American Voices: Mopping up

This week, in our “American Voices” series, Marcos Villatoro profiles an immigrant housekeeper whose son fulfilled a boyhood dream to become a soldier:Aminta cleans my house every other Thursday. It takes her six hours. I work at home, so we always chat about our kids, and I always make sure to ask about her son David, an America soldier. “Under Bush he was in Iraq,” she says. Now with Obama Afghanistan.”

You can hear it in her Guatemalan Spanish: a military mom who’s gone from fear to anger to exhaustion. David’s not an officer, and she knows that’s not good. She squeezes the mop into the laundry room sink. “And why are we there? Why don’t we send our troops to Mexico? God knows the drug runners are killing people right and left on that border. That way, well, at least he’d be closer to home.”

Now, I know a little bit about conflict. I lived in Nicaragua during that country’s war. Soldiers and their AK-47s walking the street. Troops coming into a village after a battle in the mountains, dropping themselves like exhausted carcasses on the dusty plaza ground. Civilians killed weekly by the dozens. Now, I was no soldier; I witnessed the war as a civilian; but it was enough to make me swear that my children would never go to war.

But I’m in a position to say that. I am now part of the Los Angeles multicultural bourgeoisie. Not rich, but certainly not poor. My kids have choices: they can go to college, and not depend upon the military for a job.

Aminta cleans my house before a dinner party, where my friends and I will talk about the war. We’ll also chew over what Washington should do about the homeless and the broken education system and the unemployed.

Aminta’s got a job. She’s got fourteen jobs. After my house, thirteen others in one week. But she still worries about employment: during a recession, the first luxury many families cut is the cleaning lady.

But it’s David who’s her major worry. I see it in her eyes as she drags a cloth over my bookshelves. She leaves my house sparkling. But her mind is eight thousand miles away, walking alongside a son who, like Aminta, is cleaning up someone else’s mess.

 

Comments

  • Seattle Jon

    What a miserable essay to air on Veterans day – or any other day for that matter.
    There he sits while the lady cleans his house at slave-labor wages while he boasts that his sons “can go to college, and not depend upon the military for a job”.He has probably forgotten, or never figured out, that the reason they have those choices is that many of us, including his cleaning lady’s son, have fought, sacrificed and given our lives so he can babble at will.One could only hope his sons will have a higher sense of purpose and patriotism.
    There he sits while the lady cleans his house at slave-labor wages while he boasts that his sons “can go to college, and not depend upon the military for a job”.

    He has probably forgotten, or never figured out, that the reason they have those choices is that many of us, including his cleaning lady’s son, have fought, sacrificed and given our lives so he can babble at will.

    One could only hope his sons will have a higher sense of purpose and patriotism.

  • Jwalsh031160

    Hmm so few comments? Last week I saw a flurry of comments attacking the “Conservative nut job” on his (competition?) essay with near silence this week. Cat got you tongue?
       I could criticize the current essayist about his choice of antique type writer, and job interview style of article or maybe slam him as our first commentator Seattle Jon (captain redundant … #1 “there he sits… #2 one could only hope … #3 there he sits… #4 one could only hope) about his apparent short comings as a Veterans Day essayist. Jon perhaps should pay closer attention when watching a video, he didn’t seem to be bragging about his affluence (that’s wealth Jon), but more about the greater choices of those who are not poor. He said he’s NOT rich, but has money, and his kids won’t HAVE to use the military as their starting point in life. They could CHOOSE College instead. Where he felt that his “Domestic Engineer’s” (that’s fancy for Maid) offspring had NO Choice.
       Actually I’m not sure how true my “No Choice” statement is; he swears his “children will never go to war.” So that he wouldn’t have that same fear (Marcos may find in the future HE will not be the one making that choice for his offspring) due to his financial circumstance. Nor do I know whether he was referring to the plight of immigrants or just low income individuals in general. I do believe that it is true the poor tend to serve in our military far more than the well-off; it just may be the poor out number the well-off by that percentage, just as everyone out numbers the 1%ers, by a factor of, maybe 99 to 1 as the math implies.
       I’m not sure if the story is about how “an immigrant housekeeper’s son fulfilled a boyhood dream” as the series states or that it’s someone close to the writer bears the burden of worrying about one of their loved ones being killed or maimed.
       As far as this story being locked into being about Veterans Day, simply because it is broadcast on that day, we need not lock, “Need to Know” to tell us stories that relate to whatever holiday they may coincide with. Even though I might not NEED TO KNOW about a well-to-do writer and his maid’s son’s patriotism and circumstance, it is sometimes “nice to know.” I would consider this one, what “the business terms,” a Fluff Piece.

    P.S. I would like to point out, NOT RICH, but still a JOB CREATOR. I’m sure he doesn’t make a million a year, yet he and 13 other folks of their stature, create employment for this worker.