Saturday, January 03, 2009

Training up the next generation of Do-Nothings

A short while ago, I checked out from the library a book called Hey Day by "Super Clea" and "Keva Marie". It's a young adult book I picked up because it looked vaguely interesting & I was hoping for a crochet pattern or two.

It's a day book, every page dated for one day of the year, with a different activity or recipe or whatnot on each page. Sounds cool, right?

Right. Reading through it I pegged it for silly "grrl power" crap, but vaguely amusing. Then I got to January 19th, which is Linda's birthday. This is what's on that day, & you'll see immediately why I didn't read much farther:

So one day you find yourself walking down the street, and you come across your old elementary school (as Keva does every Sunday morning when she walks to the coffee shop). So there you are, gazing upon your old school. You feel happy as you reminisce about first-grade crushes when all of a sudden you notice this vulgar, disgusting, super nasty graffiti all over what used to be your four-square court. "YUCK!" you yell, but no one is around.

You feel angry and sad. You feel like somethign should be done about this. But you don't know what...

Let's pause here for a moment, shall we? Let's just stop, and ask ourselves what we would do, what we would like our children to do when confronted with something like graffiti on our an elementary school playground. Got that in your head? Hold it there. I'm going to give you the book's advice, and though you can probably guess what it is since I'm posting here to bitch about it, I can pretty much guarantee it's not what YOU would do.

OK, so here it is. Just scroll down some:
Write a letter!

Yep, that's it. In big giant letters like that, centered in the middle of the page like that. Write a letter.

Back to the book:

To whom, you ask? Why, to someone who has the power, such as a government official. Letters, when written well, can be a very powerful thing. They are a call to action, a plea for help, a real voice from a member of the community. And who knows, hopefully you will get a response or, better yet, a solution!

Well, then.

Mind you, I do not object to writing letters to your Congresscritters. There are reasons to do so. This is not one of them.

I will give the solution here, so as to save sweet young things all that effort of figuring out who their representative is:

GO CLEAN IT UP YOURSELF. That's right. Don't "do something" by writing a letter to demand that someone else do something, do something. Stop by the office Monday morning and ask permission to try scrubbing the graffiti off, or to paint over it. Talk with other alumni of the school, and see about getting together to paint a mural over the graffiti, if it's on a wall (again, with permission). Time was, taggers respected murals and would not deface them. (I realize this is no longer a universal thing, sadly, but it's worth the effort.) Call the United Way or stop by the library and chat up one of the librarians to see if there's a community organization that you can volunteer with. Community centers are a good place for this info as well, generally speaking, as is City Hall.

Letters do have a use in this situation. If there's no community organization dedicated to dealing with this sort of thing--and there most likely is--write a letter to the editor of your newspaper to help recruit volunteers for one.

There is only one thing that has a hope in hell of rescuing a neighborhood. Neighbors. Not the government. The government really doesn't give a good goddamn, especially not the Washington crowd. We have seen time and again that when neighbors huddle in their houses and hope for the government to sweep in & better things, it only gets worse and worse, until everyone who can flee has, and the only folks left are the poverty-stricken and the gangbangers. When people come out of their houses--and granted, sometimes this is so very dangerous I do not fault them for not doing this--and make a concerted effort to improve their community, it tends to happen. I've seen it happen, on occasion.

Writing a letter and expecting someone else to fix the problem. Hmm, who does this sound like?

(And on a side note, why the hell do I get redirected to a contribution page when I type into my browser? I thought the dude made a record-breaking amount of money. Why does he want more?)


Anonymous said...

Sabra, what a great post! I showed it to my husband and he loved reading it, too!!!

Dave said...

Thank you for this post. Don't even get me started on Graffiti or the more vulgar tagging. I love dispatching letters to people in charge but at the end of the day if you aren't willing to really do something, the letters are a waste, and the people you write them to know it.

I am the coordinator for my neighborhood watch program and can't tell you how many people suggest we get tough by "calling somebody" or "writing a sternly worded letter". In reality, what we need is more volunteers to get out there and help those of us willing to "do something"; paint over the tagging as soon as it happens.

There are times for letter writing, but the goofy book you were reading surely could have come up with a better example to demonstrate it.