80s Flashback Time

Some of my younger friends are freak­ing out about Trump, won­der­ing how we’ll get through his pres­i­den­cy. For those of us of a cer­tain age though this is déjà vu, a return to the days of Ronald Rea­gan. Though many peo­ple lion­ize him in ret­ro­spect, he was a train wreck through and through.

I was young when he came into office and my only mem­o­ry of his first term is being inter­rupt­ed in gym class to an announce­ment he had been shot in an assas­si­na­tion attempt. My first inkling of him as a politi­cian came from a high school social stud­ies teacher Roy Buri who con­stant­ly made fun of Reagan’s state­ments and poli­cies. I laughed at Buri’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tions but I also began to inter­nal­ized them. He was a leg­end at the school and had report­ed­ly pro­vid­ed a safe haven in the 1970s for stu­dents orga­niz­ing against the Viet­nam War. Retro bonus: he even looked a bit like Bernie Sanders!

When I grad­u­at­ed and moved onto a most­ly con­ser­v­a­tive col­lege, I would stay late at nights in a base­ment lounge talk­ing with friends in about how we could deal with the era we were liv­ing. I remem­ber an epiphany that even though the media were telling us to believe cer­tain things because that was the main­stream nation­al dis­course, we didn’t have to. We could be inde­pen­dent in our actions and con­vic­tions. Yes, that seems obvi­ous now but it was a major real­iza­tion then.

So what did we do? We protest­ed. We spoke out. We knew gov­ern­ment wasn’t on our side. For those los­ing friends to AIDS, there was deep mourn­ing and right­eous anger. There was a melan­choly. A lot of my world felt under­ground and grit­ty. I start­ed writ­ing, edit­ing a under­ground week­ly paper on cam­pus (real­ly the start of my career). I fig­ured out that the geog­ra­phy depart­ment was full of left­ies and spent enough time there to earn a minor. Most of all, I worked to de-normalize the Rea­gan and Bush St Admin­is­tra­tions – the deep cor­rup­tion of many of its offi­cials and the heart­less­ness of its policies.


Bleak Batsto day

My wife Julie heard that the Rowan Uni­ver­si­ty geog­ra­phy club was hav­ing an open hike at one of our favorite local spots, his­toric Bat­sto Vil­lage. Our kids are all geog­ra­phy nerds and we’ve been won­der­ing if our 12yo Theo in par­tic­u­lar might be inter­est­ed in a geog­ra­phy degree come col­lege so we came along. It was a grey, bleak, late win­ter day large­ly void of col­or so I leeched what tiny bits of green and red that remained to take black and white shots.

Timeline Photos | Face​book​face​book​.com An Indi­an woman, a…

Time­line Pho­tos | Face­book

An Indi­an woman, a Japan­ese woman, and a Syr­i­an woman, all train­ing to be doc­tors at Women’s Med­ical Col­lege of Philadel­phia, 1880s.

Cool vin­tage pic­ture of doc­tors in train from Philadelphia’s woman’s med­ical college. 

Fifteen years of blogging

Even I’m a bit shocked by the title of this post. Have I real­ly been blog­ging for fif­teen years? I keep double-checking the math but it keeps adding up. In Novem­ber 1997 I added a fea­ture to my two-year-old peace web­site. I called this new enti­ty Non­vi­o­lence Web Upfront and updat­ed it week­ly with orig­i­nal fea­tures and curat­ed links to the best online paci­fist writ­ing. I wrote a ret­ro­spec­tive of the “ear­ly blog­ging days” in 2005 that talks about how it came about and gives some con­text about the proto-blogs hap­pen­ing back in 1997.

But I could arguably go back fur­ther than 15 years. In col­lege, my friend Brni and I start­ed an alter­na­tive print mag­a­zine called VACUUM. It came out week­ly. It had a mix of opin­ion pieces and news from all over. Famil­iar, huh? Columns were made up from a dot matrix print­er and past­ed down with scotch tape, with head­lines scrawled out with a sharpie. The ethos was there. Next April will mark its Sil­ver Jubilee.

What’s most strik­ing is not the huge leaps of tech­nolo­gies, but the single-mindedness of my pur­suits all these years. There are cross-decade echos of themes and ways of pack­ag­ing pub­li­ca­tions that con­tin­ue in my work as edi­tor of Friends Jour­nal.

Taking Jeanne’s social class quiz

I usu­al­ly skip out on meme games but I thought I’d try out Jeanne’s class one. Bold are the priv­i­leges I can claim from my youth, ital­ics are ones that I’m unsure of or that are more “yes but” kind of priv­i­leges. My mom’s Luther­an pride kept her from want­i­ng us to look or feel poor. Yes, I didn’t have second-hand clothes but the rich kids often did. While they might wear scrubs from their parent’s doc­tor prac­tice or vin­tage clothes scored from a thrift-store out­ing, I was in striped button-down shirts from the respectable depart­ment store whose teen depart­ment was always emp­ty of teen cus­tomers. Yes, respectable peo­ple on TV sound like me but that’s because my mom dropped her child­hood Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch accent and was hyper-aware of non-standard accents (a trait I’ve unfor­tu­nate­ly picked up, I correct/mock Julie’s “wood­er” pro­nun­ci­a­tion for water before I can even think about it, it’s like I have a very speci­fic­Tourettes Syn­drome that only applies to non-standard accents). Julie tal­lied up and com­ment­ed on the quiz here in Jeanne’s com­ments. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to real­ize that although I grew up sig­nif­i­cant­ly poor­er and have less than half Julie’s “steps” she’s much more cul­tur­al­ly work­ing class than I’ll ever be.

Father went to col­lege (he was secre­tive about past, he might have done a semes­ter at St Joe’s)
Father fin­ished col­lege
Moth­er went to col­lege (two year sec­re­tar­i­al pro­gram)
Moth­er fin­ished col­lege
Have any rel­a­tive who is an attor­ney, physi­cian, or pro­fes­sor.
Were the same or high­er class than your high school teach­ers
Had more than 50 books in your child­hood home
Had more than 500 books in your child­hood home
Were read children’s books by a par­ent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The peo­ple in the media who dress and talk like me are por­trayed pos­i­tive­ly (because we’re good assim­i­la­tion­ists)
Had a cred­it card with your name on it before you turned 18
Had to take out less than $5000 in stu­dent loans in order to go to col­lege
Didn’t need stu­dent loans to go to col­lege out of high school
Went to a pri­vate high school
Went to sum­mer camp (day camp at the Y for a few sum­mers)
Had a pri­vate tutor before you turned 18
Fam­i­ly vaca­tions involved stay­ing at hotels
Your cloth­ing was all bought new before you turned 18 (pride kept us out of second-hand stores until we lat­er crossed that class bound­ary where thrift­ing is cool pre­cise­ly because its not a neces­si­ty)
Your par­ents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was orig­i­nal art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your fam­i­ly lived in a sin­gle fam­i­ly house
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apart­ment before you left home
You had your own room as a child (I was the only child at home after age 7)
Par­tic­i­pat­ed in an SAT/ACT prep course (my mom thought they were cheat­ing)
Had your own TV in your room in High School (most­ly as mon­i­tor for Radio Shack Col­or Com­put­er she bought me junior year of high school)
Owned a mutu­al fund or IRA in High School or Col­lege
Flew any­where on a com­mer­cial air­line before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your fam­i­ly
Went on more than one cruise with your fam­i­ly
Your par­ents took you to muse­ums and art gal­leries as you grew up (we were more zoo/county fair/Independence Hall tour types (hey, they’re all free/low-cost!))
You were unaware of how much heat­ing bills were for your fam­i­ly (n/a: includ­ed in apt rent, besides my mom would nev­er let on that things were tight)

A list like this can nev­er be all inclu­sive but it seems there are some big omis­sions. Where’s any­thing about fam­i­ly struc­ture and finances, like “You had two parental fig­ures liv­ing in your house” and “Both par­ents con­tributed to fam­i­ly income” or “One par­ent stayed home or worked part-time”? In my own instance, my father had a secret oth­er fam­i­ly and nev­er paid for any­thing oth­er than the occa­sion­al trip to Roy Rogers (secret fam­i­ly to “Lit­tle Mar­ty” at least, the women and old­er chil­dren pre­sum­ably noitced he was only around half the time and con­struct­ed some men­tal run-around to explain it away).

The oth­er omis­sion is social net­works. I have no mem­o­ry of fam­i­ly friends. I can­not name one friend of my father and my mother’s friends were lim­it­ed to a hand­ful of “girls” at the office. By the time I got to high school I start­ed to see how cer­tain class­mates were able to work the sys­tem to get the best teach­ers and class­es and this was most­ly accom­plished by par­ents swap­ping notes after Hew­brew class or at church or at hock­ey prac­tice. Friends are right­ly not­ed for the strength of their social net­works and I sus­pect these pro­vide a social priv­i­lege that is far more valu­able than parental salary.

Jeanne promis­es to write a part two to her post explain­ing what this all means to Friends. I’m look­ing for­ward to it though I’m unsure just what easy gen­er­al­iza­tion can be made if we’re look­ing at ori­gins. One of the few sur­veys try­ing to be com­pre­hen­sive found Philadelphia-area Friends don’t reflect Amer­i­can aver­ages yet for many con­vinced Friends our par­tic­i­pa­tion has mir­rored (and per­haps been uncon­scious­ly moti­vat­ed by) an upward class mobil­i­ty. Keep an eye on Social Class & Quak­ers for more!