, who, as "writing coach" is helping me to find the umph I've been missing to write like I would like to while living the way I would like to (which I'm sure, one day, I will), that there are an awful lot of people in the current American economy who have begun freelancing. These formerly middle-class people, without healthcare, without a nice office to go to every day, have skills and time on their hands and are perhaps noticing how nice it is to have time on their hands, if indeed their basic physical needs are still being met through the work they create. This may be dubious, I know. I know all too well. These people, though, thought Zein and I, might very well be in a state of mind where they can participate in the world of children, in the moral instruction of children.
I know that the meeting one's basic physical needs and leading a wholesome life in our culture is dubious, however, because this is kind of what I am trying to do, and if it were not for the kind support of my ex-husband, I would not be doing. And I am intentionally unemployed. Let me tell you about the book I'm trying to write and publish. It's a
child's journal of development, designed to both document the future conscientious objector status of a young child and create learning opportunities, through the use of thought questions and lesson suggestions, in the development of pacifism. My teenage son is the illustrator.
The big idea I have is really in the giving of the book. The book is meant to be a gift from a concerned adult. Since "god parent" is a relationship in decline -- even if one has a god parent they don't actually help to raise you and support your spiritual or moral development -- this book is meant to be a tool in, not only the effective moral instruction and protection of children, but in the establishment of an adult/child friendship that works to be benefit of everyone involved. It is a tool for the re-establishment of the "the village."
Here's my puzzle. And because of John, my dear former husband and baby daddy, the puzzle does not yet quite involve money for survival (though if I ever want to have any savings and not be in serious debt, it does now): the puzzle is how in the hell do I live the way I want, being available to my children, my friends, to life and to joy, and focus the way I must to write a book? I keep coming back to involving more people in the production of the book. That must be the answer. I don't know how to do that, however.
People don't just come out of the woodwork. What do I ask for? What if what I ask for isn't given? Should I ask for money (ala kickstarter) to pay for services I need to make myself available -- a housekeeper, some childcare every so often, an editor, some recreation, some restaurants, supplies...the list could go one and on. Things that we don't share the responsibility for in our world, yet I need the sharing of in order to share myself at all, in person or in the writing of this book. And if I ask for money, do I only ask for money, or do I ask for specific help too, and who and how do I ask? How do I know what is possible? What does cooperation mean, really? Does it mean my being available but not getting my own needs met? Can't be. I'm not just a nice lady. I want solidarity. Where do we start when the vision of solidarity requires, perhaps, not having it in the moment? Is it a matter of social skills, as I have long thought? And if I am awkward, which I am, having been only partially parented myself, what then?
What say you? This making a living and being in the world is hard stuff.
It was pointed out to me recently by my friend
The next thing we watched was CNN. Pictures of dead people, pieces of people, dead children, covered in bruises and wounds from torture, in Syria. Everyone kept eating and chatting and glancing at the news cheerfully. "Excuse me, I'm sorry, I can't eat and watch people being hurt." Did I want to change the channel? The wait staff looked confused and a little annoyed. John said, "There are dead people on TV." New channel.
It was the weather. Some show about tornadoes ripping up people's homes and leaving them shattered and lost.
The clink of glasses, spoons and bowls, a beautiful Fall evening with my glowing family, these children I love, to the tune of a screaming world, out there somewhere, background noise or entertainment, coming closer.
Silence of the lambs indeed.
I took my family out to a restaurant for dinner the other day. There was a television. Silence of the Lambs started up. I told the waitress, who was Vietnamese, "you may not know this, but this is a movie about a man who eats people." She looked puzzled and asked if I wanted then to change the channel. Yes, I did. The restaurant was buzzing, it was packed.
" with which I am so obsessed? It was first the idea that the people over which we have the most influence are the people who know us best. Parents have enormous influence over children, for instance. Children, in my experience, also have enormous influence over parents. I was, in fact, radicalized, by the birth and circumstances around the birth, of my first son, when I was a very young woman. My love for him taught me, a child who still existed in a Victorian romantic fantasy, to look at the animal world. The real world in which even Dickens was wasted and soiled. Our poverty was physical and so was my neighbors. It was my love for him that led me to understand what we were doing to children all over the world. It's a story I tell all the time. I wanted activists to use their influence over those who love them. Our friends and families.
I was offended by, among other things, campaigns in which organizers were "parachuted" in, in "blitzes," where one goes in like a soldier, like a navy seal with a clipboard, and a rating system in which the people one meets are assigned a number based on their agreement with the leadership of the organization and their
ability to convince others to agree as well, their own leadership potential in combination with their loyalty to "the message." I was offended by having an assigned "turf," like some street dog, in which I rated others and my job was to never deviate from the recorded message. And certainly to never have real, organic relationships with those I worked with, or for, or with what seemed to me the subjects of our organizing, something like the subjects of an experiment in a mad scientist's lab. It never felt like justice. And I couldn't be convinced that even winning the goals of an organization's leadership, even though they may be sound goals in and of themselves, was truly a win in the context of the culture this kind of organizing created.
It felt like fracking
for freedom. I was never sure this was possible. Freedom and justice and love and solidarity can't be dug for like natural gas. These are not physical resources. They are spiritual.
Can you do cultural violence and in the end have the kind of community competence
necessary to keep on winning, winning something more than a 10 cent pay-raise, or a new bus, or whatever resource that community needed in that moment? It always seemed that the resource we most needed were social skills, the kind that put us in touch with each other, our best renewable resource, with which, if you are a believer in organizing in the first place, are the way we can move mountains. We are our own golden egg laying hen. When we frack for freedom, do we kill the hen?
What is the "
Talking with her a few weeks ago left me with the following pieces of thoughts.
If whiteness is kind of a new concept which came about as a convoluted result of the movement toward home ownership and suburbia
(we white people were once Irish, Italian, Polish...), and if race is imaginary (while racism is real), then is it possible that what was once "white" culture is, in our current social context, "professional" culture? I mean, look at our president, look at the MLK memorial and its corporate sponsorship
-- the same sponsorship that goes to making war and leaving people in poverty.
Is there an evil that manifests itself in many forms -- for example in institutional racism, sexism, classism -- and can it be described in some way as "the evil of whiteness?" Which is not to say the evil of people of visible European descent, because evil is not genetic and I know, for all of my white Southern culture's faults, we are not evil -- but is it the evil of washing away what is organic and real and vital between human beings? The mind numbing evil of the suburbs. The evil of washing away the soil in which we all must grow. Are our roots left naked, perhaps wrapped in a plastic boundary, like cut flowers in the supermarket? Did we once call this nudity "whiteness," and do we call it now "being professional." This is
the overall effect of imperialism and of corporatism, I think. This boundary is what has allowed slavery and what allows us now to not collapse at the opening of the newspaper each morning.
There is a children's folk story I read once, I think from India, where the king does not want his feet to be dirtied, so he orders the earth covered in leather. This makes it impossible for the people to live, because they cannot grow food, and when it rains, it floods them out. And so, a wise man creates the first shoes for the king, so that the rest of the world may have the life giving dirt again.
I am about as pale as "white people" get, and yet I am not white in color. I'm more a mixture of pink and blue. Why do brides wear white? It was to say they were pure and clean and virginal, back when our mothers were married. We still wear white to say these things even though there is little pressure in mainstream culture to be pure, as in virginal, anymore. Though the artifice remains. Why is it meaningful to us still? Why was that color -- white -- given to me to define me? To connect me to a culture of imperialism, in which my ancestor's buy-in was at one time necessary? Who must buy-in now and to what? When my former husband John once worked for HR Block as a tax preparer -- a temporary, crappy job -- I remember they were all given baseball caps as a prize at their orientation. The hats simply said "professional." Why the artifice?
Where is the power in that connotation? And what will we do for it?Well, what have we done for whiteness?
And what good did it do any of us, really?
I'm not sure I'm having a whole thought, as I alluded to, really I'm pretty sure I'm not -- but, is it possible that there is an evil that we are not getting at and uprooting that goes beyond all of its symptoms, all of its artifice? The evil that is behind imperialism and its wars, behind racism, something much deeper than the things many of us have spent our lives fighting from within the evil, separated from each other by it, even as we fight?
A new friend of mine, Maggie, a fellow student at Goddard College, is working on a project that involves both growing a good lawn this year and thinking through some sticky places in labor history and union history. And suburbia.