Jumping back in time, some thoughts from a few days ago while in Gainesville:

It's a lovely morning in Florida — yes, I made it safely to my parents' place! Due to different schedules, it's currently just me sitting in this nice, cool room and looking out into the lush greenery. The occasional tiny lizard goes skittering by… it's very peaceful. I've greatly enjoyed all my time here with people, as well, though I'm relieved to have finally have gotten enough sleep. Between the changing time zones, being inevitably woken by the dawn while sleeping in Dark Star, and various perfectly valid reasons here in Florida, I was slowly accumulating an impressive sleep deficit! I'm incredibly relieved I've finally had a morning where I can catch up. Now that I'm not borderline exhausted all the time, too, some of the thoughts percolating in the back of my head due to the traveling have finally come to the fore. For example, you wouldn't know just from where I am now that there's a rather creepy ideological battle going on for the hearts and minds of Floridians.

It would seem to be expressed somewhat in the billboards I passed in Florida on the way here. I wasn't really surprised to see billboards for "gentlemen's clubs" in Louisiana, but I was for Florida. I always find those such a cognitive dissonance, too. If these men were really gentlemen, wouldn't they be more interested in treating women like ladies — rather than like interchangeable and disposable sexual aids? I suspect there's about as much actual truth in the descriptive of "gentlemen's clubs" as there is in descriptives like "People's Republic" or "moral majority." But I digress.

Along with those billboards are many for ads directed at older people and retirees: house builders, activity clubs, things like that. The people depicted are usually beaming, white-haired and white-skinned, a heterosexual couple, and clearly delighted with whatever it is they're doing… and then there are the anti-abortion billboards. The most popular is of a lunging Yahweh straight out of Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam," pointing an accusing finger at the protruding belly of a young white girl who is smiling and holding a rose. Completely aside from the peculiarity of this graphical juxtaposition, what pregnant girl in her right mind would be simpering down at a flower she's holding between her breasts? My immediate thought upon seeing this weird billboard was that this girl is too young and stupid for the responsibility of being a mother!

Jumping subjects, one of my commenters on a previous blog mentioned someone who believes ideological violence in the US is inevitable, in order to effect change. I've been quietly pondering that in the back of my head for several days now, and I don't think I completely agree. I remember one of my readings in a sociology class which talked about why people rioted. In a very small nutshell, a modern scientist did some statistical analysis on what caused riots in England during the nineteenth century, and found that they occurred only when the lower classes believed unwritten social rules had been broken. Their rioting was the signal to the powers-that-be of that time and place that redress of some sort was needed, and the rioting invariably continued until the lord in charge of the city had a lit candle put in his window where those on the street could see it. That let the rioters know their grievances would be addressed, and they would stop rioting and go home.

Consequently my thought is that ideological violence is inevitable only when people feel they are not listened to. If we could figure out a means of allowing people to speak and be respectfully heard, and follow that up with reasoned, consensual action to be implemented, then why riot? The question then becomes: how to create such a self-governing body. I would think democracy — especially the version practiced by the Iroquois for longer than our country has been in existence — would be an excellent place to start the discussion. I don't think it's the sort of thing that can be created top-down, however — like the true source of power, or the beneficial effects of the Green Party, I suspect it must (so to speak) come from below.

Frankly, I think our culture has a lot of issues to address — that's just one of the most obvious. Driving on my own across the country as I have been, I realized at some point that I was really missing tactile contact. We are, after all, an extremely social species, but I'd not registered (until that moment) just how much I missed being with people with whom I felt comfortable having physical contact. Our society frowns on that, though, oddly enough, which I realized as I was watching some of my fellow participants in one of the cave tours I've taken. There were two older couples, one woman with her two small children, one man accompanied by his two small children and a young man (I don't know what the relationship was — a son by an earlier marriage, perhaps?), and myself. It was in watching the man hugging his small daughter and son at one point that it hit me: we don't really have socially acceptable touching (past the occasional hug of greeting) between adults, unless they're married. Is that why we lavish physical affection on children — because that's socially acceptable in this culture? Does that lack of sharing touch make us more lonely and reserved than we really need to be with each other? How did we get to this point, and why?

I realized I was missing contact when it registered that I was smiling encouragingly at the children — and I don't really care for children that much. At that point, however, I'd have gladly accepted a hug from one of them, because I was feeling rather touch-starved and I knew none of the adults were culturally acceptable potential sources of physical contact for me. It was a somewhat disturbing thought, in a way, and led to the following later idle speculation while driving: the Roman Catholic clergy involved in the pederasty scandals are men who have effectively forsworn sexual contact. In order to prevent sexual feelings, it would not surprise me to discover many of these men avoided most physical contact entirely. Could this entire issue of pederasty (both clerical and otherwise) perhaps be at least partially blamed on cultural teachings against physical contact? I don't know… but I do know that I wish our culture had healthier attitudes about physical contact.

I suspect I should also add that spending a week here in Florida with my sweetie at my parents' place has taken care of my "touch deprivation." ;)

On a lighter note, I realized today that I've completed another first: I've driven across the country, woot! Though I did not plan it so, I figured out at one point that I also had one day where I drove a relatively straight line and managed to pass through five different states! Starting in Texas, I drove through Louisiana, then the little downward coastal bits of Mississippi and Alabama, and on into Florida. For a girl who spent years in geographically big states like Florida, Texas, and California, that's an entertaining achievement. :)

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