The choices you make are your own

Published 9:18 am Wednesday, July 25, 2012

by Clarence Foster

I’m seeing more and more young people sitting on the porch, standing on the corner, or walking the road at mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and looking as far from working as one could get.

There seems a special effort at looking unemployable, all the way from do-rag to un-laced shoes.

Sometime, somewhere, 40 to 50 years ago I came across the saying “showing his a–.” It would be used to describe someone who was expressing a somewhat unwarranted unhappiness. A person going overboard, so to speak. This whole thing, being a touchy issue, might lead some to think it applies to me in the writing of this article.

At any rate it’s time to talk some real serious business and wrestle with each other, in coming to grips with a real serious issue.

Could it be that “showing his a—“ was really a hint of things to come, a common phenomenon seen all over today, especially at places likely to create the greatest offense? Ratcheting-up a general view of unemployability.

Let’s return to the matter of unwarranted unhappiness. We’ve traveled so much of the same route. We slog through the mud of pinpricks, slings and arrows, casual insults, etc. And it can feed on itself if we don’t have an occasional victory, even a small one, but frequent enough to keep a small door at least partially ajar.

But you should know that — ajar — may be in the eye of the beholder. People have come from way, way back to win, even though what appeared to others to be a brick wall. All of us know of such people but choose to ignore them, when it gets in the way of a determined hopelessness.

The whole thing starts with reading, writing and arithmetic (the three R’s) but even when a little short here and there, a winner might compensate through personality, grit and sheer doggedness. A many poor student has ridden personality, character, discipline and responsibility all the way to retirement. You pretty much have to float all the rules to become a total failure. You might even “show your a–.”

When you reach 60 (if you’ll let yourself), you’ll find that it’s all on you. No matter what happened, where at, who caused it; it’s all on you. What have you done, what do you have, who are you? If none of it matters, — well, good for you.

It is said that Booker T. Washington walked from Danville to Hampton Institute to get an education. It’s been said to me that my father’s maternal grandfather rode his bike, whenever it suited him, between Norfolk and Rocky Mount. Circumstances were met with creativity and determination, not theatrical tantrums.

There is no place within the corporate limits of Franklin that is even half as far from school, as one of my grammar school classmates had to walk, rain or shine.

You who know better, but only seek to temporarily dip your toe into this ever-spreading pool of blood; shame on you. It’s somehow hip to look unkempt, act disrespectful, pretend to join the ranks of despair, enshrining a cultist effort of disproving exception to an unruly rale, while doing your phony best at inflating a self-destructive, make-believe world. A zealous choice, in full uniform, embracing the problem, instead of the solution.

Yeah, I think that there aren’t enough jobs to go around. One out of every 10 may be looking at food stamps and welfare. But you know what? Be one of the nine. Once you get a small toe-hold, act with this principle in mind: he doesn’t get rid of his best man. And just so we’re clear: it’s not about you. It’s about him. [If, on the other hand, he tends to flout this principle; you may, for what it’s worth, enjoy an eventual last laugh.] It’ll be about you, maybe, when you’re doing the hiring.

The point is, you can’t actually quit, without, first starting. Perhaps I should clarify a very important boundary. Crime, as in any pathology, is deadly. Fantasies and freedoms purchased through crime are short sighted and short lived. Just like their perps.

There were no drugs in the backwoods of Southampton County when I was a kid. At least none that I was aware of. One searing similarity was poverty, and the crushing humiliations that could come with it. But at least we were spared the cultish celebrants. Your grandparents got up, or got out.

If none of your friends or relatives are any good at the three R’s, then your choices in friendships have been cripplingly narrow. Those are choices that you make, and from a whole school of possibilities.

The world of possibilities has been thrown open by your grandparents and their allies. As they fade from sight, and look back over the hill for you ——-. Come on!

CLARENCE FOSTER is a resident of Southampton County and a 1963 graduate of Hayden High School.