“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
Maybe I'm just becoming more emotional as I age or maybe, having spent the last few weeks with small children, I can picture one of my own students writing this in twelve years or so. Which ever the case may be I found myself stopping to look at the message and wondering how hopeless or helpless one has to feel to write it where they did. It's not a tag, there's no picture or even color; it's just a statement written in a way that friends and neighbors will be sure to share in the author's revelation. Because this was next to the school I can only assume it was penned by a local student and I found myself reaching back towards my own teenage years. I tried to pinpoint the line where fairies and doll houses ended and the enormity of the world began to intrude.
As we grow up we're taught that the wold is an amazing place where anything is possible. We celebrate Columbus Day and Thanksgiving in grade school and are led to believe that villeins wear sinister black mustaches and that good always wins the day. Having home schooled I'm not sure when teachers are bursting the bubble these days, but by high school each of them carries a needle and they go through our fantasies one by one destroying our perception of reality. We learn terms like "cultural capital" (POP!). We learn that Columbus was not the hero we thought he was (POP!). We learn that our own culture/society/family is as often the oppressor as the oppressed (POP! POP!). Heaven help you if these early ideals have not collapsed by collage because the Universities will delight in showing you each and every dark secret the world wants to forget.
I remember being where this student is; I even remember the revelation that sent me there. We were learning about WWII and looking at pictures of Nazis marching into Paris, wondering how such an unpopular movement as the Third Reich ever got as far as it did.Understanding just how popular Nazism was in Europe was the first in a long line of disappointments.
The bubbles need bursting, but wow are those teenage years a dozy. All the crap of adolescence plus relearning history plus becoming aware of the "broken" world we presently live in. Hope is a tough thing to hold onto sometimes.