Still not dead. I was planning and throwing a baby shower for a friend this last weekend (mucho fun!) plus wrestling the demons of stupidity at work (mucho annoying!). There's not been too much in the news compelling enough to get a post out of me.
Mostly I've been braining about the Democratic Party and the anti-Southern strategy it is relentlessly pursuing. I end up with disturbing conclusions. More on that over the next few months.
At the baby shower, one of my friends who is a high school teacher in a poor and working class district talked about the kids she teaches. She has two young women, Latinas, in her class who are doing a little better this year, getting Cs and trying to improve. One of them can't really afford the fees for the equipment and other extras to be a cheerleader, though she scrapes together the money from sponsors. She really likes the cheer squad. One of her parents is in prison on drug charges. The other she says is dead, but is actually suffering from a (too young, too short) life of drug abuse. An older sister, not long out of high school herself, is caring for her kid sister, which means providing a roof and food and hoping the kid follows her example and not that of their parents. Some might dump on this girl because she wants to be cute and sexy and have the crowd applaud. She should be applying herself! The other girl in the class lives with the first and the older sister. Some kind of family trouble. She's a little more studious. Not much else to say about her, except that she is trying to make the right decisions.
Who thinks about these kids? Where are the interests of the working poor being considered and protected? These girls need reliable, affordable contraception. They need some regular adult attention and guidance. They need decent jobs that can help them pay rent and buy the groceries while they get through their dizzy teen years and get a handle on life. They need to not be punished for having been born to shitty parents. They need to be respected for having enough discipline to get sponsors for cheer squad and to raise their grades, even as they are steadily pushed to do a bit more for their own sakes.
I contrast this to the recent rumors that the secrecy over Obama's birth certificate is not some nefarious secret, like he isn't a US citizen, but something far more ordinary - that his parents probably never married in the first place. I said this in private emails to a few bloggers several weeks ago. To me, it isn't something that is anyone's business. But what does bother me is the dreamy fantasy promulgated in his books, a fairy tale romance that he is able to spin out over years and continents, trying to craft a respectable ending for the family's honor if not exactly for the individuals involved. The truth, ironically enough, is more interesting, reflecting a tough minded, independent and determined woman with dreams of her own who may not have been the person her son wanted her to be.
Few of our parents ever manage that trick. Somehow they keep stubbornly being their own people.
The high school girls my friend talked about, one of them has created a story to explain away a parent who won't be there, preferring this person be dead to the fact of abandonment, betrayal, failure. It hurts to have a parent who fails you, and every one of us who has felt such a sting makes up a story to make sense of that unpalatable fact, make it more noble, less painful, displace its shame, deny its damage.
Isak Dineson said that any pain can be borne if you put it into a story or tell a story about it. What matters is what kind of story you tell. Is it a story of reclaiming what never was? Is it a story that acknowledges pain, but makes it a thing that is done and dealt with? Is it a tale that talks about dysfunction with clear-eyed honesty and compassion for all involved? Does it limn an unfulfillable wish, or instead create a foundation on which to build? I suspect most of us recount a mix of such things.
I'm interested in the dreams of our daughters, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and how they can frame a future that is not just drugs, gangs, babies, and relentless second-class status. Maybe one of the reasons the lady in the pantsuit connects with so many daughters is the story she can tell us about herself, and about us as well. Maybe what we need are better stories of the indignities and tragedies of ordinary life that don't have Daddy in another country, but permanently incarcerated, or a blow-hard abusive bastard, or wandering the streets as a bum looking for his next fix, and how you are not condemned to a similar fate.
A dream that looks forward, not back.