Monday, March 22, 2010
I am an idealist, a romantic, a bleeding heart. I wasn't always. I used to be very cynical and hard. I changed twice actually.
The first time was in high school. I went to a Catholic girls school at the tale end of the nun era. The nuns liked us to learn typing, short hand and home ec, and left the more obnoxious subjects like history, geography and the sciences to the "lay" teachers. The one lesson the nuns taught everyone was bitchiness. They were a pretty nasty old nest of Queens let me tell you.
Ranging in age from their 60's to their 600's, they were an increasingly bewildered relic of a quaint bygone era, and they knew it. Not above demeaning 14 year old girls as "sluts" in front of their classmates, the nuns taught judgmental ism and name-calling in the same breath as preaching the forgiveness and compassion their favourite guy was so into.
There was a lesbian at our school. Well everyone called her a lesbian and refused to be seen anywhere near her because she had short hair and wore desert boots on free dress day. I thought those criteria were far too arbitrary to be conclusive, but I did get a flier in the mail years later for her one-woman-performance-installation entitled "Dyke Diatribe". The point is, that this baby lesso was very, very openly bullied at our school, and nothing was ever done about it. It was a Colosseum of cattiness where Compassion was in very short supply.
I was hanging out with some pretty tough customers at the time. The kind of girls who wore frilly knickers to school, had boyfriends with cars and had proper sex with them (often in the cars). The kind of girls who quite liked being called sluts by nuns. Anyway, they were older than me and I idolised them. One day, free dress day actually, I rounded the year nine block at lunchtime not far behind our token lesbian resplendent in her desert boots. One of those stunning sluts screeched her name from the second floor above us. I looked up but she knew better. She hunched her shoulders and scooted out of the way of a thick, green, smokers phlegm wad which had been skillfully hocked up and spat at her head. It splattered on the ground in front of me and I just stood there looking at it. I came from a pretty gentile home I guess, because as worldly as I thought I was I had never seen or heard of anything like it in my entire life. I'd heard people call her names before, I'd even seen people empty a red pen onto a pad and post it through the louvres of her locker, but somehow this just seemed beyond the pale.
It was then that I decided I didn't want to be one of the tough girls anymore. I didn't have the integrity to speak to the girl or to ever speak up for her, but I did resolve to pursue popularity by being really nice to people instead of cleverly slagging everyone off to everyone else which is pretty standard teenage girl popularity pursuing behaviour, no?
The second time was in 2007 when all the glamorous TV jobs I'd had in 2006 dried up and I was forced to face the fact that I was not, in fact your average suburban superstar. I'd really hoped I was because I hated so many things about my actual life at that stage that all I could do to cope was believe it was about to change dramatically. It didn't, in fact it got quite a bit worse and I had a bit of a breakdown and slumped into a terrible depression. I was a real misery and it went on for months and months. Anyway, I started going to Buddhism classes and got onto the idea of altruism, of doing things for others with no expectation of anything coming back to me, (except great karma of course). It reminded me of how much nicer it is to be nice than it is to be superior. I'm not great at it believe me, but I try and it makes me feel really good just to try.
Barack Obama went against every contemporary political paradigm this week, when he chose to lead his country, rather succumb to his loudest and richest detractors. His popularity drops, but he leads on. His countrymen, raised on Reagan-omics, the economics of every man for himself, wale in personal disappointment, but he leads on. The world clings desperately to the religion of capitalism and free markets, despising his higher purpose, but he leads on.
I quite like Barack Obama. I think he's a very special person. I think he chooses to do what he knows to be right. He has given every American access to health care this week and it's been a very long time since one many has done so much for so many. Wouldn't it be nice if it caught on.