This Fucked Up Place Called America
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," waxing righteously indignant tonight and every night over the great gap between the wealthy few and the needy many. Oh, say. We've come a few baby steps from the slave labor used to build the Pyramids and grow cotton! But generally we're still wired either to dominate or recede.
I live in a place named Snobville. I teach in a place named Camden. It takes me nine minutes to drive to work, from Snobville to Camden.
Yesterday my daughter The Spare used this space to record a conversation she overheard from her classmates in which they extolled the virtue of bikini-shopping and moaned about having to fly to various resorts in coach amongst the "dirty people."
Yesterday and today I walked around my classroom as my students wrote about memorable moments in their lives. My students are nearly the same age as Spare and those girls she overheard.
Here is what is on the mind of my students:
*Mom dying of cancer, making plans with student to care for the younger siblings.
*Cousin being shot in a drug deal gone bad.
*Dad dying of liver cancer.
*Mom dying of a heart attack.
*Mom having so many heart attacks student learned how to dial 911 at age six. Mom has since died.
*Mom can't go home to Mexico to see her dying father because she doesn't have papers.
*Student gets called a gringo by his family in the Dominican Republic because he was born in America.
*Apartment fire, everything lost but our lives.
*Mom and Dad fought so much that a divorce is a relief.
*Cousin died, shot in crossfire.
*First ride in a squad car.
*Mom works six days a week, but on Sunday we have breakfast.
*My brothers were deported. I'll never see them again.
*Dad works three jobs to give us what he never had.
*I'm not allowed to write about my family. We are distantly related to Trujillo.
*No one in my family can speak English but me.
The misery these young people have seen is stunning. Their triumphs are few. Those who are upbeat write about love, parties, music, friends. Teenage things. But a patina of fear and resignation cloaks everything.
Even Spare, dear Spare, does not live with the expectations that her cousins will be shot and her apartment burnt down. But when I think that there are teenagers who wax indignant because they have to fly coach to a Mexican resort, I ... I ...
oh, crap. I feel a Billy Jack meltdown coming on. Clear the streets of Snobville while there's still time.
Labels: Made Anne cry