Archives: Political Correctness
- with apologies to Carl Sandburg
It’s becoming more and more apparent that we are losing our democracy of voices and opinions. Just as we seemed on the verge of becoming the ideal that we’d believed ourselves to be as Americans, that model was obliterated. At this point it doesn’t matter who shot first, or why, but the decreasing number of us in the no mans land between the constructions of “the left” and “the right” regardless of how we lean, is troubling for democracy, and for the very survival of our country.
Tyranny doesn’t only come from the right.
I make no bones about how I lean; I make no apologies for my liberal cultural background and my progressive politics. I also do not wear that label as a bulwark against letting opposing ideas sink in, mixing with my own and changing me. This approach is my definition of what being Liberal means, being open to ideas, allowing them to mesh with my experience and trying to understand what lessons shape others. It’s a word that’s been twisted to mean inflexible and turned into an epithet, so much so that I go back and forth on whether I should call myself one anymore.
My definition of self is mine and mine alone. I know what the word means to me and also know that some of the other words I call myself are only shorthand for the complexities that I keep in those boxes. Like anything, I think we get so wrapped up in the labels and the shorthand that we forget what the words mean.
It’s not always easy to hear through our filters, its never comfortable to be challenged, especially when that challenge comes from someone who you’ve already built a persona around. But those problems are often the most powerful. Coming to grips with the fact that someone who comes from an entirely different background or had a very different experience in their life than you’ve had in yours yet you are still able to connect in a meaningful way is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have.
That is part of the reason it makes me so angry to see people put up walls, especially those who label themselves with monikers that define them as just the opposite. I spoke here about the Yale nonsense that happened a few years ago, and there have been numerous other newsworthy incidents, mainly on college campuses, that reflect an unwillingness to be self-reflective in the face of opposing viewpoints. The Milo incident at Berkeley or the Charles Murray incident at Middlebury college in Vermont are two big ones that spring to mind. While I find Yiannopoulous a repugnant, showboating, self-promoting buffoon, I also found it ironic that the protestors, who became violently agitated over this clown, didn’t understand the legacy they were trampling on at that institution. Murray is also a cultural accelerant, but a more thoughtful and one who has been maligned in a way that makes me sad for the state of academic and cultural discourse.
When I look across the Millennial landscape and see the hairs-on-end sensitivity, the jumping at shadows and accusations, real or imagined, of triggered talk by folks who just haven’t caught up yet, it terrifies me to think that they will be the ones making some of the harder decisions about what speech will be allowed and what will be censored by shout down.
I’m so incredibly sick and tired of people being so offended by what they think they hear that they’ve become the monsters they, without a shred of irony, finger-point to daily. Sick of the fucking crybaby, triggered nonsense, sick of the proliferation of safe spaces as places NOT to be confronted on your bullshit instead of real and genuine refuges from psyche destroying trauma. Let me make this clear; there is shit in this world that is so horrible, so psychically damaging, so mind-fuckingly severe, that it requires years of intense therapy to get over. Let me also make this clear, about 10% or which happens here in the United States, and about 5% is genuinely worth isolation from.
At this point a clear distinction has to be made, we all experience trauma, and unless we talk about it respectfully we never really know how difficult another’s existence is. BUT what is also true is that we’ve created a culture that condenses each of our experiences into little nuggets that cling like leeches to the identities we create for ourselves. In no way do I discount anyone’s stories of abuse, be they sexual, psychological or emotional, but when we are so deeply wrapped up in our traumas that we can’t see what someone else has gone through, see our universal personhood, we put another nail in the coffin of this grand experiment.
When we don’t dispense with our hegemonies of our experiences over other’s, when we refuse to listen, to hear what others bring to the table however flawed it might be, we lose a bit of that connectivity to each other. When we start pulling outward into the human instead of backward into an identity, into white, male, female, cis, gay, trans, straight and queer, we remember our sameness isn’t opposed to our uniqueness. When we stop the ridiculously insane push to be right all the time and be wrong at least some of the time, we gain it back.
We’ve all gotten too sensitive in all the wrong ways, instead of being sympathetic to how others may feel (which requires asking them exactly how they think and why) we hold way too tightly to our identity constructs.
I’m calling out so-called Liberals an Progressives on this as well as gender rights activists, queer theorists, and feminists, mainly because I feel allied or am a part of those loose identifications. I’ve called out the prevailing myth of white supremacy as a historical fact, women’s struggles as history and the benefits that come with being of a privileged class. My bonafides are there.
Yes, I find it amazingly ironic and annoying when ego-driven when people like Ann Coulter decry Liberal Fascism, when members of the alt-right claim their free speech is being violated, and when self-promoting attention whores like Milo Yiannopoulous and Mike Chernovich point out the hypocrisy of the left.
It’s annoying and ironic, but also, sadly, right.
Edited on 10/12/17 because the first time around I just don’t give a f***!
Edited 9/8/17 because brought to you by the letter “M.”
Edited (yet again) on 8/10/2018 for a few misplaced (s)s and slightly augmented wording.
Can we re-purpose a reactionary frame?
Can we take something not quite patently offensive, but triggering and reshape it to mean something that can unite rather than divide? Can a community of people, who already feel burdened with the explainer role, manage again to unify under something they mainly feel is a bastardization and outright insult to the movement they identify with?
If we’ve learned anything from the election of Donald Trump, we should take away this, using the language of the oppressed to claim oppression works, but can the opposite work as well.
When I’d seen the statement “All Lives Matter” in response to BLM, I cringed. I knew it was a reactionary, angry, reflexive response to a needed if not fully appreciated movement. It angered me that people who know better should have understood that killing an unarmed member of any community should be denounced, that people who should know that there is a disparity between the way young Black men are seen and treated in our society, and the way young white men are treated. That Black Lives Matter, of course, wasn’t a statement of exclusivity but one of defense. That the implication that ONLY Black Lives Matter was NOT part of this declaration, nor was the implication that Black Lives Matter MORE, but it was merely that Black Lives Matter AS WELL.
There is much to be said about how we got here, much hand wringing to be done about how history had drawn a clear line to this moment and how forces, both seen and unseen have forced these confrontations.
For context, I suggest reading some of the books on slavery or civil rights or some of the more inclusive books on American history A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn is a good place to start.
I’m not getting into context here, it’s too obvious to me and would distract from my point. Plus, I believe we should all be more responsible for exposing ourselves to the context of the history of the country of which we so effulgently pronounce our love.
One of the things I have learned about messaging is that sometimes to do it effectively; you have to give up some deeply held preconceptions. You have to resort to some to the tricks of the oppressor, if you will, and one-up them by playing their game. There are limits to this, of course, but within those limits is where progress can be potentially made.
Appropriation is a hot-button term. It evoked Native headdresses or kente cloth; it evokes everything from girls in yoga pants to Rachel Dolezal.
It doesn’t deserve the reputation it has. Appropriation is, in some cases, the same thing as acceptance, it is the brother or sister or transgendered, polyamorous, biracial neighbor of cultural assimilation. McDonald’s appropriated images of Black families in print ads to appeal to the people it was trying to sell burgers to, advertising, in general, appropriates members of audiences it wants to reach, and this is often called “inclusion.”
My feelings are half and half. Half of me welcomes the representation because it brings visibility and half of me knows the motivation is to sell a product. In many cases, even this gives a certain amount of arrival cred but still begs the motivation question. Yet, for whatever reason, it’s better to be seen in a positive light than a negative one, though it can be argued that this isn’t all that positive:
but is was certainly better than this:
Appropriation can be a gateway to conversation and understanding, or it can be a gross misuse of a symbolic cultural totem. I think its time for us to use the poseur of appropriation on the All Lives Matter crowd.
It makes sense that reactionary forces would seize on an approximation of a statement that virtually says the same thing. In this era of lack of imagination, lack of the ability to see things in shades of grey, and lack of connection across lines of partisanship, we have been unable to ask each other, “so what exactly do you mean by that?’ instead of reflexively attacking each other over our perception of that meaning.
So let’s start out by saying that all lives do matter. Black, White, Mexican, Gay, Straight, tall and short, cis, queer, nongender specific, Cops who occupy all of the other identities as well and are both sheltered and wrongly maligned, we can even go as radically far as to say that plants, animals….all life is important. The human variety is where we’ll focus for the moment though, let’s just say that all human experience is valuable.
Now we can get into a little trouble here in our appropriation as we often do when trying to be inclusive, how far is too far? So if the whole point of this is a marketing strategy (and make no mistake, the most efficient way to convey this message is through that means), who is the intended audience?
Assuming the target audience is the former Obama voting Trump devotee, a person who, right or wrong, thinks he is now in the minority, who assumes that being white has somehow become a liability, despite all evidence to the contrary, and now feels he must pull back into an enclave of reactionary juxtaposition. We aren’t going for the 1% White Lives Matter crowd, they are lost and never wanted to be a part of this new America anyway. Calling out the hypocritical other and also the people who genuinely don’t understand why All Lives Matter is such a divisive statement by appropriating the tag is a tact worth pursuing.
Re-branding as All Lives Matter, re-purposing with inclusion in mind of the people of all races that have been discounted and ignored, bringing in law enforcement of all races to have a dialog about how people are not treated equally and to what degree. Actually TALKING to each other about these vital issues under a moniker that doesn’t seem to exclude.
Maybe All Lives Matter can be a vital starting point to challenge the notion that they do conceptually and working on how they can actually.
Taking advantage of the short memories of Americans to change things in the long-term may be sneaky, but it can also be useful. From a marketing standpoint, it would be as brilliant a coup as turning a brand that had been wrongly associated with Nazi Germany into a brand that appeals to the Spanish-speaking among us.
In the world of spin, anything is possible.
Updated on 8/23/17 with links. And a few egregious spelling errors.
….so don’t have heroes.
Feminism has been redefined, again and again, mostly by men. I think I went through a short period of calling myself a feminist before I realized the ridiculousness of that statement. I’m not a woman, so the defining of feminism was not for me to do. Like conversations about abortion, I can only actually be involved on the periphery unless I had something directly to do with the pregnancy. Yes I know and love the women in my life but I don’t define who they are.
Feminism and the definition of it are truly woman’s work. I have a right to chime in and ask questions but the defining characteristics of feminism and being female are not mine to judge. I think our first mistake when we talk about feminism is allowing fearful or manipulative men to set the conversational terms of engagement. Men, although well-meaning, are often swayed by less than honorable reasons to declare themselves “feminists.” there is a running joke that guys who declare themselves feminists are just trying to get laid. Its a trope on every college campus and workplace and it exists because in many ways it’s true.
It is like the friend who declares their “color blindness,” the person who always knows the best “ethnic food spots” but knows not a single person representing the various flavors he can describe in great detail. The guy who likes exotic looking chicks, or the girl who shows up at all the anti-racist rallies and doesn’t have a single Black friend IRL.
Those people. I’ve been one of those people. I hope never to be one again.
I wish I could say that Kai Cole’s essay about her ex-husband Joss Whedon came as a huge surprise to me. Anyone who shouts so loudly about a cause and is so vocally oppositional to those who champion its opposition is often, not always, but often, full of some degree of shit.
Granted, as we should do with everyone, we need to wait for both sides or at least the stream of on set confirmations that will surely follow, until fully accepting Cole’s POV lock stock and barrel. I fear, though, that it may be too close to the truth.
I love Rosemary’s Baby, adore Braveheart and still believe North by Northwest is a classic, but all of the above film’s Directors, were and in some cases still are, shitty to women. It doesn’t make my enjoyment of any of the above less so because they all came from the minds of mild to extreme misogynists. It does, however, because I am a man and have no direct experience with misogyny, not ring as deeply as it would had I been female. It sucks in this case because he was preaching to be just the opposite.
Now you can find a whole host of reasons his activism was nulled and voided by these revelations (if true) but I can’t help but think that along with the truckload of bullshit there is a deep psychological upset in there as well. Not justifying any of it, just looking at everything full big picture.
If what Cole has written is true, not in its natural and understandable POV but its core truth, that Whedon was a faker and manipulator who used his feminist creds to hide his philandering, that will be a hard pill to swallow. For me it’s not as much a personal affront that he cheated, that aspect of his life is his, and his ex’s not the public’s. What tramples on my sensibilities is that everything he’s said, largely in line with my own beliefs, will be used as ammunition against the rest of us, the silent ones who looked at his stances as brave (but sometimes just as bad as some of whats been said on the “other side”) and echoed his sentiments. It doesn’t make the views any less relevant, but it does make the spewer damaged goods. The messenger and the message have become one, and the messenger has his stink all over the message.
This is why I back away from admiration as a public duty, and this is why I don’t have heroes. They will ALWAYS, ALWAYS let you down.
Edited on 8/3 for horrible misspellings.
I like reserving judgment in all but the worst circumstances. Artistic endeavors especially require a delicate and deliberate middle of the road approach.
Watching Jericho, for example. I knew of the shows obvious right of center bent, and it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it one bit. I didn’t feel that it was shoving any ideology down my throat, even when the Republic of Texas was the hero figure, because the story was so engrossing and the acting (save Mr. Ulrich who was at best passable, at worst incomprehensibly ticky) was great. despite or maybe because of his well-known conservatism I love Gerald McRaney, he reminds me fondly of my ex’s dad, and that association humanizes him beyond a political label.
Lately, though, many of my fellow lefties have become so amazingly, insufferably, annoyingly reflexive, that I sometimes feel the need for a new language because the Liberal tag seems more and more like a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head than a badge of reasonable honor.
The reaction to the proposed alternate reality show “Confederate” is one example of an illiberal dousing of a completely fascinating premise (what if the North and South fought to a stalemate and slavery became a institutional part of half our American identity).
This show could be an amazingly rich and disturbing look through “what if” allegory at how little we’ve progressed about race in this country. Of course, it wouldn’t treat racism kindly, what we know about human bondage now would inform the narrative, shape the dialog and create a space for allegory that could be so deeply mined.
Not if the whiny among us have their way.
Let me retreat a bit…
Usually, I wouldn’t put these two people in the same post, nor think about them in the same context, one is a beleaguered but respected researcher the other a provocateur “journalist” who’s contradictions are so legion he’s incredibly hard to take seriously. Both, however, are proving to be unmistakable examples of actual liberal fascism. Yep, I said it.
There used to be a rule in more liberal circles, and honestly just civil society, that said that regardless of how outrageous and sensational what you had to say was, it should be at least heard.
So, okay, that part is bullshit.
That time never fully existed.
There were fights in Congress, speakers were shouted down, and crowds never behaved in ways we think they did, but my view as a Progressive, Lefty, Liberal etc. et.al. whatever has been that as open-minded individuals who are ideologically inclined to share equally heart and head and argue passionately yet logically would allow even the most heinous speaker his or her due platform.
How we can claim to be liberal-minded and not accept the difference of opinions of other without reading their books or hearing them out astounds me. I am guilty of this as much as anyone else. I have often made opinions of things that had no basis in fact, I have allowed the crowd to determine my feelings about a book or a film without ever having seen it, I have held biases against people I do not know and would never condescend to know, I have been judgmental and prejudiced in my assessment of cultures I have not tried to understand.
I’m sympathetic to people from other countries but not to those living in the borders of my own. I am guilty of feeling like people who live in the “flyover states” are backward and inherently racist.
Some of these things may be, and probably are, true, but why are the assignments made before the exposure? Do they assume that my educated black ass feels somehow superior to them? And why, in some cases are they right. Yes, deep-seated racial, sexual, cultural and regional dynamics play a role and make these biases and divisions a deeper crevasse, than they otherwise would be. I know the history of division and the use of racial tropes that the powers that be have always used to fracture bonds that make more sense than not. But why do either of us pre-define each other before ever setting foot on the same ground?
I firmly disagree ideologically with many folks on the right, vehemently, but why? I got sucked into the Manosphere and still subscribe to the mailing lists of at least three of the sites I’d frequented years ago. I look for dynamics that define the person behind the words and recognize that even in Mein Kampf there is something to be learned about struggle, oppression and the view of them through the distorted and diseased lesions over jaundiced eyes, but up until recently I’d never read it. Same, to a lesser degree, with The Bell Curve, which I am reading (albeit slowly) now.
I’ve slammed the book and its author(s) before without really having heard their story. I assumed its purpose was not to advocate, in a traditionally conservative way, for the restructuring or abolishment of academic inclusion policies and social welfare programs, but that it was arguing similarly to my other example, that one “race” is superior or inferior to another and therefore did not deserve help, let alone inclusion.
When you meet someone or hear their voice, they are humanized, by default. Our brains have reactions to certain characteristics in meeting people on a playing field we recognize. Hearing Mr. Murray speak on Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast was eye-opening in this respect. Although I don’t agree with the conclusions and still feel that the onus and political motivations played a part in the furor, the man seems far from the racist bogeyman he’s been portrayed as. I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast with an open mind and feel free to disagree with the premise and the conclusions but do not miss the salient points made in the margins. The end of the conversation when Murray’s latest book is touched upon is especially relevant and enlightening.
Through the wearing of ideological labels, we have cut ourselves off from opposing opinions and the facts they are based upon. As a good friend of mine told me on a recent visit, he no longer discusses politics with many friends because it’s all about the way you look at things and where you are. So why should it not be about learning where THEY are from and how THEY look at things? Who THEY are.
Yes, there are things that I find unacceptable, that will never penetrate my liberal defenses. Having a protective shin of ideology isn’t always a bad thing. My liberalism doesn’t let baseless claims about superiority and inferiority get through. But it does let me consider uncomfortable propositions. It does not let me lose sight of the fact that behind every label we put on ourselves and each other we are still human beings with a lifetime of experiences that make us who we are. My Liberal underpinnings are both shield and filter in these ways.
Hiding behind a moniker, an ideology that denies you hearing anything you might otherwise let through the filter sitting across the table from another human being is one, Liberal or Conservative, that does no one any good.
Disavowing the artistic creation of a show about a timeline gone awry is the same as crying foul when a female comics editor posts an innocuous picture because the SJWs have taken over everything. Illiberal behavior is illiberal behavior, even when and especially if, it comes out of the mouth or hand of someone claiming to be Liberal.
We can have a plethora of ideas about a plethora of opinions in a way that allows us to see the world from a different perspective. Not allowing a person to speak, or trying to force a show not to air even before the words have been read or the show has been produced is a dangerous form of thought control. It is being practiced not just on the radical right but on the left as well, and it’s sad in either case. It’s more than sad; it’s dangerously fascist.
No, the above way-more-educated-than-I-am, quote is not intended to describe this year’s election cycle. But it is, in my view, what many want out of it in the end.
Let me explain.
I’ve been reading excerpts and reviews of a lot of books about men lately. Many of these “books” are written by bloggers and other assorted malcontents and sold on Amazon (Amazon, who will, in fact, publish damn near anything if some of these “works” are any indication).
Some are well written and through the murk of chest-beating manliness, and to an extent even within that milieu, they offer interesting and accurate commentary on the state of manhood in these changing times. I don’t touch this subject matter directly as so many others do it so much better, but manhood is in crisis. Womanhood is as well, the changing roles and responsibilities that have defined our genders for years are upending. I charge that this is for the better, but just as with any large scale change there are bound to be those who see the bad looming greater than the good.
Occasionally, I am one of those people.
As a wannabe writer of fiction, I push myself to imagine futures. Futures in far-flung societies and in this one advanced a few hundred days or a few thousand years. I write about the future, at least in part, due to my inability to research and my personal bias against meddling with history. I also write about the future because it’s easy to see myself there and it’s also easier to reflect a mirrored image of what we are now back at us by looking at what we will be.
I often imagine futures where the norms are different. Frontier societies that have developed strict social codes that rely on violence to keep those who would stray, in check. Societies that were founded on Hobbesian principles of centralized power (a throwback to the subject of this post) and developed accordingly are a favorite topic of mine lately. Of course, this requires some of the dreaded “research” I despise, but only in a broad sense. I look at things like culture, the size of the society, its early development and its key figure’s personalities, location, climate, and the temperament of its neighbors.
Doing all this imagining often takes me down dual roads, one leading to a mostly civilized and safe society and another leading to industrial serfdom for most and great luxury and wealth for a few. The trick is that these futures are not necessarily aligned with what you might think their respective paths are. The road to serfdom does not necessarily come directly from the path of kings and enlightened despots, nor is the egalitarian future born solely of democracy and participation. When you look at civilizations on this planet, you come up with many paths to sometimes the same conclusion.
So back to manhood. Yes it all ties in together, just a few paragraphs more of patience I ask.
I make no apologies for being a man; no one should have to apologize for what they are by birth. No White man needs to apologize for being what he is no Black woman should be implored to beg her case for being born into herself. We are not the sole determination of our race, class, or origin; they do not FULLY define us. But we are impacted and affected by them all, we bear the burdens and the responsibilities we were born into, we inherit, however unfairly, the cultural baggage of our predecessors. We are partially the sum of our ancestors, with a dash of our present culture and a heaping helping of our perceptions of it, and finally rubbed with a coating of our environment.
There is a rub here, though. We all need to take responsibility for not only what we have personally done, but for what our culture, collectively and associatively, has fostered upon us. It isn’t a choice, it isn’t something to run away from nor run into, it just is.
I am very much an imperfect man, for all my virtues I have at least as many faults. And men in general, have much to atone for. When women reach the same pinnacle men have in this society, they too will have sins of their own. Some will be determined by their “gendered” view of the world (every woman as every man has a unique view which is determined by living as what they include, gender identity, race, cultural identity, income, the number of parents…, etc.) others are simply a consequence of increased power.
Men, right now, are the ones who should be doing the soul-searching FROM that place of power. We are forced to do it because the sands beneath us have shifted.
For some in the alt-right, this shift has taken an apocalyptic tone. As when bankers, now bereft of what defined then, defenestrated during the great depression (greatly exaggerated I know, but a great narrative device nonetheless), a largely white male population is feeling the push-back of the new world order of diminishing power by virtue of belonging to that group.
So this new narrative arises among its ranks, one of doom, gloom, and violence. Ideas that were, when their numbers and their power was greater, casually cast off as un-American, are now common in its language. Where the coded has become explicit. When Bigots, Racists, and Traditionalists have been re-branded as White Nationalists, and people like David Duke have an out-sized voice in the conversation (again).
The above headline feels like a goal.
The alt-right, the new Vikings, the explosion of men with more muscle mass than 10 Charles atlases, PUA, MGTOW, GamerGate (if there are any of these things you aren’t familiar with you should be) the harassment of feminists and their supporters, doxing in general, whether it be of the proponents or opponents of these “movements” all lead us to the above conclusion.
Hobbes uses the above to justify control of a kingly presence over everyone else; he defines civilization as the reaction to the fear of that life. That the fear of the return of a short, nasty, brutish life is what keeps people in line, but when your life was by virtue of your “race” already the above, or that it now could be, I guess part of our natural tendency is to embrace what we feel is inevitable.
Well in these guys eyes a nasty, brutish life is inevitable.
It is inevitable that the patriarchy will be toppled by hypergamy. It is inevitable that white men of every income will be “cucked” and castrated and thrown from the horse they were born atop only to be thrown into the mud with all the “sharks.”
It is inevitable, in this world, that instead of recognizing how badly fascism ends for most people, including many of those raising their fists for it, they will call for it loudly and without irony. This is where the consequences of not understanding history are dooming us to rewarm the meal and take it, salmonella and all.
Men are in a crisis state, and because we are so greatly tethered to the mythology of a country that shows 1/2 of 1% of what we are and have ever been and probably gets that at least 1/2 wrong, our country is flirting with a very dark path.
Fear, anger, hatred, yeah George, you called it, you so called it.
Edited on 3/14/17, For clerical errors. 😉
I feel on some days that I’m watching the country I love descend into madness.
Anyone who has watched a loved one slip into a bout of dementia and then ascend to relative normalcy and experienced the false hope that the person you knew and loved would continue to be recognizable to you as the disease progresses knows this feeling. The surfacing of someone over months or years, instead of the death throes of a once vital personality, become the delusion of “getting better.”
I fear that this country may be in those throes.
We seem to surface just long enough to elect a Black president and then dip below the surface in calling for his “papers.” We take a deep breath, rising above the waves in securing a free market solution to “health care for all,” but then go down a second time when the very people who came up with the idea denounce it based on fears that never materialize, or “death panels” that never existed. We barely turn our faces to the sky, open our mouths and aspirate when we finally recognize the dangerous influence of money and its exertion of power over everyone else, we have OWS and yet the Tea Party.
We seem constantly clinging to a raft and letting go, to be drowned willingly in madness.
Alexandre Dumas, the author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” places an extraordinary value on memory as both a plot device and a philosophical concept. In “Monte Cristo” the Count is left to rot, he and his crime are lost to the ages, his captors have moved on with their lives and forgotten him and the wrong they did him, this concept resonates today.
Our memory of our history and its revisionism is spelled out for us in this storyline. Dumas, whose father was the product of a relationship between a French nobleman and a Black slave, and who himself was subjected to racist taunts at the height of his artist prowess, stresses remembrance by showing us the product of our forgetfulness. In making an allegory of the Count, his unfair imprisonment, and subsequent release, he has not only set the stage for one of the greatest and most influential literary and filmic devices, the revenge story but makes a serious case for the determents and merits of remembering and forgetting.
We have forgotten much in our America.
Textbooks in the South insist that Slavery was a benign institution, one benefitting Africans by giving them religion and culture and by keeping them safe and warm, clothed and fed. I was watching Netflix the other day and came across “Chelsea on…” a series where comedian Chelsea Handler takes on particular topics, one of which was Race. One of the segments stuck out to me with this very idea at its core. Forgetting and remembering, conveniently forgetting the historical guilt and committing the greater sin of willfully changing the past to cover it up.
Many white southerners (and a growing number of others), especially those who self-describe as conservative, have an interesting blind spot for the culpability of the peculiar institution and its role in causing a rift between North and South. Even as I type this I am extra cautious in choosing my words, somehow feeling the need to protect the delicate ego of a place that has more bones in its racial closet than almost anywhere else on the planet. I feel the need to protect the very same people who enslaved my ancestors from their uncomfortable truths. Forgetting and remembering at odds inside me too.
As I watched apologist after apologist claim their feelings were being hurt by Ms. Handler’s lines of questioning I contrasted the very real image of the heavy slave shackles in a later segment, shackles very similar to those in the possession of my aunt, a collector of what she calls “memorabilia.” I wrestled with my seething anger and knew what Dumas’ concentration on memory and reemergence was all about. All of this bring home the notion that remembrance is probabaly our weakest human trait, as human-Americans it is even weaker.
As I watched Trump apologist Jeffrey Lord rewrite history in the worst, most bizarre way, I got that same feeling. He essentially argued that the KKK was a left-wing organization and that the left was solely responsible for the divisions in this country (see the exchange between he and Van Jones here, courtesy of the Washington Post) pulling out every rhetorical stop to nullify Jones’ argument about Trump and race. How this and much else on subject to debate can even qualify as “debateable” boggles my mind.
Unfortunately, this is more common than not. When someone screams “know your history” most often it is they who do not. Dumas, in the 18th century, understood this concept all too well.
The manipulation of memory is easier when those memories are accusatory; painful in the way they puncture the empowered’s sense of privilege. They are harder to change when the person bearing them has been ground under the boot heel of the memories themselves. They are mutable, through tons of pressure, pressure from those reacting to the wrongs they feel have been fostered upon them by the weak and powerless. All of what precedes, what is occurring now is why literature is so important, why philosophy matters and why curiosity counts.
Though there is no guarantee that knowing will lead to a saner life. In the case of the drowning man, another breath of air prolongs the struggle enough to fight on some more, but only for a limited amount of time. If no one is willing to see the water surrounding him, if no one is willing to understand that the same is surrounding them as well, eventually everyone will drown.
From the files of #areyoufuckingkiddingme
So a book I have never read, which is on my shortlist of pleasure reading that just barely got touched, is being adapted. Do I care, yeah kinda.
Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series is being made into a film.
So why am I writing about it?
Because of comments like this from AICN.
So when a movie about fucking Egyptians has not a single non-pale actor in a lead role, when #oscarsowhite is trending, when not a single Black, Latino or Asian actor was up for a lead role NOT in a film geared to that particular audience…
Take a breath…
I guess it boils down to this uncomfortable but also outrageous and unrealistic fear – “When they make a heated hockey rink, we’ll take that shit too.” courtesy of Oscar host Chris Rock.
People just need shit to bitch about, seriously.
As I said before, too fucking little, too fucking late.
So you can tolerate all the bullshit I mentioned previously, all the implicit threats of violence, the dog whistling candidates (many of which are running against Trump, STILL) and the numerous collisions between some of your own columnists and the organized racist far-right. Charles Murray, for example.
So, again, after benefiting for so long from the recruitment of working class whites into voting against their own interests by appealing to their inherently racist fears, now you want to suddenly sound the alarm against the human manifestation of that politic?
Again, fuck you, Trump is a direct result of all of you not standing up for your “brand.” If America goes down in flames because of him, it really isn’t because of him at all, it’s because of you.
Calhoon College at Yale and Wilson at Princeton, need I say more?
Okay so yes the anger is absolutely warranted these guys were assholes as far as slavery and civil rights respectively were concerned, but so were pretty much all the founding fathers, and most everyone in the country until the abolishment of said institution (or till Barack Obama was elected). Actually, oh fuck, pretty much up until recently and well shit, right freaking now!!!!
The rush to rename everything is one of the most troubling aspects of the latest round of PC nonsense. Yeah I said it, its bullshit for a number of reasons. first and foremost fucking Yale and fucking Princeton. The students at both these institutions already live so drastically differently than the rest of us that addressing that gap is much more difficult than changing a few racists names, so of course, fuck that go for the low hanging fruit baby!
The most important reason in my mind NOT to change the names of these colleges and/or buildings is that with their erasure, we forget. History has already been whitewashed time and again by people with the very purposeful intention of eliminating some fact. Whether it be a fact that a liberal or a conservative, a corporation or a government wants people to conveniently forget, and they do after a time, unless reminded.
Hell, we only recently have been nationally recalling the terrible internment of Japanese Americans during WW2 (and to a lesser extent Italians) because a formerly closeted sci-fi and social media icon starting pushing the issue. We forget the many former slaves who were collected by police in the south and charges with “vagrancy” in order to be sold into servitude in plants in the south (many of whom died as a result) when we talk about the current spate of Police on young-black-men crime.
History, even and especially the ugly parts, has relevance. I don’t care if its the Taliban, ISIS, The Klan, Black separatists or DuPont trying to re write it, the result is the same. One less example of what not to do and one more case in which doing the good thing for a small number of people and doing the RIGHT thing by history are opposed.
Keep the names and teach the fact that they were imperfect. ‘Teachable moments” indeed.