Saturday, September 09, 2006

World Naked Gardening Day

September 9 is this year's World Naked Gardening day. How will you celebrate? I'm not sure how I will. I'm somewhat modest and the thoughts of somebody seeing me naked...well I have different thoughts, but mostly feel a bit of shame. There are practical considerations too. Small game season has opened and there are hunters about. There are thorns and yellow jacket wasps too. Still being naked in my garden is something I think I'd like; actually I know I do. Especially on those first warm spring days, I'll admit it I've stripped and laid down naked on a big flat rock in the yard. I've also gotten naked to manage my sunken pots in my little fish pond. Perhaps, I'll do that tomorrow. Except the last time I reached into the pond there was a snake.

Silly, my gardening efforts this season have been as about as assiduous as my recent posting here. The grass has grown so tall that the mower chokes and I've left the weeds go so long in the garden beds that I'm creating mountains of debris as I weeds them. My father dug potatoes today. Oh yes, I'm afraid even the vegetable garden went to pot this year. So it was to my great delight to see nice big firm red Pontiac potatoes being dug. I cooked a couple for supper. I'm not sure why but home -grown potatoes taste better and have a wonderful texture even after long storage.

As easy as it's been to neglect my garden this year, it's been even easier to ignore this blog. But today I got a comment from Sokari of Black Looks and she told me "keep blogging." I'm star-struck! I love Black Looks and I have so much admiration for all the efforts Sokari makes to bring new voices to blogging.

Two recent Black Looks posts are important. Sokari documents the gay baiting of a Kampala tabloid called Red Pepper. In A pact against freedom Solkari writes:
The horrific events taking place in Uganda should be a wakeup call for everyone. People may think that they are safe from harassment and arrest because they are heterosexual. Not so, a witch hunt affects everyone irrespective of their sexuality.
In a previous post Gay Hunt Uganda she provides more information about the current odious campaign of Red Pepper.

I'm not at all sure who you are my dear readers, or how in the world you found this blog. But I'm sure any of you who have perused my posts already know I fit the stereotype of silly mzungu. Nevertheless, I truly do believe that what affects one of us affects all of us. And I believe that using the fantastic new tools that modern information and communications technologies we have have the means to collaborate worldwide is ways never before possible. But communicating across cultures indeed has it's pitfalls, so it's good to be wary of them.

The link to A pact against freedom includes the comments and I want to point to Sokari's response to the comment I left there. She wrote in part:
John - I believe if you go down to Kampala today as a gay man or lesbian you will find yourself at best shunned and at worst beaten or even killed - definately you will not be able to return to your house or job. Please let us listen to what is being said by those who are experiencing it and not what we would like to imagine.
I certainly do agree with the importance of listening. And the implicit notion that I have no idea how bad it really is almost certainly true.

When I was a boy we moved to Greenville, South Carolina. Segregation was still very real. Drinking fountains, separate waiting room, very explicit stuff that even a boy of eight couldn't miss. My dear mother in the year or so before she died got a little dotty. One of my nephews was nearly in tears asking me "Why is Grandma so racist?" As near as I could tell what gave him that impression was her use of the word "colored." I really don't remember now, but it's quite probable the context was offensive too. It hurt me because that impression of her as racist was so off the mark.

In the fifties as a girl scout leader she had made sure that all the meetings of the girl scout leaders were in the one restaurant in the area of western Virginia that served both black and white people. She was among the very small group of white teachers who were the first to teach black students in a public school in the very first Head Start program in South Carolina. Her career as a teacher was always in classrooms with both black and white kids or simply black children.

In Charlotte, North Carolina with an extraordinarily hot and contested desegregation plan she invited all the teachers at the school she was teaching at to a party at our house. That the banker neighbor married to a realtor refuse to speak to us afterward bothered her not one whit. I was bothered by the way my peers treated me; oh that dreaded N word. But nothing in my upbringing gave me any reason to adopt a bigoted response to their taunts. I couldn't find the words to explain to my nephew about his grandmother, because I couldn't find the words to explain what it was like then, the times his grandmother lived. Of course I'm pleased my Southern nephew identifies as an anti-racist. In the scheme of things his grandmother was never a bigot when seemingly everyone else was. Bigotry which was once the norm is now disgraced. Praises be!

In the midst of writing this post I chatted with a friend in Kampala about Sokari's posts. He mentioned that he thinks of the words of Martin Luther King and has a dream for Uganda too. The bigotry of Red Pepper is something he's told me about before. The other evening I chatted with another Ugandan in a different part of the country. She was going to watch Hotel Rwanda yet another time. Certainly the bigotry in the film is a different sort from the gay baiting in Red Pepper. But my friends all tell me how corrosive bigotry is, and it is everywhere and various. No, not everyone sees the hatred and abuse of gay people as bigotry at all. In America it's common to hear the sentiment, "How dare they compare gay right with the civil rights struggle." Yet there are voices who understand that the struggle for fundamental human rights includes human sexualities. And there are those who know that bigoted violence against one is violence against all of us.

Few of us can garden outside naked as much as we might be disposed towards doing so. I can probably get away with it here, at least in some parts of my yard. Some of us may have plants inside our house we can safely tend naked. Still, I'm happy for the naked gardeners because they remind us about freedom and that the bounds of freedom can be stretched. People are encouraged to post their World Gardening Day experiences here. Right now I don't know whether I'll have anything to write. I'll just have to see what the day brings.

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