reassuringly Tired of the tedious, depressing headlines in the news? Every day I read about more human misery: the war in Syria…human traffickers preying on migrants desperate to escape endless violence… the entire country of Greece drowning in debt, and all the individuals across the globe at the mercy of cultural clashes and political power grabs, trying to cobble together a new life and rebuild their family nests… while conflict continues to escalate between Israel and Palestine. Turning to local news here in America, we have yet another mass shooting—this time at Umpqua Community College—by another angry, isolated young man unable to find a girlfriend. (Beware the unloved adolescent!) All of the hand-wringing and pontificating by media and politicians about overhauling gun control laws versus our Second Amendment rights to bear arms has given me a ferocious headache. Advil isn’t doing the trick.
Although I’m not in a war-torn country, trying to reach Greece in an over-crowded raft, there’s still plenty to worry a mama bird in her semi-empty, Manhattan nest. Both my kids just finished filming their respective movies. Max and his girlfriend survived a cross-country move from Maine to California in a 16 foot U-Haul driving day and night. With his bank account dwindling, Max needs to put the finishing touches on his second project in order to avoid becoming a (truly) starving artist. With every passing month, Henry and I must adjust to the fact that our son now lives faraway and may never return. Does Max’s relocation mean that one day our (prospective) grandchildren will grow up on the west coast, in a different time zone? Will we be too old and feeble to journey cross country often enough to know our potential grand babies? But that’s far off into the nebulous future, so I should stop worrying, right?
More immediate and profound is my worry for Sarah, on the autistic spectrum—who unlike her twin brother—has no job and no idea if (or when) she’ll ever be offered meaningful work. Can our society really afford to pour millions of dollars into research, education and therapy for children on the autistic spectrum and then totally abandon them as adults? Educators talk about inclusion in classrooms, but what about inclusion in the real world? The so-called “neurodiversity” trend has thus far only embraced a tiny minority of adults on the autistic spectrum. Those with Asperger’s at the high end who are gifted writers, speakers, and computer programmers can forge a path in the neurotypical world. So too can lower functioning individuals given simple vocational training, who are willing to take the minimum wage jobs many neurotypical applicants find boring and unsatisfying.
Where does that leave Sarah and all the others who have managed to graduate from college, but still lack the communication and life skills necessary to find and keep an entry level job? Answer: worse than nowhere. After years of being told she could succeed if only she worked her hardest, Sarah is now finding out that she still hasn’t come far enough for the world to accept her—a crushing blow for my daughter, who worked so hard to succeed in school and develop a healthy, strong ego—and heartbreaking for me. How does any parent face the idea that their adult child’s best efforts might not be good enough to survive independently in the world the way American society is currently structured?
Enough about tragic world events and my children, right? This week’s challenge was to find someone or something uplifting that might give me and my readers a smile. So far I’ve failed miserably, I know. But, wait, John Lennon was born this week. To commemorate what would have been his 75th birthday, Yoko Ono invited thousands to Central Park to create the largest-ever human peace sign. ABC reported that 2,000 people gathered in the East Meadow—far short of the number needed to break the current record of 5,824 set in 2009 by the Ithaca festival. But Ono thinks Lennon would have been happy anyway. All different kinds of people, old and young, former hippies and politicians joined together to celebrate John Lennon’s birthday and legacy of peace.
Ono tweeted her invitation to the event in September, shortly after her one-woman art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art: “You don’t have to do much. Power works in mysterious ways. Visualize the domino effect and just start thinking PEACE.”
Seeing the pictures of all those people united in a peace sign made me smile and remember my youth and the idealism of Lennon’s lyrics. I can still hear his voice singing over and over: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” Maybe it’s time more people listened for a change. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkZC7sqImaM