Had a whole lot on my mind lately, some of which has been weighing heavy on my heart for many years. I keep trying to talk about it, but I really can’t get at it in a way that might be meaningful to others. But I’m going to keep trying, little by little, to get across what all I’m pointing at here.
This week I learned about the Rotherham scandal where 1,400 girls were groomed and sexually mistreated by grown Pakistani men over in the UK. Very upsetting story that I’m still learning the details of, having only read a handful of news reports and postings about it thus far.
I don’t want to waste this post bitching about feminism, and I don’t even want to zero in on the downside of multiculturalism today. No, right now I’m just thinking about young people and how that abuse very likely will impact them as they continue growing up. Honestly, this has me very upset to where I don’t think I can write much of value at the moment.
But I just want to say that cases like this and SO MANY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES involving grown adults trying to groom and take advantage of children and adolescents is a fucking travesty and happens FAR TOO FREQUENTLY. It doesn’t take a mob of Middle Eastern jackasses to bring this horrible situation into being. IME, grown black men, white men, hispanic men, arab men, plus women who act alone or for whatever reasons aid them — ALL are capable of savagery and heartlessness toward youths, most especially those who are not their own kin (though sometimes even their own kin). And I do believe it is true and have realized for a long time that it is extremely important that children have protective, caring men in their lives to keep destructive and corrupted others away. Because if they don’t, who will? Who can? Who will care enough to do so? A bunch of strangers up in government? Obviously they’re not reliable enough in this instance.
Then I came across this blog post.
For as much as I sometimes get frustrated with my own Papa and how his drinking negatively impacted our family, I’m blessed to have had him in my life and continue to think about him everyday. Because he was a man, a real man, not a chump or a scaredy-cat. He wasn’t perfect, but he did try to protect us and look out for us, and I really needed that since he was the closest thing I ever had to father figure. Fucking tears me up still just even trying to write about him. God, I do miss him a lot. I never expected him to be perfect, and I’m just so glad that he loved me, because I really needed and looked up to him. He wasn’t always around since I was moved away from the South for several years, but when I was with him, other males checked themselves a lot more than they otherwise would have or did in his absence. That’s important for a child or a teenager, because there really are so many cretins out here in the world, just looking for any opportunity to take advantage of someone weaker and less powerful. But Papa wasn’t weak, and nobody ever claimed he was. He was big and strong and could be fierce when the situation called for it, as it did often enough when hooligans tried robbing his roadside stand or when he was hired to oversee prisoners. He faced fear like any human being has to, but he didn’t back down. He stood his ground and proved intimidating among the best of ’em. And I’ll always respect those aspects of him, along with his gentle, child-like playful side that he shared with some of us within the family.
He represented both the positive and negative sides of masculinity, at least to me, in terms of his own individual evolution throughout his life. Luckily I met him in his 40s when he began getting his act together and learning how to become more worthy of respect. And that’s the key right there: worthy of respect. He was respectable because he did care and he also worked on not being so mean and reactive, especially toward weaker people who couldn’t defend themselves against him, though he’d had a hard life and was a troubled man with a lot of anger and pain inside. But he learned to become better than that, so far as he was able, and I think he did a good job considering his circumstances and all. Because he cared. He cared enough to not only look out for us in the family, but also to look out for strangers at times too when he saw them being unfairly mistreated, even if by cops. He didn’t always want to help people, but he felt inclined to do so often enough, and I was proud of him for taking risks and proving so capable and competent when he did so. He was no yellow-belly coward, not by a long shot, even though he suffered in his heart from what he’d experienced growing up and the indignation that arose out of what was once a boy’s sense of fear and helplessness and rejection.
I can recall as a kid sitting near his feet while he was in his chair in the livingroom, looking at his gnarly toes, listening to him spill out the day’s frustrations while snapping at Grandma. Sometimes he’d make me so mad for how he talked to her like she had no sense, and I really wish he hadn’t been that way toward her when she worked hard too and served him. But I remember sitting watching the news with him a lot of evenings and hearing his tirades as he got so upset with what was going on out in society. He’d tell me, “Sugar, you gotta learn to leave ’em alone. They gone crazy. Best to tend to your own.” But he couldn’t leave people alone either. He was curious like a cat too and would get drawn back around people over and over again, only to come home lamenting how hard it was dealing with folks. I understood what he meant back then, and I understand it better ever since. But he knew, just as I had to learn, that these outside people won’t back down and leave you alone if you don’t take a stand and back them off. But it’s easier for a big, formidable man like him to be taken seriously like that by others. Not so easy for a small-statured female like myself, much as I try to walk in his footsteps where possible.
I’m not a man, and I don’t have the physical power that a man has. That is no secret. But with power comes grave responsibility to not abuse it, and that’s a tough lesson to reckon with. I watched him struggle with it and at times fail, but at least he had heart and he did try to do better. He wasn’t above saying he was sorry, just as he wasn’t above splitting some fool’s head wide open if they tried harming him, his family or his property. If I had not witnessed Papa’s bravery and skills, I don’t know how else I would’ve ever been exposed to it, because without coming up around him I might’ve been more intimidated by a man like him to where I didn’t know how to see the benefits of who he was and why that mattered. It matters because the family matters, and we all have our roles in protecting one another so far as we’re able. It matters because what we work for matters, and it’s not fair when miscreants come in and just ransack and steal what little you’ve managed to scrape together. It matters because the police can’t be everywhere at once, and we have a responsibility to ourselves and to others to do what we can protect what doesn’t deserve to be violated. Because some things are sacred … like our bonds and our love for one another. They matter, and we matter, and if we don’t protect this, nobody else can be counted on to do so on our behalves.
My Papa was not a fan of Arab men from what little he knew about them through the television, but he didn’t discriminate against me for being born mixed, and I appreciated that very much. Some people can’t set down their biases, but he saw me for me, and he took me everywhere. I was so proud being his little sidekick. He was just the strongest man in my whole little universe, and he still is and always will be. Because he was rugged but he had heart, and that made all the difference. Because of him, I learned to be open to other men like him, and I bet he’d like most of my guyfriends these days. And when I turn to them, I’m awed by how hard they’re capable of working with their hands just as much as by how big their hearts have proven to be. That is humbling, and it calls on me to ask myself how I can best serve them in reciprocation of their efforts and kindness. I’m never claiming to be a good person, but I have heart too, and all of this is such a big learning curve in figuring out what’s real and what ultimately matters most. I’m ashamed to have not understood more sooner, but that appears to be the folly of youth — a trap we’re all susceptible to. Took Papa a long time to figure shit out too, so there’s still hope for personal change and progress.
I’ve known since I was a kid that my life would be in shambles without my Papa and my Grandma. Papa was our rock, our Big Man, and Grandma was and is our nurturer. And you just can’t have one without the other and expect everything’s going to turn out the same. No worse fate can strike a child than losing protective adults who really care about them and being left to the mercy of State programs that can’t possibly provide properly for all that a child needs. These kids over in the UK sound like they lacked families and support, hence how come they got taken advantage of by predatory men who cared nothing about them. That’s a travesty. It’s insanity that it’s become like this. I knew people who had two parents and yet still had no protection (as was similar to what my circumstances felt like while living with my mom and stepdad or my stepdad’s side of the family), and that’s even tougher to stomach, seeing parents out here behaving like children, caring only for themselves, leaving their own kids to fly blindly.
There’s so much I could say, but I don’t even know where to start, other than mentioning the important role of my Papa in helping create a better fate than that for all of us. It’s a blessing, and one not afforded to everybody, sadly enough. Much as we all need protection and guidance and role models worth following and believing in. My own life hasn’t been a rose garden, but it could have been a lot worse, and I’ve known that for a long, long time. Thank God for Papa and Grandma and humans with heart who protect their loved ones and offer support to people in need. I just don’t know what kind of world we’ll be living in once these types of people have all gone extinct. But I know it’s a world I don’t wish to see. Where my loved ones go, go I.