But wait – it gets even worse!
Mr. Elvis Impersonator Who Isn’t Really stopped his “music”, then related a story about how he got very sick once, and this resulted in a born-again experience, thank you Jesus and blah blah blah.
He was proselytizing. To a captive audience of people who belong to a federal volunteer program.
At the very least, the volunteer coordinator should have called him off stage and told him to knock it off.
By now, I was furious. I was trying desperately to distract myself by using the data on my phone to play Monopoly Bingo. It wasn’t helping.
I resisted the urge to bang my head on the table.
I could have walked out at this point, but…I don’t have a car. No way to get home. I thought of calling a taxi, but I knew that, while I was waiting, someone would come out and ask me why I was leaving and so on, and I didn’t trust myself to not lose my temper in reply.
I desperately need a car. Any car. For a lot of reasons…but it was so clear yesterday how much I need one, as there was no way to escape what, for me, was a horribly uncomfortable situation. So uncomfortable, in fact, that I felt tears forming in my eyes.
Just when I thought it was all coming to an end, Mr. Elvis Impersonator Who Isn’t Really belts out “Dixie”. I just about fell out of my chair.
What he was doing was trying to sing “American Trilogy”, a song Elvis performed a lot. It’s a song compilation by Mickey Newbury. It includes parts from “Dixie”, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, and “All My Trials” – which isn’t a spiritual slave song, as often touted, but a Bahamian lullaby about a mother telling her children her trials will “soon be over”(“Lyric of the Week: Mickey Newbury, ‘American Trilogy’ “, Rick Moore, American Songwriter website, 12/1/2014).
I don’t want to start a debate about how this guy happened to combine three songs, or about the claim that he was attempting to somehow remove the implied racism from “Dixie”, or how 1960s protestors used the “All My Trials” part of the song, or even about why he put “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in it. I know about all that but that would take another blog post to bring up all those issues.
No, my point is this: the minute Mr. Elvis Impersonator Who Isn’t Really sang the first few lines of “Dixie”, at least 3 people in the room reacted with some degree of anger. I know this because I asked the other two people what they thought – I was lucky enough to have them as fellow passengers on the van home.
Look, no matter what song you pair it with, “Dixie” is a racist song. Do you know it was originally sung in minstrel shows, in blackface? And the lyrics use words such as “dem” for “them” and so on. I don’t need to explain why this is bad, right?
I’m sure Mr. Elvis Impersonator Who Isn’t Really, and the real Elvis, didn’t have conscious racist thoughts while singing these lyrics. Still and all, that’s not the point. Neither of them sang it with the stereotypical pronunciations, as a minstrel would, thankfully.
That doesn’t change the effect the song has on some people.
That does not erase the history of the song. It doesn’t erase the recent history of the song being sung at civil rights demonstrations, by racists, as a way to taunt protestors.
It is a song that stands for “the old South”, which, to many Americans, doesn’t include them. Oh, unless by “including”, you mean slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and all the rest.
Mr. Elvis Impersonator Who Isn’t Really didn’t consider any of that, I’m sure. To him, it’s just another Elvis song. What many people do not understand is, that in itself is a problem.
But I am not going to elaborate on all that today.
The point of today’s blog post, besides describing my horrible day, is to illustrate the utter lack of awareness some sectors of the population exhibit.
They are Christians, so they assume everyone else is, too. Many of them actually think that this senior organization, and the volunteer program it administers, are “Christian-based”. And the leadership – the paid staff – does nothing to disabuse them of this idea.
It’s probably because the paid staff lacks the awareness that this is the picture of their organization they are projecting. I think that because, in my experience teaching self-awareness, most people lack anything approaching that.
And if you’re not even aware of much of what you do and think, how are you supposed to then be aware of what others do and think? I mean, what others do and think that is not somehow affecting you directly? You know, that thing called “empathy”?
I posted the short version of this on my Facebook page because I wanted feedback on what I can do about all this. I had already filed a complaint with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, months ago, and last I heard was that their lawyers were looking into it.
It seems to me that the violations are becoming more and more egregious. It’s really hard for me to sit through these mandatory meetings. And now they have decided to extend the meetings from 5 hours (9-2) to 7 1/2 hours (8:30-3:45)!!
Yes, they really decided to do that, and the reason they gave was that people are not volunteering enough hours and that is adversely affecting their funding (federal guidelines require 20 hours/week per volunteer). The thing is, it’s their job to assign clients, and they aren’t doing that (I only have one, for a grand total of 4 hours/week), so it’s actually their fault.
They know – or they should know – that most people of a certain age cannot endure a meeting of that length. Most of the volunteers, I would guess, are well over 70. Many of them are disabled.
So, this actually smacks of coercion on the staff’s part, in order to “encourage” people to work more hours (spend more time with the clients they do have, I guess). I don’t think for a second that the staff isn’t aware that this is what they’re doing.
The whole thing is a big old mess, and I am torn between telling them all to go to hell, and kicking their asses by siccing some other agencies on them.
I’m tired, and I’ve been running a fever for 2 days straight now. I guess that makes me literally sick and tired.
Today’s weirdness has me thinking, “Well, my experience could have been way worse,” considering how weird Pennsylvania already is…
“Man Shot, Killed During Fight in Sunday Service at Montgomery County Church”, Morgan Zalot and David Chang, NBC10 website (Philadelphia), 4/25/2016.
As far as I know, no one brings guns to the monthly meetings. That’s something to be thankful for, I suppose.
Recommendation for the week is also in keeping with this week’s blog post – an old, strange movie called “God Told Me To”. Released in 1976, it stars Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, and even Andy Kaufman (as the “police assassin”), and was produced by that king of low-budget horror Larry Cohen. I found it in the wee hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep, on Turner Classic Movies. It’s not really scary, it’s just weird.
Be good. Be kind. Don’t proselytize.