Friday, May 22, 2009

Tolerance and other dangers in Kentucky

I drove to Lexington on Thursday morning, leaving the house before anyone else was awake, so I could be at the hospital when my 91-year-old grandmother had her pacemaker batteries replaced. Nana is a slip of a thing now with pale blue eyes and see-through skin. I saw her briefly before she went into the procedure and then spent an hour talking with my 70-year-old aunt. It took only a fraction of that hour for me to remember how much I hate the fact that everything in their lives revolves around God.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a church-going Catholic (okay, I missed the ascension service Thursday, but overall). This is a different kind of obsession with God. Every conversation about any person requires a discussion about this person's religious background and how they had or hadn't been saved, what age they'd been saved, whether they had backslid...
My aunt started one conversation with the fact that she really approved of homeschooling. I homeschooled my kids until last year. For me though, it was about the learning rather than the avoidance of other people's ideas.
"In schools today," my aunt dropped her voice and leaned forward, "they're teaching tolerance!"
I couldn't hold in the little burble of laughter, which probably sounded something like, "hah!"
"My kids hopefully learned as much tolerance from me at home as they would in school," I said.
"But have you heard about that new hate law? Soon it's going to be legal to beat up Christians."
I hadn't followed the law, but I didn't think that was the direction it was going.
"I think it's going to be an extra crime to hurt people because of their beliefs," I tried to explain.
"But it will be illegal for Christians to even speak out."
"No, no. I'm pretty sure it won't affect freedom of speech," I said, while I tried desperately to steer the conversation away to safer topics, like vegetables.

The rest of the afternoon was just a walk through minefields while I tried to say the right things without getting dragged into criticisms of my cousin (too fat), my former sister-in-law (never signed love on the cards until after the divorce), my own parents (too busy with their own lives to help take care of their mother). I'm lucky I was there to avoid the criticism that would have come my way.
So I skipped out early, claiming the three-hour drive made my departure a necessity. As I approached Cincinnati, I called my best friend from high school. She met me at a Panera not too far from the highway and I spewed all of my impatience with my relatives in a three-hour catch up session. Thank God for friends. But when was the last time she went to church? I'll need to check before I visit my relatives in Kentucky again.


Sheila said...

you would think vegetables would be a safe topic but when I was in Seattle visiting with my aunt she got very defensive and pissy when eating healthy and avoiding all the chemicals that are now put in foods got brought up. Funny thing was I wasn't even the one that was talking about it, it was my mom. So you know it wasn't nearly extreme as I can be.

Paulita said...

We need to brainstorm a safe topic for whenever we talk to relatives. Have to think of a non-controversial one. Weather?

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