Few people understand the damage caused by Obama’s classroom speech today like I do. It’s easy for most of you to judge the opposition to this speech because you think that hopefulness, optimism, and the desire to work toward your dreams are good things. You wonder, how could any parent in their right mind want their child taken out of class for something like that? Clearly none of you ever lived in Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Colorado, or any other part of the midwest.
Following the president’s speech I asked a group of kindergarteners at Litel Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio to draw pictures expressing how they felt about President Obama’s address. Here is what one child drew. We’ll call her Stacy:
As you can see, the child was taken by a vision of a brighter future filled with peace, understanding, and racial harmony. The pleasant rainbow clearly reflects brighter days. However, having lived in Ohio I know that this is a wish that can never be fulfilled. In Stacy’s neighborhood, shiftless wanderers smoke crack pipes in foreclosed houses while drifting between jobs or hate groups. Stacy’s neighborhood is a place where hope chokes on the ash of despair and dreams flee one’s perspective like field mice into the furnaces of the remaining steel mills. Stacy will never see a future as bright as what President Obama has promised, and to make her think of a better tomorrow is to show her a world she can never be a part of before the cruel hand of Ohioan reality snatches it away like an ice cream cone.
Here is what Stacy’s drawings usually look like:
That’s more like it! Clearly this drawing represents both the past Stacy knows and the future she can look forward to. Notice the despair in the eyes of the two cowering children in the lower left, their lives a checkerboard of fear and uncertainty as their father lashes out with all his bitterness against a world which has been crueler to him than a master with a restless whip hand. And how is he supposed to explain to young Stacy this evening that her head has been filled with gobbledy-gook and that in this life, the man puts a dog on you and you’d better fight like hell or be eaten alive?
When previously asked about his future, our second child (whom we’ll call Billy) would usually draw something like this:
As you can see, Billy clearly understands life as it is; the warmth of love and prosperity can only last so long before the true nature of man’s inability to cooperate with his fellow man comes devouring the days of sunshine with a storm of heartbreak and misery. Billy, whose father has been unemployed three years come October, knows this better than anybody. With a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, Billy’s father has spent years drawing upon the lessons of his second divorce to teach the boy that things aren’t always fair and no good thing can last forever. That hard work is just a fast track to a broken body and a woman is just a hole in the bed that answers to a name.
After Mr. Obama’s speech, Billy now gazes bright-eyed at his own craftmanship as he completes this happy little drawing:
He was so excited by Obama’s speech the quality of his drawing skills diminished by at least two years. And look at all those presents under the tree. Good luck explaining to Billy how unemployment benefits won’t cover all of that. Nope, his father will say, not in this god-forsaken state! Not since I threw my back out. Not since they closed the factory. Not since that whore ran off with that truck driver and the tax man came and took what the vultures had left behind. Hell no, mister. Not in Ohio.
These are not places of rainbows and sunshine. This is the midwest. A place so foul and so hopeless that the wind itself is like a whisper, urging you to stick your head in an oven. A place so rotten and devoid of any life-force that were they not mere children themselves, mothers would throw their babies from train bridges lest they suffer the futility and indignity of their putrid meaningless lives. I hope you’re happy, Mr. President. They’ll suffer all the more darkness for you having shown them a light.