PART TWO OF THE SERIES CULTURAL BLINDERS
As I processed into the Ft. Leonard Wood army reception center, my blinders soon developed some transparencies. I could see, not too clearly, things to the side I never noticed before.
After testing they invited me enter officer candidate school. This required a further 4 year enlistment after completion with no guarantees if I washed out. No thanks. Please God, just get me through here and basic training. Lord, love a duck! What was this place? The blinders had to come off as a matter of survival. I needed to become as invisible as possible. I knew this from lessons my father had learned. Situations he dealt with when he was a young man required him to do this, and they had worked.
Army basic training, military police school, and the 504th MP battalion immersed me in army culture, a subculture of its own. I had a chance to experience (forced) social interaction at work. We had people from all ethnic backgrounds, and races. I made a few friends and we learned to work as a team. It allowed new observations. Before, I was distinctly uncomfortable with African-Americans and poor whites, for example. In the army different races or economic groups did not necessarily mean they might target me. So long as I was mostly invisible I was O. K. There were, and still are today, those who become targets for the rest. It Is hard to not become part of such a pack. Subgroups joined together when such action happened. Subgroups were the same then as those which develop in society today: socioeconomic, racial, and such. Since there were very few with my background (and I thought those few were snobs), a number of us never really never joined a specific subgroup.
What we did and how we trained were usually great. Much of it was enjoyable since no war was on. Lessons were pounded home by the army. Today I can rattle off my serial number and I’m still aware which illnesses and injuries could be courtmartial offenses. I also learned to really wash and clean things. . …My wife says I must have forgotten these particular lessons.
- surprise, surprise. Here we come. (actually an IDF helicopter)
When I went back to college, my now translucent blinders automatically popped back on. Theywere just different. The blinders had become see through, sort of, so I could see things to the side I missed before. These college people were definitely more interesting than before, too…..
My interest in people had grown in the service. Social science now attracted me. So I switched from engineering (where I failed mechanical drawing) to liberal arts and majored in psychology and sociology, and minored in anthropology. Only with hindsight did I discover that another new tint was on my side blinders. It became tinted even more differently when my girlfriend became a serious item. She was super attractive and irresistible. Wow, what a fox. A very different background from any I had known. She spoke little english until she entered 1st grade, even though she was born and raised in New Jersey. Her father and grandfather were slovak Lutheran pastors who traced their background to the old country. They ministered to slovak immigrants and slovak background descendants in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Needless to say, this background was even more strange to me than was the army. On graduation I entered Methodist seminary on the Northwestern campus.
Scots and Slovaks. Even the maps are oriented differently, North – South versus East-West. Can we successfully get together? We could, although that journey is for another time.
I had discovered that it is often better to seek forgiveness rather than ask permission. So we eloped several weeks after I entered seminary, and then had to face our parents. They reacted differently. My parents regretted the lack of a big church wedding and the opportunity to reap wedding gifts after all those years of giving to others. Questions about nationality and church membership had not come up with my family. For her parents the main problem was that I was not Slovak, and not even Lutheran. The first thing her father asked me was to see the marriage license. Only then did we come in. He conducted a church blessing of our marriage soon after. Her mother always had a problem remembering our last name.
We settled in Indianapolis for a year, had our first daughter, and attended a neat Lutheran Church. I sold life insurance for the same company Dad worked for. The local general agent was a friend of the family. To my “strong theological and church views”, I didn’t see much difference in churches.To me, Methodists and Lutherans were basically the same. I joined the Lutheran church (LCA), kept my wife happy, and applied to seminary.
I had my choice of two seminaries. Apparently it made a difference to many Lutherans which variety of Lutheran one chose. My choice was not the Missouri Synod, but rather the then Lutheran Church in America. The various Lutheran denominations were descended from different European immigration waves further divided by national groups. What did I know? The main cultural adjustments in seminary were learning the histories about Lutheran Germans, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns, with one small Slovak group. My new church included all these. Very few Scots, and the wrong Slovak group according to Missouri Synod Lutherans. Ethnic differences and rivalries were front and center in my studies. Birth of our son was a happy event. New tints and shades rippled across my side blinders. Finally it was on to the first of two Lutheran parishes in northern Indiana.
NEXT: CULTURAL BLINDERS – THE RELIGIOUS SCENE
What shaped you in young adulthood?