ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   Having second thoughts

© Another Day in the Country

When my Grandpa Schubert died, I was living in Colorado and I rode the train to Kansas City, met Mom and Dad and we drove to Ramona for the service. My little 3-year-old came with me. In the train depot, I turned around and she was gone. It startled me, and then I heard her little voice calling. She was standing in front of the first black man she’d ever seen, staring up intently into his face.

“Look, Mom,” she said, “licorice!”

I was so relieved to see her, embarrassed by her ignorance, apologizing to the man, although rather amused at her comment. Like her mother, she was being raised in a place where racial diversity didn’t exist. Growing up in Kansas, I’d only seen dark faces in mission stories, at least until my father took a church in Kansas City. Then I was introduced to another culture, and I was afraid.

Just a year after that Newton story, our family was plunked down in California on a college campus. This was the end of the ’60s with all their turmoil over race, sexuality, and freedom. One day, a student accused me of being racist, I recall, and I was horrified.

“How could you say that?” I countered, “How could I ever?” I wondered, “Could this be?”

I remember this man standing in front of me with ebony skin and a huge afro, as different from me as night and day. We began to talk and by the end of that encounter, we both had second thoughts about our previously held ideas.

We realized that we were children of our culture, formed by our environment, skewed. We both had work to do to reboot our computer brains, update our assumptions, reframe our idea of right, wrong, black and white. Having second thoughts is not easy. It’s not easy to admit. It’s not easy to go on from there because the territory is so unexplored.

All through my life there have been difficult topics which required second thoughts. It wasn’t just me, either, but our whole country was called upon to rethink, revisit, redirect our ideas of what we’d thought we knew. With new information, second thoughts are a given; whether it’s about our sexuality, our discrimination, our freedom or someone else’s lack thereof. Life deserves second thoughts and brave the person who admits it.

Remember how tobacco was once advertised and generations took up the habit as if it were good for them? Then we discovered cancer on the rise and had second thoughts.

I remember when DDT was the new cure-all for all things unwanted until it was discovered to be mega harmful to the environment. Luckily, enough people had second thoughts about its safety and it was pulled from the shelves; unfortunately it was replaced with a zillion other zappers whose full effects we have not yet discovered.

We’ve gotten so efficient with our pesticides that not only are seeds genetically altered but they are coated with chemicals that infuse the plant with bug killer. Miraculous for our crop growing, but I think we should be having huge second thoughts. Has anyone noticed that the bees are dying of confusion? Is it just my awareness or are there more instances of brain tumors in people we love? I know I’m having second thoughts about what I, personally, put into the environment.

We’ve been called upon to have second thoughts about a whole list of subjects: how children are disciplined, how women are treated, what foods are harmful, what water is worth, what plastic does to our food and our landfills, what choices are honored. There’s a whole host of things that we maybe thought we knew the answer to; but new information is available and we need to rethink our position.

So you thought, years ago, that sexual orientation was a given and anything different from the norm was either caught or taught. Surely, now you’ve had second thoughts.

Did you hear it on the news? This week, the Supreme Court is having second thoughts about who has a right to get married. Now here’s a subject that most of us believed was set in concrete! We didn’t have to think about it. And then a whole bunch of people got brave and came out of hiding and said, “Why not us? We want to get married, too.” Whoa! Second thoughts, after all, it wasn’t all that long ago that we had laws about whether a man with dark skin and a woman with light skin could even marry; and now this?

Oh, I know, sometimes we wish that things didn’t need to change, that we could finally get something right and never have to take in more information, consider the facts. But we are fortunate enough to live in a democracy, and part of the price of living in such a dynamic place is that we are asked to revisit our ideas with an open heart and an inquiring mind. What better thing to do on another day in the country than have second thoughts?

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