When I was in junior high, once a year we had a week where we were permitted to bring our cameras to school and take black-and-white pictures for the yearbook. Two of these pictures are from that. I no longer remember the people in them. There is a streetscape from near my house, and the grayness of the season, the dirty snow, the dried salt on the road, the bare trees in relief against the sunless sky return to me that feeling of endless winter that occurs in the North. And there is my younger sister, just a girl in elementary school at the time. I’ll throw out the pictures from school. I’ll keep that of my sister and the street near my house.
Can you fall asleep like this? Were you ever able to?
Sometimes, the most sobering and the hardest part of the high-conflict divorce is the constant barrage of reminders of what a f@#*ing moron you were.
The signs were there, but you weren’t thinking straight.
A friend tried warning you, but it was a half-hearted attempt, and it was too late.
You’d been burned by love in the past, and in the state you were in you were willing to settle for something a little bit less.
You’d been living in isolation, and it distorted your judgment.
You know that you should just put all of this behind you. You try to, every day. However, when you are chained to the rock of co-parenting with a
psycopath narcissist someone with Borderline Personality Disorder a difficult person, it’s hard, if not impossible, to do so.
So it’s Sunday, and we there’s a big informational meeting about our son’s upcoming trip to Israel. All the travelers and their parents are gathering at a Jewish day school about a half hour away. I will be driving the Kid as it’s my weekend. The former wife asks if I’ll be staying until the end–she needs to return to help a friend who is preparing chocolates for Taste of Boston. I say, sure, but I have a condition. She grumbles and rants, afraid that I’m going to ask for something reasonable, like she actually return something of mine that is a family keepsake that she decided to appropriate in the divorce. No, I ask for her to bring one of the chocolates. (I like chocolates). She says she’ll see if she can. I say, If you can.
I get to the meeting first. The organization running the camp is quite smart, at least in terms of self-preservation, and they bill me and the former wife separately. They also make us separate packages of the informational material. They’d rather go to the trouble of sending out separate bills and info than to have to listen to us call and accuse each other of being the bad parent.
Because I get there first, I grab the heavier packet. The packets are identical, except that the heavier packet has two luggage tags in it. The kids are supposed to use these luggage tags so that everyone in the group can have their bags identified by anyone in the group. I take the heavier packet. Why? Why not? I know that the former will have a strong sense that she is entitled, for chissà quale ragione, to be the keeper of whatever keys need keeping. This belief is also reinforced by its correlate, that I am not capable of handling things. (In fairness, many women subscribe to this myth: men would be dead in their houses with their guts being eaten by the cat within days of last contact were it not for the intervention of the Ever-Feminine.)
True to form, when the former arrives she comes up and asks for the luggage tags. When I answer that I’ll hold on to them, she goes on to demand them. Loudly, vocally, and of course, without regard for the fact that we are in public.
We are reliving our bad marriage all over again, in a microcosm.
It’s not a big deal, the luggage tags. But the assumptions and treatment are galling. So I say, calmly, I think I’ll just hang on to the tags.
The former wife stomps off, loudly, “Well, then you can’t have any chocolate!” Play my way, or you can’t have any candy. Story of my married life.
As a Jew taking the long view of history, I have come to the conclusion that it’s not wise to fight for something that can’t be saved. Fight where you can, but retreat and regroup when you’ve been outflanked. If my great-grandparents had gotten the notion in their heads that it was only a matter of time and people fighting for doing the right thing, they would have stayed in Europe, and they would have been killed. They would have lost. Forever. There’s a dignity and nobility in a Last Stand, but making a last stand where you don’t need to is pointless suicide.
I’m not saying that there is a danger of a Holocaust here. I’m not saying that the problems now single out Jews. However, the lesson of history is that sometimes things don’t get better. Sometimes they do, but it takes lifetimes and generations. But sometimes, it never happens. Civilizations fall. Societies crumble, and nothing worth living in springs from the ashes. Things go to hell and never come back.
One ray of hope is that Drumpf’s demographic skews older. One old fart funeral at a time, our country is probably getting better. I look at my kids in our and see how much more tolerant and accepting they are than we were at that age. This change is slow and it’s incremental, but it is positive.
But there are plenty of signs that we’re sunk.
There is still the conversion and indoctrination of the young to the selfish and jingoistic mindset of tRump, especially those who are seduced by the idea of American Exceptionalism. (Who wouldn’t want to be exceptional, especially if to be exceptional requires merely the luck to have been born in the right place at the right time?) We are far too militaristic, especially in a country where so few people serve. The pious sanctimony surrounding our armed forces prevents any useful discussion of how they should be used. We are far too religious. Religion as a double-edged sword that too often gets sharpened on only one side. We have denigrated science and research to the point where other countries will equal us and surpass us in the ability to do cutting edge innovation and investigation. This is a race where you can’t make up for lost time. The changes to our environment–caused by those who still subscribe to the antiquated idea that the highest and best good is determined solely by ascertaingin that which brings in the most money–have launched us down a dangerous road, and we can only slow that movement, not turn it back. We have large parts of the population who believe that gun ownership, not debate, not reason, not commitment to each other, is the most important foundation of a society. The USA is not the Last Best Hope of the World. We can be a leader in the way forward, but not without a commitment to see where we’ve gone off course. Currently, those in power do not have that commitment.