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Ancient Attitudes

Pondering bigotry, ignorance and wine

After 500 years of science and billions of dollars spent spreading literacy, we have every right to hope that some ideas and behaviors can be banished forever. But no.

Racism apparently is alive and well, and we’ve been treated lately to some jaw-dropping examples. The pitiable whining by the owner of the LA Clippers — just trying to get laid by a beautiful younger woman and not wanting competition from her contacts with flashy black athletes — those nasty remarks are almost laughable (except by the black players on the team and others in similar positions, and, of course, the young woman herself, oh, and anybody with any sense). 

But the cracks by Nevada cattleman Clive Bundy, a deadbeat trying to duck his debts for grazing his cattle on public lands, those really leave us breathless: “I’ve often wondered, are they really better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things?” Really, that old fairytale of the happy darkies down on the plantation, all their cares and woes banished by benevolent Massa? Aren’t we through with that? Apparently not.

Vile and ignorant as these forms of racism clearly are, recent attacks on women deserve equal repudiation. In Santa Barbara, Elliot Rodgers wasn’t getting enough sex, enough tingle in his twinkie, and so decided to avenge himself by killing six people. But the abduction of hundreds of young girls in Nigeria by Boko Haram, a murderous sect of apostate “Islamists,” constitutes a crime on a scale to rival the nightmares of Rwanda or Darfur: “I will sell them in the market,” Boko Haram’s leader said. He laughed, like an adolescent boy. This is masculine leadership? Please. His name is Abubakar Shekau. He should be found and deposed, and the girls freed.

Racism and misogyny have no place in this world. Both are absurd remnants of a despicable history, based in ignorance. Yet both persist, for no good reasons. Women have proven, again and again, that not only are they essential to the survival of our species, but they are fully capable of performing any valuable task (maybe that’s Shekau’s problem): Smart, competent women run companies and whole countries. They contribute in science and industry, in every phase of human activity.

Since this is primarily a wine column, we happily note that women are having a profound impact on all aspects of wine, from the vineyards to sales. This is especially true in Oregon. One example is particularly apt: Jessica Pittock Shouldis, after service in the U.S. Air Force maintaining F-15s (rising to the rank of tech. sgt.), now makes wine for the Trappist Abbey in Carlton and for Ghost Hill Cellars. And her wines are fine, especially Ghost Hill 2012 Pinot Noir Blanc ($21). This is not a “blush” wine; it’s pinot noir vinified without (much) skin contact, so it’s a white wine (with palest tint) but complex with pinot noir aromas/flavors: pears, peaches, white flowers, apples, finely balanced, lovely match for a wide variety of foods — fish, fowl, light meats. This is a wine experience — and clear proof, if any was needed, that a woman can make superb wine. Somewhere, there should be a glass of this wine waiting for the late, great Maya Angelou.

Many women, too many to list in this brief column, are helping shape Oregon’s modern wine industry, from the fields to tables. We can only hope this helps us break away from centuries of hateful, absurd misogyny.

We should borrow part of Cedric the Entertainer’s lines in the film Be Cool, applicable to racists and misogynists: “The truth is you should just say thank you … and go on about your way.” Thank you.