"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Neighborhood bonding built inclusiveness

Our neighborhood had parties when I was a kid. Were those times better? It's a matter for discussion.
We were a typical neighborhood with boomer children. The orange school bus stopped several times, maybe as many as four, although kids from more than one family might gather in one stop.
Those buses don't even rumble by today. It seems it has been years.
We often hear neighborhoods aren't as close as they once were. There has been a slow cultural move away from neighborhood affinity.
None of this stuff happens overnight. The late Doug Rasmusson once wrote about slow cultural changes in rural outstate Minnesota. He lived in the Morris area and was a unique talent. He and Del Holdgrafer of Donnelly might have become famous if they grew up in a big city and got sent through more refined educational channels.
But "there's more to life than being famous." That's a saying that Rasmusson could certainly seize on for a piece in one of his self-published books.
His writing set an example for what I aspire to on this website (or blog). He would have found the Internet, in its fully developed form, an immense treasure in which to get involved.
Self-published books were once called "vanity publishing." This is a judgmental term or at least smacks of such.
I remember a TV documentary doing an expose on this mode of publishing a long time ago. The suggestion was that companies offering this were misleading or unethical. Looking down their nose, the likes of TV documentary journalists thought these common writers were being misled into thinking they could make money on their books.
Maybe people in the big corporate media felt journalism was pointless unless you were trying to become rich and famous.
Today there is no controversy over "self publishing." I hope the term "vanity publishing" has died.
You're not vain to want to see your own writing in a polished published form. If you have the money to do it and want to do it, go for it.
These authors also seem uninhibited talking about it.
And while we're burying the term "vanity publishing," let's do the same with "blogging." I feel "blogging" is a horrendous term, having been born when the Internet was young and it had a different complexion. Many people with questionable intentions seized on the Internet.
Today it is such a medium of the masses, we take it for granted. We all know there's bad stuff on the web but we brush it off.
A blog is a website. It's a type of website designed for journalism or diary-style writing. It can be as good as you make it.
I'm sure Rasmusson would have been mesmerized by the web in its mature form. He might have skipped "publishing" (on paper).
He was an intellectual because he was an observer and showed curiosity.
Holdgrafer was a homespun philosopher. We can say RIP about both individuals. I'm not sure how well acquainted they were or if they were acquainted at all. Their bond of being self-made philosophers and artists gives them a niche in Stevens County history. I might suggest an exhibit at the museum.
Individuals like them must not be allowed to drift from our collective memory. I might suggest also Willie Martin.
People like those I'm citing grew up when neighborhood bonding was a given. They could relate to the kind of neighborhood parties our family can remember. (The main facilitator of these in our neighborhood, Northridge Drive, was Oscar Miller, school superintendent.)
More people lived in the countryside. Families had more children. Small rural towns were still viable enough to have their own schools.
The Good Shepherd church of Morris was located south of Alberta - yes, physically located there - and up through the 1960s was thriving.
It was more difficult to combat boredom. We used our immediate social contacts in that regard. Mobility was more restricted, making us want to connect in our immediate community more.
We were more aware of our neighbors' situation even if this concern could spread into gossip. We cared about their welfare.
There was much less of a feeling of doing everything "by the book." There were mores we all recognized. Children were our treasure and they were given more latitude to horse around.
The children of our neighborhood always felt welcome at the farm down at the end of the road. It was the typical diversified farm of its time. We'd go into the barn and even up into the "hay mow." We played "kick ball" with the hired man's kids.
Boomers could follow their impulses in a pretty uninhibited way then. The kids formed their own sense of community.
We weren't segregated off (from each other) because of "behavior disorders" or the whole crazy quilt of psychological issues. We weren't "pilled up."
Our mostly matronly and wise elementary school teachers knew how to handle us the way a rancher might handle a herd. We were kept together through "social promotion" before the term originated.
"Flunking" was a delicate and disturbing thing. Reportedly it happened more often in the Catholic school than in the public. Is the term still heard? Or are kids with "special problems" just put into special sequences or "alternative schools?"
Lots of kids have special needs or problems. We used to just nudge kids along the same path regardless of their differences.
Was that a better system? I'm not sure, but when you designate a kid with a special need, you're giving that kid an excuse to depart from the norm the rest of his life.
Is it good to aspire to the norm? Can we really define the norm in any meaningful way anymore? Is it too tempting to use pills or referrals to psychologists to avoid dealing with kids and their myriad traits? We're just human.
There's no truly methodical way to get us all through the system.
Boomers were "mainstreamed" with certain exceptions. That middle ground of kids with "behavior issues" didn't really exist (i.e. wasn't formally acknowledged). Kids have behavior issues almost by definition. People who are Christians should easily understand this. We were created imperfect.
There was no formal approach of "conflict resolution."
Today we think we can eradicate "bullying." No one has ever thought favorably of bullying. We just tried using our conscience to discourage it back then.
If someone noticed a jackknife in the front seat of your car, you didn't have to worry about getting expelled.
We think we can make rules, prescribe pills and develop policies and programs to eliminate everything bad in the environment of kids. It's utopian. Like all utopian visions it's ill-fated.
We all need to try to get along, in our neighborhoods, schools and organizations. We have to see each other's flaws in a light where we realize we can't simply eradicate them. There are times we have to work with them. We become so consumed with trying to create a perfect world.
Boomers can all remember some of their peers having problems when young. Sometimes these problems mystified us. We didn't feel we had to totally "understand" them.
We accepted each other to a large degree. It's so easy to think pills or exotic handicapped terms can relieve us of simply dealing with the human reality of fast and slow, smart and dumb, conformist and non-conformist.
We seek refuge in that utopian vision. The people who supervise our youth retreat to it. It gives us comfort to think there's a solution or prescription for everything.
There's a saying that covers this: "When you have a hammer, all you see is nails."
The old bonding, as with neighborhoods, was an unconditional type of friendship within certain bounds, and it's a shame it has been retired to the dustbin of cultural history.
Today we're more apt to practice "cocooning." Good luck with that. And there are far fewer children out there.
I doubt God would smile on this. I suspect God would smile on those days when families flocked to rural churches. We didn't seek tangible rewards for every little thing we did. Kids could mystify us with their misbehavior but we loved them.
Today we think we can create a perfect world. History doesn't suggest a positive outcome for this.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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