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DEBRA HALE-SHELTON: The sneaky complexity of simple things

by Debra Hale-Shelton | July 26, 2020 at 1:41 p.m.

When I was a child, little girls made mud pies and ate candy cigarettes. We also played jacks, hula hooped and worried that Russia was going to bomb us.

When I was a teenager, young ladies ate Jell-O and boiled eggs when on a diet and fondue when trying to be fancy. We wore tie-dyed T-shirts, protested for social change, and mourned one, two, three, four assassinations. Two Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X--did I leave anyone out?

When I graduated from high school, I had it made since I was pretty sure I knew everything there was to know about reading, writing and arithmetic, not to mention getting a job, speaking French ("Ou est la salle de bains?" meaning "Where is the bathroom?") and spending money.

If you don't believe me, just ask other 18-year-olds and feel free to substitute any foreign languages they have studied.

Decades later, I've somehow managed to squeeze in more knowledge. I know not only how to get a job but how to quit or retire from one. I can still spend money but now can also earn it, though not as much as I'd like.

And perhaps most importantly, the next time I go to Paris, I'll know not to ask for the "la salle de bains" as it turns out that may lead me to a room with a bathtub but no toilet. Instead, I'll try asking, "Où sont les toilettes, s'il te plaît?" A disclaimer: This late-life awareness is due not to my taking another French class but to a couple of Google searches.

I'm a senior citizen, like it or not. And most of the time I do not like it. But to keep my train of thought consistent, I'll say that when I became a senior citizen, I discovered the old days had much to offer--heirloom tomatoes, bruised and unshapely but mighty tasty, and rich but delicious basil pesto made with mortar and pestle and a modern food processor.

I don't tie-dye T-shirts these days, though you shouldn't be surprised if you see me at a peaceful protest sometime. The last time I went to one, I was covering a story at Arkansas Tech University for this newspaper. That protest dealt with white supremacism. The first one I attended was about academic freedom when I was a college student.

But mostly these days, I hope, I fear and I learn.

I think of simple things that are no longer so simple:

• Going on a vacation, one further away than northwest Arkansas or Memphis, though I'd happily settle for either of them right now. I'd visit art and historical museums, bookstores, flea markets and good restaurants. Then I remember the coronavirus, and instead settle for a "Law and Order" TV marathon.

• Good health for my mother, my daughter and myself. Then I remember that Mama is 90, that 70 is no longer a distant age for me, and that my 18-year-old daughter has an open-ended lifetime ahead of her.

• An end to my fears of Russia, both as an enemy of our country and as either a friend or a user of President Donald Trump. I don't hear any Civil Defense sirens as I did during the Cold War. I know the Bay of Pigs invasion was long ago and that our teenagers are no longer drafted into war.

But I also know that Russia and Vladimir Putin remain a powerful enemy and that I do not want their help in choosing our country's next president because Putin and I do not share similar values or a love of democracy.

He's OK with murder to get what he wants. I'm not. He might be guilty of offering bounties for our troops in Afghanistan. True, "might be" isn't the strongest of terms. But I think we all know that, love them or hate them, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or Justin Trudeau haven't signed off on any bounties for dead Americans. We'd be stunned if they had, but not so stunned if Putin did.

• That the "greatest" nation in the world wouldn't have such a horrible record of addressing the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the federal government has mostly ignored and denied the extent of the pandemic. Trump seemed to think the pandemic would "go away" until last week when he said it would "get worse before it gets better."

Further, Trump refused to wear a protective mask for months, then suddenly said it's patriotic to do so. So why were there so few masked patriots when he held a huge political rally at Mount Rushmore earlier this month?

And why on earth would anti-

maskers, who often are Trump supporters, hatefully accuse mask wearers, including me, of being "sheep"? First, the masks are primarily aimed at protecting those around us. Second, if I had to choose between being a sheep or a goat, I'd choose a sheep in a heartbeat.

If you went to Sunday School, you'll remember the Bible teaches that Jesus will someday separate people--the righteous from the unrighteous--just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats by putting the sheep on his right side and the goats on the left.

And trust me, if you believe the New Testament, you'd rather be a sheep than a goat because the book of Matthew says those on Jesus' right will get "eternal life" while the unrighteous--those on the left--will get "everlasting punishment."

I'm not saying anyone is going to heaven or hell for wearing or not wearing a mask. And I've nothing against goats. I think they're quite cute. Plus I just made some delicious goat-cheese and truffle ravioli last week.

But the point is, the haters likely include many people who profess to share Christian values. Well, if they do, they need to quit picking on the sheep.

Debra Hale-Shelton can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @nottalking.


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