In Charleston, we had a bit of talk with our server person. Turns out she had been in teacher somewhere in Charleston. She made 22 k to start and after four years of teaching was way up to 24k, and she had a child too. So she quit teaching because she could make more money as a server person.
That wasn’t the only reason she quit. The whole system was horribly backwards. For example, they didn’t have time to teach all of history so they decided just to drop all the stuff about pre-history so as to avoid any talk of cave men and monkeys. Also they mixed the special ed kids with learning and emotional problems in with the regular kids and she had no special support. Sometimes, she said, they would just sit there and cuss her out. And she concluded, they lived in a “welfare state.”
That was a funny use, I thought, of the term “welfare state.” Me, I think the US could use more of a welfare state, but not one as she described it, where people live for a generation and more on welfare, get no education, have no prospects and just repeat the cycle. In Swainsboro, Georgia, the sister of our black friend drove us through their “projects.” Little brick houses all in a row, people sitting out on their porches, in the heat, infested with drugs, I was told, and drug dealers. People living in narcoticized poverty and one hundred percent black.
Up in Carolina with my relatives and down in Georgia with our black friend, people talked about jobs, needing them, getting them, moving here and there to get them, and holding onto them. People moving in with other family while looking for one, and moving out when they found one, and back again when they lost it. Our black friend’s sister, Paula, has a son who had ambition and joined the army and served in Iraq and came back and couldn’t find work in Swainsboro. So now he has gone to Florida where Paula’s new husband who has retired and has 13 of his own kids has a house so he can find work.
This is family values territory, and maybe there’s a reason for it. Because when push comes to shove, all you have is family. These are the people who might put you up in bad times, or loan you a car, or give you an old one, and when you are in deep trouble give a you a little money, and more important than that really, these are the people you can talk to, who know you and might have a little interest in you, and who you are and what you did that day.
Because nobody else in Swainsboro Georgia could give a flying fuck.