“CHILDHOOD” by John Hunter (American) colored lithograph, signed in upper right corner in crayon, titled, dated, edition: 39/50, on ivory wove paper, Lakeside Gallery. matted and framed.
22 and 1/4 by 15. With certified authentication signed by both the artist and printer.
It’s that time of year that always comes too quickly for adults and too slowly for children. In a country that, as Arthur Miller said once, does not love its children, I pose the question many of us are asking today, “Why is this so?”
“Precious Moments.” Original edition. The Teacher and her pupil.
(This was given to me a long time ago by a student who began her childhood working in the fields and graduated from college to go on to a good technical writing job at Hewlett Packard. It can be done!)
There can be no argument here. All we have to do is read the latest news, look at pictures of child laborers in the not-so-distant past, the kids in Los Angeles selling flowers and oranges on the streets every day, the students left stranded as their parents are seized by immigration officials and driven away to another country, the migrant worker children who have never had a home, andevery little kid who has a lunchbox and classroom to go during the week. Who thinks about what we are really teaching our children? All the hyper-kids killing cartoon images as fast as their fingers can operate the “joysticks”, and all the children on meds in kindergarten because they do not sit still like “good little girls and boys” with stifled curiosity and energy in the overcrowded warehouses. Am I being overly harsh about the situation? Not much has changed since Dickens wrote his heartbreaking stories about children. There are orphans, I am reminded, even with fathers and mothers in the home. (Read “A Child Called “It” by David Pelzer and tell me about parental cruelty.) Then there is the constant sliding downward in our country’s economic situation, two parents forced to work more than forty hours a week because they have children to house and feed, taxes to pay and increased costs for food and gas. Nobody home? Then there are the parents I won’t waste time on who give their kids to strangers to care for while they go to Vegas or party with drugs and alcohol. The latchkey kids who will raise themselves if they are lucky, and take longer to learn about reality.
Of course we can see all too clearly that children can be cruel too, and they are not all innocent of mean behavior, the hateful jealousy of their parents, the growing number of vicious schoolyard bullies. (Here in Los Angeles a young mother told me last week her daughter had to promise to keep quiet around grownups because she was going to be jumped into a gang on the playground; and how grateful she was that her daughter still was not yet swallowed up by her peers, still loyal to her mom.) And is there not a newly named mental illness every month? Again, I ask, “Why?”
It is not TV or movies that wipe out our loved ones, although they show how to do it; it is sick people who should not ever have access to weapons, sick people who nobody knows what to do with, people with serious disorders left to fester and grow into total insanity. What is a parent of such children to do? You can only send an “incorrigble” juvenile delinquent to lockup so many times and then she or he has the freedom to harm others for years. There is no cure for borderline personality syndrome. Yet. And it is rampant among us. Statistics prove this.
Do you think that more mindfulness around the young in our lives can help at all? Do you think repressing gun violence in movies and TV is going to help while the battering hours of continual advertising to” buy, get, acquire and consume” continues to create inordinate desire in a child’s subconscious mind, a deep dissatifaction with anything a parent can obtain? After the dreamscape on the media, can the world ever satisfy or soothe our violence-battered national psyche? Maybe a ban on the gunfire on screens, less pornography and more innocence would lead to a kinder gentler nation? Maybe it is too late already. We are raising a country of children with trigger fingers, acceptors of world news accompanying supper with a relish of acceptable cruelty, unspeakable crimes. We are deadening consciences before they are formed. We are breeding psychopaths. Sane children will not grow into dangerous adults. Sane people will listen to their consciences no matter how many guns they own. Statistics prove this.
So, was Arthur Miller correct about Americans hating their children? (He said this long ago at the Chicago Democratic Convention while police were beating college students in the background.)
What about childhood? Where does it begin and end? Every loved one lost in war was once a child. Just today I heard on the radio on my way to work that 12 little girls were killed in a bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan while out gathering firewood. Their ages ranged from 6 to 12. Here’s a question: Should we just get used to it? Take it with a grain of salt and go on about our business as usual? Can we numb ourselves sufficiently by altering our own minds, our inborn consciences? Who or what can help us do this? An overkill of violence in the media, in games, the news? Is this why there will always be a drug problem in our country? A general “numbing out” to an impossible reality? People who lash out violently because the world will not, cannot fulfil their aching need for something impossible to give them? Psychopaths are people who are often charming, cult leaders even, but they share a common trait: a lack of empathy. How fast are we breeding these people? Check out the statistics on “ borderline personality disorder” and ask again.
And so, it is Christmas once again. Unlike quincinearas, debutante announcements and a twenty-first birthdays, Christmas comes around again and again to remind us, if we are still sensate, that we have another chance to ponder the life and the birth of Jesus Christ, who demonstrated for all of us just how much evil lurks in the breasts of fellow creatures, how much hatred lies waiting in human nature. Can this be fought with non-violent resistance? His brief life showed clearly that if one is to preach love, peace and brotherhood one is asking everything evil to come out to play. We in America are growing a litany of names, peacemakers who dared to speak out for non-violence. Human beings have, for the most part, always gotten it wrong. Something there is that doesn’t love “ love.”
Where does art fit into this quasi-sermon (forgive me the digression)? Beauty! Beauty! The beauty of God’s Grandeur. When America was a more God-fearing place, it seems to me now, there was more peace, harmony and beauty in our country, and a lot less bloodshed and evil. Can we get back to innocence? At least re-institute it? The so-called Jesus Freaks have done more than enough damage to Christianity with their Bible thumping distortions and emphasis on hate and obsession with the devil. The control- obsessed phoney religious people who know how to talk the talk are trying to scare us with condemnation and hellfire. I actually had a person tell me I should keep crackers and good running shoes in my car for when the rapture comes. ???? Can we find some compassion even for them, scared as they are of reality, at Christmas? The wonder of birth and new life? And after compassion what happens? Why can the world not accept the message of the Christ without distortion, aggression and the need to propogate division and subverted hatred? These are rhetorical questions, of course.
“The Little Wanderer” by Berthe Hummel.
God bless us all. My heart grieves for all the lost children and parents and all the perpetrators of suffering. In honor of the suffering parents this year, I offer this:
Pray for our country the way our forefathers and mothers prayed for her.. God Bless America with safety for our children, every one of them.
And to those parents who try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, perseverance and comfort until the end.
by Botticelli (my title: It never ends)
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell; the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.