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Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Unpardonable Sin

I think we have all been watching the amazingly rapid and efficient demise of Paula Deen.  And since we view things from our own history we having been watching with different stages of alarm.  As a working person it is hard to see how quickly a career vanishes.  She has worked her whole life but literally backed into her fame.  No need to go into her story, we all know it, and we loved it.  Because she became a success from nothing and everyone loves the Rocky story.

But then she committed the unpardonable sin.  The pattern of the sin is actually one that is in every family.  The one thing you never say, your families unpardonable sin...the one thing that is not to be spoken of.  And because you love your family and respect each and every one of them you just don't talk about certain things.   For instance everyone knows that Great Grandma Mabel didn't have a 8 and half pound "preemie".  But we don't say anything, right?  Cousin George came home from the Army.....early.  No questions asked, and no one talks about it again.  Uncle Shug married a stripper, who took all of his money and moved to Chicago.  It happened, but it is painful to bring it up so we don't.

Our country, our family, allowed an unspeakable thing to occur.  It may have been a long time ago, but it still happened.  In a country founded on freedom we denied that freedom to a great many people.  We allowed them to be treated inhumanly for a very long time.  Only after the most bloodshed our country has ever had in any war, was it finally over.

So now we have blessedly decided as a nation to never say the "N" word.  That word has become verbal pornography.  It conjures up a time in our history that we should be deeply ashamed of.  It is actually a very small consolation, and we don't say it......ever, and when our black brothers and sisters say it,  that is their business.  They own that word, after hundreds of years of subjugation, I think they can do what they want with it.

I grew up in the South, I remember "colored" bathrooms, and "white only" signs.  As a very young I had the most profound experience.  In a black grocery store I reached for a tomato at the same time a black women did.  She drew her hand back quickly in deference to me.  And at that moment I heard a voice in my head say we weren't really different at all because we all liked tomatoes.  I know that is simplistic but I was 6 and that is how you teach 6 year olds, I never forgot it.  Paula Deen grew up in the South and maybe she used the "N" word long before she knew how damaging it was, how belittling it dirty it made people feel.  It was a word designed to make people feel like they were in fact 3/5 of a person.  We get that....we get that now.

The public outcry is a testament to how much we hate that word today, unfortunately Paula Deen handled everything badly after those documents came out.  Her reaction wasn't very polished or clear.  I watched her being interviewed by Matt Lauer, (I personally loathe him, but whatever.)  and I watched him tear her apart.  He has had plenty of his own indiscretions and personal sins revealed to not act like such a prosecutor.  What I wanted was for her to look in the camera and with clear eyes and calm demeanor state - "I was wrong!  That was a different person from a far different world.  I am sorry, I am ashamed that my grandson knows I used that language.  I am sorry that the people who watch me and buy my things now know I used that language.  It hasn't happened since and it doesn't happen now.  And I will spend the rest of my life proving that."   Personally I would have taken Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Shaquille O'Neal with me, I would have begged their forgiveness....and meant it.  Then I would answer Matt's "gotcha" questions.

I don't wonder about Paula today.  I know that she campaigned for President Obama, she has black people on her show all the time....for heaven's sake her food is "soul food".  Honest to goodness racists don't do that.  And I know she is in shock about what has happened.  To watch your whole life unravel in front of you, to be rejected by every major company you were partnered with that you thought loved you, has to be the worst time of your life.  Unfortunately she will never be the same...and I will miss her.  I watched her not because of her cooking, but because she made me happy.  She loves life!....she loves her kids, her husband, Savannah Georgia and she loves to cook.....but most of all she loves people.  That cannot be faked.

I will miss that laugh.  She has a great laugh.  And one thing I know about personalities like hers, someone who truly loves people it will take a long time for her to get past the rejection to be able to go out and change the perception of her.  But I so hope she does.  I hope she isn't remembered as a racist, but if she doesn't get out there and show people what she is really like that this chapter could be her epitaph.

Forgiveness is a tricky thing, the Savior was very clear that we were to forgive everyone.  And regardless of your higher power that is a great way to live.  I certainly have forgiven her....Oh no!! does that mean I have to forgive Matt Lauer too?

Forgiveness is what our country needs from every direction.