please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

How to run My Revolution

I saw a bumper sticker today; the beginning of every great discussion. It read, "When Jesus said, 'love thy neighbor', I think it meant 'don't kill them'." I was walking along, and I started hearing them mystic chords of memory again, which is to say, that great Billy Preston keyboard line that sets out the sleepy, underwater sounding song, "Just Wanna See His Face", by de Stones. "Don't wanna talk, talk about Jesus, just wanna see his face..." And I thought, yeah, pretty much everyone throughout history who has made a career of Christ-pimping has been some roaring asshole who is about as far from neighbor-loving as one can be. Quit talking about it; start acting like it.
For some reason, this brings me back to my conversation with The Schlecht. She had walked into the editorial meeting at Sound Out, the piss-poor excuse for a queer paper they had up in Oly. As the only hetero on the writing staff (and one of only three men), I was in a fantastic position to observe. Most of the women on staff had slept with each other at least, and the editorial meetings were masterpieces of passive agression mixed with that awful counselling-speak that somehow rarely facillitates communication. They usually ended up violently disagreeing with each other, theoretically about the story topics, but I just don't think so. In any case, at this particular one, The Schlect walks in and looks at me. She says, "So why is it that the only thing that inspired you to write for us was to attack a Native American man?"
A 'how often do you beat your wife' question, if I ever heard it (because when you say, 'I don't,' your accuser then gets to say, "So you deny it!"). It is true that she was in a bad mood for a perfectly good reason; a political lobbyist, she had spent the entire day watching the latest queer rights bill go down in ignominious flames in the Washington state legislature. And yes, I had just had the opening salvo in what would be a mini culture war published.
There was an advisor at the local liberal arts college (hereafter known as The Evergrowing State Concern) who was also a columnist on this paper. He had been raised white, but had discovered that he had some amount of (proper term here? 'Native American' is a misnomer, I feel. Amerind? Mesoamerican? Descendant of Early Aboriginal Peoples!) DEAP blood around age thirty or so, and quickly parlayed this into a job as Professional Indian at the local college, as First Peoples (eesh) advisor, and doing a weekly radio show. I think his qualification for being in that paper was that he said, one time, that he might be bisexual, or something.
Well, he had written one column that had been on the topic of white male privilege. This was hardly surprising. Not only was he societally empowered to turn every discussion into a debate on this topic, but Olympia in general was very likely to bring this subject up pretty much any time. I had written an extensive text deconstruction of it, where I pointed out the historical and etymological errors in it, and furthermore pointed out at some points that his generalizations were basically racist, where they weren't just dumb. I had no idea that they would publish it; if I had known that they would, I might have removed some of the deeply angry profanity and insults that dot the piece like tiny islands.
The two ladies who co-edited the thing (with a brief aside about how I really needed to learn to type better) liked it. They published it, and thence came the storm. Their readership erupted in a big, whiny rage. Most of it was from his friends, and most had the inarguable premise of "how dare you", rather than an actual criticism. A few people in public approached me and thanked me for writing it, but they did not sign their names next to it, on paper.
The second thing I wrote (and I wonder now if Cammy and Wendy had just noticed how boring their paper had become, and were just in the mood to stir up shit) was a response to the responses. It's clear to me now, looking at it, that I was really having fun now. I point out how much the man in question (much less his allies) sounded like An Oppressor when he said things like, "Hopefully, some of you will learn to be more respectful in the future." I also point out that my first word, taught to me by my Three Wicked Aunts, was 'bullshit'.
So The Schlect, who towers over me and is seemingly incapable of smiling, has set the tenor for the entire debate with her first question. Everyone else leaves the room. I don't intend to let her just use me as a scratching post, but I also don't intend to argue. I had no idea who she was, so I asked who she was, what she did, etc. I was rewarded with this bizarre run down of her Good Folk cred: she is from a working class background, for instance. I hadn't impugned her Not-Richness, but it did occur to me that, background aside, now she had a very, very good paying job. I kept my mouth shut. I was genuinely interested in finding out who this person was, who had so easily assumed the moral high ground, and trying not to envision her as the embodiment of everything irrational and shrill in the human spirit.
But, she was too damn used to shaming people like me, and presented me with the prototypical Olympian phrase: "I mean, don't take this wrong," (this would be insulting, in other words, but would include enough disclaimers that she wouldn't have to take responsibility for it, and I would have no right to be angered by it) "But who are you to tell me how to run my revolution, little blonde haired, blue eyed man?" (How could I have taken that wrong?)
(A person who lives here? A human being that feels that his destiny is more than somewhat wrapped up with your own? An ally that you might not want to alienate? Someone who has every right to comment on whatever the hell he feels like, regardless of what you think? Someone who finds your clumsy attempt to intimidate me with these weird appearance-based slurs childish and sad, ya' big, ugly, hatchet-faced mollusk?)
Needless to say, the conversation did not end well. I kept on smiling like a damn fool. I now realized that she had provided me with the central question that really needed to be asked.
One evening, on break from my job as shitboy on a demolition site, I sat down and wrote one last editorial at Cammy and Wendy's house. It is titled "Friendly Advice from a Janitor". Pretty much everyone who had attacked me (and by now, there were lots of them) had been an academic, politico or at least someone who was not spending their evenings covered with fiberglass and asbestos. Folks who were accusing me of upholding the male stereotype and its attendant privilege, who were all operating at a much higher pay scale than me. I decided that I was, in fact, going to make a very pointed suggestion as to how to run The Revolution.
I basically spoke at length about how no one was ever going to take them seriously if they just sat around calling everyone who was not them (and each other) names. They needed to establish some sort of connection with this majority of people that they had started to view as The Other. I reminded them that the religious right seems pretty cohesive, and they'd better be, too. I reminded them that the only reason anyone listened to Martin Luther King and Gandhi was because they had the respect of their communities, and if they told everybody to stop working, the engine of commerce would grind to a sickening halt. I told them that they'd be much better off telling The Other out there that if queer's rights to fuck and marry whoever they damn well pleased were taken away, it opens up the door to the government doing so to anyone they pleased. "And they just aren't going to feel like supporting the people who sneer at them every time they go to the coffee shop."
I told them that the real problem is fundamentalism, and they'd better not become fundamentalists, too, or it was all over. I still see The Community failing to understand this, and exactly how to couch the argument. The above tactic of scaring the common folk with the Goddamn Gubment coming into everybody's bedroom would probably play pretty well, and going ahead and letting your allies say it in public, too: "These are my friends and family you're talking about, and you Do Not fuck with my friends, and you Do Not fuck with my family." Rednecks get all weepy over shit like that.
I've got a number of other ideas, but this has gone on too long as it is.



Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Major cool, dude. I got a little Grizzard in me. You got a little Gonzo in you. LOTS o' great lines in this.

A friend of mine once was the only white dude -- albeit one with a natural 'fro -- at the black newspaper in Tulsa. He often got crossways with the master narrative (ha! subtle historical-reverse pun unintended)of the joint.


6:53 AM  

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