The Death of a Mother

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Ashes to Ashes: The Downward Arch of the American Dream

CHRIS FLOYD

“In the inevitable self-centeredness of grief, I couldn’t help but see it all as the emblem of something larger, the end of an era. My mother was born in the depths of Depression, to a sharecropper who’d been born in the 19th century. She worked the tobacco fields, helped in the hog-killing, wore flour-sack dresses until she was 10. Public schooling, electrification and government work lifted her family up. She got out of the holler — though not far enough to suit her — and lived the long, post-war, middle-class life that is now ending, in blood, absurdity and degradation, all around us.

The American Dream, I guess. But we know now its seeming solidity was built on sand — or ashes. Built on the death and suffering of countless, faceless “others” around the world, and in our own streets. Built on the poisonous myth of “exceptionalism,” the cargo cult of “the market,” and the tragic denial of our commonality.

It didn’t have to be that way — but it is what it is. Her life rose and fell with this historic arc, like a wave going back into the dark. She is free now, drifting on the open sea; where are we?”

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2 Responses to The Death of a Mother

  1. robin andrea says:

    This is such a compelling read. This morning Roger showed me a photo from The Seattle Times: The newly-elected mayor and his husband on the front page celebrating the mayor’s election victory. My heart soared. Then I remembered a post I had just read about Fukushima and someone comparing it to the last scene in “On The Beach.” My heart sank. The best and worst happening at once. We know where we are headed, and the future is bleak. We celebrate the little victories on the shores of a dying sea.

  2. Tara Crowley says:

    Robin’s last sentence says it all for me. I worry about the generations coming up after us. Either they are going to find a way to turn it around, or they are really going to be present for the shit storm.

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