Dear John: We’re Celebrating Genocide

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About John Simpson,

John is a middle-aged family man from Providence. If you learn from your mistakes, he’s brilliant. His column runs regularly on


  1. Dear Selfish Or Selfless?

    I think you are confused and conflicted. You say ” My ideal Thanksgiving would be…”

    First you reject the whole premise of Thanks Giving and then you state you have an ideal version? You seem to have an issue with boundaries and language.

    If you are unhappy with the underpinnings of Thanks Giving then call is something you do agree with. How about National Shame Day? Words have power and specific thinking attacked to them. If it is such a bad thing, why would you be looking for a way to “celebrate this holiday in a way that has meaning and is a positive experience” for you? What exactly are the Positives and Negatives for you, and how are they true opposites?

    Conviction and Morality walk hand in hand. You can’t be a part time person of conviction. There is no 99% and the 1% does not count. It is black or white. It’s how those convictions are then made manifest is where the gray creeps in.

    As for it being your ideal to volunteer on a certain day – The homeless, destitute and so many other people are not just for Christmas and other holidays. There is nothing ideal in being a lone parent with children poor health and little to no money 365 days of the year. You may think it an heroic gesture to volunteer for one day, but that is nothing compared to the heroism of such a person fighting day by day to give their kids the best start in life. So many don’t have the luxury of being confused over language – they have to call it just as it is.

    Many think it’s a great idea to volunteer on certain calendar days. They want to make themselves feel better and even noble. It’s an emotional band-aid on an emotional wound. From that superior mind set they can only look down on others. Many people who are in need of help don’t need that. They certainly don’t need a patronizing pat on the back by a one time visitor. What many do welcome is something that is free and costs nothing – it’s called time! That way the one day of the year that they really do need a pat on the back is chosen by them. It means so much more to the person with the back – If the person with the hand gets something in return it’s also far more valuable and made more so by being given freely.

    I’ll quote Terry Pratchet’s Character Granny Weatherwax – Crone – Witch – Wise Woman:

    ““the start and finish is helpin’ people when life is on the edge. Even people you don’t like. Stars is easy, people is hard.””

    It seems to me the whole issue is about you gaining autonomy from you parents. When you are doing that it is never a good idea to use people, such as the homeless, as symbolic fence posts while you work out where the boundaries are. It is disrespectful to the fence posts and does not create true or valid boundaries.

    One question you may need to ask yourself is, where did you learn that people can be treated like fence posts in a boundary dispute?


  2. Dear Youngest And Most Confused,

    You seem to have three barrels to carry – youngest – most confused – and peace maker. It’s a common problem.

    I take it it also implies that you elder brother, and probably his wife, look down on you and your youth. They will also probably love the idea that you are in some way confused. It does sound as if someone has power issues and likes to express power.

    I’m reminded of the story op the Angry Brahman – he walked for weeks to give Buddha a piece of his mind. When he arrived he did so, and Buddha listened. When the Brahman was finished he was thanked for having come such a long way and for the gift he had brought, but Buddha believed that only the angry Brahman found it valuable so it was handed back.

    Handing disrespect back with kindness is the best option. It may not stop the disrespect, but it also does not damage you.

    I suspect that you will not be able to remain divorced and unaffected by the dynamics, and the more aloof you are the more they will use you as a pawn in a game they play. I would be prepared with gaming gambits that they just don’t expect.

    If they try to play with barrels – hand them back! They are not your’s, so why should others burden you with their imaginary barrels? The barrels only have weight if you agree to carry them on your back.

    It is odd how people’s postures change when they are made to carry their own weighty views! P^)

  3. Dear Not the Girl they remember.

    I was struck by this:

    “I won’t even be able to look them in the eye so as to avoid that look of pity and surprise that I am not completely unfamiliar with.”

    So for 20 years you have not seen these family members, so who has been using that familiar look of pity and surprise all this time?

    I fear that there is little you can do to prepare yourself for the day. What I would recommend is being ready to notice where those looks are coming from. As John said, the world is not encased in amber, so if those looks are about they should identify who has attempted to encase a moment in time in amber.

    For people who do that, it is their jeweled prison and not yours.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    “genocide” is a word. It has a meaning. In fact, the meaning is so specific that Clinton told his staff not to use it in connection with the late unpleasantness in Rwanda because the word would require him to do something about it. Ditto Kofi Annan, who was busily spiking reports from the UN military types in Rwanda at the time.
    See Mann’s “1491″. Disease killed about 90-95% of the Native Americans from Hudson Bay to Tierra del Fuego, most long before a white man had been in the area. That was not intentional, the germ theory of disease not having been discovered. What the whites found as they moved west was relict societies trying to recover from the Great Death, which they barely understood. The Pilgrims were able to use some land already cleared by the locals because the locals were all dead of smallpox they got from shipwrecked French fishermen.
    What we had was the replacement of one culture by another, with remarkably little violence compared to other such replacements. See the Germanic tribes against the Romans. See the Germanic invaders of Britain. The Muslims went into India and killed 60-80 million Hindus. The Bantu people expanded south dislplacing and or killing the Khoisans. The Chinese expanded west overwhelming many local populations who would have preferred to be left alone. The Aztecs came from someplace or other to set up a vicious, repressive regime in the Valley of Mexico. But only our experience gets the blame.
    Reason is…pretending to be upset about such things marks you as a Morally Superior Person. Problem is, everybody knows better. That’s so Sixties.

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