Follow by Email

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Cousin Vinnie

The latest Scientific American ports a study of Neanderthals. It seems they were actually a homo sapiens having the capacity for symbolic action and expression that we connect with thinking.

So I can no longer call my Cousin Vinnie a Neanderthal. I never did, of course. Except in my own head.

I have used Cousin Vinnie as a foil in many of my essays to distinguish a progressive from a regressive way of thinking. Friends have asked me, "Does Cousin Vinnie really exist?" Well yes he does, but not by that name.

I suppose that we actually love and even like each other even though each of us sees the other as so misguided. We see the world and especially the political and economic world so very differently. What I find funny, he does not. What he does, I find pretty lame. Not all but a lot of it. My take is that different sets of values supported by different narratives of the meaning of our own experiences (and therefore the meaning of our life and our universe) shape not only our beliefs in religion and politics, but also our facts.

He is a conservative Catholic with a bad labor union experience even though he comes from a blue collar family. I left Roman Catholicism and do not even consider myself Christian--at least not any more than Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, or Muslim. I come from a white collar family in which my Dad was a auto company manager who had to negotiate regularly with the UAW. Vinnie joined the Marines and did not go to university. I was a Jesuit seminarian and received many post graduate degrees. He has a gun to defend his home and wife against the feared intruder and enemy. I am afraid of no one but a gun ever since I almost shot my brother's eye out with a BB rifle. He gets most of his opinions from Fox News which he reveres. I read the Nation, the Economist, Mother Jones, and watch only BBC, PBS, and Al Jazeera for news.

Such different experiences and narratives certainly inhibit communication. Yet I am grateful that he hangs in there with me--at least up to now. Since I like him and also because he represents probably the majority of the population of America and the world, I want to be hearing him honestly. I want to understand his fears (of which he has many) and his blames (democrats and RINOs, elites, liberal media and universities, illegal immigrants, people of color getting public aid, Muslims, and government workers who aren't in the military). But because of my own experience and narrative, I probably am not hearing and understanding him well. Are we doomed to be just two opposing bumper stickers facing each other as we take off in different directions.

An email search through my computer hard drive produces many sayings from Cousin Vinnie, probably enough for a small book. So I think I will try to write it. Should be fun.

No comments: