To shun

According to my Webster’s 9th New Collegiate Dictionary, to shun is “to avoid deliberately and habitually.” I once picked up a hitchhiker who lived in a Mormon polygamous town of Arizona City. He had gone to visit his mother in Utah, and for this act of defiance to the local community, he was being shunned by the rest of his extended family. Even as he was hitchhiking on a blistering hot July afternoon, they had driven by him and ignored him. With his red hair and fair skin, he was a prime candidate for heat stroke.  He was the one who explained the shunning to me.

I’ve heard shunning described in other cults and families. Basically, “you are dead to me” would sum up the situation of one being shunned. In this young man’s case, he didn’t have a lot of other social groups to interact with or lean on in his isolation. He seemed resigned to his fate; perhaps the full ramifications hadn’t hit him yet.

I wonder what would happen if we, as a nation, were to shun the man in the White House. No rallies, no protests, no op-ed pieces in the newspaper, no stories in the news. Just a national cold shoulder that says “you are dead to us.” For such a man who courts a camera in every action he takes, who thrives on controversy and chaos, such a silence would be deafening. One time I returned late to my classroom, and they had turned their desks to face the back of the room and were perfectly still. I guess they thought I would be outraged. Instead, since they were quiet and still, I was able to take attendance quickly and said nothing. This rattled them to a point where they quickly turned their desks back around and I started the class as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. I’m not sure where I was going with that point, but the act of shunning, of turning our backs to “the teacher” is a passive act of resistance. For a moment, there is a shift of power. I wonder if any politician can handle being shunned, much less the man in the white house. It’s a thought.

On a sadder note: I came back from the gym and saw the workmen next door cutting down both the chinaberry trees at the old Josephson house. The one closer to my house was still living but both came down. Where will the birds go? My morning meditation is bereft of the stimulation of small birds flitting about the gnarled branches of the old tree. I took a picture and sent it to Gary. No response. Am I being shunned?


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