Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Vera Stark takes a year off from her law firm when her second child is born. It has been twelve years since the birth of her first child.

She loses herself in the child's learning and caring for the child and generally being domestic. She doesn't pay much attention to the news. Some things get through. She notices the news story about a child the age of her baby getting shot dead while carried on her mother's back.

A seed is planted. She tells her husband, suddenly, from his point-of-view, "I'm not going back to the firm. . . .I don't want to fight their insurance claims on their jewelry and Mercedes. Or dig the dirt in their divorces."

Her husband wonders if she'll go out on her own. He doesn't understand, at first, the nature of the seed of change.

She goes to work for a foundation that deals with land use issues. Which means things like people getting thrown out of where they've been living by the government, taken to a blank bit of land in the middle of nowhere, given by the government metal sheets to build houses with, or given nothng, and being told to make their homes.

The foundation fights that and the many things like that. Vera, with experience, reminds others she works with that they can't fight causes, only effects They can't change the white minority rule setup. They can only find loopholes and delaying tactics that make things less bad for some people sometimes.

"She went to work for the Foundation, not out of the white guilt people talked about, but out of a need to take up, to balance on her own two feet the time and place to which, by birth, she understood she had no choice but to belong."

Later, things change. It's the part where majority rule is seen as inevitable but hasn't happened yet. Stark is invited to be part of the committee to write a draft constitution.

She isn't sure she wants that. The foundation needs her as a leader and as a lawyer. There's a heavy volume of work as some white people try to get away with a lot before the change of government. It's not what she's used to--much less concrete.

But it is her invitation to move from effects to causes. A draft constitution will be changed. Not all final constitutions have real power.

But being part of writing a draft constitution for a real ongoing country is doing something that might have power for a long time. Those wrangles about the exact phrasing of this or that might change lives as much as her fighting evictions.

And she brings something few whites on the side of majority rule have--lots of experience being in the kinds of home most people in the country live in. Grounding.

A friend of hers also active in making the new, working in finance, says she's got to take it. You've got to do the best you can and trust everybody else working for your goals, and trust the future. So she becomes all committe meetings all the time, the best she can do at that moment.

--about and quoting from Nadine Gordimer's novel "None to Accompany Me." To the extent that the novel is about private life, it's about marriage. That's a grown-up title for a novel about marriage.