*I felt it was time to revisit an old blog post from September of last year. Partly because it has been getting a large number of visits but also because the federal election in my country (Canada) is only days away. It’s important for everyone during any election to keep their wits about them and to avoid being taken in by a better haircut and some trendy eye glasses. Vote for character people, NOT image.
Yesterday I was foraging in a Sterilite tub filled with family memorabilia, looking for some photos to attach to the names on my daughter’s family tree school project. As we all know, when you start digging, all sorts of long forgotten doodads pop up, things that give us pause to reflect and practice some good old fashioned introspection. During the course of the hunt, my daughter discovered one of these nifty items, rife with the taint of the past, an old photograph of my sixth grade class, circa 1973. She was quite impressed that I could recall the names of every kid, which wasn’t particularly remarkable, considering I’d spent five years with the same group, day in and day out, excluding summer vacation of course. And you know how it is when you’re a kid, your brain is like a sponge that absorbs and saves a massive amount of information; retaining it for future reference.
Click image to enlarge
When I reached the kid in the third row from the top, fourth from the left, I had a very brittle and vivid memory of a certain day specifically. It was one of those childhood events that cling, due in great part to the intense feelings they inspire in you at the time. It was during seventh grade and I was standing in the hallway outside my class, waiting for my mother to finish her chat with my teacher. This in itself was an anomaly, as my mother had never displayed the least bit of interest in my education or anything else regarding my existence for that matter. I was both elated and horrified. Elated by this new attention she was showing me and that I was starving for, but also horrified that she may say something off colour or brash to my teacher that would take the rest of the year to live down. In those days, the children went with their parents for these little academic visits from hell, and my worst fear was some sort of public humiliation that was sadly realized when my mother reappeared in the hallway, ready to go home. This time though, I was blindsided because for a change, my mother was not the direct source of the ridicule, but rather her appearance was exploited to full effect by the child I mentioned earlier: Mr. third row down fourth face from the left, Mr. Andrew Cash. My mother had worn her very white, very shaggy, very fake fur coat, a garish slash of flame red lipstick, horn rimmed glasses studded with rhinestones in all the rainbow colours and to top off this outlandish outfit that just screamed trash of the highest order, she was carrying one of her ‘suitcase’ purses which was large enough to contain two small newborns and a bear cub.
I immediately noticed the look of disgust on Andrew Cash’s face as Ma brushed past he and five other kids near the stairwell. My neck prickled with anxiety in preparation for the slam coming my way. When my mother was out of earshot he stopped me and asked “Is that your grandmother or your mother?” His “I’m better than you” sneer made me feel as bad as he was hoping. Naturally, I turned scarlet with shame, and as an added bonus he called me the one name every kid living in my welfare housing neighborhood hated, he called me a Willy. Willy was a derogatory name coined by the middle class kids to differentiate us from them and thus put us in our places. It meant everything vile, dirty, bad, and ugly connected to being poor and living in a project.
Suffice to say, Mr. Cash didn’t live in a housing project, as he was middle class and acceptable in every way. He was an altar boy, active in school plays and filled to the brim with the knowledge that he had enough food to eat, clean fashionable clothes to wear and educational opportunities, such as a tuition based Catholic high school, unavailable to those of us not as fortunate. In fact, this wasn’t the first time he’d called me this nor would it be the last. I descended the steps in search of my mother, mortified at the volley of cackles behind me, but secure in the knowledge that I was somehow defective because of where I lived and what I lacked. When I got home I cried. All kids would. Okay, lets flash forward shall we?
Now, you may be asking, what does this pity party of Val’s, taken directly from the annals of her woebegone childhood, possibly have to do with Politicians? Well, actually it has everything to do with politics, as well as a few other pertinent matters. You see, Mr. Andrew Cash grew up to become a rather famous pop star who at one time was signed to Island Records, the original label that signed U2 no less! Not only does he have the distinction of having been in such illustrious artistic and famous company professionally, but due to his connection to Island records he was one of the acts to play in “A Concert for Berlin” three days after the fall of the Berlin wall. Hell, he has even won a Juno for his solo album work. In addition, he has become known as a sort of social commentator in print, as a journalist in both Catholic publications and secular, espousing his big wide open love-the-underdog ideology. In fact, he has uttered so many virtuous sentiments for the poor and downtrodden of society, it is hard to believe I ever knew him at all, he is that unrecognizable. Currently, I have discovered, he has had still another metamorphosis, this time as a political candidate in Toronto. He is campaigning to become an MP for the NDP party, which is the big time babies, the federal government. Yes, that’s right, big time politics and power. His platform is quite eyebrow raising for me, one of the five poor ghetto kids who attended the above mentioned Catholic school with Mr. Cash. How about we let you take a gander for yourselves, it will save us all time and you get to see his mug now that he’s had a complete makeover, most likely courtesy of a public relations spinner.
Note the “Affordable Housing” and the “Urban Workers” on this promotional poster? Why yes my dear scribes, I too was aghast. but what truly irked me and was a serious crust on the pie of decency, was his cavalier tossing around of phrases like this: marginalized, single moms, young families who can’t afford daycare, no employment benefits etc. Yes, it would appear he has had a change of not only heart, but personality too. Hmmm… or has he? Update: Mr. Cash has taken his original campaign poster and altered it, as is shown below. Now it says nothing about marginalized single moms or affordable housing. Apparently diesel trains are more important to him now. It would seem that Mr. Cash doesn’t deem women and children living in poverty a worthy cause to take to Ottawa with him. Nothing like a good internet cleansing and a flip flop on the issues to get a guy elected.
I find it morbidly fascinating that the people we elect, the people to whom we give our dollars and sense, (yes that misspelling was intentional) are nothing more than flimflam men and women who dabble in a number of narcissist friendly professions, before they at last decide to take the fast track to our wallets by selling us fraudulent personas in return for an X on a ballot. We make mythic saviors of human beings who offer us nothing more than doctored reputations and glib tongues (Obama is a perfect case in point). Our obsession with the cult of personality over substance still astonishes and sickens this mother, feminist and advocate for victims of violence and poverty. It should sicken everyone enough to initiate an overhaul of not only our governing bodies on this planet but also the flaw that breeds in the darkness of our collective and willing ignorance. We have a social and economic crisis on this planet such as we’ve never seen before and unless we solve it from the bottom up, one person at a time, we are heading for serious destruction.
This is the point I was getting to all the way back there at the beginning. My discovery of this one class photo, reminded me to remind my daughter that it isn’t what people say that is the dynamic of their soul, it’s what they do and are. I know I still possess the same morals and sensibilities I had at thirteen, just a few more dings, but the same kid who survived project living. I suspect that Mr. Cash is no different either, and I’ll wager he still doesn’t have any friends in the ghetto. Hopefully he never will, at least not politically in the form of a vote. Although I do strongly encourage him to visit the Crips in my old neighborhood, Bay Mills, AKA Da Milz and get familiar with want and pain. However, I won’t hold my ghetto breath, because that place is full of Willies and I painfully recall how Andrew Cash feels about them/us, Politics be damned.