Sunday, December 13, 2009

Of accountability and car-jacking

The "man" in Cormac McCarthy's novel "The Road" soothes his son's bad dreams in the midst of a post-apocalyptic living nightmare by telling him,
"When your dreams are of some world that never was or of some world that never will be and you are happy again then you will have given up. Do you understand? And you can't give up. I won't let you."
This week Detroit parents demanded that public school teachers and officials meet jail time and civil law-suits for their failure to teach basic math. Their outrage however seems ironic because it begs the question of accountability. These parents, unlike the man in the road, seemed to assume a dream-world where a passive approach to their children's educational possibilities is sufficient. Did they think that learning is a fast-food transaction where little money and less time can be spent to fill immediate needs? Did they think they could just send their hungry child's mind to seek processed gratification trading sustainable nutrition for salty goodness? Or did they try to satisfy the hunger for learning with some home-cooked lessons? If these parents are looking for culpability (and my personal understanding of the DPS would seem to indicate a high probability assigned to teachers and administrators) they need to consider themselves co-conspirators to these crimes.

I say this in the wake of my parents getting car-jacked yesterday. The criminals were, according to my Dad, between the ages of 15 and 18. They made a dash for my parent's Taurus as it was running in the driveway when my Dad went back into the house to see why my Mom was dawdling. My Dad looked to get control of the car from the teen driving it who, in an attempt to get away fast, gunned it down the drive-way hitting my Mom and shattering her legs. My Mom had surgery last night while my Dad did not sleep because his guilty imagination would not allow him to forget my mother tumbling and broken.

My parents are victims of a crime but my Dad's first response was to question his judgment in protecting his car rather than my Mom. His willingness to pose questions of himself in the midst of a tragic circumstance will sustain him but, his level of accountability seems lacking within Detroit's parents who too easily blame. The failure of Detroit's students is first their own; followed by the parents of these students and then by extension the teachers, administrators, and city, state, and federal officials but, when accountability begins with blame, an infinite regress from reality is practiced for the sake of fantasies that are neither true nor sustainable.

My siblings are pressuring my Dad to move from Detroit and he is struggling to fight them off. He wants to stay in his home. He doesn't want to give up.

I don't know what's best for him or my Mom. I don't live in Detroit so those closer to the situation have better information. I won't pretend to trade my 41 years for my Dad's 70+ and assume wisdom I have yet to earn but, I do fear for him and my Mom. I fear they will be victims again. I fear my Mom's long rehab on surgically repaired legs. My fears for my folks however are far fewer than those for the children of my hometown.

My Mom will heal and the pride that led her to confront hostile teenagers will sustain her recovery. My Dad's inventory of his failings will provide deeper wisdom and caution. But, what lessons will those teenagers learn? Will they be considered the criminals they are by their community and their parents? Or will they continue to dwindle in an apocalyptic half-light where parents' aversion to accountability ensures that persecution complexes lead to victimizing pain.

I'm not the praying type but I ask for your prayers. Please keep my Mom and my Dad in your thoughts. May their sense of responsibility keep them looking forward and struggling to find accountability in the midst of tragedy. Pray too for those boys who are now felons charged with larceny and attempted murder. May they not imagine righteousness in their actions but only dread for the pain and the hurt they've invited.