Monday, July 14, 2008

Dreams of Our Daughters

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.



Unknown said...

I'm tired of stories about daddy. I long for the quest for mommy story or, better, the redemption story. Mommy is so relevant. I was thinking today about the quest for father, enacted consciously, through Obama and was wondering if it's subconsciously a redemption of mother story. It's amazing how much of Obama's self-mythologizing has become the dominant mythology. To answer the question "Who is Obama?" we rely solely on him to tell us, either through his books or the conversation he insists on having.

I think I read somewhere that for Hillary's mother, the quest for mother was dominant, which would mean that it's also part of Hillary's inheritance and I think that comes through. I see it on some level in photographs or YouTube moments of her with young women.

After studying Hillary for a year I came away with one truth about her. She is genuinely compassionate, especially to the plight of women, of all ages and backgrounds, and that compassion is a motivating force for her.

I'm not saying she's a saviour or a saint but I'm 43 and have never thought that about a potential presidential candidate before. It's a compelling factor.

I always thought her husband performed his compassion but was too self-obsessed to really feel it. I think she embodies an awareness of others that both her husband and Obama perform to the tee. Maybe that's why the conversation Obama seems to insist on is so shallow to me.

Glad you're back.

ps, wondering what your thoughts were on the cover of the New Yorker.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for coming back. There are very few blogs where thinking is necessary and where the comments are not of the nah nah nah and blah blah blah. There two other women blogs that are intelligent enough to read, but they don't have your reader community.

The indignities of life are suffered individually. Whether you questionable or missing parents or if you suffer from a chronic disease and shuttle from physician to another and from one clinic to another.

Recovering or gaining your dignity and the sure footing is and will be personal. There is no substitute to your own climbing from the dark hole into the sunshine.

what a decent government and party must do is help generate work for teens that need it. Provide enough support to schools in poor neighborhoods, have guidelines for teachers how to deal with disadvantage kids with missing or imprisoned parents. After all, most of the drug war prisoners are imprisoned for no good reason anyway,

Mitigating the sick indignities is highly personal and is made easier by a decent health insurance. Many of the sick don't have the insurance that allows you be treated at will.

As the rich became richer, they became greedier and ruder. The bible has a nice sentence that summarizes this reality. It say something like: "as Israel got fatter it started to kick." Fatter means richer. Our society is exceedingly rich but even that is a finite blanket. The better the head is covered, the more are the feet and legs exposed.

The rich, and their friends in the DNC, don't care about the poor anymore. Bernie Frank may but Steny Hoyer, whose districted is one of the least affluent in the DC area, doesn't. We have a teachers union but not a students union; they don't vote - fuck them.

Progressives try to help everyone needing help. The Democrats have abandoned progressiveness and the two candidates for president are right wingers. The little man and the little woman are on their own and worse off they have been in decades.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough Isak Dinesen was the penname of Karen Blixen - another woman hiding herself to be able to succeed.

pm317 said...

The celebrity culture has invaded the presidential contests (perhaps started in 2000 with the "you can have a beer with" guy.) and is at its peak with Obama. Running a government is serious business and people have willingly voted for the guy who said he was not interested in policy and its operational details -- who are these people? The rich and the type who don't need government services but its influence (or lack of it) to make them even richer. I thought that the Democrats were interested in the safety net aspect of a government but no longer it seems. I don't like what has become of the party this election.

Shainzona said...

I read a post yesterday that gave a first-hand account of the FISA vote in the Senate. The writer talked about how Obama walked into the chamber chewing gum and high-fiving (not literally) his fellow senators as he passed them by. Kind of like a jock hero in high school arriving for an awards banquet.

HRC came in much quieter - no interaction between the two except for a hand shake and pat on her arm as he left (and left our Constitution in tatters) and was walking by her.

I don't like BO. This is part of why I don't like BO. I've always thought that in becoming the phoney that he is he had so many other better and more interesting people he could have "become"...and he picked the worst of them.

He is truly a sad human being. But that does not make him POTUS material by any stretch of his imagination.

Sextus Propertius said...

Welcome back, Anglachel - speaking for this household, we've missed your thoughtful and literate commentary. Like you, I'm a little tired of No Quarter's obsession with the circumstances of Obama's birth. It's irrelevant, just as Hillary's marriage to the Lothario of Little Rock was irrelevant. There are so many more important things to worry about.

I don't need a birth certificate to have doubts about Obama. His inexperience and narcissism, the bizarre cult of personality created by his campaign, the corporatist agenda cloaked in faux-progressive rhetoric, and the fascistic suppression of anyone who questions the Leader and his agenda were quite enough for this 52 year-old, life-long Democrat.

Unknown said...

Shainzona, do you know where I can find the post you're referring to?

Anonymous said...

I think your post explains a lot about why so many of us attempt to deconstruct Obama's life and psychoanalyze his issues with his parents, women, his reasons for attending TUCC, how he really feels about his white mother and grandparents, his stepfather, or his half-Indonesian sister, etc.

It's partly because many of us who don't buy into his self-mythologizing haven't figured out who he really is and what he stands for both in politics and in his personal life. I imagine that if he was frank about his family as well as his inadequacies, disappointments, and possible shame, his autobiography would be a much better one and there wouldn't be so many questions or controversies surrounding his birth certificate, his middle name, or the Muslim rumors.

Part of the reason why he felt the need to kick out Muslims from his "unity" rally in Detroit and why we get covers like the New Yorker with Obama in Muslim garb is because of his secrecy and self-mythologizing and his own choice to romanticize his life rather than actually tell us the truth. It makes it easier for the right wing and those opposed to him to make up stories to explain his decisions as a bi-racial man who has chosen to run his campaign on the basis of calling his opponent and her supporters racists.

I find it to be very sad because he had the opportunity as a bi-racial man with a unique story to connect with so many people of different races and faiths. Instead he decided that the only way to win would be to divide us even further apart and instead connect to affluent white Americans who would rather read the romanticized version of a minority who has made it rather than the raw details of others whose lives are filled with poverty, drugs, violence, racism, and sexism.

I don't care about Obama's birth certificate but as with his recent political decisions, he has no one to blame but himself for why so many liberals who should be united in taking back the White House feel hurt and betrayed and therefore use any excuse such as a birth certificate to attempt to find out who he really is and what he stands for.

campskunk said...

sarah ferguson:

d. cupples posted the blog entry about the FISA vote and obama's and hillary's actions on the senate floor at Buck Naked Politics here.

Anonymous said...

I also want to say that I am still a fan of NoQuarter but I visit mainly for Larry Johnson's posts. He's allowed too many people to blog on his site and some posts do not reflect Larry's opinions. For example, Larry did not find the New Yorker cover funny or satirical but you'll find a post before his defend the cover art. He needs to take control of his blog and pick bloggers who won't resort to racism, sexism, or conspiracy theories. Sexus Propertius - I agree that it doesn't take much to plant seeds of doubt about Obama. Larry's opinions on Obama's lack of foreign policy experience is more than enough to convince most us that Obama is not ready to be commander in chief.

Shainzona said...

Sarah Ferguson: It was over at No Quarter and I think the poster was Deb Cupples.

Anna Belle said...

First, dang you! I had a post for tomorrow all planned out called "Dreams from Your Mother." I may still have to use it anyway, because it's different than what you've articulated--it's about single mothers.

Anyway, second, I want to say that while I understand about that dream of looking forward, and agree that we do need that, I must say that we need not do that at the expense of our history.

I wrote an essay a few days ago called Eyes on the Prize.

In it I discuss what I believe is one of the major reasons that people are more sensitive to racial hostility than they are to gender hostility, which is the domination of black history during January and February in the schools for the last 30 years, from kindergarten on up. As I teacher, I see exactly how this has happened, because I know there is no parallel focus for women. Though March is women's history month, it is not covered as standard curriculum the way black history is for the entire two months preceding.

We need a model like that for women. We need to make our history a major part of the curriculum for children for years and years. It's called indoctrination, and it will be necessary if we are to enjoy the kinds of successes the black community has achieved in the last 30 years. It will be hard to do, and will have to be forced, just as MLK, Jr's birthday holiday was, but once it's in place, I guarantee you'll start to see successes.

Sorry to ramble, btw. Great post, as usual.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Here's an astonishing little story out of Reuters:

Clinton Vows To Fight "Insulting" Abortion Plan

The former Democratic presidential candidate joined family planning groups to condemn the proposal that defines abortion to include contraception such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices.

It would cut off federal funds to hospitals and states where medical providers are obligated to offer legal abortion and contraception to women.

Huh. Say, I wonder if Backtrack Obama's going to fight this as well?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I will write-in Hillary no matter what the ballot will look like on the Election day. Please go on, Hillary!