By Fred Owens
Suppose you're a cop in Charlottesville
Suppose you're a cop in Charlottesville, twelve years on the force. You lived here all your life, and you know half the people in town. You daily experience is handling domestic disturbances, pinching shoplifters, and hauling drunk college students to the hoosegow. You have never drawn or fired your weapon on the job, although you are prepared to do that.
Comes now the KKK to hold a rally in your quiet city of 47,000 -- some 500 seriously disturbed and dangerous young men looking for a fight. Comes now the national media, some hundreds of pushy people pointing cameras at you. Comes now the counter-demonstrators, some peaceful, some angry and shouting, some wearing bandannas to cover their faces.
And all of these people -- the KKK, the media, and the counter protestors are from out of town. Nobody you know.
You're a local cop used to dealing with local people. What you wish more than anything is that these people would just leave, all of them.
But your August vacation days were cancelled. No golf. No fishing. You have to face down the mob, only how do you tell the good guys from the bad guys?
Imagine yourself as a cop in Charlottesville, facing this situation. Would you know what to do?
Friendship in America
Much has been said about the American family -- the family is the strength of our nation, the values of a family are so very important, and we need to keep and cherish those values.
Not to defend or define those values here, but to mention something equally important -- friendship.
Friendship is not unique to America, but we might compare our society to the undeveloped world where the extended family is the norm, in Latin America or Africa where a man counts his relatives in the dozens -- large families that depend on and care for each other. In countries where the government is often rapacious and confiscatory, where social services are nonexistent, the extended family is the sole tool for survival. Care of the elderly falls on the children and grandchildren -- there is no choice in that, and less virtue because there is no choice.
The extended family, this large and warm unit, is also the main source of corruption in poorer countries. If you have a government post, and your cousin needs a job, you will take care of him. If your business prospers, all your relatives will line up with their hands out. It is your duty to care for them above others.
It’s not merit, but relation, that allocates the rewards of society in those countries.
America is different. We send our cousins Christmas cards, but we don’t expect to feed them. Even a brother, applying for a position, would be subject to close scrutiny. “Sure, if he’s qualified,” we would say, but not for a favor.
Blood is thicker than water, and many of us would make a great sacrifice for our close kin, but the sense of fairness, and of equality for all, is so strong here, that the corruption of family ties is at a minimum.
What we have instead is friendship -- smaller, nuclear families and a web of friendship that unites and levels the country. Friendship is freedom. You choose your friends. Friendship is responsibility, because the friends you choose are a reflection on your character. Friendship is voluntary, even a long-standing friendship must be earned from time to time in small or large ways.
We might do a favor for a friend, or even surrender our lives, we might support them in illness, or go their bail, but it is always because we choose to. That’s freedom in America.
The family is good and essential, but it has never been enough.
Shannon Moon is going to be a nurse, maybe
Shannon was sitting at the dining room table scratching her head. I said what's up, and she said I’m just trying to figure it all out…… Oh boy, do I know that feeling….. You get overwhelmed, you can’t decide what is important. Everything matters. Nothing matters. Shannon is a mid-thirties woman with a future -- I’m sure of that. She’s going to become a nurse. I know she has continuous self-doubts about that, but she has completed the science prerequisites – those boring courses in anatomy and organic chemistry. Right now she is figuring out what nursing school is best for her. The options for nursing school are bewildering – that is clear. But what is just as clear is that Shannon will make a good nurse. She has that combination of toughness and compassion.
A good nurse wants to take care of people and wants to make a good living too. You don’t want a bleeding heart who wants to sacrifice her life, and you don’t want someone who just counts the dollars.
You want a balanced person, with a strong heart and a strong mind. Being a nurse is a tough job. If you can handle the stress and pressure, then you can make a difference in the lives of the people you care for. And you will always have work.
But sitting there at the dining room table trying to figure it all out….. Nope, doesn’t work. You make a decision, and you make a plan, and then life happens.
She left our house in Santa Barbara and flew to Taos, New Mexico to do volunteer work at the Lama Foundation. She will make up her mind about nursing school when she comes back in a few weeks.
Shannon is my Laurie’s younger daughter.
I am learning to write in a new style that I picked up from the Norwegian author, Karl Ove Knausgaard. He wrote a six-volume autobiographical novel called My Struggle. I am reading Volume Four which is about his youth. In the story he has just turned 18 and left home for the first time to take a teaching job in a remote northern village.
It’s not that his life is so special or different. This is not a man who flies to the moon and jousts with dragons. This is an ordinary man who writes about his life and he makes it interesting.
That’s the trick, to make it interesting. I mean, I already knew that, but I needed some re-enforcement for my writing. Everything is interesting. The four remote controls on the coffee table in front of me are interesting. The stack of firewood that has been sitting next to the fireplace for several years -- there’s a story.
I'm writing a book called The Quotidian which will have some of these stories. And I will put excerpts in the Frog Hospital newsletter from time to time.