Saturday, October 22, 2011

Debra la tardita in her America, of late

un pensamiento por Rudy Ch. Garcia

I know of a little girl whom I call Debra here who struggled to get to school on time. Her record on tardiness steadily grew worse. From a minute or two to five and ten minutes and then half an hour; soon she didn't show up to school at all some days. But not because she was sick.

She inevitably came in with disheveled hair, sometimes displaying frustration and helplessness over her lateness. Her teacher had talked with her and her older sister about what was going on. From the little I'd heard, Debra seemed to be a very capable student who loved learning about the world around her, and threw herself into improving her academic skills. Despite whatever went on in her life that made her late, she maintained an optimistic smile and seemed a happy child.

Unfortunately, in the real world, Debra's mom worked two low-paying jobs, like a lot of Spanish-speaking and other parents, with or without papers. One job required the mom to leave the house at four a.m., with Debra's siblings responsible for somehow getting everything ready and everyone to school on time. It hadn't been working out well.

In that same world, Debra's dad hadn't been born in the U.S. He'd gone through hells to relocate here from another country, like so many on the planet these days. He didn't come to sell drugs or covet and steal others' possessions nor to underbid millions of Americans also desperate for meaningful work. He finally found some manual labor that he worked hard at, often as many hours or more than Debra's mom.

Debra's teacher, whom I've known for years, never considered the child an "at-risk" student. She became instead a bright spot in that teacher's day, a child who often giggled as she wrote small stories, who orally expressed herself quite remarkably for a six-year-old, and eagerly tackled math and more, especially her learning of English.

Her teacher told me that one morning she pulled attendance up on the computer and there stood an X by Debra's name, indicating she'd be missing school again. The sidebar explanation read, "Dad arrested."

Debra's teacher cried.

On the other hand, Obama's minions carved one more notch on their hundreds of thousands of deportees list, more even than his supposedly more evil predecessor Bush had extradited from their workplaces and homes and communities and families. The Republican-Democrat political machine added one more statistic to their tally of see-how-many-illegals-we-catch? And the millions of ignorant American citizens who blame Debra's dad instead of American politicians and corporations for their unemployment, college-loan bills and underwater mortgages, went to bed thinking that arresting Debra's dad would magically turn their own plunging lifestyles around.

Debra's life certainly got turned around; more like, upside down. Getting to school on time will not be the major problem in her life anymore; worrying about her dad replaced that. Wondering how well she is learning English may no longer be an immediate goal for her; that will depend on where she winds up attending school. Why butterflies can fly and how many colors there are in a rainbow might become relegated to the back of her small, growing brain. And I dread to think how long her giggles will be overshadowed by new burdens in her life.

I didn't know Debra well enough to cry. But I have taught children from her background for many years. Most good teachers in this country know that all the Debras and Daniels can and do learn and succeed, if given the educational opportunities. The biggest thing they are at risk of here is being tested to death.

Anyway, not that politicians will care much, anymore than they worry about the human repercussions of their money-driven acts, but I'm using this occasion to remove my name from the registered voter list. Our citizenry is committed to following self-destructive bills, amendments and political parties that are eviscerating our souls. Very little on this year's ballot, and nothing in the next presidential ballot is aimed to stop our dive into deeper mediocrity. However, I'll keep myself on the listservs that might announce when it's time to Occupy Our Country.

I don't hope Obama reads this. Nor will I send it as part of any letter/Email/twitter-sending campaign. Those who know better, are already informed. Those who don't, shouldn't be cause for wasting time.
But despite my remarks above, I don't feel sorry for Debra. My empathy for her, and abstractly with millions of U.S. immigrant children in similar straits, also makes pity inappropriate.

So I can't end this on a sad note, however dismal Debra's future may sound. I've seen too much of children's regenerative powers, their instincte for finding new cause for giggling in situations where we adults might fall into depression. No, it doesn't always happen that way.

But every morning, children in the millions rise from their bed, sofa, mattress or blanket on the floor or ground, and using their powers of some magnificent magic, push aside the fact that the country they're growing up in lacks so much humanity that it prides itself on legally taking their parents from them. Although children sense at many levels if they're of the "wrong" color, speak a "lesser" native language and live more impoverished than the majority who can afford to text-and-twitter, their eagerness to chase a butterfly into the pages of a book or scan a rainbow for magic bigger than themselves doesn't cease beaming from their developing minds. And makes some teacher somewhere remember why all the searches for truth can't be stifled. Nor for some kind of justice.

Even if the child rises as collateral damage in a nation so far from where her father now struggles.

Que viva! our species' capacity to reconstruct ourselves, even if not as magically as all the Debras innately create new dreams to keep themselves giggling, and surviving. And even if they sometimes can't help being late for school.

es todo, hoy,

Putting it all together drawing by S.D. Hillberry, of which I own a print.


Anonymous said...

The cleansing of Hispanic people from North America must be challenged head on. As a matter of note we did not flee to Mexico when the aggressors took the Southwest from Mexico. This tale of social injustice is throughout the United States as the oligarchs seek to divide the 99% by scapegoating their criminal activities of removing the nation's wealth into their own pockets. Its time to Occupy Wall Street in the Southwest. Does Occupy Aztlan ring any bells? History is moving against the 1%. Esteban Chavez

msedano said...

we take our chances with the rest of them. debra will grow to happiness because she is a happy person and one who keeps learning.

not voting though you can is letting that half of the rest of them win.

Melinda Palacio said...

This story is important, as is your vote. We have to keep believing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rudy

Glad you're back with 1st graders + enjoyed your piece, tragic as it is.