Friday, June 3, 2016

All I need is an apple pie!

All I need is a great big lattice crust apple pie in this photo to represent some of the things that make my life in America great. Kitty No-No knows one word, and that is EAT. He runs to the kitchen when I say that word. He's my sweet old boy who rolls on his back for a belly rub. The book in this photo will be available Tuesday. My latest story is in Chicken Soup for the Soul Spirit of America. Baby Liam's image on a pillow in a beach chair reminds me of all the beach vacations I have ever taken. One day I hope to see his little footprints in the wet sand. America is changing. Agree?
"Only in America" is a phrase I've heard many times. Its implication is that our constitution assures citizens many freedoms. Lately those three words have taken on new meaning. 
The morning news covered political chaos and bloody riots at a rally. Hand to hand combat for differences of opinions?! What has America come to?
More than ten years ago we were at the airport waiting to board a plane. I was seated near the gate across from an attractive, well-dressed Russian woman and her male companion, about 30 years old. The woman's tone of voice (in Russian), her facial expression, and animated movements indicated agitation.

Takeoff  had been delayed due to a mechanical problem. Airport personnel made an announcement that repairs were underway and our flight would be postponed about an hour.
An hour had passed and the woman shook her head and angrily asked me in English, "Do you believe this delay!? In America you can say what you want. That's right? Yes?"

I nodded politely. "Yes, pretty much so."

"Not in Russia." She turned to her partner and sounded off again.
When she wasn't complaining to him, she paced the concourse, her high heels clicking. She stood at the window and stared at the plane. She flicked her long hair back off her face, click clacked over to me and sat in an empty chair beside me.
 "So, why you don't go ask them how much longer!? You are an American. You Americans have freedom of speech, no? You can find this out for me."

I smiled and nodded. "Yes, we have freedom of speech, but the gate attendant can't answer that question. They will let us know as soon as the repairs are made, and then we can board. It shouldn't be too long. See that mess out there." I pointed to a puddle of engine fluid beneath the plane. "The mechanics are fixing the problem. It won't be much longer."
"But, how long?! Why won't you go ask? You're not upset?!" She stared at me in disbelief, sized me up. Then she flipped her hair, raised her chin, moved back to her original seat, and complained loudly in English to anyone who would listen. With a broad sweep of her hand, she addressed the crowd, "Only in America! All you people, and not one of you speaks up. I do not understand this. What good is freedom of speech if you people do not use it?"

Most ignored her, and she finally quieted down. After a two hour delay, we boarded the plane for our long-anticipated vacation, and I had no further contact with her.

Although that incident happened years ago, it serves as a reminder of my right to dissent, to protest, to question, to express an opinion, to write about an incident and to question authority.

Yes, indeed, speaking up and speaking out are privileges and constitutional rights most of us take for granted. From the cradle to the grave we assert ourselves, mostly without fear of repercussion. Whether we are speaking, signing, blabbing face to face, or on cell phones, freedom of speech is our birthright.

I regret not explaining to the irate passenger that demanding and protesting loudly does not always bring desired results. Freedom of speech also involves making wise word choices. Tone of voice conveys as great a message as words.

I've taught my children and grandchildren that although they have the freedom to use hostile, demanding verbiage to assert themselves, calmly addressing a situation usually makes for a more peaceful outcome.

Where has civility gone?



Debra Mayhew said...

Linda, I LOVE this! Especially the reminder that wise word choices often produce better results. Just because we CAN say whatever we want doesn't mean we SHOULD. I like the way Abraham Lincoln put it: "If I would win a man to my cause, I must first convince him that he is my friend."

K9friend said...

Having dealt with an annoying array of robotic phone call loops trying to reach a real, live person to untangle a mess not of my making, this is a timely post. Of course, I guess it's not as bad when you're driven to yelling at a recorded voice.

Critter Alley

Connie said...

Choosing the right time and place to speak up is as important as what is said, I think. It seems like the woman from Russia should have gone and asked her questions herself instead of expecting others to do it for her, since she was the one who was so impatient and demanding. Of course, like you said, she would have found out for herself that she would still have to wait for the announcement too like everyone else. I would prefer a delay and a safe plane than leaving on time on an unsafe plane. Happy weekend to you, Linda! :)

Val said...

Well said. But how did you get that cat to POSE for you!

Merlesworld said...

Well what can I say, freedom of speech is important but you must know when and how to express yourself and consider others feelings, sometimes it pays not to say a word.

Janet, said...

Yes, we have freedom of speech, but some people take it to the extreme. Seems like she was a very impatient Russian. And, yes, a piece of apple pie would be nice. Congratulations on your story getting in Chicken Soup.

Cathy C. Hall said...

Congrats on your latest CS story--and that pillow with Liam on it? Adorable!

Well said--and well told--story, Linda!