Yellow

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Context is crucial to the meaning of some words, and yellow is a good example.

Obviously it’s a color, bringing to mind breezy daffodils, cuddly chicks, and bright sunshine. Unfortunately it’s also a term used to describe a cowardly person, or a scoundrel. Why I wonder? The “yellow terror” was used to describe the spread of Yellow Fever in the United States in the late 1800’s. In its toxic stage, the disease, now rare in the USA, causes jaundice, thus the yellow connotation.

I think I’ve discovered what has recently been called “false news”. In fact in an earlier age it may have been described as “yellow journalism“, characterized as “dishonest in editorial comment and the presentation of news, especially in sacrificing truth for sensationalism”.

The “Yellow Peril” is a term in history best forgotten because of its exaggeration in the media (e.g. newspapers because of the time period) of the danger from the Chinese and Japanese. The term was first used following Japan’s military defeat of China in 1895 and then was applied to Japan. Some ascribe the first use of the epithet to German Kaiser Wilhelm II, in 1895 against Japan, but it was also used by a Hungarian General (quoted in a US newspaper): “The ‘yellow peril’ is more threatening than ever. Japan has made in a few years as much progress as other nations have made in centuries.”

The use of “yellow peril” in the US was directed at the Chinese, though, as they came from their home country to the west coast to work on the railroads. While originally encouraged to emigrate, they ended up being treated poorly.

It is ironic that the US-instigated influx of Chinese to work building railroads soon bred a distrust of Asians. To enhance relations with the Chinese with better trade in mind, Secretary of State William Seward (of Seward’s Folly fame) designated a special envoy, Anson Burlingame, to work with the isolationist Chinese to increase an openness between the US and China, with a view to achieving a “favored-nation status”.

The Burlingame Treaty also encouraged Chinese (cheap labor) to come to the United States.  While the treaty was supposed give privileges, immunities and protection to Chinese in the United States against discrimination, exploitation, and violence, it didn’t work out quite that way. These immigrants were generally treated badly, not trusted, and did suffer from discrimination. Furthermore, they could not hope for US citizenship because that was denied under the Naturalization Act of 1790, which limited naturalized citizenship to “white persons.” So much for a closer relationship.

On both sides of the Atlantic fears of the “yellow peril” continued into the 20th century and was bolstered by various  in books and films. “Prominent among these were portrayals of sinister Orientals an English writer’s creation, the insidious and diabolical genius Dr. Fu Manchu.” The refocus on Europe’s internal crises, as opposed to any invasion from the east, and the outbreak of WWI soon negated fear of the “yellow peril” until the bombing of Pearl Harbor when the fear was fully justified.

Seward and Burlingame’s ideas about a closer relationship hit bottom when the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) was enacted placing a 10 year ban on immigration of laborers. This was extended for another ten years in 1892, and in 1902 was made “permanent”, that is, until in 1943 Chinese were again allowed in under a strict quota system. It wasn’t until 1965 and 1990 immigration laws were again changed allowing for a greater influx of people from Asian countries (partly due to the Communist menace), and other countries. Naturalization was also allowed, and the persecution many were facing in countries abroad became a reason for allowing their emigration.

While yellow has much brighter connotations, the more sinister definition shows we have struggled with immigration in the past, with and with far less reason for strict laws that we have now.

Who knew — I didn’t until I stumbled upon this information. Thank you internet.

Abide

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Immediately I think of the hymn: “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens, Lord with me Abide; when other helpers fail and comforts flee; help of the helpless, Lord, Abide with me.”

I find comfort in those words, and have had personal connection with them. Though I’m now 22 years into recovery from alcohol addiction, I remember the depths of the despair I felt when I really thought I was doomed, and wouldn’t be able to get out of the abyss. I prayed. Who doesn’t when they’re in real distress. My husband was despairing, too, beginning to believe that I wouldn’t get sober. Friends, I had none: an active alcoholic isolates, and pushes friends and family away because they don’t want others to know what’s happening.

I began to believe that I was facing the devil at the bottom of that hole I had dug for myself, and prayed that somehow I could, would be rescued. Laying in bed, probably crying, I felt God communicate with me: “You don’t need to do this. This isn’t the way I want you to live.” I realized that was true. The only thing that was standing between me and a normal life, was me and my addiction.

That was really the beginning of my recovery, though it wasn’t instantaneous. I tried and failed, and failed, and finally succeeded. How freeing that is.

How often we stand in our own way! This, of course is why most alcoholics need AA, or specific recovery programs. I needed the help I got in residential treatment programs. I wasn’t a fast learner. I had walls that had to be chipped away, and finally I got it!

God abided with me when I didn’t know he was there, and when he knew the time was right, he “spoke” to me, and I began to believe that my life had a higher purpose: that I wasn’t supposed to live the way I was. With the principles of the 12 steps, I gained the freedom I so desired, and knowing that I have a Higher Power and purpose, I have been able to live a new and better life, with the knowledge that the abyss is still there, but I don’t have to go near it again, by the grace of God.

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Panoply

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This word caught my eye and I know it’s meaning — well one anyway. I like words, and this one with “pan” at the beginning immediately gives a clue that it is “all”. What I didn’t know was that the second part of the work comes from “hopla” meaning armor. The word originally comes from Greek (1500’s) via French. So I guess the French get as many words from Greek and Latin as English does.

suitofarmorSo very specifically, it refers to a complete suit of armor, or full ceremonial dress Of course, probably since armor isn’t as common these days, it is taken to mean a fully array — the whole nine yards. And that’s how I commonly use it. Continue reading

Chaotic

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Good description for my mind! Trying to control the chaos on my mind is a daily task. With my anxiety disorder and adult ADD, sorting out my spaghetti-like brain is a constant effort. You know how frustrating it can be trying to unknot a chain necklace  — that’s how it feels.

This is not to say I’m unhappy, or that I sit in a catatonic state unable to make any decisions. We all have our faults, and areas that need work, but if one wants to lead a normal life, you just learn to cope. I see people all the time whom I know have crosses to bear, and they’re leading a “normal” lives. You can’t stop living because there are problems to be overcome. Once a problem is named or diagnosed, the next step is to take responsibility for it, and figure out how to work with or around it.

For me that means a lot of self-talk and urging myself on in what I know is the right direction. A lot of my thoughts are self-sabotage — anybody else do that? I try to talk myself out of things I know I “should” do — not because someone else is forcing me  — but because it’s best for me. Sometimes I’m quite decisive, but other times I really have to work on sorting out the muddle in my head.

Having been diagnosed with ADD in adulthood, it makes me appreciate what kids who genuinely have this condition go through, and how hard it can be to focus, make a simple decision, or stay on task. It’s easier to deal with these things as an adult, especially in my case, because I learned coping mechanisms even before it was suggested that I had ADD. I can “force” myself to do with I ought or need to do next. I can make lists to organize my time. I can sort out what is more important and what is irrelevant, and I can usually identify when I’m avoiding, justifying, or procrastinating.

Life is hard, but doing the next right thing helps to simplify choices.

 

Elicit

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How often to people do something just to elicit a response? Some people do it and get paid for it — like journalists, comedians, politicians, teachers, ministers/preachers, parents… It can be a useful tool if the goal is to elicit a positive response, encourage reflection, supply a reality check.

We see it used all the time, particularly in the political arena, just to elicit reactions — whether or not the nature of the issue is valid or not. Just to keep the pot swirling, people will throw out selected truths, half truths, or mere speculations, just to keep people reacting and having an emotional response.

As a teacher, it’s a great tool to use in a classroom to lead children and teens to more deeply think about a topic — even if what the teacher says is controversial or argumentative (in an non-threatening way). The older children are, the more they can begin to form opinions — which should be backed up by facts or research, and a good opposing position. (This is why I like debating which seems to have gone by the wayside in lots of high schools.) Students should be encouraged to seek out information to support their thoughts, rather than just writing a report on the way things are. How should things be? Is the accepted way of doing things the best way? For instance, was Columbus coming to the Americas a good thing or bad? (It was bound to  happen, but is celebrating Columbus Day appropriate?)

When I was still teaching computers in a parochial school, we did a PowerPoint presentation addressing the question (in teams of about 6) which addressed the question, “Should genetic testing be required on all children at birth to discern what future health problems they may encounter, or should it be optional?” There was such a proposal made. The eighth grade students really had to think about the far-reaching effects of such testing, not only on the child and family, but on health care, insurance, and society in general. This coincided with a unit they were doing in science on genetics. So the presentation took the curriculum one step further. Some strong responses were elicited from students who really “got” the implications of the project.

As human beings we often try to elicit responses from other; it’s a natural part of human interaction. Sometimes we do just the opposite, as in job interviews, when the tables are turned! Sometimes you want a response, and other times it’s best to just listen and hear.

Primp

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I never primp. I must be one weird female, because I think lots do. I do my hair in the morning, put on a facial moisturizer, 24 hour-lipstick, and then rarely look at myself again. When I have to put on make-up for a special occasion, it’s a real effort.

When I was in high school, I had to do my hair and make-up and hair daily. I graduated from high school in 1965, the days of poofy teased hair, coke-can curlers, and uncomfortable sleeping because of spiky rollers. It took a half an hour in the morning to do one’s hair, and then make-up on top of that. These were prerequisites for keeping up with the cool girls — and I was a pretty cool girl (not the coolest — they were the cheerleaders).

In college it was the time of Twiggy. Heavy eye-liner, long lashes, and show-off eye shadow, and of course multi-shaded foundation and blush. I felt like my face was a mask much of the time! I had a Californian friend, an ex-Seventeen and Bride model, who regularly took an hour to do her make up. An hour a day!

By around 25, I was done with the high-tech make-up and hair, and as the seventies took over, so did a more natural look (hey, even no bras for some!). By 30 we were into making babies (4 in 5-1/2 years) and make-up was barely a choice.

Most of all I like my face and body to feel clean. Now when I need a bit of make-up I use the powder foundation (works well) and not a lot on the eyes, because as old age sets in, so do the wrinkles, crinkles, and crepey skin, not the bast canvas for eye make-up. I also try for a good haircut that’s easily managed, but still with a bit of style. Dry time 10-15 minutes.

So I’m free. Wash, dry, and go (with lip color and earrings). Done. Easy. Age appropriate. Who needs a mirror to primp when life is so simple.

Copycat

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I didn’t want to be called this in school, but now I don’t mind. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” (Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) English cleric and writer known for his aphorisms.) Not surprisingly, writer and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) added “…that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” That’s kind of a downer, because I copy a lot to create things when I can’t think of another way on my own to accomplish them.

While nearly everything must have devolved from someone else’s original idea, essentially very much of what is created is by imitation. Why would you continue to reinvent a good idea or plan? I’m thinking of making a bench for people to sit on, namely my daughter’s children at her dining table to save space. No doubt there are patterns out there — but by looking at others, and knowing my limited capability and what tools I have at my disposal, I think I can create one by copying others’ ideas. A bit of this, a little of that, and voila, a bench! My own piece of work!

I’m continually trying to get better at different aspects of the writing craft, and sometimes I’ve even taken a poem and copied it line by line — not the words, but their assemblage. That helps me with meter and flow of the verses.

My daughter is a photographer, and for one of her photography classes I suggested a project idea that I’d seen in the Women in Military Service Memorial at Arlington Cemetery. Covering a large portion of wall was a photo display which featured two photos. They were laid out as if on an accordion door: a strip of each photo alternating with the strips from the other. Standing on one side of the photo you saw one picture, and standing on the other, a different one. Now, this could have been copyright infringement, but my daughter did a similar thing on a much smaller scale with two photos — very successful — and, I might add, challenging. (I tried it first to see if it would work.)

I’ve certainly copied ideas for food recipes I’ve tasted at restaurants (where they won’t give you the recipe!), and I’ve copied craft ideas, table setting arrangements, decorations, etc. Haven’t you?

So, I’m a copycat at heart, and think it’s a great way to get ideas that you can make your own, legally, hopefully.