My Obituary


I have no premonitions of dying anytime soon, but since so many folks I have known, or known of with a place in my life, are dropping like flies, I thought I would write my obituary so it reflects what I want to be known about me. Aimee, you can print this out when you need it.

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Stepp, Carolyn Sue Henze, was born on December 4, 1940, around 5 p.m. in the afternoon at Dr. White’s Maternity Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her parents were Charles Frederick Henze and Beulah Beatrice Pitman, who preceded her in death. She had one sister with both parents, Patricia Claire Henze Schmidt, who predeceased her in 2013. She also has had sisters and brothers through step-parents, and had three daughters, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. There are nieces and and a nephew, and their children who form the rest of her family.

Carolyn was born when London was in flames, was a year old when the United States became involved in World War II, and her life has been somewhat war- and fire-filled ever since. She graduated from high school in Corpus Christi, Texas, Roy Miller High School, in 1958, where she was a member of the marching band, the Battling Bucs. After graduation, she went to Las Vegas to live with her father, and shortened her name to Carol. She lived a rather flamboyant life out there, marrying and divorcing twice before she was 24, worked in casinos and on a dude ranch. She was a member of the Paradise Valley Saddle Association and the Nevada State Horsemen’s Association in her latter years out there, riding horses and living the country-style life. She also sang with a country-western band for a short time during the years 1962-63, but was never famous, though she hung out with a few famous people around then. She gave birth to two of her daughters while living out there.

In 1964, she returned to Corpus Christi, after a bad patch with her father and step-mother, and spent the crazy years from 1964-1971 involved in the drinking scene, managed a merchant seamen’s bar in Corpus Christi during 1965-1967, when she gave birth to her third daughter, and did some traveling to places like Biloxi, MS, and Wichita Falls, TX. When she woke up in shock and realized she had turned 30, she decided to try and live a more normal life. She was truly impacted by the war in Vietnam, losing some friends, being turned off by the horror, and wanting to find some stability, since she was still alive. She wore a POW bracelet from 1970 until 1985, when the remains of her service man were returned to America.

In 1974 she took a job which brought her to Austin, TX, in 1975, where she lived until her death. She was employed in Administrative work until her early retirement 2003, and she spent her final years living on her social security, aided by living in City-assisted housing, where she settled down with her cats, and although she served on the Board of Directors for the apartment complex, she really settled into a mostly lazy life. She was able to reconcile with her father in 1982, and remained fast friends with him until his death in 1984. She considered herself lucky.

Carol was never a very domesticate person. She had no interest in marriage, did not raise her children, and would just as soon hire someone to clean her house instead of doing it herself. But she had passions: She loved fine art, music, science fiction, cooking, her Celtic-heritage spirituality, and her cats. She gave money to fund an Art Museum (Corpus Christi, TX), choral groups (Las Vegas, NV; Austin, TX); a number of organizations she belonged to for both business and pleasure; NPR television and radio stations, and even produced a couple of radio shows for a true public-funded radio station in Austin, TX; and the Democratic Party, of which she was an ultra-liberal Socialist Democrat. She was particularly fond of Impressionist art, and was somewhat creative in her own right. Her morals were sometimes looked at askance by outsiders, but Carol pretty much lived by both the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes, though she did not consider herself a christian.

Carol has never fancied herself as a “politcally-correct” person; she had no problems speaking her mind about everything from war to feminist subjects to tolerance and compassion. She proudly called people of all races and nationalities and genders friends throughout her life, always expected equal rights for herself (though she never made the money she should have), and generally fought battles that had to be fought over and over. She was a sucker more than once because she gave people the benefit of the doubt, and in her later years, had to cut back on what she could just give money-wise to others. But she never wanted to stop helping.

She also believe all wars should be fought with swords, saying that one should always have to look the person they were planning to kill in the eye. Her biggest bugaboos were liars and frauds and thieves.

Carol plans to be cremated and her ashes thrown upon flowing water that goes down to the sea.

THE END

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I’ve been thinking


I am a hugely lucky person. Things come easily to me. This is things, I am talking about.

If I want to plant a garden, it blooms for me. I am not scientific about it, and I frustrate experienced gardeners greatly. If one knows I am new to doing in the garden, or am planting something I have never taken care of before, they want to give me all kinds of advice. But I just say “I’m experimenting. I’ll take care of it”. When we were given dirt for our raised beds in the back of the property, nothing would grow. Several people decided to send some of it to Texas A&M for testing, paying for the cost, and while I donated a buck or two to them, when the word came back that there was too much phosphate and other matter, and wouldn’t hold the water, I was told I would need to buy some special sort of growing matter, and spray the plants regularly. Instead, I took some iron and zinc capsules I had and threw them in the dirt, and mixed it all up, with lots and lots of water. Now I have broccoli and collards growing, and ready to cut. That is because next week I will be going to Home Depot to buy starter plants and dirt to put in my raised garden, tomatoes, green onions, several types of peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and beets. In other words, salad. I expect them to do quite well for me.

I planted a small garden in front of my apartment – only those who live on the ground floor can do this – in a small triangle in front of my door. I planted flower seeds last summer and fall, and having heliotrope and alyssum growing. I planted two Norfolk Pines a couple of Christmases ago and they are doing lovely. I have Gerbera daisies and Coneflower (Echinacea), Greek oregano, rosemary, and lavender doing really well. Since we had a very mild winter, they are still growing. I put in five okra plants last summer, and got five okra trees from which I got lots and lots of okra. I cut them back, but expect them to come back up. So I just need to buy two or three plants to put in a couple of empty spaces where Marigolds and Impatiens did not survive the hottest of the summer.

If I want to go to an arts and crafts class (we are about to have a new one start in March), I am successful at whatever I decide to do. I took an art class once and did some work with oil pastels, some impressionist style art, and was complemented by the teacher who told me I taught him something about using coloured artists paper for my backgrounds. They are frameable, and I have been asked for one or two of them. I also use acrylics occasionally to do more modern-style art. I have two of them hanging on my walls. I was told by an artist to take off my glasses, put some paint on a palette, and just start daubing the canvas, turn it to the wall to dry for a few days, and then look to see what I have. It comes out rather fascinating – and good. I crochet, although I don’t do fancy work – never was interested. I do well with counted cross-stitch, and have several pieces hanging. I made a wreath for my front door. I just seem to have a knack.

I took writing classes a couple summers ago, and some of the things I wrote are printed in a book that can be bought at stores. I have a knack, though I don’t try to write conversations. I am not good at conversations, so I do better with life stories in essay form. There will be another writing class this coming July here.

I am not saying all this because I want to be a braggart. In fact, I have been told many times I have no talent, but when I put myself to it, people are surprised at what comes out of my imagination. But I don’t ply myself to any of these things. Sitting in my apartment, I am most likely to watch television and work crossword puzzles. My supplies sit and sit and sit. I recently bought myself a colouring book, but I have done nothing with it. No ambitions – or at least none I will act on. Lazy, that is what I am.

I am also very intelligent when it comes to book learning, and trivia, and retaining things in my head.

So why do I say this? Because I realize that most of the blogs I have written were written about something that I was not happy about – like what politics is going through these days. Or why liars bother me so much. I wish there was a way I could get over the little things like that, and just do the things that make me happy – that satisfy me. Despite all my talents, and enjoyments, I have had to go through psychotherapy three times to get over suicidal thoughts and depression, and am going to be seeing someone in the next week or so to help me overcome the anger just one person causes in me. I need to talk this through, and find a way to get beyond it. Perhaps when I have done that, I will have more ability to really do something with those talents I do have. Colour my colouring book; do a counted cross-stitch pattern I have had for a couple of years; take my paints and canvas out of storage and use them. I spent the money, I might as well make it count for something.

During my working years, it seemed like I managed to make time for things. Now that I am retired, and have time for myself, I do nothing. So I guess this writing is going to be a sort of spur to get myself going – perhaps my New Year’s Resolution. Quit letting the outside world get to me, and get to my artistic pursuits. One thing is certain, when I buy the things for the garden in a week or so, that will get me up and outside, and maybe that will cause me to come inside and continue with other things. I know the two classes, in March and July, will get me going again.

I should, after writing all this stuff, let you know that I am well aware of my many faults. The biggest one seems to be that I am not as sociable as I used to be, and I am absolutely no good at small talk. Living where I do, and not active in some of the organizations I used to be, like Celtic organizations and science fiction organizations, has taken me right out of activeness. I can sit and blame lack of money, and my painful knees, but really, those are just excuses, not reasons.

Just musing. And writing down all this stuff.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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Politics 2016


I have spoken about my distress over what is happening in politics this year, and said I was dropping out, yet after so many years of being involved, I find I am not doing that. I don’t know if this will be my last posting this year or not, but I am seeing things that really, truly puzzle me.

I do not, for a New York minute, believe Donald Trump is serious about his run for the presidency. I think he is using his money to buy himself all the publicity he wants, for being in the peoples’ eyes everyday, for winning popularity polls. I do not think he is a stupid man; I believe he knows exactly what he is doing. To see him, as of today (February 18, 2016), putting himself at odds with Pope Francis, is part of his systematic plan for keeping himself at the top, where he stays, because he brings out the worst in people, for the benefit of himself. I have watched him for too many years to think he is any more than he is appearing to be these days, and I suspect that what is going on will bring him more money, and popularity, than he ever will need.

It is clear to me that nobody can say anything to criticize him, for any reason, because he will come back with another insulting comment against whoever had the nerve to say anything critical of him. He pouts like a little boy, and tells everyone how bullied he is being, and poor little ol’ me, why does anyone think I am not the best, the ideal for everyone to look up to.

As I watch Democrats fighting with Democrats over Bernie/Hillary, and Republicans fighting with everyone else over non-political ideals, but issues which they wish they could rule over everyone with, I do not think there is any seriousness going on at all in the political process. There is so much hate, and so much racial bias, and so much fear of someone losing a dollar, that they don’t even understand the political process in this country any longer at all. Just a wish to make things hard for every other person, including themselves.

When I see someone like Marco Rubio making sweeping statements about rape, and especially those who want to make it legal, I wonder what they have been drinking, or putting into their system. I can predict that if it ever happens to one of their own wives or daughters, especially if pregnancy occurs, there will be some 180 degree turns from what they have said.

I have never seen so much lying among politicians. Eduoard Rafael Cruz seems to be the worst. Because I think he is totally delusional, and he reads what he wants to into anything he hears, and then talks about.

At my age, I have the privilege of voting by mail, and have done so already. In Austin, Texas, I have voted a straight Democratic ticket, and my presidential vote went to Hillary Clinton. My reasoning is thus: I still like Bill Clinton, and would love to see him in the White House again; I still believe in Howard Dean, who was my candidate in 2004, and he and others I have respect for have pretty much endorsed her, even if not officially; and while I am very much an ultra-liberal Socialist Democrat, believe in free education, free healthcare, and equal rights for every human being, no matter who they are, or who they love, I do not, in 2016, believe this country is ready for a Socialist president. I think it will eventually happen, but probably not in my lifetime. So Bernie says a lot of things I agree with, but I doubt Independents and Moderates will vote for him in a national election.

On the Republican side, I do not think Trump would want to be president. It would be too much work for him – he likes being rich and free to do exactly what he wants to do. I don’t think the majority of Evangelical Conservatives will vote for Cuban-Americans, which includes Cruz and Rubio. I do think Rubio has a better chance than Cruz (whom I don’t think has the right to hold office, which I’ll get a lot of argument about, but I believe anyway) because unless the Evangelical is really ready to die and go to “heaven”, I cannot see sensible people voting for him based on his thinking he is equal to Jesus, and hopes to bring about the Rapture. Really? Are you ready to leave this earthly plain? Do you think you can continue to live exactly the same way you are now on those streets of gold, under that man looking on you from a great golden throne? I tend to doubt such a thing.

That leaves basically Ben Carson (who is a black man, and does not seem to know anything at all), Kasich, and Bush. Of them all, I believe Kasich is the only one who offers any sense at all, but even if everything else he said appealed to me, I will never vote for anyone who is anxious to send our young men, and women, into war, standing in front of the war machines that are so expensive, and considered of less importance than the expensive toys. I do not want to see any more deaths of young people, or more disabled. Anyone who has lived through Vietnam, and three wars in the middle east, has no appetite for more blood and guts.

I think we have more problems in our own country that need to be fixed before we waste any more time trying to change other countries that are simply not going to change. I say leave them to their own problems – allow them to solve their own problems.

Whatever happens, I will vote for whoever the Democrat is who wins the primary. If any of the Republicans wins, I do not know what I will do. But having defeated depression and suicidal thoughts, I would never go for killing myself just to stay out of it. I would hunker down and live whatever Life and the Almighty I believe in give me, but I rather expect I would end earlier than I hope right now.

I am so anguished over what so many Americans have become, and what they are doing to one another, but there is little I can do except mention it, and then do what I feel is the right thing to do for everyone. God/dess help you all.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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There’s Something Happening Here


I have just copied to here a comment I made on Facebook. But before printing it, I want to say that I am watching Rachel Maddow’s Town Hall meeting on MSNBC over the tragedy in Flint, MI. Listening to these folks, I see plainly that the people of Flint, and probably all of Michigan, are being ignored by their Governor Rick Snyder, and possibly by a lot of people in their state government, and the wealthy folks who have benefited financially from the shortcuts made because of providing water, a right for every single person in the state. These people need to be tried for murder for the deaths of children that have died from the lead in the water in Flint, MI.

I see similar things happening in other states, state governments who are not interested in their citizens, but only in their own pocketbooks. I live in Texas, and the horrible things going on here are not for my benefit. Children and minorities in particular are being targeted. My own generation of people are obviously wanting to get rid of the following generations because they fear the feelings of people from my own grandchildrens’ generations. They care not what they are going to leave their own grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren and down the lines, as long as they get theirs now.

I wish I could be an avenging angel, or goddess, and come down on them. Yet while I am not a christian, I definitely believe that vengeance is the business of the God/desses, and not mine. I have been given the right for only my own soul and character.

But as I said in the paragraph below, I am a so-called “privileged” white person, but I have lost many of my own freedoms, and am quite frankly fearful of those whiter, and wealthier, and more powerful than I am. I have only one vote, but I used it every time I get the chance, and will do as long as I live.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

The following is a paragraph I copied over from my Facebook page, which brought about this blog.

I am not so often heard because I have lived through too many political incidents over the 75 years of my life, and I have to deal with both clinical depression and PTSD. So I stay away from things that make me angry, or overly upset. I do not understand why there is so much hostility between people who are supposed to be on the same side. So I go my way, and have already decided who I am going to vote for in the primary. I want no arguments or debates with anyone. What so many people are not understanding right now is that people like me, of a certain age, and who have seen so, much, is that I remember – I was 22 when Kennedy was killed, I watched the civil rights movement and its aftermath, I remember MKL Jr. and Bobby Kennedy so well, and I have heard from too many resources that what is happening today is that specific people are trying to get even with us, the liberals, for the 60s. I see hopes lost, and peace between blacks and whites being eroded on a daily basis; I see the black people where I live (I am white) not understanding, or maybe n
ot caring, about what is going on in the world. I see them afraid of white men with guns. I am a white woman and I’m afraid of white men with guns. So many of my own liberties have been run over during these last several years. I will be doing a great deal of talking and making a little oratory next month, Black History Month. But my age, and my knees, and just plain tiredness over having to fight battles I fought 50 years ago having to be fought again, and not as many younger people fighting those battles. I am sorry that things I see are in history books now, and not being learned. But never will I quit talking about it, and thinking about it, as long as I am still alive. And I think I am going to put this in a blog, so you will see it again since my blog is attached to Facebook.

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Christmas for the Elderly


I wrote this in 2014, sending it out again for 2015.

carolstepp

I still think it is too early to really think about Christmas, but since most folks around me don’t think so, I’ll go ahead and write this blog.

I am among the elderly. I will be 74 in about three weeks, so I have an idea about what we want. Most of us don’t need any more talcum powder, or perfume, or nighties or bath robes. Most of us have homes full of things because we have collected things over the years. I have gotten rid of things through garage sales, taking clothes to places like Goodwill or Salvation Army or in my case, since I worked so many years, I donated my working clothes, nice dresses and suits, to organizations who provide that sort of thing to women who are looking for work, and need something nice to go to interviews with. The economy of the past few years…

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Three-quarters of a century


Tomorrow, December 4, 2015, at about 5:07 p.m., I will have been on this earth 75 years, or three-quarters of a century. This blog has no rants or raves or anger: it is simply a thought or two about what I have seen in three-quarters of a century. I plan to live until 100, or longer, if that is my fate. And I do hope it is.

Music: Frank Sinatra (who I still love) and big band music was on the radio for the first 13 years of my life. Then in 1954, along came Bill Haley and the Comets with Rock Around The Clock, Elvis Presley and his swivel hips, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, and The Royal Teens (where I first knew about Bob Gaudio). In the years 1958-1963 there was pure pop, with the likes of Bobby Rydel, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Vinton, The Lettermen, The Four Seasons (and Bob Gaudio again), and many more. Then we got the British Invasion and Motown. Besides the Beatles, the Stones, the Animals, and the Supremes, we got the Bee Gees. Rock, Psychedelic, Protest Songs. After the end of the 60s, we got Disco. I remember the Bee Gees going Disco, and it was good, but I liked them best during the British Invasion and the Rock Music. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart and Words. Sexy Donna Summer, and what girl alive today, and then, could ever resist KC and the Sunshine Band. He was a sexy man, still around today. And ABBA, all of whom’s recordings I still own.

Then we got into heavy metal – not to my taste, but there were exceptions. Like Nazareth with Love Hurts. After the metal, we got grunge and garage bands. And I was not into that. Jon Bon Jovi with his guitar? Him I still love, but mostly these days it is because of his generosity for people who don’t have a lot. But I ended up mostly with my Celtic music, including having a Celtic Music show on local public radio for a couple of years in the 90s. Through all those years, the underlying foundation of all the music I loved, and still do, was classical. I have always loved the classics. I was in band in junior high and high school; I sang with a very local country western band for a time in the early 60s. I went on to sing Handel’s Messiah and other classics and pop music in the Austin Civic Chorus in the late 70s-early 80s. I played my flute in the Austin Civic Wind Ensemble during that same time, with classical and pop music.

These days I have a cabinet with about 150 CDs that includes a little bit of every single one of those styles of music, but I rarely play them on my CD player any longer. I’m more tuned in to television these days – at the moment Hallmark with all its Christmas shows. I just don’t want to listen to or watch the news these days, and I really do hate reality shows.

Dancing: I was a ball-room dance teacher in the early 60s with Arthur Murray Studios. I think I can still dance those beautiful waltzes, two-step, cha-cha, rumba, and the lovely (but not Argentinian) tango. I also danced every twist, watusi, shake, I’ve forgotten all the names of the 60s stuff. I still know how to do some of the Motown styles I knew then. Unfortunately, I have the knees of a constant dancer, and can’t really do much dancing at all any longer. The gristle that separates our upper leg bones from our lower leg bones has disappeared, and it is rather painful to walk bone-on-bone. I will not ever get fake knees, so I’ll happily live with what I have, knowing I earned them and had a great time.

Electronics: Oh lord, how I could rant about them. But I’ll just talk about them. We got our first TV when I was around 15 or 16. Black and white pictures, tubes, no remotes. If we wanted to change the channels (and there were only three, as I remember), we had to get up, walk up to the TV, and turn a knob. Radios were tubed, and big, like in large cases. Transistor radios came along so we could carry them around. We could buy 8-track tapes, which soon were replaced by cassette tapes for them by the early 60s. I still have some cassettes, and wish I could find a good tape deck to play them that didn’t need earphones to hear them. TVs started being available in colour. Then there were transistors, resistors, integrated circuits. Maybe those are still around. I don’t know. DVDs – I got my first player in the late 80s or early 90s. Now there is Blu-Ray, but I won’t spend the money for the latest incarnation of those.

Telephones: I grew up with a simple black dial phone. I loved them. Then push-button came along; then cell phones which were huge, and few people wanted to carry one. Then we got the small cell phones, and every year some corporations compete to see who can come up with the fanciest, and most expensive, by the way. Now one cannot walk down the street or sit in a lobby somewhere without seeing someone’s ear attached to a phone, or playing games, or twittering. I’ve seen people run into poles or fall into ponds, or any number of things because they are so stuck on them – and I laugh a lot when that happens.

Play: I remember bicycles, roller skates with keys to attach to our shoes, building forts in the vacant lot across the street. I was all grown up before Barbie came along, much less dolls that I don’t even recognize as dolls. I played jacks, with real metal jacks, and hopscotch, and jump-rope, and tinker-toys. I made my own paper dolls. I loved, and still love, board games. So don’t even try to talk to me about video games; I have no clue what you are talking about, and wonder who all those fat little pasty-skinned (meaning no sun) kids are about.

Home appliances: Stoves, refrigerators, toasters, washing machines. That is about my best memory of what used to be. Today, I own a microwave and a blender. I have even bought an electric can-opener for when I don’t have the strength to use a regular non-electric one. Mostly it is for when my wrist gets too weak for the person-power I need. I cannot imagine owning a house-cleaning robot.

Schools: I got a great education. I don’t know what is going on now, but I know writing with fountain pins and pencils is going away, except for the very youngest, I guess. I remember when a box of 64 Crayolas was a happy surprise. I know how to spell properly, and how to write a sentence with a noun, a verb, and a direct subject. I know what an adjective and an adverb are. I know how to parse a sentence. These, I fear, are lost arts, and with this thing called Twitter, spelling is going by the wayside. I won’t even talk about math.

Yes, I have a laptop computer, and used computers from about 1984 in my jobs. I love computers and computer nerds, but I have no need to buy every new one that comes about. I have a Facebook page, I do my banking on-line, I have an email account, and I write these occasional blogs. No complaint here, but I still don’t know how to move pictures around.

I am a courteous, civil, civil-minded, soft-talking woman, polite to everyone – at least until they treat me unkindly – at which time I put them behind me, and ignore them, and keep my optimistic outlook, at least in my own life and manners. You don’t see a lot of that today. Sad.

Politics: I got involved in politics in 1952, when I was 11, and liked Ike Eisenhower. I was not old enough in 1960 to vote, but I was a Nixon fan who soon fell in love with John F. Kennedy. I was eligible to vote for the first time in 1964, but I didn’t – I couldn’t vote for Goldwater, and wouldn’t vote for LBJ. I would have voted for Bobby Kennedy, but I didn’t get the chance. I liked the elder George H. W. Bush, and backed him in all of his running for office through Reagan – my first, in my mind, bad choice. I even went for GHWB the first time, but was through with that party in 1991. I voted for Clinton, and have been a Democrat since Howard Dean, who was defeated by John Kerry, who was defeated by GWB. I loved Obama, still do. Today I am an ultra-liberal, Socialist Democrat, and I weep for my country.

Wars: I was born when London was being blitzed by the Germans. I was a year old when Pearl Harbor came along. I saw uncles go to war, but not my dad – who wanted to, but was not allowed in the service. No matter, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, my dad did everything he could for that last, great, war. I have little memory of Korea, though I was once married to a man who was in Korea. Then, one after the other, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq again – none of which were worth the price paid by our men, and now men and women. I saw almost a whole generation lost in Vietnam – people my age and younger. What can I say? Republicans will keep us in war. I don’t want to see more young men and women losing limbs, brains, and lives to the war machine, and the costs. And that is all I’ll say.

I don’t know what I’ve left out. I have just seen so much, and worked many years, and been through hard times and good times. I have had to remain independent, and to care for myself. I gave up children during the 60s, but today I am friends with one daughter and several grand-children, several nieces and a couple of nephews, and even one great-grandchild. I have had to learn to not be selfish and to love my life as it is today – and to appreciate what I have. And I have a lot, including my health. I know my generation needs to die out, possibly the one behind me, but I have hope that grandchildren and younger will learn how to bring good life and tolerance back to this crazy world I live in. No matter what comes, I will adapt, but I will never lose my optimism and my love for friends, family, and country through whatever of my life is left.

I believe the next 25 years of my life, or whatever I have left, will remain good or me. I have great hopes that civility will return, and that will make this world a decent place to live again.

Carol Stepp
Austin, TX

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Gone With the Wind


Well, I’m back sooner than I thought.  I just finished reading the book Gone With The Wind last night, a book I hadn’t read in probably 60 years.

Obviously, like everyone else of my generation, I have seen the movie at least once a year ever since I first knew enough to know to watch it.  It is a good movie, of course, but I had a slight memory of Scarlett having other children than just Bonnie Blue Butler.  So I got the library to reserve a copy for me to read.  I got it a little over a week ago, and got so engrossed in it that I managed to read all 959 pages of it in five days and nights (not steadily, but in bits and pieces of time).

It is a magnificent book, but I had no memory of all the politics in it.  I knew there were a lot of people in the South who never got over losing the Civil War, but I did not realize how very much it had been passed down through the years.  Margaret Mitchell wrote the book in 1936, it was copyrighted in 1938, and the movie came out in 1939.  But I am totally shocked at how true the story is today, down in the Deep South, among those Conservatives.  I understand a little more why they act the way they do today.  They still don’t seem to have gotten over losing the Civil War.

This book is, of course, about the Georgians.  The young men of that time were so gung-ho about going to war with the Union, and they were all about States’ Rights, and seceding from the Union.  The war was about the land, and about slavery.  While I hear often from people who have never really studied that period of time in US history that it was about economics, I think Margaret Mitchell got it right.  It really was about the way of life of the plantations, and slavery.  The Northern states had their own Negro populations, but they were free blacks, no slavery.  One learns a great deal about that simply by watching the movie Glory, or reading any of the many books written about that event – Lay This Laurel is one of the best.  As well, the underground railroad that existed at the time to save runaway slaves lay out the stories told by the Negroes who ran away from evil slave owners – those that did not treat their slaves well, or who sold individuals away from their own families.  They were treated like animals, with no feelings.  The Northerners did not believe life in the South was any other way.

Mitchell’s fictional families, like the O’Haras and the Wilkes’s and the families in Atlanta we meet after the war starts, were good to their slaves, and therefore, were more sympathetic to the readers.  As I, in these more modern times, do not approve of owning people, or treating people like animals, I would have been against the Civil War then.  But what if I had been born into one of those wealthy plantation owner families.  Those genteel folk were just as confused as what was happening as anyone who went from riches to rags.  But the real horrors of the aftermath of the Civil War were those Negroes who were freed, and then were turned loose to fend for themselves after the war.  Many of them chose to stay with their white owners.

The aftermath of the Civil War gave the South the Carpetbaggers and the Scalawags – the Freed Men Association who made promises to the Negroes, but who did not give them instruction on how to live free.  Far too many of those northerners made promises, but gave no jobs; told them they had right to what the plantations had, which seemed to give the ex-slaves rights to the white women and the luxuries, including burning down the mansions and stealing the land.  This is why the Ku Klux Klan came about – as a protection for the people whose land was being taken, and who women were under attack.  The organization originated in Tennessee.  Of course, over time, the KKK was proven to be a terrorist organization, and within a few years, was outlawed.  Today’s KKK is made up of men who want to return the KKK to the way it was then, without the same reasons it was originally established.

Reconstruction is what happened to the states until they took the oaths.  Tennessee was readmitted in 1866; Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and the two Carolinas were readmitted in 1868; Texas, Virginia, and Mississippi were not readmitted until 1870.

Reconstruction disenfranchised the Southern plantation owners and the men who fought for the Confederacy; they took the label of Democrats, and were forbidden to vote in their state elections.  Those people of the North who put the Confederacy under military rule were called Republicans, and they would take the Negroes from precinct to precinct to vote in every election numerous times.  This went on for years until the states were able to have governing bodies who could come up with a majority, but this still was not possible until Loyalty Oaths were taken, and Amendments adopted.

The book covers the years from 1861 until 1873.  Scarlett went from age 16 to 28, and young women who were not married by the time they were 25 were considered spinsters.  Of course, the flower of male youth was pretty much killed off during those years.  And the genteel manners of the Old South kept most of those plantation families from changing their ways.

I found it quite educational to realize how we got from that time to modern times, and why the Old South now calls itself Republican, why they still hate the Negro, why the Civil Rights Act did not work as it should have (this is why government offices all over the South have so many black employees – the private white companies still would not hire them).  I don’t know why they keep changing what we should call them to be politically correct.  I think African American came about because the word Negro is the Spanish word for black – but while black is beautiful, I’m not sure many of them today like being called black.  Or why so many of them call one another the n-word, but get infuriated and insulted if a white person uses the same word.

All in all, re-reading this book 60 years later, under the influence of what politics is doing now, especially in the Deep South, was very enlightening, and helps me understand a little more why the Conservatives are acting the way they are now.  They just don’t accept that they lost the Civil War.

PS:  There was another book I read about the Civil War all those long years ago called Taproots which,  if I remember correctly, told the same basic story, but from a Mississippian’s point of view, but I do not remember the name of the author, and have never found the book listed under it’s name on the computer.  It probably went out of print long ago.

PPS:  One other fictional story about the Old South is the movie Raintree County.  I don’t even know if it was a book, or just a screen story.

Carol Stepp, Austin, TX

 

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