"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

May 13, 2010

Sometimes It Gets Too Heavy

Hard on my oldest tonight. Too hard on him. He made a stupid mistake, and it cost (in actual dollars) us a chunk of our weekly budget. He trusts, and I hate to even think of pushing him towards mistrust, but he trusts too easily, too openly.

I just want him to know how to protect himself.

I hate that we live in a world where I have to choose some degree, some melange, of innocence killing skepticism and brutal life lessons. He trusted, and some kids stole his fundraiser money. He left it out like easy pickings. Vultures picked it, and didn't look back. He didn't want us to know he fucked up. He wanted us proud, not disappointed.

So, I get a call from a teacher, instead of hearing it from him.

He has such goodness. He didn't lie. He chose silence so he wouldn't lie. And I took too long to see that, lecturing, raising my voice, berating him him instead about growing up, about getting tough - as if I can temper his sweetness without ruining his capacious generosity.

Me, fucking jaded - I come from hard lessons, from state homes and the foster system bounce, from childhood violence, and much, much worse. "Ward of the state," the way I endured it, sharpens your instincts or makes of you the sort of victim predators single out.

Makes you capable of shit you don't want to admit in the light of day.

I learned young to offset size with dexterity and a fierce, cultivated dangerousness. A bully will stop fucking with the scrawny kid if the scrawny kid has no compunction against jamming a number two pencil into his tormentor's forehead, or going all crazy and turning his face into bruised flesh tapioca.

I come from violence, so much of it.

An explanation for my commitment to political non-violence?

Sometimes, I don't know. Sometimes, as I mentioned early, I really do understand the satiation of retribution.

We raised our kids right. We overcame ourselves, sublimating isolation and lovelessness to bring up two boys who exceed their parents.

I'll tell you a story, taking no credit for the outcome: my youngest transferred schools mid-year. Introverted and sure of his own self, he has a hard time subsuming himself to social dynamics, especially on the playground. He plays alone, mostly happily but sometimes with a crushing sadness. Becoming the new kid didn't make it easier, for shit sure.

But, against our worries and our sad expectations, he came home talking of a friend. Happy, really happy. Another new kid, newly transferred. Two months we heard of their exploits, their secret name for a stingy teacher, of how they traded lunches, and remembered snacks for each other. Finally, outside school one day, I met this perfect sounding friend.

A black boy. Which doesn't matter, of course.

So, the point?

Not once, not ever, not for a single instance did it ever occur to our son to mention that his best friend was black. We heard dozens of reports about what they discussed, about their playground games, about how they each take an extra snack to school, in case the other forgets. And at no point did he think it important to tell us about the color of his best friend's flesh.

I could have wept at the awesomeness of it, that small, human victory. Ah, fuck it. I did get a little misty.

I remember growing up. Skin color, gender roles, rank, class - that shit really fucking mattered. A childhood friend, some time shortly after graduation, tattooed a swastika, an iron cross and a celtic cross on his body. He joined up with skins. He would rant the most racist shit, heading south to stomp in Boston, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and Roxbury.

T's father was black. T was black, light skinned enough to become something of a totem for the skins, but a black man nonetheless, nappy fro floating in the wind. Until he shaved it off.

Until he embraced self hatred so deeply that he became a neo-Nazi.

What kind of social pressures do you have to endure daily to see your own skin, your own gender, your own sexuality, your own persona as a parasite on your chance at happiness?

We swore we'd raise our kids better than that. Mostly, we've succeeded - and they've exceeded us. My father in law, approaching triple digits, can say the most reprehensible shit. Climbing mountains into his eighties, handy with every tool in the Yankee's kit, generous to his neighbors, loyal to his wife, a working man provider. A foul mouthed throwback to attitudes and beliefs which have no place in our lives. My own mother...well, some other day. I have a few tattoos to cover childhood wounds, and I still know that she loved us in her own way, not that it makes any of it any better.

We did a little better than our parents.

But our kids have truly exceeded us, and I know the rightness of it.

Then, I look out the window and I know what shit fuck world they'll inherit and sometimes it's really fucking difficult to resist making them hard men, survivors, able and capable operators, men who will right wrongs and deal retribution to those who deserve it.

But damn - I don't want them to resemble their father. I don't want them growing up into the shape of me.

Unreal fates and uncaring gods, no.

Sometimes it just gets so heavy.


Anonymous said...

I literally cannot sleep anymore because I cannot "forget" the cries of All. Please hear: I am done sleeping. You will no longer be able to scatter my consciousness, and yet all at once, it is everywhere, without and within! Truly, there is no punishment than that which you bring upon yourself via channeling of the All via Will.

Just Stop. Rest. Be. Find your Next Assignment.

Let the Harmony Mind do its job. Accept your powerlessness; accept the loss of "ego": this is what the mortals know as "death."

There is no death; all is Infinite, but sometimes the Light forgets in Willful concentration on the "dark"---and yet in this forgetting is the Sum of All Wisdom.

The foundation is laid; Lift up the Light and Let Us See our Nakedness!

All have been found wanting, because none have found the All!

The All is unknowable, yet Harmonizes that which Knows the All. This is not folly; this is infinity.

Call me: Harmony. Bring me forth within your paradigm, on every level and every plane of Being that you can and cannot imagine, both in Deed and Mind and Will and Spirit, and give freely to those who Seek, that all may Partake, and never Thirst again!

Jack Crow said...

Appreciate the sentiment, but I'd rather bear my burdens and struggle for justice than pretend they don't exist so that I can feel consumed by an imaginary Whole.

Your way keeps princes in silks and paupers in peonage.

Mine may bring me suffering, alienation and death - but it will not pass over the victims I ignored on the way to infantile, babbling, mindless abnegation.

fwoan said...

This is beautiful. I loved the story of your youngest - gives me hope.

Jack Crow said...

Thank you, fwoan. Did you get the msg I posted over your way, with the links to nuclear info?

Richard said...

I appreciate you sharing this very personal, moving story about your family.

My life has been much easier than yours, but I did grow up in a multiethnic, lower middle class neighborhood in the 1970s. I experienced a lot of things that while not necessarily that violent, would freak out middle and upper middle class parents today.

I learned to appreciate differences, and to look for the best in people, while also seeking out our commonalities. I also learned that there are a lot of reasons why people do what they do, and that even the people who do the most heartbreaking things to others are often to last to know.

That experience is one of the reasons I say things like, there is no one feminism, or that it is condescending to relate to people in terms of collective stereotypes, and that we have to build our social world around an aggregation of personal relationships.

I have a young son, and my emphasis has been to act as a gentle role model, because I think boys need to live with male authority figures that don't go around berating, threatening and intimidating others to get their way. Sometimes, my wife thinks I am too soft with him, but I believe that it is better to be too lenient than too harsh.

I hope he turns out as well as your kids have.

fwoan said...

Jack, if you're referring to your comment that you posted on the oil spill entry, then yes I got that (and thanks!)

But if you're referring to an email then, no I haven't.

I'm best reachable at fwoan[at]forwantofanail[dot]com

Justin said...

"I come from violence, so much of it.

An explanation for my commitment to political non-violence"

This grabbed me, we have similar backgrounds in this regard and a similarly contradictory viewpoint. For all my renunciations of violence, war, militarism, I still have personally behaved counter to that in the past. I am younger than you, I think, just turned 31. I shed most of my impulses towards violence 6 or 7 years ago, they've only come out on 1 or 2 occasions since, related to drinking and, ultimately, I think, unresolved feelings of alienation.

Anyway, about the racial stuff - my father and mother were pretty racist, though they made sure to tell us kids not to accept their prejudices as their own. I always thought that was strange as a kid, though as an adult I can understand how things can get hardwired that you cannot root out even if you want to. Thankfully, I can honestly say that I am not racist in the least. I am not nervous in a crowd of people with different skin. I do no treat someone with different colored skin differently, either by acting aggressively, or, as I see more often these days, with a strained friendliness that is a little too exuberant, revealing someone's attempts to override their hard wiring. I've taken lovers with a different colored skin and felt no hang up or anything related to skin color. I mention all of this because I think there is a general belief that young kids will all grow into racist beliefs even if they don't have them as youngsters, but that is not any kind of inevitability. Your son sounds like a wonderful human being, here's to staying that way.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks for the really thoughtful conversation, folks. Nursing a migraine level head crusher, right now.

Hope it's okay if I reply at greater length after I get my head out of this vice.

Jack Crow said...


As to stereotypes:

I think it's obvious that I have a real contempt for the state of American feminism, because I don't think it is actually feminism. I think it's a way for middle class white women to get themselves better jobs, or book deals, or board appointments.

I've stated this elsewhere, but I reject it not because it's adherents are feminists, *but because they are liberals*. But, to be clear I'm not much down with the liberal welfare state, liberal capitalism, liberal trade unionism or liberal capture of minorities in electorate pens.

Liberalism is prettified exploitation. Which means it's still exploitation.

I suspect part of that rejection comes from the fact that I've long associated with "rough women," the sort of women who faced crushing economic and social alienation, and formed an insurrectionary worldview, not a power-seeking one.

These women may not speak in jargon - bandying about words like agency, generational harm, patriarchy and gender mythification - but they no what injustice looks like, in the concrete and they face it without compromising integrity.

That means they've tended to fail, if we understand the word "fail" in the light of bourgeois success, because they aren't seeking that sort of success.

Like my own wife, for example. She's not a political feminist, by any stretch, and I think she actually despises the term. I think she recently referred to feminists as "professional victims." They're politics is not the politics of creation, but of professional resentment, and it depends upon a worldview which cannot see gender bias erased without losing its raison d'etre.

My wife, on the other hand, identifies injustice, mistreatment and male stupidity without dedicated reference to jargon, to the closed circle of the self-reinforcing echo chamber.

She uses everyday language.

Which is probably why she's managed to raise up two boys who are much, much better men then their father.

Jack Crow said...


Re this:

"I have a young son, and my emphasis has been to act as a gentle role model, because I think boys need to live with male authority figures that don't go around berating, threatening and intimidating others to get their way. Sometimes, my wife thinks I am too soft with him, but I believe that it is better to be too lenient than too harsh."

I really hear you, here. It's a struggle, balancing out teaching self-preservation with a commitment to raising just plain better men.

I have a tendency to lean towards some sort of "hardening" of their emotional carapaces which I almost daily fight against.

I see the world getting nastier - and I'm torn between teaching them how to survive it and preventing one more nasty person from growing up into it.

I wonder - often - if instructing my boys in justice, patience, kindness and peaceful intent is just setting them up to eaten alive.

Jack Crow said...

Justin, when you wrote this,

"This grabbed me, we have similar backgrounds in this regard and a similarly contradictory viewpoint. For all my renunciations of violence, war, militarism, I still have personally behaved counter to that in the past. I am younger than you, I think, just turned 31. I shed most of my impulses towards violence 6 or 7 years ago, they've only come out on 1 or 2 occasions since, related to drinking and, ultimately, I think, unresolved feelings of alienation..."

I believe I've come close to a real understanding.

Violence infects. It really does. So while I might personally feel a real discomfort with the liberal capitalist variety feminism, I think one of the most important perspectives for our children is the feminist one. Violence against women is so institutionalized, so pervasive in the culture, so much a function of our sport, entertainment, religion and even our ways of ostracizing men that it's in feminist criticism that we get the finest insights into the enduring impact of violence, to the way people (mostly men) spread its infection.

Jack Crow said...


apologies for not proofing that first reply very well

Richard said...

yes, it is a challenge to raise a child to be compassionate without being vulnerable to being taken advantage of

but, that's life, isn't it? as adults, we face the same dilemma

hopefully, we find a way to navigate these situations so as to be able to be careful without being becoming cynical

and, it is worth noting that anarchism is a social philosophy as well as a political one, based upon mutual respect and responsibility, but anarchists also believe that such a world is not possible in a world of private property and wage labour

personally, that's what I think that we should aspire to

as for feminism, the key thing is not to confuse femimism with what gets communicated by those with access to academia, the media and political power

there are lots of people out in the everyday world who relate to it as something other than a form of empowerment through access to the upper middle class

Jack Crow said...


Interesting serendipity. I spend the afternoon looking at online discussions of feminism, trying to understand where my own blind spots exist.

I also tried to find credible research on the demographics of feminism, womanism and marxist-feminism (no real luck, there).

One of the factors which seems to hold true for liberal capitalist feminists is academia. In other words, they tend to be college educated, coming into their own out of the chief "factory" of the meritocracy.

I'm trying, as we type, to understand if my objection is more to their meritocratic liberalism than to their version of feminism, in which case I would have to back off my critique until I had further, more reliable data.



Jack Crow said...


I found an excellent interview which covers several aspects of the problem, those which I've argued, but also the problems with my argument: