Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mary Gauthier – Snakebit

I often have to listen to teachers complain about things like “The parents won’t even sign their children’s homework – it only takes 5 seconds – shows how little they care.” It hurts me to hear grown adults speak this way because they have absolutely no concept of the poverty and pain around them. The parents of these children are both working two and three jobs just to pay the rent each month. Time? What does that mean when a parent is working 18 hours a day and can’t afford food for their children? Does it mean they love their children less because they’re willing to scrape together something that resembles a meal and do not find the time and energy to scribble on a piece of paper?

I love this song.

“The children are crying, they never got their supper
Where would you run to, in the darkness of the night?
Even shadows fear to wander
They gather round me in the candlelight

Your crucifix lies broken, bloody, sharp and shattered
I smashed it to pieces on the bedroom floor
Pain and prayers and promises scattered
Then I pulled the pistol from the dresser drawer

Oh Lord, Oh Lord,
Oh Lord, What Have I Done?
Everything worth holding slips through my fingers
Now my hand’s wrapped around the handle of a gun.”

Desperation. Sure, there’s a truth that we all live lives of desperation; but this is the desperation of poverty in a society that prides itself in “only 5% unemployment”. The figures do not take into account how many people are living on sub-standard wages and what the heck are those 5% supposed to do? Plus, there are the hidden folks that can no longer collect unemployment because their allotment has run out. They don’t work and don’t collect unemployment, so they’re officially no longer a statistic.

My own daughter gets paid $2 an hour at a restaurant here (Applebee’s in Uvalde). They legally get away with not paying minimum wage in Texas because waitresses receive tips. Ha! She sometimes gets a nickel, and relishes the occasional quarter. The government allows some classes of worker to get much less than minimum wages based on theory (people pay tips), not facts (most people do not tip). And the boss says, with a wonderful grin, “You don’t get tipped because of your service” to all his employees. Using the profits they make by not paying employees, Applebee’s is able to open 2 new restaurants a week (100 a year according to their website).

So, my daughter’s working her tail off, but cannot afford to live on her own. She’s in the process of moving back home because she cannot afford rent, much less food. She works at a restaurant and can’t afford to eat. Something’s wrong with this full employment picture.

Sure, we can judge the narrator of this song. We do not know exactly what she is contemplating. Should one shoot the children to save them from the pain caused by society, or just shoot oneself and pray the Lord will forgive the broken crucifix and take care of the children better than he took care of this mother? I enjoy contemplating questions like this on Sunday afternoons while my fellow 'Christians' wallow in church pleased with the lives they lead while children in their neighborhood go to bed hungry 3 or 4 nights a week.

I love this song because it offers no easy answers and fits the life here in rural Texas with such clarity. I have a trust that this song fits life in many other places in these here United States also, and more likely than not, its anxieties are true around the entire globe.

“The chair that I sit in I got from my daddy
Carved from the hard wood of a bitter tree
When he was alive he used tell me, kid
I knew when you were born you’d end up snake bit like me.”

Powerful music, powerful lyrics, and powerful singer. Thanks, Mary for giving me time to pause and reflect. Shoutout for Before You Leave: “The darkness that shadowed you was mine, it was never yours at all”. Mary Gauthier