“Progress Is Our Most Important Product”*


[Russian submarine from the Cold War era, Maritime Museum, San Diego, CA]

Saturday I spent some time at FirstBuild, a state-of-the-art machine shop cum high-tech appliance incubator in Louisville, KY run by GE. Talk about a layered experience!

A little background: My beloved father, who died in 2010, worked for GE for many years in war time and peace time, inventing both the butter conditioner (the little box in your refrigerator that keeps butter at its optimum temperature) and the computer used as a machine-gun defense system for the B-29; “the plane that won World War II.” He also sold GE television equipment in the earliest days of TV and as a “Cold War warrior” (and self-labeled “merchant of death”) negotiated contacts between GE and the military. So wandering through GE factories or TV studios some random Saturday to stare, stupefied, at work benches and machinery and dials and gauges and fancy, mysterious equipment, carefully stepping over jumbles of wires as my father excitedly explained The Latest Thing/GE’s newest project was something I did as a kid.

More context: A couple of weeks before, I’d given a talk re Way Opens and my own experiences during the Civil Rights Era to a group of bright, tender middle-school students at Cambridge Friends School. Who were “heavy,” as their teacher put it, Freddie Gray’s death much on their minds. Their collective heaviness stays with me.

So there I was, gobstruck by the cool, nifty appliances in FirstBuild’s showroom and my first look at a 3-D printer and, knowing how much my dad would have loved every single moment, desperately missing him. And aware that despite all this progress, just blocks away people of color were living under pretty much the same conditions as they had during the Jim Crow era.

See what I mean by layered?

* GE’s slogan during the 50s and 60s, i.e. the Civil Rights and Cold War era.


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  1. Dear Patricia,

    Hi, there, my so, so very dearly special and precious white sisterfriend who you are For Always so, so very much, Patricia! I love this exciting and fascinating blog post article of yours, and the title is just so right and applicable in saying, “Progress Is Our Most Important Product.” I love this blog post article, sister! It sounds like you had a grandly exciting and inspirational time at FirstBuild, sisterfriend! My friend, I pray, wish and hope that I can visit there someday as well in order for me to have a beautifully layered experience as well just as you did as well, Patricia! Patricia, I didn’t know that your dearest and darling late father invented the butter conditioner!!!!!! Wow, wow, wow and a zillion wows, sister!!!!!! Patricia, I now know who to thank and to be grateful for in your dearest and darling dad for my butter staying at the exactly right texture and consistency in my refrigerator-not too hard and not too soft because I don’t like it too melted or too hard!!!!! I thank your late father so, so very much for this because I like my butter to be just so, sister!!!!!!! What a creative genius your late father was, sisterfriend!!!!!! He sounds like such an amazing person, Patricia!!!!!!! I appreciate your dear dad so, so very much!!!!!!!

    You are so right, Patricia-inventions and technology do very much indeed enhance and bless our lives, making things more efficient, productive, less time consuming, and easier for all of us!!!!!!! It is just so great and wonderful to have creative geniuses who dream imaginatively and who create these gifts and blessings with such brilliance for all of us like your dearest and darling father, Patricia!!!!!

    Patricia, please have a totally terrific and a thrilling Thursday, and may all of your days be so, so very especially blessed!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my precious white sister, Patricia, with Peace and Love To You For Always, my white friend, with Blessings and Even More Blessings To You For Always,

    Your Christian lesbian black sisterfriend For Always in solidarity, Sherry Gordon

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