Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Red Flower

When I was a child, my next-door neighbors had a poster on the wall, a stark image that showed a swathe of black earth silhouetted against a white sky. A single fiery-red flower pushed up out of the black soil. I told the mother of this family that I thought the poster was beautiful, but she, the daughter of Eastern European Jewish refugees, told me that she found it disturbing herself. To her, the lone red flower seemed to be blooming out of troubled soil, in earth that had perhaps been ravaged by war and watered with blood.

If you go to school in New York State, you learn New York State history in third grade, and this was a subject that I particularly loved. It confirmed my suspicion that the ground beneath my feet was not inert, but was, rather, alive, fertilized by the hopes and prayers of hearts that had not long since ceased beating. It also brought home the truth that the soil of the city had itself been watered with blood. I lived across the street from the very spot where Peter Minuit bought Manhattan island from the Lenape Indians; later, I lived on Fort Washington Avenue, which had been a Revolutionary War fort, as had Fort Tryon Park up the street and Fort Lee across the Hudson River in New Jersey. The blood of soldiers watered that ground; the lordly Hudson once bristled with warships. The infamous Draft Riots of 1863 added the blood of lynched black New Yorkers to the soil around what is now Grand Central Station. In school we learned, too, about the digging of the Erie Canal, which opened the American West and joined it to New York and to the rest of the world, and about the Underground Railroad, which branched out through upstate New York to places like Elmira, Ithaca, and Rochester, where Frederick Douglass published his newspaper, The North Star. We learned about the great waves of immigration, about peoples exiled and displaced, fleeing from danger and persecution. And we learned about the men who had died digging the subways, building the bridges, and connecting the reservoirs of upstate Delaware and Sullivan Counties to the municipal water lines of New York City. While New York cannot, without some hyperbole, be called a war-torn land, there’s no denying that all kinds of blood flows figuratively through its history.

I started thinking about the the red flower growing in barren soil at Sunday Mass when the Gospel about Christ going into the desert was read. I felt sharply my painful absence from that place, watered with blood, that is my temporal Not-Exile, and I imagined what the Israelites might have felt, wandering around and around in an unfamiliar wasteland, on the way to something promised but as yet unknown and unrevealed. Compared with my beautiful land of Not-Exile, the place where I now live is a kind of epistemological desert, too.  When I moved from Manhattan to the Bronx, an old friend of mine observed that he didn’t know that anyone ever moved there willingly, except to be buried; when I told him, later, I was moving here, he was stumped for a reply. 

And it must be admitted that it’s a strange feeling to go from a place where, among other advantages, things function smoothly on a massive scale – a place where things work – to a place that is a relative desert. Not only is my new town dogged by social dysfunction -- a dearth of jobs, an aging population, and a disappearing middle-class -- it also has few consolations to offer in the way of culture, comfort, or aesthetic niceties, and I suppose this is no paradox. The commercial functionality of life in New York is so well–oiled that, if you’re sick in bed and can’t drag yourself to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled, they will deliver; if you’re hungry or thirsty at 3 AM and facing a bare refrigerator, you can go down the corner to an all-night diner or a Korean deli/salad bar and eat your fill. This kind of high-functioning service economy assumes, of course, that you have cash (or credit) in pocket to pay for it. There’s no sense of “come, all you who have no money, and eat your fill”; even the neo-back-to-the-landers who have marched on the borough of Brooklyn, establishing indie slaughterhouses and artisanal pickle-fermenting joints there, put out product that only people with a certain amount of disposable income can afford to buy. A service economy designed for those who can afford it is one of the reasons there’s been an underground exodus of the urban poor from New York to towns like mine in northern Appalachia, where the assumption is, correctly, that here you can get more for less. 

Fortunately, I can drive now; I don’t need the drugstore to deliver. But it took me a long time after we moved here to shake the sinking feeling that would come over me in the middle of the day, when I was either stuck at home with my preschooler or hitting a wall in one of the wide-ranging editing or translating projects I’ve worked on in the past year, and I would realize that I couldn’t just get up and stroll out for a cup of coffee.  To be able to do that is just, for want of a better word, nice. It’s something that makes an appreciable difference in the flow of one’s quotidian life, something that truly adds, to use an overused phrase, to the quality of that life. For one thing, it brings you into contact with other people, which doesn't often happen here, nor, I suspect, in a lot of other semi-suburban communities.

In New York, everything has already been done for you. Someone else opened the twenty-four hour drugstore; someone else, either a neo-back-to-the-lander Brooklynite or Starbucks, roasted that coffee and put it in a cup for you, provided a soft chair for you to sit and drink it in, and even set out a few well-worn kids’ books to keep your little ones amused while you snatch some private time in a public place. And this snatching of private time in public is, itself, a really special thing, which I didn’t realize until I moved to a place where people stay in their houses and shop in suburban shopping malls. The shared and public aspects of urban life help to forge and bond a community.

Yes, in New York, to quote Elizabeth Bishop, “somebody loves us all.” In my new home town, no one loves nobody. Though not, as far as I know, by blood, my own little place here has been well-watered with my tears.  Here, I understand nothing; I don't speak the language; I don't know which way to go. I feel as if I'm in a place without maps. The days are long and bleak. Nonetheless, as difficult, frustrating, and ego-bashing as my own small exile is, I believe quite strongly that it is necessary; as lonely and opaque as this place is to me, I believe that God wants me to be here, and I pray that I will be able to bring forth some sort of blossom out of this rocky earth. In fact, I believe that's what I have to do. Perhaps removing me from my home and chipping away at my loves and attachments is actually a demonstration, somehow, of God's mercy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More on Malcolm

 Leila of Little Catholic Bubble is making it her Lenten mission to see that little Malcolm is adopted.

Remember, Malcolm is a developmentally-normal little boy who has cerebral palsy. According to the laws of his country, if he is not adopted before he is five, he will be committed to a mental institution. For life.

From Leila:

There are families who are considering adopting Malcolm and bringing him home to the US. But raising the huge sum needed to get him from Russia to his new home is an unfortunate obstacle, as we can all imagine.

Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. It's the almsgiving part that can really trip us up. I know it does me. But today, I donated to Malcolm's fund, sacrificially. Nothing is truly ours; it all comes from God -- including our money. I'm telling you that I donated (and yes, I'll tell my husband the amount later, gulp) in order to challenge you to do the same. Any amount really, even five dollars, would be so important to this one precious child. Please Bubble readers, let's do this for one lonely little boy and for the love of God. We are Christ's hands and feet. . . 

Please consider little Malcolm's desperate plight as you consider your almsgiving on this first Friday of Lent.

Thank you, thank you, and blessings!


AN UPDATE: Thanks to Leila's fundraising efforts, there is now over $4,700 $5,000 $6,300 available towards Malcolm's adoption! Please give and please pray.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Poetry Friday: Being

The woman walks up the mountain
and then down. She wades into the sea
and out. Walks to the well,
pulls up a bucket of water
and goes back into the house.
She hangs wet clothes.
Takes clothes back to fold them.
Every evening she crochets
from six until dark.
Birds, flowers, stars. Her rabbit lives
in an empty donkey pen. The sea is out
there as far as the stars.
Always quiet.
No one there. She may not believe
in anything. Not know
what she is doing. Every morning
she waters the geranium plant.
And the leaves smell like lemon.

-- Linda Gregg

More Poetry Friday at Check it Out.

Above: John Sloan, A Woman's Work.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quick Takes: It's Lent!

1. I felt like titling this post: "Wake Up, Mother------, It's Lent!" but thought the better of it. Nonetheless, that's what I tell myself in the morning when my feet hit the floor.

2. I've used this picture before, but feel compelled to use it again. I am trying to consciously set Lent apart in my mind from ordinary time, but I have historically been bad at making any kind of distinction between Lent and the rest of the year. It all feels like Lent to me -- the daily sense of a kind of messy, uphill slog in semi-darkness in a barren landscape to a destination that's unknown and not expected to be much fun when I get there. I often feel, in my quotidian life and work, as if I'm hauling heavy stones up a steep hill, only to get them there and watch them tumble over the cliff into a bottomless void. Lent feels no different. I suppose it's up to me to make it different by punctuating my days with regular periods of prayer and by giving up small pleasures, something I usually resent doing. I hope and pray for a better disposition this year.

3. Lent is also a yearly time of personal mourning for me. Two dear friends of mine died in the middle of Lent in 2006 and 2007. During Lent 2007, I also had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured, landing me in the hospital and necessitating emergency surgery, during which one of my ovaries was removed (it took several days to be correctly diagnosed, so, in my usual state of oblivion, I went on about my life, walking all over town, teaching my classes at the large public university where I was completing my doctorate, and filing a claim against a former landlord in Bronx County Court, while ignoring the pain that dogged my every step). Sometimes I feel quite lost without one of these friends in particular. He died right before the ectopic rupture, which happened one night at home, and, as I was lying there on the floor sweating and vomiting, I prayed to him to ask God to save my baby, but evidently it was not to be.

4. We are supposed to wait in "joyful expectation" for the coming of our Savior, another thing I'm lousy at.  I wonder how to do it. Is my usual habit of grimly expecting something not-so-nice just a habit? Can it be changed? Can I change my temperament and demeanor without becoming a complete, phony sap?  This year, we are waiting for Jude, and I will be happy when he's finally here. Nevertheless, I don't know if it's because of my general demeanor, or if it's an opinion formed from my own observations and experiences, but I don't buy into that happy-ever-after scenario about this or about anything. The adoption magazines -- like all parenting magazines, actually -- are full of stories of the wait over, the family and the individual completed, the loneliness soothed, the joy of union. I'm not sure I ever believed that was the expected outcome of any relationship. I like to think of myself as a realist, as someone who sees through what is false in our culture, but perhaps I'm just a cynic who has more in common with my southern Italian forebears than I like to think. Nonetheless, I wonder what happens after the airport.

5. I've decided to give up drinking this Lent. I've never done this before. My drinking, such as it is, is restricted to a glass of wine every night with dinner, but I love that glass of wine, and have come not only to expect it but also to see it as a reward for getting through the day. It wasn't a hard choice, though. I was hit with a stomach virus last week and couldn't even drink water, so my nightly habit fell rather naturally by the wayside. Now that I can eat and drink again, I weighed wine and coffee in the balance, and decided that, much as I love that glass of wine, I need coffee more.

6. When I was little, I never thought I'd grow up to drive a car. Not only was it not really necessary where I lived, but also I really hated cars. I hated their smell, both inside and out. As a child, I used to fantasize about ploughing over all the roads in the world and planting grass and trees there, leaving a small path for people to walk, returning the ugliness of industrialism and urban life to the peacefulness of a sort of William Morris-esque pastoral utopia.  But then I grew up to feel as if I needed the city as much as I now feel like I need that glass of wine or cup of coffee every day. And now I am, reluctantly, driving. I still feel unmoored, too light, when I'm behind the wheel. I filled up my gas tank yesterday for the first time, and managed to get gas all over my shoes and inside my pocketbook (being a city girl, I never leave my purse in the car, even when I'm filling it up with gas). I am going to try to incorporate the fact that I drive a car now into some sort of intentional Lenten practice.

7. A good and fruitful Lent to all.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Prayers for Ronan

I have learned that little Ronan, the toddler with Tay-Sachs Syndrome, is now blind and paralyzed, and has started having seizures, all of which indicate that his death is not far off. Please pray for him and for his family.

I Am the Abductor

"When my new daughter comes into my arms . . . it's ok if she cries," says an adoptive mother:

[If] I'm to be honest, not only do we hope she cries, but I hope she's scared.  And frightened.  And maybe even terrified.  Maybe so much so that she throws up, even on me.  Or can't look at me.  Or pees on me. Or kicks us and bites and tries to scratch our eyes out.  It's totally ok with us, if she tries to run away. Or if she bangs against the hotel door, for hours and calls out the only woman she's ever known as mama. It's ok if she does it for hours and even days, and I think it's good and true for her to be able to process the feelings and emotions.  I hope she has a reaction, any kind of reaction to what is happening to her.

It'll be heart breaking to see.

It'll be gut wrenching to watch this happen to our child.

But these things are reactions that we can hope for, if our daughter is having a healthy reaction to what is happening to her.  If she has had a healthy attachment to someone in her past, than these would all be normal reactions.  And I have prayed every single day since I saw her face that she has had an attachment to someone... anyone.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Exile and Genealogy

Jude will soon be here. My husband is traveling to China in March, where he will be met by our great friend Otepoti. Jude will technically become our son, appropriately enough, on the feast day of Saint Joseph, the adoptive father of the Lord.

I have been reading Testimony of Hope by Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận, a collection of the spiritual exercises he preached to the papal household in 2000. Cardinal Văn Thuận, who was imprisoned by the Communists in his native Vietnam for thirteen years, begins his exercises by reflecting on the first chapter of Matthew, which describes the temporal genealogy of Christ. "For Asians," he notes,

and in particular for me as a Vietnamese, the remembrance of ancestors has an immense value. . . I myself know the names of fifteen generations of my ancestors going back as far as 1698 . . . Through our genealogies, we come to realize that we are part of a history greater than we are, and we welcome with greater truth the sense of our own histories.

Jude will know next to nothing about the ancestors who are, to use the Italian word, his genitori, the ones who physically and biologically generated him, or about his family history.  My husband and Otepoti will visit the orphanage to which he was brought after being found by the police, and the place where he was found, in order to be able to salvage some scraps of his unknowable past. But essentially Jude will be a deracinated person, transplanted into our family. I wonder what this will feel like for him as he grows older.

I must confess that, compared with Cardinal Văn Thuận, I know next to nothing about my own genealogy. I know when three out of my four pairs of great-grandparents came to this country (all at roughly the same time, about a hundred years ago). I even knew one of my great-grandmothers very well, because she lived with my family when I was little. But of the others, I know very little, and that's unlikely to change.

A few years ago I had a gig in Rome, and afterward I traveled south to the village of some of my own genitori to meet my distant Italian cousins for the first time. Although it was a marvelous trip, I felt very strongly while visiting that I was nothing like them, that I had nothing in common with them, that I was wholly unmarked by the biological circumstances of having been engendered by the same ancestors. While we shared certain physical characteristics, our lives, our circumstances, and our ways of thinking diverged so much that it was hard to believe we were branches of the same tree.  But the truth is that I had felt myself from a young age to be a deracinated person, too, without much commonality with the culture of my family, and in some ways I had consciously striven to set myself apart from that culture and that family.

In Testimony of Hope, Cardinal Văn Thuận notes that the "book of genealogy of Jesus Christ" is full of unexpected, even bizarre, disruptions of the biological family line.  Abraham chose Isaac as his heir, rather than his first son, Ishmael.  Isaac "wished to bless Esau, his firstborn son, but according to the mysterious plan of God . . . blessed Jacob." Jacob, in his turn, chose neither Reuben, his firstborn, nor Joseph, "the beloved and best of all his sons," but rather Judah, who with his brothers had sold Joseph into slavery.  Likewise, the women Matthew mentions "find themselves in strange situations. Tamar is a sinner, Rahab a prostitute, Ruth a foreigner. The Gospel does not even dare to name the fourth woman; she is simply 'the wife of Uriah'" -- Bathsheba, with whom David committed adultery and whose husband he contrived to have killed.

But, as Văn Thuận asserts, "This list of sinners' names presented by Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus does not scandalize us. Rather, it exalts the mystery of God's mercy."

While not, in the terms of immigration law, a refugee, little Jude will be coming to us from a place of suffering and persecution. What I hope is that our home and our family will not be a place of exile for him from what he might under other circumstances have considered his true home. While in one sense he will be uprooted, deracinated, a person from nowhere, I want him to know the full citizenship that only love can confer. We are all in exile, refugees from the true home, and God in His mercy has adopted all of us; those of us not biologically engendered from the bloodline of Abraham He has most mercifully grafted onto the tree of the royal house of Israel. May we never forget His mercy in having adopted us, and may we all know the full citizenship of love.

Above: Belgian refugee children in England, 1940.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sibling Group Available for Adoption - UPDATED JULY 2012

UPDATE: The children are in the process of being placed. May God bless everyone who responded and who prayed for them, and may He continue to bring parents and children together in all the mysterious ways He does.

Dear all, a close friend of this blog has asked me to write about a group of seven children, aged three to sixteen, who are available for adoption in the state of Indiana.  My friend's sister has been a foster mother to several of them and fell in love with them, but is unable to adopt them. The best-case scenario would be that all seven were kept together, but over the years of foster care, they've gotten used to being apart, so if anyone is not ready to expand his or her family in such a major way, it would still be possible to provide a permanent home and family for some of these children. Indiana allows adoptions across state lines.

The link for Indiana's Department of Child Services is http://www.in.gov/dcs/. If you feel called to help these children, please leave a comment and either my friend or I will get in touch with you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Right, this is not a sports blog. And I'm officially in exile from New York. But even from where I sit, I'm giddy with excitement over the ascendance of J-Lin.

He went to Harvard. He's a Christian. He's Chinese-American. And he's the man who just might save the Knicks.

From the Christian Post:

After his first starting game against the New Jersey Nets, Lin tweeted about having to stay with his teammate Landry Fields when his brother had company [Lin, from San Francisco, is staying with his brother, a dental student at New York University -- did anyone else besides me used to go to the NYU dental clinic?]. Still, he thanked God for the opportunity to do so.

"God is good during our ups and downs! Glad we got the win," Lin tweeted. "Thanks to Landry Fields for letting me crash on his couch last night!"

Such a boy!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love is a Teacher, But a Hard One to Obtain

Kyle Cupp has written a moving post about the brief life of his daughter Vivian. When I read it, it seemed to me to illustrate perfectly the quote from The Brothers Karamazov that prefaces this blog.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Not Worthy

When I first began writing this blog, I had four readers, most of whom were related to me. I never anticipated that people I didn't know in real life would ever read it; nor did I desire such an outcome. But these things do end up happening, for good or ill.

The truth is that this is little bit of an anti-blog, at least in the sense in which we've come to read and understand blogs. I started it as a kind of online diary, and I'm not interested in getting a book contract out of it, or making money from it. I'm also not interested in acquiring or spreading any sort of influence through it. In fact, I'm not even interested in acquiring new readers; I'm very happy with the readers I have (or at least the ones whom I'm aware I have).

In the past few weeks, two excellent fellow-bloggers have been kind enough to nominate me for a couple of blogging-award type things. The "rules" of these awards, such as they are, would require me to post the award button on my blog, then award the same award to a set number of other bloggers under certain conditions. I hate to be a killjoy, but I probably won't get around to doing those things. I'm really busy right now, and the truth is that I read very few blogs these days, certainly not enough to meet the requirements for the awarding process. I gave up regular blog-reading last Lent, and I've pretty much stuck with that. Perhaps I'm missing a lot, but I have some pressing demands in the real world, and I know how easy it is for me to get lost in the virtual one.

So thank you to the esteemed colleagues who were kind enough to mention my blog in a favorable light. As for the award thing, if you want to know which blogs I love and highly recommend, just check out the sidebar. They are all excellent.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Learning to Cry

As longtime readers know, we weren't planning on an international adoption. It had really never crossed our minds, until I crossed paths with Mrs. C, the friend of our good friend Father F. back in New York, and now a dear friend herself. We had simply figured that, once our home study was complete, we would add our names to the long queue at Catholic Charities, and wait, hope, and pray.

Once we took on Jude's adoption, though, and started doing the Hague Convention-mandated reading, it broke my heart to learn that orphanage children do not cry, having learned from an early age that it is futile.

Now I want to adopt ten of them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Democrats, Republicans, and Abortion

I found this article on my computer today. I had downloaded it in .pdf format a few years ago, but never got around to reading it, since I was hard at work on my doctoral dissertation. It's long, but an essential read for anyone who's ever wondered how the party that once championed the downtrodden (which was also the party of Catholics: as the old joke goes, two Irish ladies are gossiping, and one says to the other, “Did you hear that Timmy Breen became a Republican?” “Can’t be,” says the other, “I just saw him at Mass on Sunday”) came to embrace abortion, while the party of elite, moneyed interests and liberal Protestantism became the default defenders of the unborn.  An excerpt: 

Suppose . . . a politically savvy Rip Van Winkle in, say, 1965, perceiving that a movement to legalize abortion was gaining strength in the country, were asked, “Which of the two major political parties will eventually identify with that movement?” What would he answer? . . . “the Republicans, probably.” Why? “Well, in the first place, it fits pretty well into the Republicans’ private-property philosophy. ‘Let’s keep government out of a woman’s most personal property.’ Secondly, consider the demographics. The Republicans draw heavily from the upper-middle class WASPs, where the drive for population control has always come from. Abortion fits very well into the old eugenics mythology—the belief that you can improve the health of the ‘race’ by limiting the breeding of ‘undesirables.’ You can still hear echoes of that in the conversations of bicoastal Republicans. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Republican Party came out with a plank saying ‘We support abortion, in certain cases, for the nation’s overall health and well-being.’ Finally, consider the Republicans’ emphasis on the need for law and order and their conservative approach to welfare. The Republicans may not say this out loud but it slots right into their conservative ideology: abortion is good because, by holding down illegitimate births, it will cut down on crime and welfare costs.”

What about the Democrats? “Well,” Rip would say, “let’s start again with demographics. Consider the heavy concentration of Roman Catholics in the Democratic Party. The Church hierarchy would go bananas if any prominent Catholic Democrat—or any Democrat at all—came out in favor of abortion. The Church has consistently held that abortion is one of the gravest moral offenses because it involves the direct killing of an innocent human being. . . . It might even be smart politics for the Democrats to pick a fight with the Republicans on the abortion issue. Democrats like to boast that they protect the weak and vulnerable, those in the earliest and the final stages of life, the elderly, the weak, and the handicapped. Now, all the Democrats have to do is insert ‘unborn children’ into that list and they can beat up the Republicans every time on the abortion issue. I can hear them now: ‘Let the Republicans pick on the weak and vulnerable, killing children in the womb to cut welfare costs. We Democrats are the party of compassion, the party that sticks up for the little guy, including the littlest guy of all, the child in the womb . . .’” Having delivered himself of this well-considered prophecy in 1965, Rip Van Winkle goes down for his nap. When he wakes up and we tell him how the abortion issue finally sorted itself out between our two major parties, Rip says, “Huh? How could that have happened?”

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Prayer Request

Our friend Lissla Lisslar is in the hospital on bedrest waiting to deliver her twin girls, who will be born at thirty-five weeks. Please pray that she will have a safe and easy delivery and recovery (she has to have a c-section), and for the health of her babies. Thank you, and may God reward you for your prayers!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

If These Knishes Could Talk

Here's a trailer for a film on the New York accent that will interest some of you accent mavens and nostalgists. Be forewarned that there's an f-bomb of the typical New York variety in the first three seconds.

The best parts: the ASL-speaker asserting that New Yorkers sign differently. And the statement that in New York, there's a constant war going on between nostalgia and amnesia.

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Get Back in Line, Or We Will Destroy You"

I haven't had much time to post here lately. No, I haven't been on the Great American Road Trip in my little beater Ford, now that I can drive one, but things have been busy. I took my son to see the pediatric neurologist 150 miles away -- not in the beater Ford, because I don't feel that comfortable getting on and off the highway yet, but on the Greyhound bus; I spent a few days with my ailing mother; and I finished the first part of a scholarly writing project that I'm trying to get under control before we have Jude (we still don't have a travel date).

I'm really only here now because I wanted to link to The Anchoress's trenchant analysis of the Susan G. Komen fiasco. The truth is that Planned Parenthood leaked the news that Komen was defunding them, and then used it as a major fundraising opportunity of their own: 

And so, like a good but weak soldier, Komen has essentially destroyed itself: hardline leftists will never forgive it; hardline rightists will never trust it. But feel a little sorry for Komen. They were trying to do the better thing, and they got mauled for it. They’re not cowards, they just weren’t strong. Not everyone can face the lions, especially if they’re being pounced on in their first steps.

I can't help but think that even the most die-hard Planned Parenthood fans might recoil from the bullying tactics, including the menacing, bring-it-on language, that the organization used to force Komen to its knees. But I'm probably wrong about that. It's not just the die-hard fans, after all, but even those who reluctantly accept the fiction that the destruction of human life is a defensible and necessary component of women's self-actualization, who become hardened a little, inured to seemingly small cruelties.