THAT (that) wrote,
THAT
that

Dirty Windows

I occasionally chat with a woman in my building. Today she got philosophical.

"It's a real privilege that this building has a tornado shelter in the basement.  One of the improvements the white man brought to the Indians was tornado shelters.  Those are really important.  It just doesn't make any sense, all that work, tearing down teepees and moving all the time.  We gave them a lot.  There's a lot of education in the native American, that they..."  She trailed off.

"But there are some things I do like about the native Americans.  They fed their babies and made clothes for them."

"I don't believe in ghettoes.  I believe if people can't live normally, there's jails and institutions and rehabilitation.  I don't care if you're poor, you can keep your windows clean.  I mean, if you're a normal person.  There are abnormal people like Charles Manson and Marilyn Manson.  Marilyn Manson probably pays $7000 a month for his mansion in California, but even he can keep his windows clean."

I noted that we were talking about millions and millions of people and that it would be expensive to 'rehabilitate' them all.

"Well, it costs more to leave a problem alone than to fix it.  You know, we all got off Noah's ark.  And we all have to answer for Jesus.  It's all about choices and dwellings."

This woman is of normal intelligence.  She holds down a job, drives a car, pays taxes and reads her Bible.  I doubt that she reads books, but I have met people who are capable of doing so without improving their thinking in the slightest. Her ideas are no more muddled than those of many, many people I have met. 

How can an adult go through life in the modern world with ideas like these?  At first, I think the educational system has completely failed her.  Then I laugh at myself.  My ingrained tendency to think that we should have educated everyone by now is not so different from her vision of window-cleaning re-education camps for the poor.

I'm sure she's anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, pro-prayer in the schools.  How on earth can I enter into a debate on civil liberties with someone who doesn't believe in evolution, who thinks that two members of every species in the world were gathered up on a boat?

Democracy is a strange notion.  I mean, think about it.  This woman's vote is worth the same as Noam Chomsky's.  That's more radical than laissez faire capitalism, which I consider a fatuous form of magical thinking.  I don't think any of us believe in it absolutely.  I can tolerate people like this woman only as long as I believe they are powerless over me.  I feel smug in the knowledge that her ideas are so unworkable they will never coalesce into a social force.

Except that they do have social force.  They stop things from happening.  There are millions upon millions of these bumpkins, in this nation and every nation, obstinately digging in their heels like mistreated mules, resisting anything they do not understand.  They dream of simple, black and white answers .  They fear complexity.  If only everyone would accept Jesus into their hearts and keep their houses clean, we wouldn't have all these problems.

Whereas I want to think that if only people were taught to look at the world realistically, we could organize ourselves sensibly, living peacefully and creatively on spaceship earth.

I don't think either of us are going to get our easy answers.
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