“Mama Tried“ is a popular prison tattoo and a tear-jerking Merle Haggard country ballad. The 1968 classic tells the tale of Merle breaking his mother’s heart by going to jail:
Mama tried to raise me better but her pleading, I denied/
That leaves only me to blame ‘cos Mama tried.
It reminds me of a very poignant article (in PDF format HERE) called “Mama’s Hoods” by good friend and ex-con Robbie Dillon. The gist is that he’s always been a bad kid and it’s nobody’s fault but his. “She plays scenarios over in her mind,” he says of his mother’s frustration over his penchant for bank-robbing, “wondering what would have happened if she had been nicer, or tougher or spent more time at home baking cookies. I have very few regrets, but some of the bleakest involve this ugly sack of doubt and guilt my mother has been forced to lug around.”
Nobody talks like that anymore. If you”re unemployed or addicted to drugs, it’s somebody else’s fault. Laziness and self-indulgence have morphed into one big illness we all caught from mom’s sloppy butt-wiping techniques. The A&E show Intervention recently featured a pathetic old turd named Michael who abandoned his family to pursue a career in crystal meth. As always, the show goes through his family photo albums until it finds some donkey’s ass on which to pin the blame. In this case, it’s his mama’s fault because she sent him away to foster care at 16 after several years of his drug abuse and legal scrapes. She said she wanted him to see that actions have consequences. How dare she? Oh, and also, his father didn”t love him enough. Way to go, dad. Michael was shirking responsibility and enjoying drugs years before and after his two years of foster care, but that doesn”t fit the A&E narrative. In the past, the show featured a woman who turned to pills after a sex video of her was passed around the high school (gasp). When A&E can”t find some juicy sex scandal to blame, they”ll settle for the inevitable divorce that left whatever poor child with no other choice but to replace his or her part-time dad with a full-time drug habit. Hey, A&E, about half of the population has seen their parents divorce, and most of them turned out all right. Look at Michael’s three children. They went through a lot more than a divorce. Their dad regularly disappeared on three-day meth benders. Where’s their TV show? Where are their therapists blaming dad for all their troubles? The end of the episode features Michael enjoying the view at an overpriced rehab while simultaneously forgiving his terrible parents for making him into a terrible parent. What a mensch.
The Independent was a New York newspaper from 1848 to 1923. They regularly interviewed locals and transcribed their life stories. Reading about pre-WWI immigrants and the ordeals they were forced to endure makes you want to put every modern addict on a boat and send them back to their ancestral homeland. In 1902 The Independent featured the story of Rocco Corresca, a young man from Italy who was originally raised by nuns but was kidnapped by a criminal at age eight and forced to beg for a living in Naples. He escaped the night before they were going to make him into a cripple (the mind boggles at the thought of routinely making children into cripples as a business strategy) and eventually he made his way to New York, where he escaped a few more hustlers and started a shoe-shine chain with his lifetime buddy at age nineteen. He could have been addicted to murdering prostitutes and eating their skin and we”d forgive him, but he didn”t. He didn”t blame any of the disgusting reprobates that invaded his life. He just dusted himself off and kept going. That’s the way it worked before screwing up was considered a disease. Now it’s all mommy’s fault.
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