2 Jul



By L. Stewart Marsden

It’s started out as a summer of not-so-sublime events: shootings in Charleston, black churches in the south burned, shark attacks off the coast of North Carolina, Caitlyn Jenner making her splash as her new self, the Supreme Court ruling on LGBT marriage in the nation.

The only “soft” story is about the sharks.

The others are stories that boggle my capacity to comprehend.

I don’t understand why a white man would choose to enter a church, sit down for a brief chat, then spray those around him with bullets. Simple answer? Hate.

I don’t understand the following string of black churches being burned. Simple answer? Hate.

Why Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation had to be such a public affair, and why she is being touted as a hero once again shakes my ability to understand. I don’t have a simple answer.

And to add to the fuel of my inability to grasp things is the ruling of the Supreme Court on legalization of all types of marriage. Part I understand — that of equal rights and protection. The other part? Not so much.

Part of my struggle is similar to that of the fish that swims upstream to spawn. All its life, that fish has pretty much resisted battling currents to go with the flow of the river, ending up miles away from its birthplace. Then, at a mature age, it turns to go back home. Not an easy trek, getting back to the place from which you started.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. Today many of my generation look back to “the good old days” wistfully. If you were white and lived a reasonably comfortable life economically, they were simple, carefree and without worry.

It was post-WWII, and Korea as well (although Korea was a dimmed event in my youth — nothing like the huge war). Everything was “Father Knows Best,” and Beaver Cleaver-esque. Order. Nothing random. No hiccups in daily routine.

Then, The Cold War. Sirens around town signalling everyone duck under your desk. Television images of Khrushchev banging the podium with his shoe at the United Nations. A Catholic gets elected president. The Bay of Pigs. Little Rock.

And as if someone opened the flood gates, the rush of change, carrying all us fishes along with the tide.

A convergence of incredible change. Vietnam — the first conflict after WWII that was controversial. Agent Orange. Baby killers. Soldiers old enough to die for their country, but not old enough to vote or drink alcohol legally. Nightly news body counts. The birth of CBS’s Sixty Minutes.

Malcolm X. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. George Wallace. Freedom Riders. Protests. Police brutality. Sit-ins. Assassinations of presidents, racial equality leaders, candidates. All on camera, or on TV.

Playboy. Betty Friedan. Abortion controversy. Roe v. Wade. The National Organization for Women. Bra burning.

College campus protests. Kent State. Music. The Beatles. Hendrix. Joplin. Dylan. Baez. Woodstock. O’Leary and acid. Pot. Peace, drugs and rock and roll.

Home, the shallow waters where we fishes were excreted and grew up to venture out, was miles and miles and miles away. And, no, we could NOT see for miles and miles.

If you put a frog into a hot pan, it will jump out. If you put that frog into a pan of cool water, and gradually turn up the heat, the frog will cook.

So, as I contemplate this summer, part of me wonders how long I was in the water, and how far downstream I allowed myself to be pushed, pulled, or dragged along.

I’m having difficulty with all of this. I don’t embrace it. I’m struggling how to feel, how to react, what to say. If I choose my normal modus operandi, it would be not to feel, not to react, and to say nothing. Zantac has made a fortune off that particular tendency of people.

I can hear my children now: mortified, horrified, terrified I’m going to say something out-of-line. Something unpopular. Something against the tide and against the flow.

What I say is I don’t like what’s going on. It makes me very uncomfortable. There seems nothing to say. It seems the die is cast. Luckily for those family and friends who should find it in their tolerant make-up to tolerate me, I’m sixty-five, and maybe if I do everything everyone around me is telling me I ought to do, I’ll be around perhaps another twenty. Then, at last, my exasperating inability to understand, grasp, welcome and just go with the river flow will be a moot point. And I won’t bother anyone with my exasperating confusion.

I will remain uncomfortable with those who shoot others, either on purpose or not. I will remain uncomfortable with abortion as a means of birth control. I will be saddened by those with radical hate that emanates so easily from them, be they whatever cultural or political or religious persuasion. I do not understand the LGBT way of life, and will harbor some level of discomfort about it, even though family, friends or others are a part of that life.

I also have a gut feeling there are a lot of people who share my consternation. Once we’re cleared out, I suppose life will be clearer and simpler. That’s not that far away in the overall scheme of things.

Copyright by Lawrence S. Marsden, 2 July, 2015

5 Responses to “Confused”

  1. claragbush29 July 2, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

    So sad. Thank you for putting into words, Skip.

  2. Outlier Babe July 6, 2015 at 1:00 am #

    Very well, and ever-so-carefully, said.

    I…feel I must address your comment regarding abortion. Abortion is not “a form of birth control”–something used on a regular, semi-regular, or ongoing basis by a sexually-active person to prevent pregnancy (or even delivery).

    It is a choice girls and women must be free to make each and every time their chosen birth control method fails, or they make a mistake–you know, because they’re human–and didn’t use one. And they alone bear, literally, the consequences of such a mistake.

    While it is one of my least well-written pieces, Skip, please do read my piece on this topic. Because forced pregnancies are not only about forcing a woman to bear a baby. It is so much bigger than that.

    unfortunate fpointing implications.

    as all methods do, resulting in more than one pregnancy a lifetime while using birth control, in addition to any planned children while not using it)

    • skipmars December 7, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

      OB: part of the fabric of our country should be our ability to disagree, have intelligent debate, and still live in some semblance of peace. There has been a change regarding human life at many levels. And for me, abortion is one of those changes. I’m not on the streets preaching my position. I sit off to the side and mourn whatever has brought us — one of the most progressive nations in the world — to this place.

      • Outlier Babe December 9, 2015 at 3:48 am #

        What I think is that, in the U.S., women and daughters with money, or women and daughters whose pregnancies if become known would shame men who had money, were always able to obtain abortions, even before Roe v. Wade. Afterward, less economically-advantaged women and girls in crisis could be helped. Now, the pendulum has swung almost entirely back.

        Would both sides of this issue prefer a safe-for-all 100% effective birth control? You betcha. I got pregnant with an IUD, properly inserted, still in place.

        I agree with you on mourning the spiraling devaluing of human life, and consider the increasing tendency to treat women as inhuman incubators–not pursuing male DNA donors for THEIR prenatal drug abuse, for example–to be part of this depressing devaluation.

  3. skipmars December 9, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    It definitely is a complicated issue, as the final act of abortion culminates a procession of decisions, attitudes, and now cultural mind-set that prevail. I use “culminates” loosely, because I believe the repercussions are long-lasting and deep — not only to those intimately involved, but to our society as well.

    For me it [abortion] is a deep gash … a wound, if you will, and our inability to find common ground rips through not only culture, but history as well. It seems we value the momentary sensation of sex far above any importance of what its results may render.

    It’s not a just matter of scantily clad entertainers twerking for dollars onstage — but the vast acceptance of what was once not acceptable.

    So babies having babies is only part of the problem. We have a simple solution for that, right? And I can’t begin to know what percentage of abortions performed are repeat procedures.

    I agree that the back-alley hacks of the 50s and 60s endangered the lives of many, and that the monied could send their daughters off to a clinic in Kansas to solve an “embarrassing social dilemma.” I’m from the south, and I saw how that worked growing up.

    My sibling did not go to Kansas. And she and the dad married. They had, admittedly, much support from both sets of grandparents. It wasn’t the greatest union. But their daughter is the loveliest person you would ever want to meet. A high school counselor today.

    According to the CDC: “In 2012, 699,202 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2012 was 13.2 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 210 abortions per 1,000 live births.”
    ( In 1996, a total of 1,221,585 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC.

    So the numbers have “drastically” reduced.

    According to “Though the number of killed and wounded in the Civil War is not known precisely, most sources agree that the total number killed was between 640,000 and 700,000.”

    Not a fair comparison, I know, as this was a war fought over several years.

    I do not harbor animosity towards anyone who finds themself in the position of having to decide between carrying a pregnancy to term or not. Parenthood is a difficult job, and there are no training courses, per se, to prepare a person for that kind of responsibility.

    But, why are there still so many?

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