Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Martha on the job!

Apparently, prison is kind of like a crafts fair. Who knew?

As she was leaving prison, one of Martha’s new “friends” presented her with a lovely hand crocheted shawl. Martha was quick to note that it had been made in prison out of yarn purchased from the commissary, and that her company would be getting the pattern as soon as they could. So the inmates are knitting shawls. I’ll bet they are creating decorative hand made Christmas ornaments too. Martha says that prison changed her but, I’ve got to wonder, how much did Martha change prison?

It was Martha’s first day back on the job and she hit the ground running. She is singing a new tune since she got sprung. Her magazine and TV shows will no longer be dedicated simply promoting elite decorative arts and high-end homemaking. She is now going to dedicate her life to helping people build personal relationships. Today’s New York Times quoted her as saying “I sense in the American public there is a growing need to preserve human connections…the need to honor many, many kinds of families. It’s not just moms and dads anymore. I’ve seen that.”

…which leads us to ponder, exactly what type of family relationships did Martha encounter while in prison. Or, to put it more bluntly, who was her mommy?

Martha’s new goals are laudable. Anthropologists and sociologists have long been aware that a need for community, a sense of belonging to a group, is inherent to humans, and how new models of communities are built in a postmodern world has been a serious study of inquiry for quite awhile. In fact, Martha is a bit behind the curve with this particular brand of theory. New types of urban tribes—sub cultures and counter cultures from gays to Star Wars fans to bike messengers—have been held up as examples of how people are seeking association and “family” when the traditional communities to which they once belonged—church, family, Rotary club—no longer suffice. In “Bowling Alone” Robert Putnam wrote about America’s declining social capital, bemoaning the fact that membership in traditional social organizations, from bowling leagues to Shriner’s temples, had declined since the 1950s. Other scholars have noted, however, that new, non-traditional social groups have sprung up to take the place of the old ones. Martha is only now realizing he importance of this need for connection and community.

“Our passion,” the Times reports her as saying “is and always should be to make life better.” Naturally for Martha, the solution for this is home based. Everybody deserves a comfortable home, a roaring fire, a home cooked turkey at Thanksgiving.

Of course what she failed to mention in her little speech is that the Cult of Martha itself is one of those new postmodern tribes. Her legions of adoring fans are bound together in a love for Miss Martha and a belief in the transformative power of homey crafts.

But I still keep coming back to that question: what kind of new family groups Martha is promoting. Does it include gay couples? Polyamorous groups? Pluralistic marriages? S&M clubs? And if so, how will this play with her happy homemakers in Ohio?
Perhaps this is a clue: her stock was down a whopping $2.78. That’s 9%. Apparently it’s true: good deeds do not go unpunished.


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