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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nostalgia for things that don't exist

So looking at my recent youtube videos, someone might think that I tend to like Tim Minchin's work. Which is... true? I enjoy those songs of his which seem more heartfelt and less just to be jokes on piano.
I also have listened to some of his stuff that frankly I find troubling, such as a song of his where he starts out the song stating that it's about prejudice and including the letters of a specific slur that he finds troubling. For people (unlike myself) who quickly catch onto this particular opening, he seems to be referencing the N-word. However as soon as the song starts instead he says "only a ginger can call another ginger 'ginger'." Which, ya know, seems to be making light of racism directed against Black people and the history of how Black Americans have been treated by white society, and the very complex struggles that go on within and around Black communities in regards to the ability or desire to reclaim a word used throughout its life in an oppressive way, by comparing it to being a redhead. So that's, um, not so cool?

Anyway, which is all to say that I find him very hit or miss (for my tastes), and that this following song of his, which has been making the atheist blog rounds (and other people's? I don't know) for the past couple months is another hit.

Sort of.

It's certainly very moving, being about the importance of connection and love and well, I'll just let you hear/read it yourself and then get to my personal difficulties with it:

as always, as complete a transcript as I can make

When I listened to it the very first time, I found myself feeling nostalgic and heartwarmed, until it got to the bit about his infant daughter. Which I think is also supposed to be very heartwarming and inspiring and what-not, and probably for a lot of people does manage that. But I was suddenly struck by "these are the people who make you feel safe in this world," since for so many children in the foster care system, or who are neglected or abused or who are witnesses to family violence (which technically in MA is considered neglect), family isn't this thing that makes you feel safe. For them it can be terrifying.
It's so beautiful and moving that he thinks of this tiny human life as something worth protecting and nurturing, but all I could think of was my clients, and the clients of all the many other workers in my office, and all the clients of all the workers in all the many other offices even just in the Boston area, and all the clients of all the workers in all the offices in MA, and across the country, and you get the idea. And how (some/many) of their parents just don't, or can't, protect and nurture a child so they feel safe and loved by their parents.

Which is heartbreaking.
Really, I'm tearing up because I work in an office with tens of cubicles, each filled with 4 or more social workers, each worker with approximately 20 cases, so at a very conservative estimate there are 800 families at this moment involved with just the DCF office of Dorchester. And most of these families have more than 2 kids. So we'll say 1600 kids at any time involved with us for anything from the fact that they have literally no family, to them being sexually assaulted by family members.
Which is terrifying.

And then to a lesser extent (and after writing the other stuff, this feels so petty, but it's also true) I was also struck by wondering how he knows that this infant child of his will grow up to be a girl/woman, and the fact that I even though I love my family and appreciate them and know that they care for me, they aren't the people in this world that I feel safest with. Because I'm always on edge and anxious about how right they'll get stuff. And I thought of lots of other gay/trans kids around the world who have loving families that they love as well, who might also just not feel safest with their family. Because they're always on edge and anxious. And all the other groups of people, who for whatever reason are the odd-ones out of their families, who may still love their family, but still have to worry about whether THIS family gathering they're going to have to deal with something huge that'll emotionally knock them on their asses. I don't know.

I guess this song just makes me nostalgic for a family that I don't even know if it exists. Does it? Are there families where all the children grow up and feel unconditionally loved and cared for and *safe*? It scares me that I have to ask.

But the song sure is pretty.


  1. Social worker sounds like one of the hardest jobs there is.

    My grown children tease me that they are disadvantaged by their "functional family." How can they be artists or writers without any angst or material?

    Inspired by Baby X, I gave them all gender-neutral names. I'm not sure I was actually enlightened enough to have done a good job of parenting them if they had turned out to not be their assigned genders, but I would have tried. I was actually trying to make sure that they weren't artificially limited.

  2. ...This post really hits home.

    The song really does sound nice, but the first line- "I really like Christmas"- made me twitch. Because I HATE Christmas.
    I was pretty badly mentally/emotionally abused as a child/youth (with some physical/sexual abuse as an aside, but the mental and emotional was worse, and left worse scars). And to this day, even as an adult who's been living away from home for... nearing a decade now, Christmas terrifies me. (And I wasn't even "out" as trans back then!)

    I'm on much better terms with my family now, but they will never, ever be my "safe place".

    (And to answer your question- yes, that family exists. My ex had a family like it- ironically, that was part of the reason we fell apart and broke up. He couldn't understand the pain I suffered from mine, and I hated them being involved in any aspect of my life because it made me uncomfortable and, well... terrified.)


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