intolerance, ignorance, and a type of insecurity that relies on making the distinction of skin pigmentation rather than the depth of character. Just as in other cycles of poverty where the children of tomorrow aren't equipped with the skills to raise themselves up from economic poverty, so too do these people not have the skills to think about the human condition beyond finding the distinctions that they hope proves that they are a step above the other guy. Nor are they equipped with the skills to recognize, much less elevate themselves above it in the majority of cases. I came to this conclusion when I heard a prejudice within myself refer to these as the "trailer trash" mentality and I am ashamed that I had that thought. It snuck into my character through the backdoor of associating their intolerance with the concept that maybe they should therefore not rate my understanding. And while it’s hard to care about so much walking fertilizer I remind myself that this is a condition, a poverty of tolerance and understanding.(That’s twice I have felt shame in 10 years, the other being when a family member sent me the Ballad of New Orleans in an email.)

How in the world can people of this class raise themselves above these prejudices when their preachers, their primary sources of moral guidance, preach that New Orleans had it coming to them because they sinned. (If this is the case god is one hell of a bad shot) How in the world can they raise above it when their parents tell them that it’s the (racial epithets) that have ruined the country for hard working white folk over and over (from THE source of information as far as a growing child is concerned.) I met a man in my neighborhood here in Jersey and I can tell two things about his father by looking at the son, that he was hard working and that he was a bigot. I imagine the son will reap the same one day.

I lived half of my life hoping that the next generation will have gotten more of a chance than the last, I spent the second half coming to the understanding of just how far things have yet to go, maybe it’s not really any better at all then it was 20 years ago.

My sister’s and mine desires to break free of this repressed state is probably why Vikkitikitavi is so proud to be FROM Indiana but LIVE somewhere else. (Nothing against Indiana but you have to live somewhere else to understand) Thank goodness we were given the gift of responsible and tolerant thought from our Mother and Father. The black gentleman that my sister went to the Snowbowl with was my best friend at the time, and one of the reasons I can fight today is because of the practice I got going to the mat for “hanging with the blacks”. The other side of it was that the guy has a second degree black belt and had to drag my ass out of a couple while I was still learning the moves.

I wish I had the vocabulary to name what this kind of poverty is more accurately if not eloquently.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Hey, thanks to everyone for your input and support.

I thought I'd post the entire quote that "dad" referred to in the above comment:

"I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."

George Bernard Shaw