Thursday, January 14, 2016

Having a guilty conscience

Some would say I was born with a guilty conscience. I have never liked to be in trouble.

I'm not alone. I told a colleague that I was writing a book about teaching science with the subtitle, "I've never been teacher of the year but I have been called on the carpet a few times". She did not know me well and said, "I don't like to get in trouble." She was not a Southerner so she did not get the joke.

I have been reading about styles of humor. There is Irish humor, Jewish humor. I would say Southern humor is related to Irish humor but the Brits can be pretty funny too.

Guilt, we can all have it. I have always heard of Jewish guilt. My big thing is I don't like to dish trash out to other people. I've had plenty dished my way and it is sickening. I had a nasty parent who made outrageous claims on behalf of her daughter. My mom had broke her hip the day before, and I was at work getting ready to be gone the next couple of days.

I had that choice. Spend time straightening out the situation or move on, apologize and keep everything on schedule. I apologized and paid for it the rest of the year. The mother would periodically come on the warpath for me and sometimes several teachers. She went as far to try to assist her daughter in a piss fight with another little girl. The other little girl was petrified. The principal intervened.

The real tragedy is the child in question was a good girl and very bright. However, mom was undermining her education. The last I had heard of the girl was when she was 18. Her boyfriend had accidently shot her as he was moving in her mother's house with her. I doubt she went to college although she was quite capable.

This is where it would be good where teachers had more autonomy. I had to do the politically right thing. My boss knew that was what I was doing. But it was never the right thing for the child. And I feel some guilt. I know mom was working from her insecurities. She was paranoid her child was going to be picked on. It doesn't take a big leap to know the mother was picked on.

Her jerk threatening email, which the boss she was threatening me with telling me to not take it personal, was the hallmark of someone who has a problem with interpersonal skills. I'm not the sharpest tack in the box, but, I know raging anger is a last resort in negotiation. Anger is preferably used defending yourself from an ax murderer. My dad always quoted the Greek proverb, "When the Gods decide to destroy you, they make you angry".

For almost all parents, I told them straight what I thought. People know when you are on their side. Almost all parents agreed with me. When they didn't, if it did not affect the other children, I went along with them. I had one parent who did not like my making their child keep an organized notebook. So, I did not take that child's notebook.

I did something mean at a writer's conference which I have felt guilty about. A nice, nerdy man (hence the guilt) was talking about his noble family roots. The deep South has an obsession with their family history and its association with the genteel, southern aristocracy. Before everyone jumps to conclusions, not all rich Southerners were slave owners. The grandest antebellum house in Macon, the Hay house, was built by William Johnston who made his money through banking, utilities and railroads.

I hauled off and shut him down. Those Midwesterners looked stunned. They did not know what happened. I would not care, but this is a person I was rude to; because, I hate that Southern shill. I was leaving when I did it and embarrassed immediately. Poor guy did not know why I had that response. If I had thought, I would have apologized. He did nothing wrong.

There are two South's. There is the Deep South that embraced it's aristocratic roots.

Early settlements in North Carolina and Virginia were often from the second, third and other sons of English aristocrats. The first son inherited all and the rest had to do their best to make a living in the world. North American colonies were a perfect place to build a living. Slavery sullied this idealist situation. Downton Abbey downplayed the extreme differences in living conditions of the staff and gentry.

The other South is Appalachia. It was a small farmer area with different mindsets. You usually think of banjos and the movie Deliverance. However, it was a sea of many people. Researching my mom's family tree, there is quite a bit of diversity. One great-grandmother was descended from Quakers and the Puritans. A great-grandfather was German and native American with a last name which is common in the Mennonite communities today.

The common characteristic was hard work and resourcefulness. Yes, there were and are some pitifully ignorant people. But, that is the plight of the world. Look at the descendants of J. Paul Getty. So many of them died prematurely from drug addictions. People born with a silver spoon destined to lead miserable lives.

Although I have been guilty of enjoying family history, I detest that family tree rot. It is the injustice and assumptions of people who have done nothing wrong. I taught the "great unwashed" and many of them I knew would never live much better than their families. I have former students who work in low paid jobs who turned out incredibly well. They are so well adjusted and good members of society.

I just did not know I had such a strong opinion. I would like to apologize to that man in front of those people. But it happened.

So I understand how a pet peeve can out rule logic. In taking care of family members, I know more intimately how my attitude affects the entire household. It was the same attitude I used to keep children happy to learn better. And I feel guilt I spread negativity. But it happens.

16 comments:

  1. Family history people tend to rely on too much, just because this happened in the past or that, doesn't mean it has to repeat itself. But then people get stuck thinking it will and make it happen or make things worse like the crazy mother did. People need to learn to let go. Whoopi, an ancestor was king, whoopi, an ancestor was a monk. Doesn't mean you have to and what they did you didn't do.

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    1. You summed my opinion up well. It helps to have good family roots but it is not everything.

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  2. It's funny how past experiences can come rushing to the surface and cause us to act a certain way, like you did with that man and his family history.

    I tend to have a guilty conscience. Someone asks about something with a hint of there being wrong, and I'm on the defense whether I did it or not. Wish I knew where that came from in my past.

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    1. Everything has a start. I have intentionally been speeding in a car twice and was pulled over both times. I am one of those people who gets caught. lol

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  3. I find 'roots' to be interesting, but that's as far as it goes, plus I'm sure there's no social aristocracy on my side of the family :)
    What I get a kick out of is the southern catch all, you can totally disc someone but as long as you add God bless him/her at the end, everything's okay:)

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    1. When I've read about some of these families, I am so grateful I am not kin to them. lol

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  4. I love it! I live in the South--in the Nashville area. Few people around here are in touch with their roots. Much of the storytelling comes from wealthy people who think because they inherited money from their ancestors, they somehow have a deep connection with them. Bleh. So many people have migrated here from around the country (and the world), I don't encounter very many Southerners in Nashville these days!

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    1. Native Southerners are rare but not the stories. Nashville is king of generating stories of who we are. The queen is the Atlanta Journal/Constitution. Otherwise, I would not know how to be a Southerner.lol

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  5. I have a pet peeve about slow drivers and it comes out every time I get behind the wheel.
    Southerners can be funny like that.

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    1. I would make you crazy. There is one stretch of road I get passed so much even though I am driving the speed limit that I avoid it as much as possible. lol

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  6. Guilt can be awful and can drain you of all happiness. I tend to try to avoid behavior I would have a reason to feel guilty for. Live without regrets as much as possible. The biggest thing is to just let that stuff go...all that bad karma. It is the only way to move forward.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly. It's a tough world, keeping good thoughts can help you weather it. Thanks for dropping by Kathy.

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  7. I feel guilt too when I perhaps have been rude to people. I really, really, really try hard not to be rude to others. My mother has a habit of being rude to people when things aren't going in her favor; i.e. sales people, wait staff, her children!! I've been so appalled at her behavior at times that I've gone back in to apologize for her ignorance. Being in management for as many years as I was, also taught me to think before speaking when an employee was not in compliance. Perhaps it was the Catholic School upbringing or the fear of my parents when I was a child but I'm don't think feeling guilty is a bad thing. It tells me that you are a kind person who is also human and can make mistakes. Don't be so hard on yourself!! XX

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    1. A conscience is a good thing to have. I know someone who is rough on sales people. He has an anxiety disorder. His wife makes sure he takes an anti-anxiety medication everytime they go shopping. It is hard to think when you are dealing with difficult people it has more to do with them you.

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  8. Hi Ann,

    Indeed, when it comes to the family tree stuff, well, in my case, I couldn't give a crap. At least on my father's side, a father who may or may not be still alive.

    As for guilt. We sure do wrap ourselves up in the usage of needless negative energy it produces. I do, however, have a tendency to relive a moment and wonder if my good intentions were misconstrued. I find it particularly difficult via my computer where folks cannot see your facial expressions or here your tonal inflections.

    Anyway, Ann, be gentle with yourself.

    Gary

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    1. Thanks Gary, it is true that we need to not beat ourselves up over things we cannot change. I agree about making posts. You may write something tongue in cheek, and someone takes it serious. It is hard to get that body language in there, when you can't produce a body. lol Take care.

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