Pity poor Lily, condemned to a life of drudgery by the welfare state’s tolerance of her mother’s failings:
On Friday afternoons Lily commutes home from a boarding high school, a place for girls who have grown up in high-risk homes. It doesn’t get much more high-risk than where Lily lives, the Hunts Point section of New Yorks’ South Bronx.
Walking, she remembers Jesse, her mother’s current live-in boyfriend, who is abusive and jobless. Jesse’s 9-year-old son, Leon, has also moved in. Lily can’t let the anger in. She it too tired from the week for that.
Lily’s mother, you see, is totally inadequate. But not to worry, a beneficent government will see that she does not starve as a result.
Lily’s mother, Maritza, was 25. A single mother of four children, each with a different last name. The family was living in subsidized housing, receiving welfare. Not much different from most in Hunts Point, where average family income is $16,000.
Which, for doing….well, nothing… is a pretty good ‘wage’, isn’t it?
Lily was her mother’s confidante. Maritza’s stories of being defeated shaped Lily. She heard her talk of eviction and listened to her mother belittle neighbors. Trust no one, was the main message from her mother. Lily was told about her own father, his violent and criminal past. Maritza never let Lily know that he had come back for her. She never told her that he was a well-known trompe l’oeil artist, who created room-sized paintings bursting with Caribbean-colored gardens. Instead Lily grew up feeling abandoned and without pride.
I think you can gather, from this, that a cat would make a better mother than Lily’s mother? Lily is, of course, doing all the mothering:
Lily was late her first day of school, embarrassed to be the only girl without her uniform, lunch and school supplies. Crying, she told me about her morning: “I had to wake up the two youngest. I had to wash, dress, and take them to school. My mom just sleeps.”
Well, why not? After all, the State is taking care of Maritza, so why should she not push her obligations onto her daughter?
During Lily’s freshmen year, her mother gave birth to Angelique, and the boyfriend, Jesse, moved in. Within two years, two more children were born. Lily was now a stand-in, teen mother of six. She missed a lot of high school.
It’s enough to make you weep.
But so, too, are the comments. Because what do the Guardianistas feel is the answer to this sad tale of the consequences of the State stepping in and removing the need for responsibility from parents?
Why, you’ll never guess!
AhBrightWings: “No child should be in charge of other children. Government subsidized day care needs to be mandated in situations like this.”
Yup, giving Maritza free stuff isn’t working, so we must give her more!
GreenFlash: “In any organisation (call it human society if you want, even call it economics if you dare), when non-success is an indispensable part of the economic architecture, built-in as it were, where a whole raft of peoples failure is a prerequisite for those who do succeed, the flip-side that makes success even possible, then dehumanising those who are assigned the role of non-success is beyond cold-blooded.”
The odd view that capitalism dictates that Maritza not succeed at being a mother. I mean, wha..?
EnglishAthena: “Yes, you can’t force sterilization. And you can’t take kids away from bad parents and give them to decent middle class folk, either. It’s been tried. It destroys the kids.“
Lily’s already destroyed. How much worse could it be?
ehdunno: “The amount of money given in welfare payments to the poor is a drop in the ocean compared to the vast amounts given in corporate welfare/benefit payments. If we got even a quarter of the tax money they should pay, things would be looking up.”
The notion that companies taking advantage of the way the tax system works is immoral, while making your daughter mother your children is…what?
There are a few sensible voices:
intentsandpurposes: “Unlimited benefits hasn’t helped Lily. In fact, it might’ve just been the thing that has ruined her future and forced her to assume the role of an adult to her umpteen half-siblings. Just how DO you think she can be helped? Unlimited, no strings attached welfare isn’t the solution. It is a vicious circle, but encouraging irresponsibility for idealogical reasons is inimical.“
Spot on. But lost in the clamour that none of this ever be blamed on Maritza.