I wrote this blog post Dear Nashville in March and here I am two months later approaching Memorial Day and thought it would be a good time to reflect on my memories here of the last year. And then I realized entering something akin to clinical depression is not a good idea.
The last week in the public institutions here; I am no longer going to call them schools, they are just that - institutions - and nothing about that word connotes anything positive, truly affirmed that little has changed with regards to my feelings about them. They are horrific, they are staffed with the largest of a small percentage of the educated professionals that live in Nashville and in Tennessee, and yet they are the most ignorant, oblivious, self obsessed, bullies I have ever witnessed. I have been in two or three classrooms where I actually liked what I saw and felt that these Teachers were actually working and giving a damn, the rest were tragic, grim and pathetic. I am not sure they started out that way or just like me they broke after a few weeks/months/years of working in these institutions.
There is a tragic theme in Country music and it resonates in almost every aspect of life here. The poor me poor you not so much reveals the character of the red state resident. Blaming, finger pointing, the idea that your failure is your lack of character and some intrinsic flaw that can be overcome by pulling up boot straps, tighten belts, acceptance of God's world view or whatever bizarre analogy they can find to somehow excuse their behavior while accusing you of failing at living.
I was listening to the bizarre ramblings (as there are always more than one) of Ben Carson saying "poverty is a state of mind." Or how about Gianforte the Montana Congressman who abused a Guardian reporter, excused his behavior by victim blaming and defending himself that he has God's blessing. My personal favorite quote of this asshole is "There is nothing in the Bible that talks about retirement. And yet it's been an accepted concept in our culture today. It's like, nowhere does it say, 'Well, he was a good and faithful servant, so he went to the beach," Then he proceeded to use Noah, a fictitious Bible character, as an analogy that he built the ark at age 600. And this is apparently why we need to eliminate Social Security and Medicare or any safety net as God says its not necessary or some shit like that.
The Bible and the fantasy story tales dominate the culture here. It was the reasoning that not once but twice I have Police called to my home and to a public park to "check on me." And instead of thinking that is overkill as I could have been killed, they excuse it by saying "hey at least they cared." Really an offer of a Tic Tac or nice phone call would be sufficient. And that was my point last night at my last time volunteering at the Frist.
I tried and went with the best of intention to a Members Preview of the new exhibits and I went to the station at the entrance to the gallery and there was a man about 60 sitting in the desk. I introduced myself and asked if I could put my purse under the desk. He did not stand up, did not introduce himself and I shoved my bag next to the chair and that was the extent of our exchange. He was an asshole. I meet them daily here. I am told I should meet better people. Okay, where? In the course of an hour I greeted guests and had fun and then I turned to my colleague and said, "Is it Nashville or all of Tennessee that treats newcomers with such disdain and disregard. I have tried to volunteer and put myself out there and not one person treats me civilly or with these supposed good manners that I keep hearing about but have never experienced. I have tried to have coffee, a drink, lunch just go for a walk to understand what it is about me that makes people here so uncomfortable that they cannot speak to me at all." His response was to laugh and the standard "I don't understand what you are saying." That is the equivalent to "bless your heart" when someone is embarrassed or caught off guard they put it back on you implying you are incomprehensible or cryptic. Really you can't get more direct than me and so the minute I hear that accusation I know I hit a nerve and that it hurts so lash back only they want you to - to rant or rave or fall into the baiting trap so they can validate their fucked up belief that you are the problem. To quote Michelle Obama, "When they go low you go high." So I did not respond. I just shrugged. And later I said, "Well one thing I am good at is forcing people to talk to me." He just looked at me.. he did not laugh which was his originally response to my comment, another offensive behavior. And then I said, "well I am out I can handle about an hour of acting so I am out and I will go home and be alone and cry there." He said nothing.
As I left the Security Guard thanked me for my work? So I stopped and informed him that I just volunteered here for an unpleasant hour where not one person from the Museum spoke to me other than the coordinator for the event, and that was her extent of her professional obligation and that was it. That on the few times I have been here I have felt utterly ignored and oblivious. And that I think it will be the last time as I can't take it. I don't get this here. Do you all hate newcomers so much that this is a hazing exercise or is it me? He then went on about God and that was the Devil trying to get into my head and take over and not see what blessings I bring. By then I was trying to walk backwards to get out of there and just said the obligatory praise Jesus and then swore to God that I would never set foot in there as a Volunteer again.
So these are the responses I get. Ask yourself what you would do if someone said that? Would you laugh? Would you say, "I don't get what you are saying?" Or ramble on about Jesus? Or would you offer a shoulder, a thought, a cup of coffee? I spend most of my days here alone without any positive adult interactions other than the barista's who serve my coffee and to be frank they are not enough nor what I really want or need.
This ended the same day where I had subbed in another classroom where I was put in the adjacent classroom with 5 kitties. I am not a cat person so I just sat there as people passed through to cuddle the cats. Not one adult spoke to me, introduced themselves or asked me my name.
As I updated in the blog post, That Explains It, I have never been so maligned and marginalized in my life and if you treat an adult that way you are treating children that way and what message and lesson is that? And someone I told about that incident and that I left with about an hour left in the day, he asked why wasn't I called or asked where I was going. My response, "So say someone came to work here and someone told them to sit over there and wait and after 2 hours none of you spoke to that person, asked them their name and then finally you noticed they were gone, how would you know who to call or why would you?" Then the light bulb went on. These are my encounters living in Nashville explaining behavior and manners to the residents here as if they are children oblivious to basic etiquette.
So my Memorial Day is done memorializing. As the saying goes, "If you have nothing good to say say nothing." Fuck that I am going to start recording and writing about it and this may be the foundation when I being Podcasting. For if I am not to drown here swimming in the deep red sea I need to connect and be heard and maybe then someone will provide the feedback I need.