Friday, March 27, 2009

Everyone will fail you; keep trying

Ah, so I suppose I lied. However, posting once in March does give the post sequence a pleasing symmetry, so I've forgiven myself and I think you should too.

Also, home ownership is nice, thank you very much; pleasant and overwhelming. I just have to keep reminding myself to take it one repair at a time; it sat empty for at least six months before I got it, and even the really terrifying repairs (drainage!!!!!) will be alright till the end of the week. Meanwhile, I pace, stretch, sleep, and dream of turning the roof into a power source, the living room into a dance studio and the basement into a library--but as I said, one project at once. :)

Now that you are all updated, I can move on to being excessively morose and impassioned about things nobody cares about or can change, like self-immolation, and food. I know you're all on the edges of your seats. Ready?

Anyone I talk to often knows that I obsess a lot about "my" kids, most of them people in extraordinarily painful and probably hopeless circumstances. One of the ones I've been most worried about is in her mid teens, and has been in foster care since she was a toddler. Perhaps some of you can relate to the experience of being shunted from one place to the next; perhaps some of you know what it feels like to be abandoned by your family, and some of you may have experienced massive trauma and its aftermath. There might even be someone reading this who has had the experience of aging out of the foster care system--and if this is you, you are probably aware of how likely it is, in that circumstance, for a person to shortly end up crazy, homeless, or dead.

In my efforts to help this friend secure a home before being dropped headfirst into adulthood, there's a particularly important step that I've been working on. I've been trying to hammer the point that even if she had joined up every gang, tried every drug, broken every window, and burned down every shed she'd come across, she would still deserve a safe and loving home in which to grow up. Every child, no matter how ignorant, violent, or difficult, deserves to be kept safe and to be unconditionally loved.

This is a hard lesson to swallow, after a life like that, because it means you can no longer run away. It isn't because you weren't trying hard enough, it wasn't because you were dirty, or stupid, or deeply inadequate as a human being. It wasn't because no one cared. Talk of personal responsibility and systemic inevitability, in this context, adds only mud; you didn't get a family because the world we live in is profoundly, heartrendingly, terrifyingly unjust.

It is perhaps my favorite thing about humanity that when finally confronting ourselves with this kind of truth, we begin to calm. Regardless of all that we've been taught for our whole lives--about hard work paying off, about how being healthy means not getting hung up upon these things--this is what we see in our everyday. Injustice is the truth we feel and breathe. To touch it, name it, can be profoundly sane-making--perhaps because the only way to look such monstrosity unflinchingly in the eye is with an aim to change it.

And that is how we should be.

For systemic violence, systemic change.