Waiting for the Rapture - Oasis (mp3)
Pray Your Gods - Toad the Wet Sprocket (mp3)
Fear is getting on my nerves.
It's everywhere, fear is. And, while I'm sure it's always been around, fear seems to be particularly enjoying this epoch in American history.
First, the personal.
Mom was a single mother until I turned five. She married, and I got a dad. Point is, she was pretty busy, what with trying to provide for us and look for romance and raise a nightmarish baby boy. In times like those, who has time to worry about stuff like seatbelts, or choking hazards, or bicycle helmets, or jungle gyms, or cholesterol?
Not my mom. I frequently rode without a seat belt (and certainly without a car seat) and spent half my traveling childhood crouched into the floorboard of the backseat, my Star Wars figures or other playthings scouring the barren backseat landscape on some random imagined adventure. She didn't force me to eat whatever she fixed, so on days and nights when I didn't want chicken livers or collards, I was free to microwave a pizza or a frozen egg roll or even just a few bowls of cereal. I rode my bike all over creation and back even though I couldn't even do a bunny hop. When I was four I almost OD'd on an entire bottle of Geritol because I was alone in the house while she was down the street borrowing milk or something from a neighbor.
Yet in 2010, if you were to see the way our parents behave as grandparents, you would have thought they had been Chief Warden at Alcatraz during our youth. Everything is dangerous. Everything is unsafe. Cars go too fast. Children run too fast. Dogs' teeth are too sharp. Sunlight is too cancerous. Food is too preserved. Television is corrosive. Music is making us deaf. Yada yada.
Somewhere between then and now, everything got scarier. And our culture encouraged it, apparently, because most parents are a bajillion times more fearful than they were 30 years ago.
Second, the political.
Save for a few beautiful hours in November 2008, politics just more and more mired in fearmongering. Both sides. The right fearmongers about government wanting to take over your lives and take over all businesses, about killing babies, about killing Jesus, about taking your guns, about homosexuals raping your children. The left fearmongers about sending America into endless wars with everyone who won't cower to us, about evil uncaring corporations, about
Now, I'm not saying they're completely wrong with their political opinions. Rather, I don't quite see how our political evolution is making us better as a society, as a culture. We know we're taking ourselves into the toilet, but we just keep playing our instruments on the deck of the Titanic like there's no choice but to go down with the ship.
Third, the educational.
It's becoming increasingly clear that the industrialized notion of school as factory is failing. We churn out the proletariat (and the occasional CEO) and keep the rowdy teens in line until they're old enough to wipe their own butts, and we call this not leaving a child behind... that is, if we could even manage to do all of this right.
Now, I'm not saying schools are unequivocal failures. Rather, it's exactly like health care. We know it should be and could be so much damn better and more effective than it is, but nobody can get the momentum and support -- or whatever it's gonna take -- to really do something earth-shattering and convincing about it. We just keep playing our instruments on the deck of the Titanic like there's no choice but to go down with the ship.
Fear has paralyzed us, and I don't know what the hell I can do about it, but accepting it only guarantees me a spot in the orchestra that drowns in the freezing water. I used to think it might be enough if I could teach my children to break through the fear and the trepidation, but I'm starting to understand that I can't possibly teach such things without proving myself capable of those things, anymore than I could teach them algebra without being able to add.
I never liked that Jack Dawson fella much, but at least he froze and died doing something useful. I've got some time. The ship won't sink tomorrow or the next day. But it's time to drop the damn instrument, dry off the wet spot on my pants and start looking for a way off.
Who's with me?!? We're going streaking!!