Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Boycott

More aptly, I should title this blog “The Latest Boycott.”

At the outset, I need to say I am not opposed to boycotts.  It is a time honored way of seeking to bring about change. I have boycotted companies in the past—in particular grapes and Nestlé.
Grapes—the grape boycott was organized in part by Cesar Chavez.  This quote from Wikipedia gives you a quick summary of the grape boycott:

“The Delano grape strike was a labor strike by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the United Farm Workers against grape growers in California. The strike began on September 8, 1965, and lasted more than five years. Due largely to a consumer boycott of non-union grapes, the strike ended with a significant victory for the United Farm Workers as well as its first contract with the growers.”  (See the whole entry here--

You can see both the time frame and the reason for the grape boycott. Workers who did the back-breaking field work were paid an inadequate wage. Additionally, the workers were denied the right to organize a union to represent their interests.

The outcome was that the primary company which had been denying worker rights and paying such poor wages finally relented.  Workers were given the right to vote for representation, and thus the United Farm Workers was established.

This was for me a simple straightforward boycott.  Company X engaged in practices that resulted in harm to workers. Consumers joined a nationwide boycott, and eventually workers won representation and saw their working conditions and wages increase.

Nestlé--The second boycott in which I took part was the Nestlé boycott. In this instance, the main issue was that Nestlé, which made infant formula, began an aggressive campaign to get mothers to eschew breast-feeding and instead switch to formula. There is, of course, nothing at all wrong with feeding an infant formula. There are various occasions in which that is the only option available.

What Nestlé did that was objectionable was to mount a widespread “educational” campaign combined with offering free starter samples.  And the marketing program was not just carried out in those countries where women have the means to buy sufficient formula AND have access to clean safe water.  Formula was touted in developing countries where women had traditionally breast-fed their children.  Child advocacy groups began to assess the impact of the Nestlé campaign, and concluded that in fact the formula campaign might have been the cause of rising infant deaths. (Read the whole description here--é_boycott)

Thus began the effort to boycott Nestlé. I joined that boycott too—OK, so I wouldn’t buy chocolate bars or chocolate mix, or whatever products were marketed under the Nestlé name.

But here’s where things got complicated. Like so much business in today’s global economy, Nestlé is not a stand-alone company. It is in fact part of a huge conglomerate. You can read the whole list here--é_brands. 

Get the picture?  Now, that list is a picture of today’s Nestlé network. But it was no less complicated when the boycott began back in the late 1970s.  Did I stick with my boycott?  Well, yes and no. As much as I could I avoided Nestlé products, but given its tentacles in so many areas, it eventually became impossible to carry out.

However, the outcome of the publicity and attendant boycott was that Nestlé changed its aggressive marketing practices…for a time.  In fact, the practice has not ended completely. And there are on-going efforts to have Nestlé not falsely market formula to women in developing countries without making it possible for the use of formula to be safe and adequate for developing infants.

And now, to the present.  The Target boycott.  Here’s one I will NOT be participating in.  What is different?  Well, I suspect you can sort that out.  Suffice it to say, that with grapes and with Nestlé, people’s lives were being hurt by the company practices.

Not so with the Target boycott. In fact, what Target has done—announce an open bathroom policy for transgendered people—has made it possible for some people to live safer lives.

The people boycotting have made various astounding assertions about how THEY will be harmed by this open bathroom policy. I have even read statements that some people plan to be “packing” when they enter a bathroom.  Just in case they encounter a transgendered person. Just so they can “blow them away.”  REALLY? How insane is that.

Perhaps you have discerned the distinction I draw between the two examples of boycotts in which I participated, and this last boycott.  In the case of grapes or Nestlé, my lifestyle was not being harmed. Even though I was not personally affected by what the grape companies or Nestlé was doing, I joined to bring about social change that would make someone else’s life better. 

It seems to me the Target boycott is all about the people who are mounting the boycott feeling that THEY are the ones suffering.  Frankly, that just puzzles me no end.  The transgendered person—who uses the bathroom of birth gender NOW—can be threatened and harmed by being in the “correct” bathroom.  And Target’s policy change will “fix” that.  EXCEPT.  Except if some person decides that he or she should NOT be using that bathroom and takes it out on the transgendered person.

Despite all these words I have used to get to this point—this whole boycott leaves me SPEECHLESS.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Leaving Home

A number of years ago, I was doing some research on my paternal grandparents. They had been missionaries in southern Africa (from 1920 to 1929), so there was a wealth of material on which to draw. You see, I was writing a short biography for a small historical journal.

Not only did I read letters they had written to each other and various church publications my grandfather had written for, but I also interviewed their children--my father, my aunt, and my uncles. When I posed a question to one of my uncles, he gave an interesting answer.  The question was: when did you leave home?  His answer was--Leave home? I didn't leave home, home left me.


Leaving home has been a repeating occurrence in my life.  And those times--having to say goodbye--are what I think were the events that moved me from childhood to adulthood.  I can't really say--as my uncle did--that home left me. But my first leaving home was something precipitated by choices my parents made.

(Click to enlarge...I am the one in the yellow dress. Apparently I didn't get the message to wear a blue dress.)

When I was 5 (turning 6 in a month), I first went to boarding school.  You see, my parents were also missionaries in southern Africa. One of the dilemmas that my parents had (as did many people who were "aliens" in a country and culture not their own) was what to do about educating their children. For the first two years, my mother taught me, using correspondence material. But, soon it became clear that as the only missionary child on the mission station, I needed a different environment. I only recently learned that part of the impetus for my early departure for boarding school was the fact that I began to be "too bossy" around the African students at the mission school.

So, my parents took me to a boarding school. That was the first of several such schools. Each time, I was away from home with holiday stretches in between terms.  Then, when I was 15 we returned to the U.S.  However, my parents did not stay here. After a year's furlough (kind of a working vacation) they returned to southern Africa. 

My parents asked me if I wanted to stay in the U.S. I was in 10th grade, and college would be the next stop on my educational pathway, which would mean either I stayed in the U.S., or returned. I chose to stay.

That was, as I now reflect, the moment when I crossed over from childhood to adulthood. Oh, there were other gradual maturations along the way. But once my parents were on another continent, I had many decisions to make on my own.  My uncle* and aunt had accepted guardianship for me, but I did much on my own.  For example, I opened a bank account...which was at a bank in a town 5 miles away from where I lived. No such thing as on-line banking.

Even though I turned 16 about the time my parents returned to southern Africa, I did NOT learn how to drive. My uncle was not too keen on a teenage "daughter" learning to drive. Oh, I forgot to mention that my uncle and aunt had no children of their own, so suddenly having a teenager on their hands was a real shock.  

For two years, I lived with my uncle and aunt  where my uncle was college president. Then I went to college at that place. One year after I began college, my uncle accepted another position, and moved half the country away. I stayed put, of course, being in college. So my self-reliance increased. 

When the college was closed for holidays, I had to find a place to be. Very kind dear friends at times invited me home with them. Or I was in college choir, and we toured during spring breaks. Summers were another challenge. For 3 summers, I traveled to near Fort Erie, Ontario to work in wealthy folks' summer homes along Lake Erie.  How did I get to Canada and back? From central Pennsylvania? I have no idea, except somehow I managed to arrange rides.

So, did I leave home? Or did home leave me? Whichever (or both) I certainly had to grow up.  Not long before her death, my mother expressed to me her regret that she and my dad had agreed to allow me to stay in the U.S.  I thought for just a few moments, and then said to my mother--don't. Don't regret a decision you thought you had to make. I like who I am now, and obviously part of what made me who I am is a consequence of the life I have lived. So don't regret your decision.

*Not the same uncle as in the story in the first paragraph.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Throwing down the gauntlet

OK, so the title is a bit hyperbolic. 

Here's the setup. A friend on Facebook recently opined that she misses blogging, and her circle of blogging friends (of which I am happy to say I am a part).  But she also challenged us--let's get back to blogging.  (Here's a link to her blog....heh heh, that will get her back to blogging!)

Another Facebook friend, and blogger (her blog) threw down the proverbial gauntlet by providing a prompt to get us bloggers back to blogging.  The prompt: think and write about why we STARTED blogging in the first place.

So, here goes.

The first several blogs that I wrote were about  a trip my husband and I took to Spain, in 2006.  By beginning to blog, I took a new approach to the traditional travel journal. I try to write a journal on any long vacation trip, to capture some of what we saw and did, and to save place names and events so I can identify photos.  Blogging provided a nice intersection of the two--write about it, and show some pictures of the trip.

Very quickly, my blog became a vehicle for writing about my childhood, my family, my past.  

Writing is a bit like breathing for me. I majored in English Literature in college, and loved READING (the companion of writing).  I spent the first 8 years and the last 7 years of my working life teaching college composition.  So I cherish writing.  Grammar matters to me. Knowing how to craft a well-written sentence matters to me. Knowing how to write in different tones--formal, informal, narrative, humorous, etc--matters to me.

When I was teaching writing, students would ask--how do I get started in writing? That was always a tough question for me to answer, because as soon as my fingers touch the keyboard, the words start flowing.

Now, given that free-flowing of words, you might wonder why has my blogging slowed down. I have not stopped blogging, but I acknowledge I have ... shall we say, slowed down. Oh, lots of reasons. Part of it I explained in the blog post immediately preceding this one. Part of it just plain being distracted. Too many frittery things to do--read Facebook, played Scrabble or Words with Friends, play a game or two of Free Cell, take photos, walk the dog, work in the flower garden. And on and on.

But I am up for the challenge--so there you have it. I write because I must. And I began writing my blog because...well, because it seemed more accessible than writing a book.

By the way, I can guarantee that those of us who want to get back to blogging won't run out of prompts. I have a whole file full of them from when I was teaching!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Old Dog, New Tricks

I have not been a very good blogger of late. Oh, I am still good (as much as can be) but my BLOGGING has lagged.  

A recent thread on Facebook made me wonder why that is (thanks Jayne Sexton Trapnell).  And I think part of the reason is that I have been distracted (preoccupied?) with learning new tricks.

Here's part of the story. I am the webmaster/ mistress/ meister for my church's website. When I first took over the website, maybe 10 years ago, everything I needed to know about creating and maintaining a website I self-taught. A few years ago, I had to change the software I was using to do the website--and so I learned yet another software program.

It is time, I think, for yet another change.  This resolve came about when I sat in a recent meeting and learned about WordPress.  Now, some of the fellow bloggers I read use WordPress, but I do not.  What I learned about excited me, though, because it might make maintaining the website easier AND allow me to share the task with other people.

See, I am in the 65+ age bracket. (Don't you just love it when you are asked to check which age bracket you are in when you get all the way to the eldest category possible and you see "65+"?)  Anyway.  From time to time I wonder...why am I doing this? Shouldn't some much younger whipper-snapper (see, that proves I am in the 65+ bracket) do this? 

In a related vein, last summer I was persuaded to take the plunge and buy an Apple computer. I had previously gotten an I-pad, then next I caved and got an I-phone--so the jump to a MacBook seemed like a continuation of technology.  And it is.  I should hasten to add, I am still learning. And will be for a long long time (maybe not so long for those of us in the 65+ group).

So what, you might ask.  Well, because I maintain the aforesaid website, and because the software to do that is PC specific, I have to keep using my PC as I learn my MacBook.  Let me tell you, it can be a bit schizophrenic.  Do I scroll up or down to make the page move? Do I use the delete key to erase the characters on the left side or the right side of where the cursor is? How can my cursor on the Mac disappear suddenly--that never happened on the PC. Why does the track pad on the Mac work so much more responsively than on the PC? Why does the PC take FOREVER to run the virus scan, and the Mac seemingly blinks and it's done?

As I contemplate switching the website to a WordPress site, I know that I will have to learn new tricks.

Any sympathy yet?  I acknowledge--I am an old dog. And I am learning new trick.  Care to toss me a bone?