Home > Family, Parenting, politics, Reflections > The meth apartment

The meth apartment

A meth lab burned down near my sister’s house a couple of days ago. Two people died and dozens more were displaced.

Many terrible things have happened in my sister’s neighborhood, so that she’s understandably distraught. Her friends are urging her to move, which she very much wants to.

I’m sad for her, and I’m sad beyond her.

About a year ago, I came to the shocking conclusion that history is actually important. I saw that my failure to follow history or politics had left me with a lot of illusions–delusions?–about what my country has been, is, and is en route to be.

I’ve gone through four of the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial – “What I’m seeing can’t be correct. There’s no way. No, nope. No. I can’t have so horribly misunderstood this all for my entire life.”
  2. Anger – “Now that I’ve read a couple dozen books and hundreds of articles, it’s undeniable: my country is exceptional only, perhaps, for the horrors it’s wrought on non-U.S. peoples around the globe and, increasingly, its own people. It’s so freaking wrong that I can’t even begin to conceive of how to explain how wrong. And all these fucking people around me I thought were like me are caught up in this stupid dichotomy of Republican-versus-Democrat when all the politicians are SELLING OUR KIDS DOWNRIVER, just some marginally faster than others. Fuuuuuuuuuck!”
  3. Bargaining – missed this one, since who do you bargain with when your grief is communal?
  4. Depression – “I didn’t even understand how bad the environmental situation was until it’s probably too late to do anything. Months post-election, and millions of Republicans still love Trump. Millions of Democrats continue to litigate the results of the election, apparently failing to understand beating the war-of-parties drums will not make the earth capable of sustaining our children. Only fucking fighting the corporations who rule the world (and our politicians of both persuasions) will do that, which, of course, is not even on many folks’ radar. We’re doomed. We’re all doomed! My kids are doomed.  I brought my kids into this hopeless world and I will be responsible for all the suffering that’s brought on them by their elders, who didn’t know–and actively avoid knowing–enough to even begin fighting in time. There’s no point even trying to do anything. The painful end is inevitable.”
  5. Acceptance – “Things will probably be very, very bad for my children someday, and almost certainly for their children, if they feel children are even a viable choice. But today? We have each other today, and I can love them hard today, and show them what it means to love the world, and hope that little seeds of love will lead to a groundswell of action for them and all those who rely on adults to make good choices for them. The end may be grim, but it could be kind, too, and the only way it will be kind is through love.”

Coming to acceptance has been such a relief. It frees up all the energy wasted on, alternately, raging and despairing, making room for me to seek more nuanced understandings than I could while walking through my grief.

I wasn’t evil a year ago, before I’d read a single book. I knew less about the specific steps–and choices–that led us to today, but I had so. much. hope. for my own kids and all the world’s children. Even so, I read posts I wrote two and four and six years ago and go, “Oh, the seeds of this understanding were already there, waiting for a frame in which to take root!”

So if it isn’t evil that leads adults to make–or turn away as others make–decisions our kids will suffer for decades, what is it?

We don’t fight fire with balloons or depression with fire extinguishers. We need to fight specific woes in specific ways.

We need to know which problem we’re fighting before we can fight it effectively.

When Rache told me about the fire, and her fears, I thought how good it is that she might be able to flee. All the same, I was–am–heartbroken for all the people around her who simply cannot leave.

All around me, I hear people who have never endured poverty explaining every problem as if everything for everyone comes down to a matter of personal choice. As if systemic injustices don’t pass horrible inheritances of poverty, neglect, abuse, poor educational opportunities, and distress that lay down the course of entire lives before the people who live them have even breathed their first breath. As if millions to tens of millions of American children don’t suffer the related tragedies their parents have neither the resources nor the support to escape.

There is so much more than individual choice at play, but how can one translate this to people who genuinely believe (or act as if they believe) everyone begins life with relatively equal opportunity, and therefor deserves whatever they now endure? How is it possible to translate within one’s own language the biases the language–and the mindsets it inspires–work so hard to conceal, making the illusion of knowledge seem interchangeable with knowledge itself?

I read, and read, and read, hoping to find answers. Usually I find only fractions of answers in any given place; once in a while,  though, a given fraction will be uncommonly large.

This morning, I read a passage that explained (in terms other than individual callousness) how we have reached where we stand today. Writes Wolfgang Streeck in How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System:

We–U.S. adults outside the top 0.1% of earners–have reached this point through a sequence of steps, of accessions we didn’t know were accessions. We took each step here without any certainty how it would orient us in the future.

Some people leave the meth apartment--or neighborhood–because they can. Other people leave even when they have nowhere good to go, hoping against hope that better might be found elsewhere. Others stay, even when it hurts, even when they wish like hell they could do better for their kids, because at least they have a roof over their heads.

And some, when all hope is gone, turn to meth. If the only solace they can find is in substances, that is a choice some will make.

Those who live in the shadow of the meth apartment–and daily, desperate for better, breathe its fumes–know better than to call meth a “choice.” More than that, it is an inevitable culmination of a system that treats some lives as worthy, and others as disposable.

What is acceptance?

For me, it means accepting that this is reality,

but never, ever, for a second believing

it is the only reality

that can be.

  1. July 25, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    I am sorry for your sister being near all that. I know someone personally that burned most of his body in a meth explosion.

    • July 25, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Gah! I so feel for him, and for everyone injured both directly and indirectly by all these horrors. 😦

  2. July 25, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    how horrible

    • July 25, 2017 at 7:27 pm

      We talked yesterday afternoon, but it’s been in my mind all day today. I wish I had magical powers such that I could take away all the needless pain.

  3. July 25, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    The first great truth from the Buddha ~ Life is Difficult and Painful. The Noble Eightfold Path tells us that all Life is suffering.
    I firmly believe that life is difficult and painful. I reject the idea that all life is suffering.
    We can do better than that if we only try and open our eyes and minds to the beauty all around us.
    Thank you for a great post. ❤

    • July 28, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      I agree about suffering! It’s part of life, certainly, but not all there is. There’s so much joy and illumination, too.

      A few years ago, I read (and worked out of a book called) Just One Thing. I worked on the practices for a few months and figured I was good forever. Nope! Turns out you have to keep on working … and also that the work is worth it. ❤️

  4. July 26, 2017 at 6:27 am

    Well-written, truthful and eye opening. The realization that there are choices, not all have them in the same measure, in the same way. Many would love to change their physical circumstances and cannot. Thank you for your wider, compassionate view.

    • July 28, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I went through a period of having a limited compassion (for those with the least ability to move); I’m now, I think/hope, back to a broader compassion. ❤️

  5. July 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Wow! Powerful post Deborah. I remember feeling all that angst and fucking frustrated-nowhere-to-place-this anger at the crazy amount of systemic injustice in the world when I went back to school at 50 for Community Work. My eyes opened. I became awake. And I cried a lot. But I too keep hope alive within me and in my daily living practice, that THIS is not the only reality. Beautifully written. Be well lovely one. Thank you ❤

    • July 28, 2017 at 4:50 pm

      While I’m not glad that you cried a lot, I am glad you wrote about doing so. I spent SO much time crying the last year. I know there are more tears ahead, and that there’s more anger, too, but … I think/hope it will be balanced by all the good I know to exist in the world, some of which is thanks to you. ❤️

  6. July 30, 2017 at 6:03 am

    My heart goes out to your sister and all those who live in such proximity to situations such as this. Like you said some can move, others can’t move and some people are committed to make a difference in their communities all at personal costs. Thank you for always keeping us grounded.

  1. July 28, 2017 at 8:05 pm

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