Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Weary - Just Weary

The past few days have been quite full here.

Full with activities around loss - with the passing and funeral for a good friend. Full with the loss too of our pastor but is tempered too by knowing he felt the need to move to a different parish, to work in a new setting, perhaps be of more or better assistance to others. The loss there to our church comes from the difficult we often have in trying to "lure" a pastor to this little village, to a church not large by a lot of standards but a beautiful congregation all the same. This area is somewhat isolated I guess you could say - not really that close to larger areas that offer many attractions to people.

But that too would depend on what type of life someone would want, I would imagine. If one absolutely can not live without lots and lots of hustle and bustle of a city or the 'burbs, then to take on the responsibility of this parish would definitely not be a good match. Clearfield County - the entire county - doesn't really have much to offer by way of what would be considered "city life." But if someone is interested in living in a quiet, lazy little village in a home that is adjacent to a little wooded area, with space where a good-sized vegetable garden can be planted, as well as plenty of places to plant flowers and more flowers, then the parsonage that comes with our church has a lot to offer to potential occupants - a potential pastor and family.

However, life in this area also brings with it other things too - some of which are issues that are difficult to break through, to try to bring about change to the community.

The area has a history of having had a lot of bias and prejudice -not in the manner one usually thinks of when you think of those two things though. Being out in the middle of nowhere in this part of Pennsylvania, it is very much a very "white" area. I don't know why very few blacks ever settled here, but there aren't that many in the county although Dubois and Clearfield do have black residents, I would estimate they are still very much in the minority. In the village where I live, we have one resident who is black - and she just moved here about two years ago when her husband, who is white, accepted a job at a nearby prison facility. I worried at first at how some folks around would react to her, to them, but thankfully -and I think this is due more to her open, bubbly, friendly nature, I not seen nor heard of any derogatory comments about either of them.

But for many years, there was heavy bias and prejudice that existed here. However, it was based on ethnicity and religion. It was caused by ignorance, by fear, by perceptions that because this person was of a certain ethnic background and worshipped at a specific church, they were different, therefore, bad. The language differences that came with immigrants from certain areas of Europe and lack of the ability to communicate, to make each other understood, contributed very heavily to this issue too.

The basic ethnic and religious composition of the village I call home were Swedish and Lutheran or Slovak and Roman Catholic, with a few other groups scattered about too but the bulk of the residents in this village were comprised of immigrants from those two countries, people of those two faiths.

In my mother's day, there was very little intermingling between these two groups. Often, the parents of my mother's peers either spoke very broken English or, in many instances, no English at all. Although between the time my Mom went to school here and I began school, a lot of the language difficulties had somewhat disappeared, the base prejudices from early years still existed. When I was a child, I was expected to stay along the street where we lived and not venture beyond it to play with other kids. I was taught then to venture into one specific area in the village which was heavily populated with people who were Slovak and Catholic too, was a taboo thing. "Don't go over into Dobry Town" was the instructions I received from the time I started school. We kids met in the classroom, associated there, but once classes were over and we made our way back home, our paths rarely crossed because the kids who lived over in "Dobry Town" were also given pretty much the same rules - "Don't go over to West Clymer and don't play with those Swedes, those Lutherans." The ministers then as well as the priests reinforced this prejudice too.

Thankfully, as I grew up and got to know my classmates of various ethnic backgrounds, other faiths, I grew to know and like them but still this edict was there in the back of all our minds and we still didn't associate much then -other than to know which houses various classmates lived in, we didn't grow up having any other knowledge of each others homes, families, much less traditions, etc.

By the time I returned here to live - having spent about eight years working in the D.C. area - and my children came along, and thanks to the minister at our church then and a man who had grown up here, who had chosen to become a Catholic priest as his vocation, our pastor and that priest met, formed a friendship and began to quietly work to bring the community together - to escape those early biases that had divided the community for so many years. Today, most of the residents here, while they still acknowledge their ethnicity and take great pride in being either Slovak or Swedish or German, Irish, English, etc., it is a shared thing now and not a means to ostracize as it once had been. And that is how -as I see things - it should have been but just took a long, long time to eradicate that from the people.

However, if one chooses to live in a small town -such as this is -there are still other issues that make their way through day-to-day life that someone coming here from "the outside" or from a city-type background may not realize and they can make the transition problem difficult at times.

The area is rather a bit on the "red-necky" side at times. With not much in the way of entertainment available - simple things like shopping requires travel of t least 4-5 miles and usually means driving anywhere from 12 to 22 miles to a larger store with more commodities available and often at somewhat lower prices then too. There are no movie theatres here - closest one is 12 miles away. Bowling or roller skating - also a drive of 12 to 22 miles too. Even dances are something that often requires the same drive. Although occasionally the local Moose here in town may have a dance with a band - usually the Saturday night prior to the first day of deer season or on New Year's Eve -maybe once in a blue moon in between there might be some occasion where they will sponsor a dance. Karaoke is something that pops up here at a couple of the local pubs or occasionally one of those bars will have a disc jockey from time to time too but that pretty much is the extent of the entertainment available. It often becomes a culture too that one either drinks to have "entertainment" too.

But one thing that has always existed here -regardless of the biases, etc., is that in a small town like this, everyone frequently knows everyone else's business too. There are times when that aspect of "country life" is not a bad thing. I believe very strongly in Hilary Clinton's premise in her book "It Takes a Village" because when I was growing up, the residents of this street - and along the other streets, roads, alleys of this village all did tend to look after each other, especially the children. I may have been an only child but I had playmates galore and their parents had no qualms about disciplining me, right along with their own children back then too. Not by spanking but by stern words, admonishments -and at times too if a kid was really misbehaving, the other parent might take that kid by the collar, lead the child home and give a blow-by-blow description to the kid's parent(s) then too of what had happened to require that action.

That's the good side there of the small town, everyone knows everyone and their business. The bad side though is the gossip.

Now, gossip by itself can cover many things. It can be simply sharing news about this person is going to have another child; this family is having a rough time because of employment - low paying employment or layoffs, things like that. Or, gossip often also amounts to sharing information of others who have medical issues - sometimes minor things, maybe an accident, broken bones, or perhaps passing along information that so-and-so has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or is considered to be diagnosed as "terminally ill" and in those things, most of the time the community does come together too - through kindness extended, prayers and such.

But there are times when gossip - especially if it is of what is considered to be a "juicy" nature, and if the person -or persons -spreading this stuff also like to add a few bits and pieces to the words being shared and it then often takes on a life of its own. Frequently too, those who spread gossip like that do not take into consideration how this crap may possibly affect others lives and they just go on adding more and more - tossing more wood onto the fire as it were ya know.

Over the past several months, this is something that has been going on around here. Someone has started some rumors by taking innocent comments and adding to them, professing these things to be truth, when in fact, they are far from the truth, making assumptions about things they don't comprehend at all and spreading these pieces around.

Remember as I said earlier, this area is pretty much a "red neck" type community - hunting, fishing, motorcycles, four-wheeling, and of course, drinking being the main staples of life. Ignorance too about issues -things that really shouldn't be an "issue" per se but often are -such as homosexuality for an example, are often blown way out of proportion. If someone doesn't fit exactly into the mold some others feel is the ONLY way to live, often that person gets "earmarked" or branded, frequently incorrectly too, because of their difference as being "queer," "gay" a "Homo" - you know the way something like that can take on a life of its own.

And when some people take things they are incapable of comprehending fully in others and places labels like that on others, the damage it can do to people is often beyond comprehension too.

Recently, this has been an issue and it has come to affect some people very, very close to me - who I love dearly. It has been a very hurtful time for that person to hear others making comments that, oh my goodness, so-and-so is gay when in fact, that person is most certainly not.

I keep thinking of that one particular episode of Jerry Seinfeld in which he and George inadvertently get labeled as being homosexual and then, biased, etc., and the tag line through out the program was "Not that there's anything wrong with that." One shouldn't have to have incorrect labels attached to them to begin with. And even if the label were to be attached and would be true, it should not be something that inspires others to do stupid, weird, and mean things like come to a bar to see if some "faggot" is there and announce to the other patrons that such people should be given a good beating or whatever.

It does give one cause to question the sanity levels of some people, ya know!

I hesitated to mention anything along these lines on my blog for various reasons. One of which though is that I know a certain party in the community who has been quite responsible for spreading many rumors of this nature reads my blog. I also know that person apparently has a rather low comprehension level of the written word too as in the past, some things I have blogged about here that were quite innocuous have been taken and misinterpreted and mountains made out of molehills, in essence, because that person did NOT read what I had written correctly.

The party has been confronted too about the latest string of rumors that have been traced back to the individual and said party has also denied, up one side, down the other, that NEVER has that person EVER made such comments. To which I will say here and now - YOU ARE A LIAR!

The overall effect this has had on some individuals has had a terrible impact on that person's life at this time. Hopefully, it will be corrected through counseling and other care and the person will be able to pickup, continue on to lead a good life, and others will recognize the fallacy of the rumors, the damage, hurt, pain that these things can create in others.

I'm generally of a very accepting nature but I do not tolerate fools and idiots who do things like this well, if at all.

My advice here - if you're going to say something about someone, first make damned sure you know what the blazes you are talking about is true, then also, THINK about how spreading something -truth or not - can impact on someone else's life. And, if you do continue along the old vein of making up lies and spreading them, then you should just plain be very ashamed of yourself for your actions!

I, for one, am as my title of this post states, just weary of the crap that constantly seems to come from your own issues and inability to adjust to having a "normal" life that you have to try to find ways, whatever means possible, to bring others down into your own pig sty existence.

'Nuff Said? I hope so.


Anonymous said...

Give 'em hell, Jeni!

Regrettably, these things are restricted to small towns, but they sure are more noticeable. And it's much harder for the victim of this rumour-mongering to ignore it, to go to a different bar, or hang out with different friends.

To the subject of Jeni's rant...don't say anything behind someone's back that you wouldn't say to their face. And, if Jeni pissed you off, don't whine about it behind her back. Leave a comment. With your real name.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, should read NOT restricted to small towns...oops!

Posolxstvo said...

Jeni -- you reference the famous Seinfelf line "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

It has been my experience that anytime someone feels compelled to say that line, it is because they do indeed think that there's something wrong with that, but are trying to convince themselves or others otherwise; or that someone else would think that there's something wrong with it, and they don't want to be looked down upon.

It's a bit like when someone says something like "I don't mean to criticize, or anything, but..." and then they start criticizing.

If you are not gay, and someone suggests that maybe you might be, the suggestion does not make it so.

I like Kevin Spacey's response to rumors that he is gay. "I'm not going to respond to that."

Theresa said...

The trick is trying not to get caught in the pettiness in the first place. I think the work place is a perfect example of a small town. Lots of things being said behind people backs. When I find myself getting sucked in to the pettiness I just stay in my room, and keep a low profile until the latest "crisis" is over.
Hang tough!

Minnesotablue said...

I can relate to the small town gossip machine. I lived in one for a few years and they were some of the worst years of my life

dr sardonicus said...

A lot of ground covered there.

The area where i live is still considered rural, but the big city edges closer all the time. This may not be a bad thing by the time I retire, with increasing property values and all.

Hang in there. Small town gossip can be brutal, but you come across as a woman who knows how to defend herself.

The Accused said...

Hmmm I will bite back on this one! Sorry for my "rather low comprehension level of the written word" BUT I do believe you called me a LIAR? Now for being a "writer" I thought you would have done your research. I know for a FACT (not an assumption) that the only side you have heard is from the said "VICTIM". Also I am VERY upset because this said "victim" made a statement one night infront of 15 others..a statement that has lead to this rumor and I am the only one that gets questioned and blamed why? I could care less what someones damn sexual preferences are (which I am not stupid I know the "victim" isn't gay)! It also bugs me that when I have heard people say this rumor that I have stuck up for the "victim" and all I get is ran down for it in the end? NICE. Whatever..I really don't care but I had to respond and atleast defend myself. I will be damned if I will sit back and let someone who doesn't know the whole story make me look like a horrible person. One last thing...when you say that "the party" was confronted about the lastest string of rumors...the correct term should be accused..because I wasn't asked about the rumors...I was TOLD "by the said party that was sent over" that I WAS the one who said it. No confronting (or asking)about that now is there..?

'Nuff said!!

Anonymous said...

My mouth is WIDE open!

Boy am I glad i read this post in its entirety.

Go for what you know, Jeni!

Debo Blue

lime said...

thanks for your visit by my place and making yourself known so i could come say hello. funny story about how you 'refound' me.

since i am born and bred small town PA and spent a significant amopunt of time in central Pa i well know what you are talking about. sorry you've had the nasty side of life to deal with and hoping things settle down so you can enjoy the good side of small town life.

Minnesotablue said...

It seems as if the accuser "doth protest to much"

lattégirl said...

My poor dear Jeni.

Life in a small town,the gossip, the bullsh** ... you know I know it all too well and after only 2 years am as weary as you are.

All we can do in small towns is put up and shut up.

Vic Grace said...

I thought that was only mildly ticked off, or was that edited for the reading public!

Living in a small village I know all about rumours and gossip, that is why I am glad we live on the outskirts and in a rather out of the way place. I keep my nose out of theirs and they darn well better keep out of mine.