Religion has provided many opportunities for me to see how most people desperately need to feel superior to others, based on reality or not. Sometimes, it is actually funny.
Church made the problem clearest. As a Protestant, every denomination has its own take on scripture. Some emphasize some parts more than others; some are more literal than others. The differences can be very deep. Or a congregation can split over stupid crap because someone felt disrespected. I’ve seen that, too. When I joined the Greek Orthodox Church, I knew that the Orthodox churches were uniform in doctrine. If that didn’t spell equality, I didn’t know what did. No, the Orthodox churches are divided ethnically and by jurisdiction. Greeks feel superior to Russians, who feel superior to Ukrainian, etc. It seems that humans have a need to feel superior to each other, even if they have to make something up! Even with complete doctrinal harmony, people gave each other attitude problems.
Then there are my family’s odd values. When I was in my early 20s, one of my cousins in southern Ohio had a baby. The fact that the child was born out-of-wedlock did not seem to faze anyone, but the fact that the child was half black was scandalous. It made (and still makes) no sense to me, especially since the black grandmother seemed to help out a lot. Morality? Who cares? Racial purity, now there’s a big deal. I started walking away from my family’s values at that point. When Bush I was running again in 1992 on a “family values” platform, I thought he had lost his mind. I definitely didn’t want my family’s values used as a template for society. Whose family values? I hoped to God that he wasn’t talking about mine.
This was on my dad’s hillbilly side of the family. My dad’s dad moved to Michigan, like everyone else, for the factory work. My dad was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. My dad’s mom’s maiden name was Gollihue, very Irish. Call it hillbilly, redneck, or white trash. It’s really all the same to me. When there was slavery, the English owned plantations and slaves. They had money. Other English-speakers (the Welsh, Scottish, and Irish) from the British Isles came over and had little, if any, money. They brought their own hooch recipes, for Irish or Scotch whiskey. They were the type to own a slave or two, if they were doing well, and to work out in the field with the slave(s). My dad’s mom would say, if something were really easy, “We’re in high cotton now!” Only someone who had stooped to pick cotton would say that. We felt superior to blacks picking in the same cotton field, why and how exactly? It makes no sense to this Michiganian daughter-of-a-truck-driver.
My mom’s side of the family had farmers on her mother’s side and Polish people from her dad. There are a lot of Polish people in Michigan and even a part of Detroit that was filled with them at one time: Hamtramck. Remember Pollack jokes? They really upset my grandfather. It turned out that both of my grandfathers worked at the same factory: Motor Wheel.
There’s not a lot of education on either side of my family. I was able to get tax credits every year of school because I was the first in my family to get the amount of education I did. To be honest, the bar was set low; I would have had to limbo under it. I am the most educated person in my family of Pollacks and hillbillies. I don’t see that as a huge accomplishment. Getting my MBA makes me proud, but basically because I did it while dealing with a sick husband.
When I move South, I will bring my equality-minded ideas with me. I am not in a position to look down my nose on anyone.