Saturday, March 31, 2007

Speaking of Pandarus

Does my butt look like it belongs to Chaucer's depiction of a Trojan ethics-optional warrior culture in this post?

You look confused.

I'll explain, shall I?

I have nieces. Oodles of 'em. They are smart, silly, athletic, lazy, funny, serious, charming, brusque, whiny, weird, goofy, cranky, short, tall, ill-mannered, gracious, and any number of other adjectives you might care to mention. Just like people.

Yet, a 'feminist' male 'friend' of mine, upon hearing that I got a surprise visit from Niece #3 today immediately asked, "Is she pretty?" At which point, a number of memory neurons started firing on protector neurons, and I told him to get lost. Now, the first time I said it in a joking way. But Mr. Genius just HAD to keep insisting I answer his question. So I answered his question like an aunt whose niece, on the basis of being adult and female, was immediately being considered for classification of the "would I or wouldn't I?" kind by a man who calls himself a feminist and my friend.

This hurt his widdle fee-fees.

I am now in a boiling rage. I hurt his feelings?! Hm. I answer the phone and explain that a niece I haven't seen in a bit made a very lengthy car trip up to the back of bloody beyond to see me, and brought her new boyfriend for me to meet, and I was so delighted to see them I seriously considered making an attempt at cooking. And where are those sheets that fit the futon in the guest room anyway? Can I call you back in a day or two?

And I get two questions:
1) "How old is she?" and, upon learning she was indeed in that coveted barely adult range...
2) "Is she pretty?"

And then the weirdest thing happened. Every time a guy 'friend' tried to use our 'friendship' as cover for being a sexist, vulgar ass to me sprang to my memory. Every time a guy 'friend of mine' ignored our friendship and common decency to make a comment about the developing physique of Niece #3's older cousins sprang to memory. Every time any man treated me or any woman I cared about in my presence or in my knowledge as if we existed only insofar as we might serve his purposes sprang to my memory.

And I had a revelation.

If people hate me because I say, plainly, that I will not tolerate my kids being treated like sexual jokes, they can go right ahead and hate me. I have a more important social role to fill than 'friend of random jackass.'

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Random Questions

That have popped into my head in the past few weeks. Some of them are grad school related, some not so much. As a collection, I think they're funny.

- How many times would I have to run a Zizek article through Babelfish before it started to make sense to me?

- When Pandarus sticks his head under the sheet on the bed where his naked niece lies after having sex with Troilus, and they 'gan to pleye,' WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?! Ew, man.

- Will there ever be another Edmund as Edmund-y as Raul Julia's Edmund in Central Park in 1974?

- Why is microfiction so often about sex? Is it wrong that sexual microfiction makes me a) laugh, and b) feel sorry for the poor bastard who wrote it?

- Why do grown-up dressy shoes pinch so?

- Why didn't my relatives leave truly scandalous diaries for me to read? Relatedly, would it be OK to start telling fantastic lies in my own journal for the benefit of future generations on the swestersunu line?

- If my modern Americanist friends get all snooty with me again, would it be wrong to ask them how they manage to sort through the literally TEN YEARS worth of criticism on their author to come up with something new and interesting to say? Especially considering that they have to learn zero languages to do that? Because, seriously, the attitude is starting to grate.

- Why did I, a grown woman, get a pimple on the center of my nose the day I had to present a gift to somebody in a ceremony?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


By William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.


Yes, I know this poem is a St. Patrick's Day Cliché. But I also know that this poem actually manages to make my soul still when I read it. If I were a better linguist I would know why it does that, but I'm only mediocre at the linguistical business. So, I offer you an inexplicably peaceful soul today.

And, perhaps a little laugh:

May those who love us, love us.
As for those who don't love us, may God turn their hearts.
But if He can't turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles,
so that we may know them by their limping.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Culture Clash

Context Information:

Most of you who read this blog know that I come from a working class family. Well, we're working class when things are going well, and I clearly remember a few years when things went spectacularly poorly and we were underclass. (Again, that information is purely for context. I have few complaints at this late date.) I generally pass for middle class, though, because I grew up in an affluent town. This is not to say that I currently pretend to be something that I'm not, although there were many years in which I tried to do just that, but rather that I have learned most of the dialect markers of the middle to upper middle classes and know how to use them a lot of the time. For social survival.

When I was an undergraduate, I thought the startling differences in beliefs and attitude between me and my peers were mostly attributable to our age difference. I mean, I knew that some of their "woe-is-me" stories were laughable, but it didn't really sink in that these stories were partly a product of privilege rather than pure immaturity. My family required my financial assistance as soon as I was able to give it; I needed to work full time right after high school. I got 'technical training' and worked for nine and a half years to be able to save enough to a) pay for college, and b) be able to work 4 days a week rather than 5 so I could actually make it to my classes. I was old, and I had a lot on my plate. So, I only encountered my fellow students on campus, preferring to socialize with my friends from work whenever I had the time. And I just assumed that all the things that struck me as weird about these kids had to do with the fact that they were, you know, kids. In ten years, maybe after they had kids of their own, and knew the experience of having people count on them, we would be able to interact more. What can I tell you? I'm dense.

The Point Lives in Here Somewhere, I Hope:

Then came the mind-bendingly selfish choice to go to graduate school. I won't bother you with a description of the emotional maelstrom that surrounds that choice every day. If you're a working-class person in the academy, you're experiencing it yourself. If you aren't, you don't have the structure in place through which you can understand it. Just as I can't understand the moment I'm about to describe to you.

While we were all sitting around enjoying a grad student neurosis-airing moment recently, a friend of mine put her head in her hands and groaned, "I don't want to be a loser." And several others expressed the same sentiment. (It was a glum meeting.)

Now, my cultural background and current weirdness led me to read this part of the conversation entirely incorrectly. I mean, I nodded knowingly because I thought I understood what they were saying. I, too, have the fear of being the loser. I am the child who has excuses made for her in conversations with extended family and close family friends, because:

  • I don't do work that builds anything tangible.
  • And I don't make good money at this ephemeral non-worky work I do.
  • And I don't want to marry and have kids, which is just weird.
  • And it's unfortunate that I'm so booksmart, but can't really DO anything anymore.
  • And I never go to Sunday dinner.
  • And I'm always late with the money for my mom's medications, so my sister always has to front the money for me.
  • So, what good is it that I think I'm so smart when I'm practically committing matricide-by-failure?
  • And everybody else has to do the emotional heavy lifting for me because I'm at Microburg, and I always have homework to do. At 35.
  • And I'm not really a snob once you talk to me, even though I'm always reading. You just have to think of me kind of like a recent convert to religion who annoyingly tells everyone all the new stuff I've learned, but not because I think you're going to hell for not knowing it, too, but because I'm excited by it for reasons no one understands.
  • And there's proof that I'm not just lazy and avoiding work in graduate school, even though it's clear I don't do work here, because I did do work for so long. There were paychecks.

So, I started to respond with comfort that I would need if I made a similar statement. Which earned me confused looks.

Because, when these people said they didn't want to be losers, most of them were talking about their parents both finishing PhDs in 5 years or less, and their siblings all being accepted to the #1 graduate programs in the world in their respective fields, and progressing even faster, or having gotten a T-T position at a "great school" on their first year out after finishing a PhD in 3 years. The others were talking about the low salary they could expect as academics, and how that would make them look stupid in front of their families when their cousin Bob is making the GDP of three nations already.

What they were emphatically NOT talking about was the fear that they would get their PhDs, and then not get jobs, which would cause several generations of their family after them to refuse to go to college at all because Aunt Heo spent half her life at college and was such a spectacular failure anyway. Or that the debt they'd acquired was so beyond the scope of their ability to imagine it that they were having difficulty sleeping. Or that they really were afraid that they were literally killing their relatives by not having enough money to give them, in a timely fashion. Or that they fear that all the "you're not quite good enough" messages one often gets from one's professors doesn't so much speak to the quality of a sentence, or a paragraph, or even a whole draft of their work, but rather to their quality as people. So that one person, having a bitchy day, or needing to prove his/her power over others can send them into a month-long tailspin of crushing angst.

In Short:

You know how, when you speak a language really well, and you go to the country where that language is spoken, and you begin to lose your accent, and you start believing you are indistinguishable from the natives in a lot of ways, and then a folk song comes on the radio and you realize in that instant that you are, and will always be, a foreigner living in their land?

Yeah, that.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sometimes You Just Wonder the ease with which the powerful can set the powerless against each other. And the joy with which a previously oppressed person will place his/her boot squarely on the neck of another if it seems like that action will gain him/her some small advantage, thus making it easier for others 'above' the oppressive oppressors to oppress them in turn , leading ultimately into a full-on fascist jamboree wherein all but a few are oppressed in their turn.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you "The Five Civilized Tribes" a.k.a. Cherokee & friends, who earned their "civilized" moniker by being slave-holders in the old south, and apparently, remain assholes to this very day.

From an article in WaPo this morning(behind free subscription wall):
"The 250,000-member Cherokee Nation will vote in a special election today whether to override a 141-year-old treaty and change the tribal constitution to bar "freedmen," the descendants of former tribal slaves, from being members of the sovereign nation."

What?! What year is this? This is just a bad joke, right?

Er ... Nope.

"Advocates of expelling the freedmen call it a matter of safeguarding tribal resources, which include a $350 million annual budget from federal and tribal revenue, and Cherokees' share of a gambling industry that, for U.S. tribes overall, takes in $22 billion a year. The grass-roots campaign for expulsion has given heavy play to warnings that keeping freedmen in the Cherokee Nation could encourage thousands more to sign up for a slice of the tribal pie.

Jesus, that didn't even require a sweat on the part of the powerful. Way to stay strong, Cherokee people!

"Don't get taken advantage of by these people. They will suck you dry," Darren Buzzard, an advocate of expelling the freedmen, wrote last summer in a widely circulated e-mail denounced by freedmen. "Don't let black freedmen back you into a corner. PROTECT CHEROKEE CULTURE FOR OUR CHILDREN. FOR OUR DAUGHTER[S] . . . FIGHT AGAINST THE INFILTRATION."

Hey! I recognize that rhetoric. Where can it be from? Oh, my, it sounds so familiar. Who else, historically, used the honor of their daughters as a rallying cry against another group of people, a people they had oppressed, and were now frightened would retaliate? Eh, must never have happened if I can't remember it.

"It's oppressed people that's oppressing people," said Verdie Triplett, 53, an outspoken freedman of the Choctaw tribe, which, like the Cherokee, once owned black slaves."


So, people of conscience can't go through with such a vile thing, can they? They can't expel their own for a few more gambling dollars can they? The people will rise up, and play that goofy 70's song, and the Cherokee people will be as one once more, I just know it.

The WaPo article about the Cherokee vote today:. (Behind a free subscription wall)

"With a majority of districts reporting, 76 percent had voted in favor of an amendment to the tribal constitution that would limit citizenship to descendants of "by blood" tribe members as listed on the federal Dawes Commission's rolls from more than 100 years ago."

Ass. Holes.

And the Government "tutorial site" on the Dawes Rolls:

"The Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes was appointed by President Grover Cleveland in 1893 to negotiate land with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. It is commonly called the Dawes Commission, after its chairman, Henry L. Dawes.

Tribe members were entitled to an allotment of land, in return for abolishing their tribal governments and recognizing Federal laws. In order to receive the land, individual tribal members first had to apply and be deemed eligible by the Commission.

The first application process for enrollment began in 1896, but was declared invalid. So the Dawes Commission started all over again in 1898. People had to re-apply in order to be considered, even if they had already applied in 1896. The resulting lists of those who were accepted as eligible became known as the Dawes Rolls. Their formal name is the "Final Rolls of the Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory". The Commission accepted applications from 1898 until 1907, with a few additional people accepted by an Act of Congress in 1914."

So, lemme get this straight. An oppressed and expelled people bring with them out of the south their own subset of oppressed people. Then, 100 years later, when tribal rights are starting to be respected again, even if just a little, they expel their subset of oppressed people. For money. Based on the documentation of a racist government commission that had something to gain by refusing to count any person with even the slightest appearance of 'black blood,' whether that person also had Cherokee blood or not. In fact, one hint that a person was black at all kept them off the Dawes Roll, even if they also had Cherokee & friends blood. So, these 'freedmen' were kept from the rolls for racist and capitalist reasons at the turn of the last century, and are being expelled from the tribe again now for the same reasons.

Updated below, because I'm not done ranting yet.

Is there no place, no group of people, that can be touched by the violence of oppression without craving the power of oppressor themselves? Was HOBBES right?! Are people who say they want justice only interested in becoming part of the club? Is the whole world just comprised of people who will happily adopt racism, sexism, creedism, and any other fucking -ism that's convenient to get them what they want or think they need?

Look, I belong to more than one group of assholes, stemming from varied traditions of assholery. So do you, most likely. But at some point, don't we all have to say that the lesson we have brought from 500 years of absolute racist, sexist, hateful, soul-destroying bullshit is that we will have no more of said bullshit?

When do you suppose we will value self-respect over money? 'Cause you can't tell me that a person who respects him/herself does a thing like this.

On the Acquisition of Fancy Pants

Houston, we have interview suit! A perfectly delightful double-breasted, pin-striped, nicely constructed, fully lined, month's worth of groceries AND extra little treats interview suit. Hell, I think it came close to rent. And I like wearing it; my salary demands just went up.

Before I went interview suit shopping this time, I scorned the fancy pants. Because my life's trajectory has been such that every day clothing of the expensive variety was not an option, and didn't need to be. More than a decade in nursing? Nursing uniforms five days a week, a few pairs of jeans, and half a closet full of gowns appropriate for weddings and tea dresses appropriate for baby showers. Couple years as a teacher? I wore corporate casual teacherly stuff, but not of the very best quality, or even middling quality --- think stores than end in "mart" or "get" here---because ... psshhh... they weren't paying me to maintain a *nice* wardrobe, just a professional one. And nice costs money that I could be using in better ways. And who wants to spend a million dollars on a pair of beautiful pants that will just have a chalk-line across the butt by lunchtime? Then I became a grad student, and mostly wore the left-over teacher clothes. Same job, different age group, same chalk-line, same wardrobe.

But now! Now I go into a world of people who will probably not bleed on me, a world where the chalk line is not a given.