Wednesday, July 23, 2008

True Stories Continued...

Having aimed Margaret Atwood's poetry at those who color attrocities against women with a racial undertone, I can't help but rally her again against those in our administration who work to make such attrocities more common:

"...If mother-
hood is sacred, put
your money where your mouth is. Only
then can expect the coming
down to the wrecked & shimmering earth
of that miracle you sing
about, the day
when every child is a holy birth."

(excerpt from "Christmas Carols", found in True Stories by Margaret Atwood)

True Stories...

I read this this morning. The post itself is about the subconscious racism shining through in how two women in similar situations are either humananized or dehumanized by the language used to describe them. They discuss it more effectively than I might, so I'll leave it to them.

This weekend I picked up True Stories, a book of poetry by Margaret Atwood. She has never been one to soft-step touchy subjects, but the poems contained in this book struck me as particularly... 'brutal' is not the word I am looking for and neither is 'gruesome'. Either of those words suggests some intent to harm or titilate, and I detect none of that here. Maybe 'direct' could be the word, but compared to how these poems communicate that word seems timid. They illuminate an unblinking awareness and put up a challenge to our tendency to beautify reality in an attempt to forget/ignore the harshness of the world. Yesterday i read the poem "Christmas Carols", which starts off, "Children do not always mean/ hope. To some they mean despair." Elaborating a few lines later, "This one had her pelvis/ broken by hammers so the child/ could be extracted. Then she was thrown away,/ useless, a ripped sack." Before and after this description were the descriptions of two other women who killed themselves because of pregnancies they were unwilling parties to, which were both gruesome descriptions, but somehow the image of a woman gutted so the child could be removed and then cast aside knocked the wind out of me. It seemed particularly barbaric, like it couldn't be believably imagined out of nowhere and could only be snatched from real life to be in this poem. The descriptions of a woman raped and killing herself or another dying while trying a home abortion rather than be forced to carry a child again seemed things that could be pulled out of the back of your mind, not because they are unbelievable, but rather because they are, however horrible, somewhat commonplace (or they are where access to abortion and birth control are blocked). The existance of either is not something any sentient adult could be shocked to know has happened. One might be shocked being presented with it (and you are when you read this poem), but the shock is at having it laid out in front of you, not in the possibility of such things happening.

But the child extracted from the mother like pea from a pod struck me as unreal. Not that I doubted that such things could happen, but I found myself wondering where this thing had happened. This was not a generalized possible horror, but felt like it must be a specific one, a terrible thing Ms. Atwood had read about somewhere and incorporated into this poem for its punch, some atrocity acted out in some war zone at the extreme edges of desperation. These thoughts were just sort of automatic in my mind. I didn't spend the last day meditating on this poem; one should never stare too long at something clear and searingly bright. Rather I read it through several times and each time kept sticking on this image of a woman as a wrapper, to be removed and thrown away like trash once the desired product was taken out.

Perhaps that is exactly the point I was trying to make: this struck me as something that had happened to a woman, one woman; not a thing that happens to women, a thing that could happen to any women.

Then, one day later, I stumble across an article on two of these crimes, one recent one a few years ago, both in this country. They weren't in war zones or on the fringes of humanity. It isn't a crime that happened to one woman; it is a crime which happens to women, though apparently the color of the victim affects how it is reported. Perhaps the authors of those articles could use Ms. Atwood's admonition from later in the poem: "Think twice then/ before you worship turned furrows, or pay/ lip service to some full belly/ or other, or single out one girl to play/ the magic mother, in blue/ & white, up on that pedestal,/ perfect & intact, distinct/ from those who aren't. Which means/ everyone else."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Synchronicity of the Lambs

Right as I was reading the comments for this post on Hunters and Gatherers, "Lotion" by the Greenskeepers started playing on my itunes...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My state always knows how to make me proud!

I've been spinning my wheels and starting to write and then not publishing anything, but this will shake me back into commentary. My state always makes me so damn proud.

And honestly, this sounds like such sweeeet just desserts that I wouldn't mind some fucking idiot asswipe like troy king getting served, but I bet you a dollar that this all just gets swallowed up and quietly washed away. There is something about Alabama that let's controversy stay gossip and never acknowledges it as news. When something distasteful appears, it is like being in the middle of a field during a flood. You can scream bloody murder, but the background din of social chatter about nothing just slowly rises until whatever taboo subject is drowned like unwanted puppies. People know it happened, but afterwards you are just left with a sore throat from hollering and as this emergency chatter drains away everything sort of settles back where it started.

In Alabama, all public memory is secret. Everyone may know and remember whatever troubling detail, but never underestimate the power of a polite southerner to be unable to recall an uncomfortable detail. If it doesn't get you killed, the community will just hush damn near anything over. Blame someone, remove them, edit them from stories or vaguely recall their existence.

There is no Post or Daily News. There are a thousand reasons to hate either of those publications, but they also keep shit like this from dying unceremoniously. Like I predict this fellow will. It is either true and it will be whispered near and wide, but never officially published (please let me be wrong about this) and if he has reciprocal dirt he will quietly shift into some other lucrative position out of the search lights, or it isn't true and is some kind of political hit piece (remember that Alabama is where karl rove honed his skills), maybe retribution for not pulling off the Siegleman frame-up smoothly, and the rumors will do their damage and he will quietly be scooted into oblivion. Granted, it might be true and still be getting spread as some kind of retribution from his repub overlords, or just plain old pissed off enemies, but either way I'll be amazed and proud if even ONE newspaper in Alabama has the balls to run with this story openly. Maybe they already have, I've only just heard about this story and so haven't really started digging yet. Oh, but I will...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

on Gay Pride...

This last weekend I went to the Gay Pride Parade here in New York. I've got tons of thoughts about it which I'll sort out in the coming days, but I'll save the long analysis for another day. The short of it is I still think the day and the parade are significant. Call it a parade or a march or whatever, it matters to me that it can and does happen. This is partially in response to comments friends have made over the years, invariably other urban homos for whom being gay can easily be a casual part of their life, just one more thing about them and nothing that threatens their safety or livelihood.

A number of years back, a friend wrote a "gay shame" email complaining about 'what gay pride has become' and I began a response which got lost in my email drafts. I'm all about digging up old things and subjecting them to scrutiny, so here from the vaults is my response to these curmudgeons who blush at the commercialism and flamboyance of our numbers let loose in the streets each year (there are a few comments in here which I know might ruffle a feather or two and strike me now as mildly offensive but I leave in for historical accuracy; please hold full judgement for my forthcoming modern update, reflecting on my most recent Pride experience):

At this point in my life and with all the bizzare that I have seen around me, I have come to love the things that just make life surreal. We all know that there is nothing more surreal than Pride events. I like that they exist, I like that people go crazy, I like that there are middle aged men who have reduced all their goals in life to basically just trying to look the most like an exaggerated charicature of a musclebound adolescent Ken doll.

I like all of this of course in theory. Not unlike communism, it just isn't funny when you apply it to real people. But I guess I can still enjoy the spectacle and the hoopla, and anything that really gets under the skin of the religious right is ok by me. Just look at it like you would a freak show or a scary movie or a highschool valedictorian delivering an impassioned speech: take it very serious while you watch it so you can enjoy the full effect but only remember the really comical bits and repeat them to your friends.

People know that the section at pride isn't the only section of the gay world. We do look rather funny when mixed all together like that, but it is fun. Sure the drag queens and dykes on bikes get all the air time, but everyone gets to throw their own party. And I will tell you, Pride isn't important to the people who attend who live in those cities where they have them; they are important to the terrified closeted fags who are living on the front lines out in bumfuck (what a fitting name) nowhere who just need there to be some gay presence that makes itself felt and lets them know that something else exists.

So you say it doesn't set a good example for them, showing them a big event that is just a bunch of half naked muscle clones and men in tiaras? Well, it isn't any worse than any homecoming parade anywhere in the country. At least at the Pride parades we have grown men and women dressing any damn way they choose instead of the town's pretty adolescents dressed up in team hoochie gear to shake it for their parents and neighbors. Every week in the fall the girls get thrown into the air to better spread their legs and show their crotches to the crowd while the boy don stretch pants,codpieces, and shoulder pads and slam into each other for the thrill of the community. The difference between a highschool football game and a gay pride parade is the lack of violence and pedophilia in the latter.