vendredi, mars 23, 2012

Trayvon Martin, my son and the haters

He's different.

That's what I thought when I looked across the dining room at Wegmans and saw my son hanging out with a group of adults three, four or perhaps five times his age.

It was an Amnesty International meeting. He was making notes, and talking, with a confidence born of many such evenings, to the women and men who surrounded him.

Do-gooders. Idealists. Dreamers.

As I've said before, one can trace an almost direct line from my activist grandmother and great-aunt to my son, who never had the joy of knowing them.

Tall, not a stellar athlete, prone to ask questions about obscure topics or talk to other kids in class about said topics when he is bored, my son stands out.

There have been times, many times, when he has been the target of bullies -- a kid who is the butt of mockery, taunts and denigration.

Like most mothers, I'm a tigress when it comes to making his case to school officials when the tail of the hurricane touches Mr. C.

Increasingly, however, I don't have to -- the boy doesn't need my help as much anymore. And the incidents (thus far this year) seem to be declining.

My son, it hardly need be said, is white.

After reading Michel Martin's essay this morning, the experience of a mother who has a son as precious to her as mine is to me, I pondered again the benefits having a white face, the sheer accident of being born on the Caucasian side of the color line, can bring with it.

One of the primary ones -- in most neighborhoods, under most circumstances, the teen doesn't have to be afraid.

Afraid, as Trayvon Martin was, as we know from the 911 tapes.

Powerless, because, as it turned out, he was being chased by a man who had a gun he wasn't supposed to have on a neighborhood watch (and when, my NRA friends, are you going to speak up against the permissive gun laws that allow people to walk the streets with weapons? The gun lobby doesn't listen to folk like me.)

A suspect in a neighborhood that had struggled with a string of robberies -- just because, most likely, he had black skin.

My son has been a victim of bullying because he walks to the beat of a different drum. Now, he said to me this past week, he chooses friends who will stand up for him.

But Trayvon Martin won't have the opportunity to discover his own inner music any more. There was no one to stand up for him on those streets as George Zimmerman gave chase.

We don't know what happened on the street where the teen was shot to death (though the 911 calls give us some idea).

But it's all too possible that Martin died for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A place that many people of color know all too well.

A neighborhood where the life of a black man is held cheaper than that of others.

It's possible that a young man with a future that could have been as bright as my son's may be is dead -- for the "crime" of being a black man.

Or, to be more precise, a man. A man with a black skin.

Trayvon Martin was afraid.

And when I read about last moments of his life, I am, too.


For all of us.

jeudi, mars 22, 2012

Lean on me (if I can lean back)

I've been pondering an email exchange I had with a fellow in transition, who isn't sure where he wants to go with regard to dating.

The exchange wasn't about whether he should date me in particular.

As I recall, he was hesitant about his readiness to date.

Wise man.

Would many other men (and probably women) be so confused.

So often, I have heard stories, seen wounds, wondered at how much one soul can bear, unresolved.

In a secular version of incarnation, I see the same issues lived out, over and over again -- as though making the same mistake for the third or fourth time could heal the old ones.

Where are our equal partners?

Not seeking domination, I -- just a fellow pilgrim -- dreaming of a man who has bled, and fallen, and gone to find a physician.

I am no such alchemist.

Just a chance-met quixotic quester on the same road.

Or maybe not.

Comfort is to be found in collaboration.

I am not the answer -- but I don't mind embracing the mystery together.

As long as I don't turn around, and find out that I am alone.

Or discover, with perplexity and incredulity, that I am carrying you.

mardi, mars 20, 2012

It's just lunch (no, it's not).

It's early in the morning, and I'm a zombie.

I'm almost always one of the undead until around 8:00, when the spell dissipates and I return to the land of the truly alive.

But even a zombie would notice that there's something odd about what's going into Mr. C's lunchbox.

Some redolent, and rather exotic cheese from Trader Joes.

A chopped up apple from the organic food aisle.

Multigrain chips.

Healthy mom is on the march -- winning the battle against junk foodies everywhere.

But wait, wait...what is THAT?

Oh, no, not a juice box? Dr. Lustig, who blames sugary drinks for our national obesity epidemic, would be disgusted.

And what is this? Oh no, not the chocolate chip cookies (and they aren't even homemade -- Michael Pollan would be revolted).

Go away, guys. It's just lunch, for goodness sake.

I realize, however, that the problem isn't Lustig or Pollan.

It's about the internal war raging within me.

A few weeks ago, I began a semi-serious attempt to grapple with my sugar jones.

That doesn't mean going cold turkey, by any means -- taming, not renunciation, is the name of the game.

Problem is, like many of you, I'm inundated by advice about food, and how toxic some of our habits are.

In the case of sugar, I really want to know -- how poisonous is that white stuff?

Isn't it enough to embrace the often weird-tasting whole grain breads? To pay extra for organic? Serve up veggies every night?

(While my vegetarian son loyally struggles through his helpings, my daughter needs to be bribed with ice cream before she will give in -- truth is, I'm not an inspired chef.)

You mean we have to give up COOKIES too?

Good mom -- bad mom. Healthy mother -- lazy mother. I'm so confused.

It may be easier to go back to being a zombie.


lundi, mars 19, 2012

Get that man a spine

Recently, upon reflection, I had to face some inconvenient truths.

Broadly speaking (and I can speak only from the broadly point-of-view), I'm stronger than eighty or ninety percent of the men I encountered online.

I'm saner.

Less deluded, happier, and generally more flexible.

And you know what? I really, really, wish that wasn't the case.

For it's not that I am perfect, by any means. Introverted, self-questioning, sometimes clumsy, I have many traits that I'd like to change. I don't even know where I fall on the neurosis spectrum.

More or less, on any given day.

So I have to believe that the guys I've met, or with whom I've talked, aren't representative, statistically speaking, of the male population in America as a whole.

Because, really, the alternative is just too scary.

Weed out the cads (not that it's easy), the men looking to score, for a moment.

There seem to be a lot of men who just can't find the intestinal fortitude to speak for themselves, forge their own path, get a backbone.

Instead, they seem to lean, heavily, on the women around them.

And who is to say that some of these women aren't as wifty as they are?

I found myself getting more and more exhausted by the sheer need out there.

Sometimes I felt, not just like the adult, but like the schoolmarm in "the room."

"Something's happening to the men out there" said a friend of mine who is a counselor.

If so, what is it?

Is our culture somehow emusculating our boys so that they never learn how to be strong men (and being strong doesn't mean taking down the girls around them)?

Why is there so much dependence -- vulnerability to manipulation?

Does it feel safer to be bound in cords of velvet than learn to stand up for the magnificent persons you are?

I have no idea what's shaping this wave. And who knows, the women may be as sad and as much in a state of denial.

But I do hope that younger men can claim their own authority, grace and tenderness before the bad habits of years take over.

For the older guys, the ones I run into?

There's always time.

But only if you check your watch, and get crackin.'