So I'm going to turn this into more of a true journal than a forum for essays. I may still essay, but I will also log notes and items of interest. Too much going on for long, thought-out commentary.
There is a certain dualism at work in my life at present, in that I have been in touch with my old cadre of friends from my teenage years - Kevin, Steve, Frank, Ed, Roger, Mark. Some of these guys I haven't seen in oh, twenty eight years or so.
At the time, I considered us a crew of misfits - the crew that hung together because they had no one else with whom to hang, and so enjoyed each others company. But there is a bond there - these are all intelligent men, some in more than one way.
But each of us is very different. The most common shared interest is motorcycles, but there are several members of the group (myself among them) who have never owned motorcycles. I was perhaps the most misfit of all. A foster child, ridiculed in a new school in the midst of an unfamiliar culture, I nonetheless found in these men - and they were men, even then, the way men should be: independent and clear thinking and gracious to others, even strangers.
So I was, and am each time we get together for a few beers, surrounded not by others like me, but others unlike me, and more importantly, unlike each other, but very accepting of each other for the value they brought to the group (I wonder what my contribution was).
This was and is anew quite different from my military experiences and my banking experiences.
Military experiences for obvious reasons; banking experiences because I worked in a bank that was until fairly recently locally owned, and so there was a kinship there. But in that case, I was the outsider in a room full of people familiar with, and very much identifying with, each other.
It was an experience of the South, as well, with it's uneasy peace between the races. This lack of trust causes each community to tend toward greater internal homogeneity. The reason for this should be clear: each has a defined 'other', and in human experience, 'other' often means or is perceived to mean 'threat', which is often then met with hostility. It is therefore important not to be seen as 'other' and thus to work hard being part of one's culture. Race trumps class, in the South, for the most part.
For this reason, the South seems to me to have a dualistic nature, and there is precious little space for someone not of either camp. We're tolerated, if we remain in our place.
Here in the Finger Lakes, it's different. I am surrounded by sub-cultures, each as different and distinct as the friends I have re-met. The same level of tolerance is there, and acceptance of each group by all other groups - even groups with whom they may deeply disagree - is an expected part of life in this broad community.
This is a strength, undermined somewhat by what my observations suggest is a widespread myopia with respect not to others' viewpoints, but to each subculture's viewpoint. Each seems almost critically unable to perceive the possibility for a larger synthesis in which their views, strengths and skills are brought to bear not as ideals, but as perspectives.
Most groups appear quite hostile to even modest challenges to their particular platform, even when facts are brought to bear.
I intend to pay closer attention to this issue as time passes.