all of the selves we Have ever been
A neighbor stops in: “Oh, your house is so clean!”
At my stage of life, which is just inches from the grave, I can’t risk the threat of eternal damnation by being a fraud: “Well, there’s order, but I wouldn’t say it’s clean. That’s not sheers on the windows.” I survey the rest of the room eyeing dust on the shelves so thick that it looks like starched doilies.
I grew up in an era when an entire multi-generational family was judged by the quality of one woman’s housekeeping. In those years, my neighbor would not have gotten past the front door. My mother would rather have been seen in the shopping mall with curlers in her hair than to let an outsider see our dingy windows and dusty shelves.
Hence, housework became my default occupation. I never applied for the job. I was drafted against my will by virtue of being a kid, a girl-kid, and living in a house. There was no lingering suspense to the draft process. There was no multi-million dollar contract, not even an allowance! I was not offered a name-and-likeness-deal. I did not even get a t-shirt with my favorite number. Once a baby girl could stand on two feet and hold a soft rag, she was signed up. I didn’t get to choose my team, otherwise, I would have picked Agnes’s house down the street where the rooms were arranged like art exhibits. All of the furniture was covered in plastic and no one was allowed to enter those museum-like spaces.
Saturdays were game days all over America. While most of us lived in smaller homes back then, about 1100 square feet, every inch was crammed with people—six in our house, along with a dog and a couple of neighbor kids who appeared to be orphaned. Despite the crowd, there was only one bathroom which was also typical of that era. Every space was over-crowded and over-used. To do a good cleaning meant every piece of furniture and every stationary person had to be moved down the field, cleaned, and returned to the starting line. One of the younger kids was constantly being displaced on cleaning day, chased from one room to another. They were out of bounds wherever they landed.
Of course, the work-out didn’t end when I got my own place. By then, I was well conditioned, hooked on Spic ‘n Span, and a psychological prisoner of the vacuum cleaner. A weekend could not go by without a darkened dust cloth and the smell of lemon Pledge. As a mother, the duties expanded exponentially.
Now with the children grown and out of the house and full time employment behind me, I am getting out of the inside game. I will give housework 15 minutes at a time. That’s my limit. Even young, hefty, well-conditioned football players get a pause every fifteen minutes, and so I head to the bench for a water break, to nurse my injuries, talk with my team mates, connect with the audience, and see how things look on TV.
Between games I’m happy to study the play books. I‘ve got a stack of House Beautiful magazines. I consider them a kind of pornography for the housekeeping derelict. It all looks slick, salacious, and out of my league. I am convinced that it must be illegal.
It’s a new season. Here on the fourth down of the final quarter, I punt.
Let a new team carry the dirtball.
I waited patiently in line to vote today.
The room filled with people as my eyes filled with tears. I feared that at any moment I would burst into sobs. Never in my lifetime has an election been so important, and never before have I felt so helpless and so hopeless. A repetitive thought circled my brain, “I can’t leave my children to some of these people.” That’s what we do when we vote--we choose to whom we will leave our children.
The line at the church was long as was the ballot—many offices to fill, many issues to decide. I tried to be conscientious and remember that God was watching from the sanctuary nearby as I reviewed each name and each issue. I sniffled my way through. When I got home and was tucked inside my apartment, I wept.
It seems the bad guys are winning everywhere we turn. They silently creep into our email accounts and our bank accounts. They snatch our identity and steal our cars. By and large, they get away with it. And now they are positioned to steal our democracy.
It did not help my frame of mind that just last night the local news reported that our City Attorney was joining with other cities in filing lawsuits against Kia and Hyundai in light of the recent and rampant thefts of vehicles manufactured and sold by these corporations. According to the news reports, the theft issue is “due to the manufacturers’ failure to install anti-theft technology in the vehicles.”
Is this some sleight of hand? I thought thieves were responsible for “theft issues.”
While I am all for government standing up to industry and demanding and ensuring safety standards for everything these companies produce and sell to consumers, this strategy is reminiscent of rape victims being blamed for their abuse because their clothes were deemed too provocative, or of the neighbor accused of being careless for leaving his garage door open while he mowed the grass. Wasn’t the theft or home invasion the man’s own fault? What did he expect when he left his garage door open?
These are examples of the kind of thinking that symbolizes so much of what is wrong in our world and why it is that the bad guys are winning. Going after the car companies makes people think that elected officials are “being tough on crime,” when, in fact, this strategy encourages crime by shifting the blame and the responsibility. It is sexy and makes headlines. Going after big corporations feels satisfying to the worried small guy, but it does not solve the actual problem.
Many people have been victims of the Kia Boys. I know some of these victims personally. These good people are hurt, angry, and frightened by all of this theft. They feel deeply and personally violated and ill-at-ease in their own homes and neighborhoods. Many of these targeted victims are people who can least afford to lose their source of transportation during this difficult economic time. Some of them have been so traumatized, they have had to move.
How did we get to a place where it is up to the innocent, good citizens to anticipate what the bad guys will do next and who they will influence? Ideally, each of us should be able to park our cars in our own driveways with the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition and expect that the car will still be there in the morning. That’s the kind of world we need to be working toward not one in which the innocent and kind are labeled fools and the bad guys get away with everything.
The problems have become so large, so numerous, and so relentless in the digital age, that people are exhausted and don’t know where to begin. They shrug and say, “Oh, well.” We are being buried alive by “influencers” with poor judgment who seek popularity and income from advertising. Our fascination with likes, followers, and money is blinding people to law, order, and basic decency.
Too many politicians are among the bad guys. They seem to see voters as prey. They want attention, popularity, and power without any real plan or effort toward solving problems. They distract voters with their hate speech aimed at the opposition instead of addressing the real sources of the problems.
Let’s stop lying to ourselves: THIEVES are responsible for THEFT. It doesn’t matter if the thief is a 12 year old stealing a car or a 74 year old stealing top secret documents.
In the case of the Kia Boys, these mostly young people educated themselves on how to commit crime by watching Tik Tok and You Tube videos. Aren’t these companies complicit in the crime and in corrupting minors? Why are they still operating unrestrained, full steam ahead? Making billions of dollars? And what do we need to do to shore up our juvenile criminal justice system? Why aren’t those teens experiencing lasting consequences? They spend one night in juvenile detention and are back on the street committing the same crime over and over again. The police are exhausted and frustrated.
When we fail to address bad behavior, we encourage it. Most often, offenders start small and engage in an escalating pattern of behavior until they are stopped. This is true of teens and true of adults. These problems do not belong to someone else. They belong to each of us and to all of us. I am too exhausted and too traumatized to face it all alone. We have to see past the hate speech and face this together. The bad guys can’t be given all of the air time.
The polls will close tonight. When we wake up tomorrow, will there be anything left to lose?