Around this time, my online students submit a two-page memoir assignment as part of the established curriculum at the for-profit university where I teach. I’m in a my second session, my second set of memoir essays, and both times I am struck by how many good people there are in our country. It’s a little sappy, but I feel like I have, shall we say, 99% of America in my classroom. I have eighteen-year-old boys who write about how they met the girl they want to marry when they saved her from zombies on an Xbox game. I have women who nearly lost their children in labor and men who said good-bye to their newborns when they left for Iraq. I have a high school student who has vowed to be like a father to his younger brother now that their dad abandoned their family. There are lots of fifty-year-old men laid off from the construction industry and back to school with such aching optimism about their “second chance,” with such devotion to learning APA format. In my last session, only one out of the twenty-five students in the class were younger than 30. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re trying.
I hear our economy isn’t scheduled to improve any time soon. For the first time in my life, I think I need to go backwards in order to go forward. I’ve heard that to get a bank loan these days, you can’t be anything less than perfect and cash rich. Certainly, you can’t have made the mistakes the bankers made. The politicians that might help us in the short run are the ones I don’t trust, and the ones I trust are the ones who probably can’t help us. I am afraid for the future of my country and I’m pissed that the people with all the power and money use their power to make money and their money to stay powerful, and meanwhile, they don’t seem at all interested in doing the right thing.
But, these students. Their stories and their spirit are my new America, I think. With their comma splices and fragments and malapropisms—“definitely” is always spelled “defiantly,” they know how to take small steps into an uncertain future. I think our future is not unlike their writing—spliced, fragmented, and full of a hope we can’t articulate or even understand because we didn’t learn the real rules of reality in high school.
I get that capitalism is the better of all economic evils, but what happens when we all stop believing we’re free? When that word everyone depends on for monetary and political gain, the word at the center of all domestic and foreign disputes, simply no longer exists? The death of freedom will happen when people believe their lives cannot change. It won’t be a ban on public prayer or censorship of the press that will send people over the edge; it will be because they can’t take their kids to the doctor.
Nothing is more true than the deconstructive theory of opposites. Without evil, we wouldn’t know good; without the dark, we wouldn’t recognize light; without death, we wouldn’t understand life. I think I started my mid-life crisis at 23 years old and it hasn’t let up. I’d like to have more lives, but since I only have the one, I want it to be full, a little drastic, and spread among others like that miraculous loaf of bread.
There is no longer an American version, but there are still dreams. I will definitely—make that “defiantly”—dream mine, and when fullness is hard to find, I can always find it here,
in a little purple snow bunny with a smile that makes time stop.
Here are some more pictures, courtesy of Mandy, of Bekah and Clara enjoying our first big snow.
How cute is that?