Saturday, August 20, 2005

Goodman Speaks

Here, via DED Space (, is an Ellen Goodman column.

I first read Goodman way back, when I was first starting to think -- you remember starting to think, I'm guessing?

(I'm not sure -- it occurs to me I've never taken a poll on this one, and the other days when mr. delagar and I were talking about learning to read he said he didn't remember learning to read when that's one of my clearest memories, sitting there in the first row of the first grade classroom on a rainy morning in Louisiana reading the word TOY in yellow chalk on a green blackboard and saying to myself, "Shit, I can read." Yes, my exact words, I'm afraid. I was, in fact, born in a trailer.)

Anyway: starting to think: It happens around twelve or thirteen, somewhere in there. Probably around the time the forebrain starts developing, I'd guess. All of a sudden, you can manipulate arguments. You can fuck with your parents. You can say what about this? You never thought about that point, did you? You can cause trouble in class, raising difficult questions the teachers have not considered. (I'm guessing you can see what sort of kid I was.)

I loved arguments. I didn't care what they were about, either. I didn't even care who won them. I wanted to see questions hammered out, I wanted to see dross stripped away and logic followed to its bitter end and the truth chased down.

And I was living in Louisiana.

Man, was I fucked.

Luckily, books.

And newspapers, and magazines, and my mother had just gone back to the local university to get her B.A. (No internet yet. How I woudl have loved the internet.)

But another of my clearest memories is reading an Ellen Goodman column on why she had decided to stop spanking her kids. I can't remember her arguments, or even much about the column, except the precision of her logic, and how well she supported each point. I started the column being a firm believer in hitting kids -- everybody I knew hit kids, every kid I ever knew and had known had been beaten, I remember watching kids being whipped with switches made of straightened out wire coat hangers and thinking nothing of it, I had always assumed that of course I would whip my own kids, how else would they learn to act right? I read that Ellen Goodman column, which was only about seven paragraphs long, and it was so right, that by the end I said, well, yes. That's right. And since then I have been firmly in the camp that says it is insane to hit kids.

(I've done lots of research since then, by then, on the subject. All of it backs Goodman up. It is insane to hit your kids. Don't do it. Do your own research if you don't believe me. And you do not have to hit them to make them act right. Really not.)

Anyway, Goodman. Great columnist. Great writer. Here she is again:

This war was sold to the public as a matter of self-defense against weapons of mass destruction. But the WMDs never appeared. Next, we were told Iraq was the front line in the war against terrorists: "better there than here."

But evidence shows that the vast majority of the foreign fighters are not relocated terrorists but new recruits radicalized by the war itself.

More recently, we were told to "stay the course" to ensure democracy in Iraq. But as Iraqis wrangle over a constitution that may not look anything like ours, the list of rationales gets shorter and the support for the war gets weaker.

Taken altogether, the polls show a majority of Americans now believe that it was a mistake to send troops to war, that the results are not worth the loss of American life and that the war has not made us safer.

The most powerful argument left is the one the president repeats again and again: "And the best way to honor the lives that have been given in this struggle is to complete the mission."

The question is not whether the president will talk with her. He won't. It's not whether she speaks for her son. We'll never know. It's not whether she is "just a mom" or an anti-Bush agitator. She's both. It's whether nearly 1,900 Americans died in a war of choice and how painful that is to acknowledge. It's whether we go on quietly honoring those deaths with more deaths.

No wonder this "peace mom" has become a target of the war over the war. If she succeeds, the White House has lost perhaps the final and most powerful justification they offer a disheartened public. At that point, there's no way out of the Iraq muddle. Except out.


zelda1 said...

I remember the first word that I read and it wasn't in a classroom but was written on the dirt by my next-door-neighbor. It was Mississippi and she made me sound it out. I think I was around four or five. AFter that, I sounded out every group of letters that I saw. I drove everyone crazy and I read everything including newspapers and their commentaries. When I was around eight, I learned about physcial abuse of children by reading the newspaper and how some men and women were over beating their children, like over beating the eggs and it was not good, mixed the recipe up and out came a bad cake or a ruined custard, so I think overbeating a child makes them, ugh what, over something. I later began to research abuse and realized that hitting wasn't about teaching the child something but was about the parent relieving frustration, getting rid of all the crap out of their system at the expense of the child's bottom. No matter how soft you hit, you still hit and how can you teach a child not to hit if you hit them. My daughter swatted my grandson on his diapered butt and I told her if she ever did that I again, I would take her to court and take him away. It was a tiny swat no mark no nothing but the look on my grandson's face killed me. No spankings. She was right. And by the way, I would have loved the internet too. I was born about thirty years too soon. But hey, can't fix that.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was learning to read in Louisiana, too. The older boys used to let me read the books they had checked out of the school library, and when my mother found out it was because I wasn't allowed to check out books beyond my grade level, she went to the school and gave them hell. They changed the policy. It's one of the few positive memories I have of my mother.

A few years later, she would drop me off at the big library downtown while she went shopping, and that was a totally magic place for me. All the librarians kept an eye on me, and I read for hours. I can still remember the way the rooms smelled.

I used to check out Shakespeare's plays on LP and listen to them for hours. Chaucer, too. By the time I started junior high school, I understood enough Shakespeare to enjoy it.

I had really great teachers at all my schools. Perhaps I was lucky.

delagar said...

Diana -- Where in Louisiana? I was in Jefferson Parish. Public schools. Not good. Librarians were vicious out there too. Not all of them -- enough, though.