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Friday, December 02, 2005

Tale Number Two

written by: Betsy

Many of the people I call friends up here in the frozen north are "Transplants" like me, having moved to the upper peninsula of Michigan from cities such as New York, Chicago, Madison, Detroit, San Francisco, and Denver. As former city folk, we relate in similar ways to rural life in "da U.P.", sharing many of the same opinions and goals of raising children, caring for our planet, acknowledging our spirituality, and being fully involved citizens of our small communities.

In my 15 years here, I've also made some wonderful friends who are "locals", having parents and grandparents who were also born here. Men and women who grew up next to Lake Superior, who know how to "make wood" for winter heat, and who make their own bread because they live so far from the "grocery". Lovingly referred to as Yoopers (from da U.P), these friends are hearty, honest, hard-working people who will drop what they're doing if a friend needs help.

When I'm volunteering at my kids' school, attending a church gathering, or shopping at the grocery, I socialize with both sets of friends, the Transplants and the Yoopers. We all know each other, and enjoy many of the same things together.

But I find that, in general, we Transplants have a broader perspective on Life, having lived in the hustle-bustle of big cities, with more opportunities for advancement, education, and socialization. We've dated people we never saw again after breaking up, which is hard to do up here. We didn't marry our high school sweethearts, and we did attend college. On the downside, we've experienced crime, so we lock our doors, and hold our purses instead of leaving them in the cart. And we are not afraid of real traffic (up here, five cars at an intersection is traffic), and we travel often because... we can. With that broader perspective, I believe, comes a willingness to entertain a different notion than perhaps one that has been handed down and instilled since childhood.

A different notion, like believing it's OK for two people of the same sex who love each other deeply to enjoy an open relationship with the benefits afforded to "normal" couples. I think homosexual people should be able to have civil unions that grant them status as each other's "next of kin", so they can have the spousal benefits awarded to a man and woman who are married.

I also believe that it is folly to undo Roe v. Wade, knowing that making abortions illegal again will not stop abortions, but will force women who choose to end a pregnancy back into the alley with a coat hanger. And much more money needs to be spent in education about birth control.

I've got friends and relatives who are gay and have been in long-standing monogamous relationships. And I've got friends who have had abortions. I still love them all. I don't believe that I personally have a right to choose what kind of lifestyle two people should engage in, or to decide a woman's fate if she is pregnant. And I strongly feel that, neither should the government make those decisions. Our freedoms extend to each individual, and we can't force our will on anyone. It's just not right.

Did I step in it one day when I mentioned that to a Yooper friend! Ouch. It was as if I had confessed to being an axe murderer. Then I found out she faithfully listens to Rush Limbaugh, and loves to fold laundry as she watches Bill O'Reilly. "Oh, isn't FOX News great?!"

I get along really well with the locals when I don't mention my political leanings. Even though Michigan voted for John Kerry, the county I live in is RED, RED, RED. When a Transplant friend gave me some John Kerry yard signs, I put them up along the highway under cover of darkness. Right next to the sign that is STILL THERE that says "Save marriage."

There is one Transplant friend, a Catholic woman who is smart, witty, fun, and we relate on so many issues. Then I brought up something stupid GW had said on NPR, pre-election. She said, "Betsy, the abortion issue, that's all I'm going to say." Oh no, not her too!

One day in the store, the radio was on  and George Bush's voice came on. My 10-year-old son said, "Mom, that's Bush, isn't it? We don't like him, do we?" A hush fell and I quickly ducked down the frozen aisle, as I told him, we keep that to ourselves here...

So now I watch what I say and to whom. Around here gossip spreads like wild fire, and I don't want to be labeled as "supporting killing babies", even though the issue is so much deeper than that. I dare not say anything about Bush and his cronies, so I don't discuss politics with anyone unless they speak first. I want to live peacefully with both the Transplants and the Yoopers. I pretend when I have to, and I open up when I can.

Posted by Jet N. at 12:01 AM in Politics | Permalink


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Great story but I have to ask, why support anything if you can't speak about it?

I don't mean that in a bad way but I'd be damned if I were to shut up because someone doesn't agree with me.

I would rather say something and have one person learn than say nothing and have thousands go stupid. It's a hard road and it's not about brain washing, it's about freeing people to think for themselves.

I have a friend at work that is extremely far right and he has become a confidant of sorts. We don't agree on everything of course but he has opened up to the lies that are spread out of FOX and Drudge. He lived by them but when I point out things that are untrue and backed up with fact he takes a step back.

I admit he does it to me to but it has been time in the making of figuring out what the inroads are and how to travel them. Good luck!

Posted by: The Bastard | Dec 2, 2005 8:05:46 AM

Small town dwelling is a very different dynamic from living in a big city. When there's not much on the outside, the inside lives under a microscope. I understand how stifling that can be. A comment lives a thousand years, eh?

Posted by: Jet | Dec 2, 2005 8:26:03 AM

TB there's a big difference between the right in the metro NY area and everywhere else

Here they can listen to Drudge and all the other things they do but they're in an area where there are so many people of so many different backgrounds etc, they're forced to become more tolerant just to live here.

Also the majority of the people are "liberal" so they have to adapt to us if they want to talk,have friends, survive family dinners etc

And when they can't they move to red states as somebody close to you did

Betsy really good post. thank you for writing it and Jet thanks for suggesting it.

Posted by: pia | Dec 2, 2005 9:34:21 AM

Jet hit it on the head about the dynamics of small-town dwelling. Living in the close community we do, I've learned over the years that you can't EVER get away with anything.

Full grown men still answer to their childhood nicknames, like Puss and Fuzz and Nipples. One of them runs the bank.

Women in their 40s are still angry at other women who stole their boyfriends in high school.

When there was a grungy-looking guy wandering through the area hitch hiking, it was the buzz of the town for two days.

When the city north of us got their first stop light, it made the front page of the weekly paper.

You can't (shouldn't) flip someone off when you're driving, because you'll see that person, or their uncle or daughter, in the grocery later that day.

I have my circle of transplanted friends with whom I can discuss politics freely, and I do as often as possible.

Without blogs and NPR, I'd be a sorry puppy!

Posted by: Betsy | Dec 2, 2005 4:42:51 PM

You know whats funny, is that flipping off another driver should never be done.

I live in a pretty heavily populated part of Jersey (yes there are rural parts of Jersey) and I flipped someone off a few miles from my house.

No biggy I wasn't close to home but I ended up following the person home because that person was my neighbor up the street.

Nothing happened but boy did I feel like a jerk.

Still doesn't excuse her shitty driving but I had no idea who it was. What are the chances?

Posted by: The Bastard | Dec 2, 2005 5:52:21 PM

I have to confess, when I first moved up here, I flipped someone the bird -- I was younger, more impetuous, still "citified" -- and there are so many shitty drivers here. I was driving my purple camaro, the only car like it for 150 miles, and the guy I flipped was my neighbor's cousin. I got the cold shoulder for Two Years, until we moved to "da woods" and now cannot see our neighbors. I have not gestured in a negative way to any driver since (except for that idiot tourist blocking the gas station entrance with his 30-foot camper), although my kids will say that I mutter things under my breath... I gotta get it off my chest somehow. I swear, if some of the people up here would drive in any kind of big city, they'd be killed in the first 20 minutes.

Posted by: Betsy | Dec 2, 2005 10:19:46 PM

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