I was raised lower-middle-class, think Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink (except I had two wonderful parents), sandwiched between a predominantly white, wealthy church body/youth group where I grew up and went to church, and a very-diverse, mixed-demographic student body where I went to school. My family raised me to be very proud of my WASP heritage. I can trace my family lineage back to the actual county and towns we are from: in Ireland (Armaugh, Mullaghmore, Mountnorris), in Scotland ( West Muir, Lugger, Ayreshire), in England (London, Bristol) and Germany (northwestern countryside, circa 1830) where my ancestors arrived from. Growing up, I was privy to cornbeef and cabbage, spatzle, haggis, bangers, Beef Wellington, shortbread, and scones (before Starbucks popularized them). Furthermore, I know just how my family arrived in California, from Pennsylvania, via wagon train on one side, and mule-pack train through the Isthmus of Panama, then via ship, on the other. I am 5th generation Californian on both sides of my family.
I understood early on, the concept of classism and discrimination amongst white folk, and their issues amongst each other, both abroad and here on our patriotic soil. This realization came long before Trump decided to use the bait and switch technique of class and race as his platform for his candidacy.
It is this very awareness of privilege and entitlement, and class struggles, that I believe helps me to grasp the bigger dynamics, in our country, of race and class, discrimination and prejudice, and how everyone benefits from getting along, and why it’s so hard for us to do so. Institutional racism has its’ foundations built on the scaffold of institutional classism. The small group of people who have the most to lose, create the greatest havoc amongst those who have nothing to lose, so that the majority doesn’t rise up against the elite. You get the “majority” to fight amongst themselves, seeing each other as the enemy, then all of them miss the target of the real nemesis. It’s been going on for years in our country, purposely woven conflict to seemingly create “self”-fulfilling prophecy; Native tribe against differing tribe, slaves against poor whites, brown against black, poor men against women, brown and black against yellow; black, brown, and yellow against Middle-Eastern…….the combinations could go on forever. But as long as we see each other as the culprit, the elite remain the elite, untouched.
All of that aside, it was a few months after I was newly separated ( the actual divorce took almost two years to be finalized), that I came to the realization of the freedom of being able to watch movies and TV… whatever I wanted to watch, whenever I wanted to watch it…. such a delicious, glorious freedom. When I had been married, sports had been on 24/7. I was never allowed to watch anything else. I knew the call tunes for every major sporting event, readily accessible in my head, easily identifiable from how many times I’d heard them. In fact, in-utero, my daughter was calmed by the song of the Master’s so much so that, years later, the tune STILL calms her.
Anyway…. I started renting movies. I would rent five or six at a time, sit in my own, comfortingly empty apartment, and zone out, escaping for a few hours from what would turn out to be an absolutely abhorrent, lengthy custody and divorce battle ( that story being for another tatto). Two of the movies I rented were Far and Away and Braveheart. All of a sudden I had two story lines to tack onto my fervent pride in my heritage. And I further fell in love with Celtic designs; their origins, their history,and their beauty.
So, on a dark wintry night in 2005, I drove myself back to Berkeley, and had the same tattoo artist who did my first tattoo, give me my second one; an ode to my heritage… who I am, and why I am the way I am…..a celebration of the pride I felt for being a Scotch-Irish, German, English, American protege….. and also the “Family” I’ve been adopted into.
My faith in God started at a young age. My mom would read me Bible stories every night before I went to bed. My favorite story was the one where Jesus would tell the little children to come unto Him, Matthew 19:14 I had my mom read it over and over again. And again. And then, at age 4, I decided that I wanted to live my life for Jesus…. that I wasn’t my own, I was His. And while that faith has been challenged drastically, and molded and shaped into many new forms, many different times, my identity remains. I am not my own, I am His. And the cross is a constant reminder that He gave His life for me, and so I now choose to life my life for Him.
In the adage of the old world hymn, the one where my grandma would sit beside me on the piano bench, melodiously testifying to her OWN faith in Jesus, the hymn that would later become my all time favorite, ever….. my tattoo is a visual reminder of the lyrics found below:
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown. ”
Tattoo 2, Winter 2005.