Dedicated to Brandon, Roland … and foul-mouthed fathers.

gerund or present participle: bootstrapping
  1. 1.
    get (oneself or something) into or out of a situation using existing resources.
    “the company is bootstrapping itself out of a marred financial past”

First, to have boots to strap or tie with decent laces is to have a basic sense of security. I have always known this foundational level of human dignity. Even when my mother and I were on food stamps, briefly, even when I would cry if I lost five dollars, I had decent shoes and clothing. But even I, skinned as I am, was able to bootstrap through life.

Second, to address the image of a hard-working man strapping up his boots to go to work, also presumably hard. Maybe the idea of a construction job as hard is not that realistic anymore. There has never been a time when machines have done more labor for humans than now. Risky maybe, hard, perhaps occasionally. Blue-collar jobs often pay very well, at least the ones that involve moving earth around, lording over our mother with intimidating steel tonnage waiting to crush her bones to bits. Not being a man, I reflect on my father in his big 18-wheeled vehicle trucking fossil fuels and man-made liquid toxins to airports and defense contractors. Maybe he wore boots. Maybe he graduated high school; but he sure made good money until the accident.

Third, and this is the key one, to be honest about who gets to pull up those bootstraps – as if this very act is akin to something holy, noble, and all white in the world. It’s not even so much about who gets to pull up bootstraps as it is about who gets to define the notions which get programmed into our heads. Who tells the teachers what to teach? Maybe kids today know to question everything and everyone. Maybe that leaves them feeling as if there is no solid ground under their feet. At that point, who needs boots anyway?

empty promise of bootstrapping