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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jussa Buncha Fuckin' Words

Ran into Booty yesterday, at the record store. (Listening to results of purchase right now: Zen Guerrilla's "Shadows on the Sun", The Grifters' "Full Blown Posession", The Hollies' Greatest Hits, Aerosmith's "Draw the Line"-with the great Al Hirschfeld drawing on the cover-and Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown".)

Booty is Lebanese, and his family left that country when he was a boy. They went to visit his grandparents out of town, and when the returned to Beirut, someone had blown up their house. So they moved from there to London, thence to Chicago, settling finally in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan complex. He moved up here with his girlfriend in 2001, where he met me, and often introduces me as the first friend he made in Portland.
He and said girlfriend just had a baby boy, four days ago. His name is Osama.
It's his middle name, and his father's first name. I believe they spell it 'Ossama', but the name, relatively common throughout the middle east, remains the same.

Now, even knowing what I know, I was a little amazed that someone who has been photographed leading anti-war protests, who has already had one house destroyed by bombs and whose parents (full-blown practicing Moslems living in Texas) received bricks through their window in the middle days of September, five years ago, would do this.
There's no reason for them not to name their kid this name, and all the reason in the world not to. It's a family name; it doesn't connote any love for the famous one, the son of Laden.
He already recognizes that just being an Arab at all makes people in this idiotic part of the world want to kill you. He talks about working on construction crews in Texas, and going by 'Paco' ("I spent years in Texas as a Mexican," is how he puts it).
So on one hand, I applaud my friend for his balls, but sheeit...Every now and again, I get into a conversation about how the name 'Adolph' seemed to lose a lot of ground after the Second World War. I've met a couple; it's really what happened to the surname 'Hitler' that I wonder about.
My pal George had a music teacher named Mrs. Hitner, though, and I always wondered about that, too.

As I read a lot of bullshit published by right-wingers elsewhere in the land, I often run across their assertion that Islam is an inherently violent religion. I never know how to counter this assertion, though I know it isn't true. Then I was reminded last evening on PBS's "The Road to 911": the variety of Islam embraced in the oil dictatorships is Wahabi Islam, which is a very authoritarian, fire n' brimstone-and-sanctioned-martyrdom kind of sect.
As Bernard Lewis of Princeton University put it in the documantary: "Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan took over the oil reserves of Texas, and then spent their profits spreading their particular variety of Christianity, saying it was the true Christianity..." And causing the rest of the world to see it that way, naturally.
So I have something there to throw back, but right-wingers immediately shut off, like a lot of people, when you start in with history. They prefer, as a lot of people do, to hear words they are comfortable with, and the only way to change their mind is through coded messages in their own language.
But you sure can piss them off about immigration, and that's why I have to wonder what the Bush is up to, recently, with what certainly sounds like amnesty proposed for "guest workers" from down south. I imagine it has something to do with that forty-four per cent of the GOP vote that was Hispanic, last election, but who knows? Certainly the Republican rank n' file isn't into it; not voters, not the pols.
Bush somehow managed to do something that he never could have done if he was some no-subtlety demagogue who uses the word 'wetback': anger so damn much of the United States, I wonder if there will be a popular to seal the borders.
To keep us in, as much as to keep them out.

And speaking of 'wetback', someone brought up the Chris Rock joke the other day; the one about how there are black people and then there are niggers. I noted that I've been hearing rednecks use that one for years.
But maybe did I mean white trash, when I said rednecks? I've heard country-dwelling folk make that distinction, too. But of course, 'white trash' is an inherently offensive term too, since it more than implies that all others-wetback, nigger, gook, rag head and chink-are just trash by design.
What I do know is that the word 'nigger' is one you can never win with, as a white person: not as humor, not even as a word used in anger. My pal Enouf once put it to me as "Every time I hear it, it's like a punch in the damn stomach..."
Yes, and it's the one word I pretty much never use for that reason: I don't get to. Black people aren't taking unfair advantage by attempting to reclaim it, either. The one place I get to use it is in a discussion of the word itself, which the news networks won't even do. It's disheartening to hear them when engaged in a discussion of this kind, because you then get to hear earnest, educated adults use the phrase, "the 'N' word", which is just pathetic. That only gives the word more power.
In the Nineties, when I spent way too much time arguing gender and semantics with semi-hysterical college students, I pointed out that replacing the suffix 'man' in so many existing words opened the door to the idea that it's the word itself that does the damage, not gender inequality. I further pointed out that my friends and I, as good male feminists, needed to follow their lead and stop referring to ourselves as men, and should opt for 'mon', or 'mun', or something...

So the birth of baby Osama, part of a large wave of marriages and newborns among my friends, is something to celebrated: here again, is someone doing nothing more offensive than being alive, who I will no doubt have to defend from All the Rest of These Assholes.

Required reading:
Nigger : The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (Vintage)
Nigger : The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (Vintage) by Randall Kennedy

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9 Comments:

Blogger Jacq said...

Maybe instead of using the racial connotations ("there are black people and there are niggers") it is just fair to say that there are good people and there are bad people. Although some of those music videos don't help the overall image though, right? Being politcally correct has never been my strong suit, so I normally don't say much at all.

6:40 PM  
Blogger cats dig me said...

Huh? I'm sorry, was there a post here? I'm so involved in enjoying this nice Nat Sherman smoke that I didn't notice you guys were here. Ahh...

6:27 AM  
Blogger Jacq said...

I know SOMEONE who needs to get hoppin on posting some on HIS blog. Get to steppin! I keep checking and there's no new post, Cats. Hurry it up, now. I'm sick of reading about boobies already.

;P

5:10 PM  
Blogger cats dig me said...

You have to understand, Jacq. I've been enjoying these Sherman's for awhile now. Besides, I REALLY like boobies.

Ah, I didn't mean to abandon my post over at the Space. I have been pre-occupied with other matters elsewhere on the web.

Tell you what. Look for a new post on Monday. It'll be sure to satisfy.

8:44 PM  
Blogger KEvron said...

terry kiser (who had the titular role in weekend at bernie's) once did a short stint on hill street blues. he played the brilliant-yet-failed stand-up comedian, "vic hitler, the narcoleptic comic".

KEvron

1:16 AM  
Blogger Sheila said...

Hey Rich,
Off topic. LOL Thank your for mentioning how much Lone Ranger is off on his claims that only Repuclicans are the Heros according to the century he selects. LOL Your the Best!

I kind of Left Marks for a little respite because of old LR. But back. YOU should visit Crawfordslist. Craig Crawford. We are crebral.....50% of the time anyway. The rest is silliness.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

That "Nigger" book is a good'un.

7:22 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

I'n'it? I'd never heard the term 'HNIC' (Head Nigger In Charge) until I'd read it.

8:36 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Oh, man. "HNIC" goes back to grade school, for me.

7:31 PM  

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