Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A cripple and an orphan

Sarah married a cripple and I married an orphan.

As I wander through this vacation blog thinking about sex and trust "cripple" and "orphan" have been floating through my thinking like a pine cone caught in the current of a stream.

I guess you can't talk about trust without talking about weakness. Sarah and I have built trust on a foundation of weakness.

"Men take advantage of weakness in other men," Barack Obama's Indonesian step-father, Lolo, said. "They're just like countries in that way. The strong man takes the weak man's land. He makes the weak man work in his fields. If the weak man's woman is pretty, the strong man will take her."

The above quotes are from Obama's memoir about growing up with a white mother and an African father who returned to Africa when Obama was age two.

Growing up African-American is an exercise in coming to terms with weakness. My son-in-law is reluctant to hold my daughter's hand in public because he could be shot.

When I became disabled at 17, I became deeply acquainted with weakness. Other men took advantage of my weakness.

Not only was I disabled but I was religious and sexually naive. When I was a freshmen at a university the other men on my dorm delighted in explaining sex in all it's variations to me whether I wanted them to tutor me on the topic or not. One day one of them asked what I'd do if a woman wanted to get in bed with me. "Think about it then," I said.

That night they smuggled a drunk co-ed into my room (this was long before co-ed dorms), woke me up, and hooted and hollered as she asked to get in bed with me. I kept refusing her request.

My weakness was like a scab that had to be picked by others in the dorm. Another night I woke briefly from a deep sleep, dimly aware there were men in the room. I slid back into exhausted sleep.

The next day I heard two men talking, one obviously ashamed about something. "You should have stopped me," he said to the other.

Suddenly I realized they were discussing something that involved me. "What are you talking about?" I asked.

"You don't remember?" one asked in disbelief.

"No, I don't know what you are talking about."

"Boy, you must have a Freudian block."

I will never forget the shame that flooded me as I realized that I had likely been molested while asleep. I was too ashamed to press them for the facts.

Men take advantage of weakness in other men.

A few years later I graduated with a Master's degree and I was hired to be a human resources director for a nonprofit that provided services for people with disabilities. Given my disability I had a hard time finding a job and the director took advantage of my weakness, starting me out at $3.50 an hour.

"If the weak man's woman is pretty, the strong man will take her," was another bit of wisdom from Obama's step-father. The strong get the prettiest girl. Imagine my surprise when Sarah, the prettiest, sweetest girl chose me, the cripple.

What I didn't know at first was that she was an orphan with a violent step-father. She too was acquainted with weakness.

Lolo went on to tell Barack, "If you can't be strong, be clever and make peace with someone's who's strong. But always better to be strong yourself. Always."

I would have preferred to be strong, not to be the scab of Walsh Hall that kept being picked in the fall of 1969. But Lolo was missing something in his stark assessment of the role of power in the human community. He assumed that power comes through strength. Power through strength has a limited shelf life.

There's better path to sex and that's through weakness and trust.

Speaking of power, my battery power is about the run out on my lap top. More tomorrow, Lord willing, and the creek don't rise.