Sunday, February 1, 2009

Barack Obama's book

All weekend, it's been me with the flu and Barack Obama on the living room sofa (Dreams from My Father).

There is much detail, much evidence, so that we can make our own independent judgments. That must have been the lawyer's approach. Tedious but effective in its own way.

There are four things that are sticking with me the most: 1) the changes in the youth on the Chicago South Side; 2) the search for home and identity; 3) the role of faith in working for change; 4) polygamy in African society.

this is from chapter 14, which did not help me sleep the other night.

"No, it was more a change of atmosphere, like the electricity of an approaching storm. I felt it when, driving home one evening, I saw four tall boys walking down a tree-lined block idly snapping a row of young saplings that an older couple had just finished planting in front to their house. I felt it whenever I looked into the eyes of the young men in wheelchairs that had started appearing on the streets that spring, boys crippled before their prime, their eyes without a trace of self-pity, eyes so composed, already so hardened, that they served to frighten rather than to inspire.

That's what was new: the arrival of a new equilibrium between hope and fear; the sense, shared by adults and youth alike, that some, if not most, of our boys were slipping beyond rescue. Even lifelong South Siders like Johnnie noticed the change. 'I mean, things ere tough when I was coming up, but there were limits. We'd get high, get into fights. But out in public, at home, if an adult saw you getting loud or wild, they would say something. And most of us would listen, you know what I'm saying?

'Now, with the drugs, the guns--all that's disappeared. Don't take a whole lot of kids carrying a gun. Just one or two. Somebody says something to one of'em, and --pw!--kid wastes him. ... After a while, even the good kid starts realizing ain't nobody out here gonna look out for him. so he figures he's gonna have to look after himself. Bottom line, you got twelve-year-olds making their own damn rules.'"

"The idea of physical assault just never occurred to me. Same thing with the distinction Johnnie made between good kids and bad kids--the distinction didn't compute in my head. It seemed based on a premise that defied my experience, an assumption that children could somehow set the terms of their own development... Where did he sit along the spectrum of goodness? If he ended up in a gang or in jail, would that prove his essence somehow, a wayward gene...or just the consequences of a malnourished world?"

"That night, well past midnight, a car pulls up in front of my apartment building carrying a troop of teenage boys and a set of stereo speakers so loud that the floor of my apartment begins to shake. I've learned to ignore such disturbances--where else do they have to go? I say to myself. But on this particular evening I have someone staying over;... As i approach the car, the voices stop, the hears within all turn my way. 'Listen, people are trying to sleep around here. Why don't y'all take it someplace else.'

The four boys inside say nothing, don't even move. The wind wipes away my drowsiness, and I feel suddenly exposed, standing in a pair of shorts on the sidewalk in the middle of the night. I can't see the faces inside the car; it's too dark to know how old they are, whether they're sober or drunk, good boys or bad. One of them could be Kyle. One of them could be Roy. One of them could be Johnnie.

One of them could be me. Standing there, I try to remember the days when I would have been sitting in a car like that, full of inarticulate resentments and desperate to prove my place in the world. The feelings of righteous anger as I shout at Gramps for some forgotten reason. The blood rush of a high school brawl. The swagger that carries me into a classroom drunk or high, knowing that my teachers will smell beer or reefer on my breath, just daring them to say something. I start picturing myself through the eyes of these boys, a figure of random authority, and know the calculations they might now be making, that if one of them can't take me out, the four of them certainly can.

... The engine starts, and the car screeches away. I turn black toward my apartment knowing that I've been both stupid and lucky, knowing that I am afraid after all."

I think, as a female, I really cannot understand anything about this testosterone driven stuff. I can listen and try.

Have things changed? Are people more or less bad or good, more or less violent, more or less out of control?

My opinion: yes, things have changed. There are things going on that are very sinister.

I don't know much about the United States, except I'm sometimes scared to go there.

But my own town is developing a side that's similar. Maybe part of it is that a lot of army personnel lives here now and many have seen action in Afghanistan. They are said to have had personality changes. I think that's a minor side issue, but it has resulted in violence. Even Stefan had taken a hit on the side of the head and a broken driver's side window on his truck by an out-of-control father. Maybe the father was scared/mad at a truck full of perceived punks.

Martin was beat up when he tried to write down licence plate numbers at the party next door, when the neighbor was gone. They pushed him down and took his glasses. I went over there and told them, he was the dentist and he needed his glasses. They gave me his glasses. Maybe they did respect the fact that he was the dentist.

A boy I taught at Lutheran school was involved in the beating death of a young man. One group had been excluded from a party. This group returned with weapons and killed the young man who answered the door.

Enough examples of that. Sorry, I never heard of stuff like that when I was growing up in Germany or here. In Canada, there were bush parties, drinking, noisy kids on camp grounds, but not beatings of adults and killings.

PS: I'll get to the other subjects in the next post.


steve martin said...

"The whole of creation groans in travail."

I do believe thing are getting worse.

Societies are becoming coarsened. Kids are becoming more jaded. The Church is being openly mocked on t.v., in schools, even in some churches!

I look at my country and I can't believe how fast it is unraveling.

I often pray for our Lord's return.

"Come Lord Jesus, come!"

Brigitte said...

I really do hope Obama can do something for black society, not just in the way of social programs, but, but in talking honestly beside the hopefully. Not an easy job. I'd think you'd have to be nearly insane to take it on. God bless him.

The US is in bad shape in many ways. We pray for it, too. Maybe, finally, there will be some good changes. Any day the Lord comes will be good.