Pockets of People

We live in a world that is fragmented by special interest groups represented by social classes, political parties, religious sects, race, education, gender, age, income, even language. Divisions between groups and factions range from subtle to severe, almost to the point of convulsive, as in cases involving fundamentalist religious zeal, separating fanatics from everyone else, even to the point of genocide and other heinous crimes that under any other circumstances would be considered unspeakable acts of horror, even by the zealots themselves.

As human beings we share a need to belong. Being excluded from groups with which we identify in some way makes us feel separate in negative ways, and our sense of self-worth takes a nosedive from the awful feeling of being left out.

At this time of year, for example, group loyalty to sports teams becomes laser sharp regarding the Olympics and football teams for the Super Bowl. That powerful feeling of being outside the borders of acceptance is especially vigorous on a larger scale at a time when the division between the haves and the have-nots (the one percent versus everybody else) is so pronounced. No matter who we are, we are all strangers somewhere in places we feel we don’t belong. The borders we create are often purely artificial, or at least more psychological than physical. Our human tendency to categorize is also what prevents us from seeing our species as one vast but varied human family.

Our insatiable need to create comfort zones socially, economically, politically, and religiously creates at times much more strife than harmony. Such divisions are based also upon our all too human need or desire to be “right,” which generally means that somebody has to be “wrong” too.

Even the best informed among us live within walls of some kind of prejudice, especially when we accept without question what has been told to us by those who came before. Ignorance breeds ignorance until we see that as human beings, we are probably more alike than we ever suspected. There was a time when slavery was considered by many to be perfectly all right and was condoned even from pulpits all across our country. It seems we can justify almost anything, at least for a while.

It would be a much more harmonious world if we could remember that everyone has a life story to tell and that all those stories contain elements of pain and joy, despair and hope, ignorance and awareness, fear and courage that, in their purest forms, have not changed so very much over many thousands of years, any more than the human face itself has changed in that time.

Our human tendency to look down our noses at others who are different in some ways is perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks impeding enlightenment, and it is a stumbling block that cannot really be removed by technology alone. In that sense, we have a long way to go before we reach any mountain top or promise land.   JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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