Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A few months ago I attended a large party celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary and 80th birthday of a friend of mine. It was a fun party with a very diverse crowd in attendance. At one point I found myself visiting with a women who I would guess was probably somewhere in her 70’s or 80’s. Evidently she publishes a newspaper or magazine that seems to deal primarily with the news and events of several historically prominent south Texas ranching families.
During the course of our visit she mentioned that she was working on an article on Jefferson Davis. Lincoln, she said, had been getting so much press lately that she wanted to write about a true hero. To say I was speechless would be putting it mildly. While I certainly wasn’t going to get into a debate with an 80-year old woman at a social event, I was absolutely flabbergasted. Hard to imagine she was for real but believe me, she was completely sincere.
Texas has an interesting, unique and colorful history. It doesn’t get mentioned a lot in conjunction with the Civil War. It’s such a big state that it’s difficult to quantify. Even today, East Texas and West Texas are so different physically and sociologically it’s hard to imagine they’re both the same state. Throw in Central and South Texas and you’ve got quite a melting pot. Texas was never officially a slave state but slave owners inhabited the Gulf Coast areas and some parts of East Texas. While Texas is neither the Deep South nor the Old South, it’s definitely still the South.
This woman took down my name and address and said she’d send me a few past editions of her newspaper as well as the new one with her Jefferson Davis article when it comes out. I’m always interested in other people’s opinions and I’m sure I’ll read her paper but I doubt I’ll become a subscriber.
Although I don’t usually get myself in trouble over a difference of opinion as to whether Lincoln was a hack and Jefferson Davis a savior, assuming that everyone sees the world the same way we do can be problematic. Have you ever loudly espoused a particular belief to what you thought was a sympathetic audience only to find out you were the only one in the room who felt that way? Have you ever attended a party and then gossiped with your friends later about someone who was monopolizing the conversation with an unpopular topic and how uncomfortable it made everyone?
I belong to a wonderful women’s book club back in Texas. We go off and have a girl’s weekend at least once a year. One year we were reading a David Liss novel and planned a weekend in San Antonio. One of the members got in touch with the author and he agreed to come by, have cocktails and visit with us at our hotel. He writes great period mysteries set in Holland. We all loved the books and looked forward to meeting and talking with him. At the time he was working on a new novel, "The Ethical Assassin", which, amongst other things, dealt with the topic of animal rights. In response to our questions about his work in progress, he spent a good deal of time talking about his decision to become a vegetarian because he believes that everyone who raises cattle treats their animals inhumanely. Most of the women in this group are in the cattle business. We’re all well-mannered Southern ladies who showed him perfect hospitality but we were all fuming inside. Clearly he had no idea to whom he was speaking and had no inhibitions about expressing some pretty controversial views. No doubt he believed what he was saying and assumed we would too.
There’s a fine line between being mousey and unwilling to talk about anything other than the weather and expressing your opinion loudly and firmly at every opportunity. Where do you draw that line?
Posted by Mary at 8:00 AM