I’m feeling led to write this, so I thought I would.
Out in the middle of nowhere in Upstate New York, just south of Rochester and the next town over from Geneva is a town named “Hall”, formerly “Hall’s Corner”. A town of 400, it has two main roads and a few connectors between them. That’s really all that’s in Hall. Also there are a lot of farms, with fewer owners between them, because farming is hard work, without a lot of profit, so people die off or drop out of farming as a family business.
In that town of 400, I had my first parish 25 years ago. In that town, (at least then) people didn’t lock the door to their car. They didn’t lock their house. In the whole Rochester area, it is the norm to pump your gas, then pay for it. For a city boy, it took some getting used to.
In the middle of this town of 400 (to my knowledge) all-white people is someone who doesn’t exist if you are liberal and read the newspapers or watch the news. Her name is Marilyn Sloth. Marilyn is “good people”. She married Paul. Paul is “good people”. They have daughters who grew up to be “good people”.
Marilyn would never hurt a fly. Yes, I’m sure she gets angry, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard her yell. Hurt her children and Momma Bear comes out, but so does Paul’s Poppa Bear. They are about family values. By that I don’t mean “Family Values” as a code word for rigidity and yelling at others about their morals and telling them how to live their lives. Marilyn believes in the values that make families strong, that made her family strong. Those values include kindness and respect, hard work rather than complaining, doing your best, getting a good education, marrying a nice person and having, then raising, children who are nice.
She is everything that Category Politics says we liberals should hate: Heterosexual, White, Christian and Republican. By certain standards, she is The Oppressor — “hetero-normative”, holder of “White Privilege”, a believer in God, and… yes, a member of the Party of Trump… except that she’s not oppressive in any sense of the word — not even close. Marilyn and Paul’s idea of a good time is going into town, seeing a movie, and having iced tea on a hot day. An exceptional day is spent seeing her kids or her grandkids.
Marilyn’s heart breaks when tragedy befalls someone. Marilyn gets no joy out of watching people suffer. She may have “power” in some systemic way, but she doesn’t flex it as “power over” anybody. Marilyn gets angry, after being hurt, when people call her racist or sexist or homophobic. Marilyn doesn’t hate anyone — unless they’re mean or dishonest. She is who she is and you are who you are and that’s it. Marilyn doesn’t want to be rich. She wants to retire at some point with her ice tea and her husband and her family. She doesn’t sit around making fun of this group or that group. She’s not gay, but she doesn’t hate gays. She’s not Black or Hispanic or Asian, but she doesn’t hate them because of that. On the other hand, I suspect she doesn’t know many of them. She’s not Muslim, but she doesn’t hate them either. She probably doesn’t understand their religion either, but that’s no reason to hate. Marilyn’s ethic is something like “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”. If you’re a good person, you’re a good person. If you’re not, you’re not.
Because she doesn’t treat people that way, and wouldn’t associate with someone who did, she finds it impossible to believe that anyone else would. So when policeman so-and-so is beating up a “criminal”, it is strictly that. It shouldn’t be racism, so it can’t be. That’s not the way Americans act. Marilyn’s not going to show up at the Gay Pride parade because she’s not gay and she doesn’t make a big fuss about her sexuality. If she knows someone who’s gay, though, she might go to support them, or feel bad if she doesn’t. Marilyn struggles with her faith, because she has a faith to struggle with, and it’s about being the best Christian you can be. It’s not about being The Biggest “Christian”. It’s about following Jesus’ example.
Marilyn is simply “Good People”. We should be careful with people like Marilyn because we shouldn’t alienate a good person and assume that people like her don’t exist They do all the time, sometimes in big city neighborhoods, sometimes in suburbia, sometimes on farms. I used to think they were the majority of Americans. I’m not so sure anymore.
Let us treasure the good people out there, where ever we find them, whatever party their are from. Let’s treasure strong families and strong morals and an ethic of kindness. Let’s just make sure that everybody has a chance to have those things. If we do, we will create more people like Marilyn Sloth — people we would enjoy having over to the house and drinking ice tea with on a hot summer day.