The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas…
There’s a rather talkative pigheaded brute of a character in my WIP whose name is Rick, Happy, Henderson. Happy loves to philosophize and pontificate to…at?… his work partner about whatever the latest topic is he’s studying during night school as if he’s now a subject matter expert. He’s not of course and he always manages to maneuver whatever it is he’s rambling on about toward a general diatribe of how the weak with their Rule of Law and “societal norms” have managed to upend the universal natural order of might makes right, which, in the end, as he sees it, limits his ability to pick up chicks.
Even though I grew up a comic book nerd, I’m pretty much over all the Marvel/DC Comics superhero movies. I used to watch them religiously at the movie theater – because if one must watch a big budgeted bloated bonanza of bombastic visual proportions, then it must be watched while on the big screen – however, I’m trying very hard to wean myself off of them. Key word: trying.
Despite the fact that I know without a doubt I’m going to be hugely disappointed at the movie’s end, I still find it hard to resist them. For instance, the buzz around the Black Panther movie is phenomenal so chances are pretty good I’ll make the trek to my local Frank’s Theatre and hope for the best… while still expecting the worst.
Fortunately, thanks to the likes of HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the… like, the superhero genre has not been left behind during this amazing renaissance of television we’re happily going through.
As for there being any good content on broadcast television, I wouldn’t know. I haven’t watched anything on any of the broadcast channels, other than sports, since Happy Days went off the air… what has it been? a year or two ago?
Except for one broadcast show, that is.
I am off on a hardcore wide-eyed binge on that show, which should tell you that I don’t actually watch it when it’s broadcasted on Fox. No way. Never again will I be a slave to a network time slot.
I watch Gotham as any discerning 21st Century viewer would, at my leisure on that amazing little channel of an app called Netflix.
With all its dark, demented, hyper-violence, let me tell ya… Gotham is good. Real good. It actually feels like a comic book has been brought to life, making it exactly what a discerning 21st Century television viewer like yours truly wants…
He kicks off the covers and reveals the body of a mid-sized, thin but muscularly defined, mid-twenties, African-American male. He does some cat-like stretching and then concludes his ritual with some aggressive eye-rubbing underneath the pillow. While doing so, he seems to notice something strange about his hands.
He holds them over his head and looks up at them from under the pillow. He flips them over and inspects both sides of them as if he’s never seen them before. He sits up on his elbows and looks down at his bare upper torso. He sees the scars of five bullet holes and an assortment of tattoos littered across his brown abdomen. The most prominent tattoo, “Thug Life,” arches across the muscle-ripped gut…
ALT BEST PICTURE: I’ve only seen one “Best Picture” nomination — “Arrival” and I thought it was mostly Zzz… — so out of all the 2016 movies I have seen, not just those nominated, which still are only a handful… or, would it be an “eyeful?”…my Alt-Oscar for Best Picture of 2016 — and which is one of the best flicks I’ve seen in a loooong time — goes to:
We all have our stereotypes, prejudices, and other indelible insensitive and less-than-helpful outlooks on life regardless how hard we might try to suppress them or convince ourselves otherwise. Often, these insensitive outlooks on life and our inability to suppress them put very heavy assumptive blinders around our thinking.
And narrowly-focused thinking can, while unintended, often lead us into insensitive and hurtful acts of behavior.
And its in this such context that I muse upon the “good old days…”
Back in the wonderful Nineties (Nirvana, 2Pac, The Matrix, Fight Club, etc…), I took a break from my normal Navy telecommunications gig to spend a few years in a special assignment as an Equal Opportunity Advisor.
Let’s just say becoming an EOA is not the typical choice of an extremely White and WASPy dude like myself; so, due to the lack of other white, WASPy dudes like myself enrolled at the institute, it was one of those rare times in my life where I was in both the racial and gender minority for any significant amount of time.
I published my first “With Eloquence” post last month with an excerpt from a very eloquent speech delivered by Booker T. Washington as a response to what I see as society’s writ large degenerating verbal and written communication skills.
Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?
I don’t know about you, but as for me – unless it is absolutely critical to the movement of a story – I don’t need to always know every item in each room, or the style and brand of every shoe in the protagonist’s closet… and I especially do not need to know about the mole on the back of the least minor character’s left ear.
Now, the genius of authors such as Balzac, Dickens, and Twain cannot be denied by me; however, I often find their attention to detail excessive and rather tedious for my overly sensitive reading sensibilities.
I know, I know… It’s me not them.
But I’m the kind of reader dude** who enjoys employing as much as possible of my own personal image making machine, aka, my imagination, along with my thought processing gyrator, against a story’s plot, or lack thereof; and when it comes to a character and his or her physical appearance and personality traits, I prefer for them, through the details found in the story’s showing, to slowly emerge within that enveloping zen-like midst of verisimilitude (that I hopefully find myself in) until he or she can be seen standing clearly before my mind’s unblinking eye, fully developed and fleshed out.
So it should come as no surprise then when I tell all you other reader dudes*** that I try to write my stories in the way that I prefer to read them: with limited and only absolutely necessary descriptive telling.
For example, you will find that the book description for The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor reads in part:
Written with a narrative starkness, it leaves us with only our own prejudices and stereotypes to draw from and forces us to make assumptions about character and identity, and, in the end, determine not just who did it but if it was even done at all.
Admittedly, this book was written intentionally with a “narrative starkness,” not so much because starkly written books are the kind I like to read most, but because its starkness is used as a device to make a sad but painful point about the military’s failed and former Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.
I was navy Equal Opportunity Advisor during DADT’s salad days and the crux of my job at the time was to travel around the Western Pacific to facilitate training seminars and focus groups in an effort to educate sailors on how to legally administer and execute the confusing and harmful policy.
As you probably already know, prior to the implementation of DADT, homosexuals were prohibited from serving in the military. With DADT – which was a compromise between Bill Clinton, who wanted to allow homosexuals to serve with no restrictions, and the military’s top brass, who wanted to continue barring homosexuals from service – homosexuals were allowed to serve in the military… provided they did not discuss their sexual orientation with anyone nor have any homosexual relations whatsoever. Additionally, no service member was allowed to ask any other service member what his or her sexual orientation was… hence the infamous moniker don’t ask, don’t tell.
A pretty cruel policy, to say the least. However, it was rather cut and dry. Not so much confusion with it on the surface.
The problems that came about with the policy was a result of when service members started taking action based on their homophobic perceptions and stereotypes.
For instance, some sailors were harassed, abused, and, sadly, even killed because they were perceived to be a homosexual based on the way he or she talked, or walked, or, while in civilian attire, dressed.
And while that’s tragic in and of itself, additional problems were often caused when these illegally and harmfully harassed sailors attempted to tell their chains-of-command about the harassment and the COC, instead of seeing these attempts as pleas for help, saw them instead as admissions of homosexuality. As a result, many sailors were wrongfully kicked out of the navy because of the ignorance and bigotry of those who were supposed to protect them.
It was very distressing to me whenever I heard of any instance of it happening. However, it was highly rewarding for me whenever I had the opportunity to get in front of a group of senior leaders and help/make them see the light as to how to effectively execute and administer DADT and to warn them about the problems they could get into for wrongly processing a sailor out of the service.
While I am very happy that DADT was finally axed and homosexuals are now allowed serve without any restrictions to their being, it was all of that nasty DADT stuff that became the impetus for me writing my novel.
And my goal in writing it was to force the reader to have to apply his or her own values, via perceptions and stereotypes, upon the characters in and events of the story. Consequently, it was important for me as a writer to not tell the reader what I wanted them to think by way of character description, but to allow them to draw their own conclusions.
I hope the story does this effectively. I guess the results can be found in the book’s reviews.
I was reminded about all this the other day when I read an article by The Atlantic entitled “The Case Against Colorblind Casting.” It is a very well-written and informative piece about the challenges Hollywood has casting non-white actors and how “colorblind casting,” while admirable in its goals, is not a sustainable means to diversify the films we watch. The article highlights as an example, the recent success of Oscar Isaac, Hollywood’s current It and Everywhere Man, who, just so he would have a better chance at not being type-cast and at being able to land “ethnically flexible” roles, chose to drop his last name of Hernández.
Sure, performers have and probably always will “alter” their names to one that they feel is best received by their fans; however, having to do it just to appear “less ethnic,” reminds me of the movie “La Bamba,” where it shows how the singer Richard Valenzuela was compelled to assume the less ethnic-sounding stage name of Ritchie Valens so that he could better appeal to his white audience.
That was sixty years ago and I’m sad to report, as is evidenced by our latest Hollywood star Oscar Isaac, that it’s still happening.
Man, oh man***…
This equality stuff sure is a difficult nut to crack – witness the all-white Oscar nominees for this year’s Best and Supporting Actors/Actresses – and I’m not about to attempt to try and crack it here.
Except to say that screenwriters can certainly have a hand in keeping an open playing field for actors of all races and ethnicity by – you guessed it – laying off the descriptive details in their screenplays and leaving it up to the director to cast the best actor for the role based on the story’s content and need and not on the screenwriter’s biases.
Of course, a more diverse field of screenwriters would be most beneficial to making a crack in that nut…
You may not have noticed, but I am a very white dude**… pasty even. Even still, for what it’s worth, when I adapted my short story “Leave” into a screenplay, I wrote it so the only true limitations in casting should be because of gender – and there’s just no getting around it – there are distinct male and female roles that are critical to the story’s telling, as it is a story about the bigotry faced by the first women allowed to serve on navy combatant ships.
But as far as casting for the roles for the screenplay’s mostly bigoted and sexist male characters and a few exemplary female characters… race nor any other physical trait, apart from one that would prevent someone from being accepted into the military, should not matter to the director who will be doing the casting.
Now, I doubt my starkly written, diminutive screenplay will go far in the effort to crack Hollywood’s White Nut problem… but that’s all I got for now.
Still, I’m really looking forward to beginning the process of creating this film. And, while things are a long way from definite right now, you may just be surprised by the talented actors who already have expressed an interest in being part of the production.
I can’t wait until we reach the point where I can share it all with you.
Until then, as we say in the business…
*Yeah, I know “uncolorful” is not a real word, whatever a real word may be, but I it sounds less negative to me than “colorless” so, for what it’s worth, I’m going with it.
First off, I’m not anti-Second Amendment (if you’re an American (of the U.S. persuasion) and you don’t know what the Second Amendment is then that’s a problem)…
See, I live out in the sticks and I had to call 911 once because I thought there was a gas leak somewhere in my house and all I got to say about that experience is that our military overran countries faster than it took the emergency responders to get to my house.
It’s not their fault – I just live out in the sticks.
Heck, I found out then that I can’t even call my 911 operator direct. My 911 call goes to somewhere across the border and that operator has to re-direct it back into my state to a different operator.
I can only wonder what would have happened if that 911 call wasn’t for a gas leak (a false alarm, fortunately) but for a home invasion instead?!
You can feel me, right?
So yeah, I’m all about owning a gun as a means of protection of last resort.
But then again, I’m a nice guy.
I can be trusted with a gun.
When I say I am a not a gun-slingin’, trigger-happy nutjob with “adequacy issues” you can take my word for it…
But as for the rest of you all…
I’m beginning to wonder.
What the heck is going on out there?
Unfortunately, it has become my unfortunate belief that we, as a nation, are now just too mean and too rude and too disrespectful and, most dangerously, too short-tempered (what’s up with all the road rage?) to have so many guns – both legal and illegal – locked and loaded and at the ready out there, just itchin’ to mediate our every issue and altercation, however slight.
Something has got to change.
I mean, come on… There were over 11,000 murders committed with a gun in 2013 (according to the Centers for Disease Control (via Wikipedia)).
That’s a lot of humans made dead from mean assholes with guns.
So if we, as a citizenry, are so danged mean and so danged armed, just think what it must be like to have to try to police all of us in an effort to maintain good order and discipline in a society where that kind of anachronistic, Mayberry-like behavior is now shat upon.
Nowadays, it must be pretty darned scary to be a cop.
No wonder they all jack themselves up like Special Forces operators gone wild.
Have you seen some of these Rambo cops?
In-f’n-tense, they are…
It’s hard to believe – and even sadder – that it takes so much firepower to patrol our streets.
Seriously, we have an Intra-Arms Race going on between we angry civilians and the feeling-threatened-and-under-fire Po po, you know, the overly-aggressive-stoppin’-and-friskin’, tank-drivin’ Five-Oh.
And then when you throw race into the mix of a messy situation where the police are a majority of the time of a majority skin tone and the citizenry they are bringing their good order and discipline to are of a minority skin tone…
These days someone usually ends up shot.
Just like last night at the protests in response to the first anniversary of the Michael Brown killing.
Look, I’ve written about these things here before and, like then, I don’t have any answers.
But when it comes to race and racism, I do know, despite what my Merriam-Webster dictionary app says, racism is all about power and who has it.
And the fact is, White male Anglo-Saxon Protestants have and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to have the power in this country.
For the record, here is what my app says racism is:
1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2: racial prejudice or discrimination
Now, I don’t disagree with what the app says, but in the national grand scheme of things, whose racism is going to hurt more – a WASPy dude’s* or a Black female’s?
Sure it may hurt our WASPy dude feelings that others not like us don’t like us just because they don’t look like us because they are racists of the first or second order, or both. But overall that’s all their racism will do to us – hurt our Privileged and Guilt-ridden White feelings.
Unlike our racism, theirs won’t keep us out of a job.
Or out of a loan.
Or out of a home…
Their racism just doesn’t have the power to do all that harm like ours does.
And sorry to burst your bubbles white racist females, you may think you’re superior to others because of your skin tone, but thanks to our historically patriarchal and sexist society (a subject worthy of a post of its own), you just don’t have as much “clout” to harm as we WASPy dudes have.
Man**, this is depressing.
What is most depressing about it all is how it all feeds off of each other…
The racism increases anger.
The anger increases violence.
The violence increases fear.
The fear increases gun sales.
The gun sales increase death rates.
The increasing death rates increase police presence.
And on and on…
Like I said, I have no answers.
But I do have a voice…
And, for what it’s worth, here I am using it to, if not provide solutions, at least discuss the problems.
This entire unfortunate, depressing post reminds me of that intense scene from the movie Grand Canyon, starring Danny Glover and Kevin Kline, where Glover’s character, a tow truck driver, comes to the aid of…
Ah, what am I trying to explain it for? Just go ahead and watch it…
And remember, Being Nice is a skill that, to be effectively employed, must be continually practiced.
I have no idea what race or culture to identify with.
My blood is mixed. I don’t fit into any one category. I’m Aztec, Spanish, Scottish-Irish, English, German, and little slivers of many more.
It was difficult growing up, not being able to relate to one side. Not being able to deny or fully embrace one or another. I can’t speak Spanish. I don’t feel Irish or German. When I lived in North Dakota and was the only person with a last name like Rodriquez, I was known as “The Mexican.”
Being a mixed blood did nothing to help me find myself as a teenager, either. But as an adult it’s helped me to relate to more cultures and races than I ever thought possible.
I belong nowhere. And everywhere.
I know I’m not the only one.
After a thoughtful pause during a recent conversation with my mom, as she contemplated what else is in my blood, she said, “There’s going to be a little bit of everything in everybody at this point.”
She’s right. It’s rare to find someone of only one race or culture. America and the Americans in it are as much of a mixed blood as I am, yet we have some of the worst cultural, religious, and racial clashes.
Indian and the white man. Black and white. Muslims and Christians. The list goes on. Look at the news. Cultural clashes are among the top headlines.
America has a big opportunity to prove peace can be real, that cultural divides can be conquered. But we’re too busy concentrating on what one side of ourselves we want to identify with most – just as I did as a teenager.
It reminds me of a passage in the Bible my mother pointed out:. “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
Does America not want to stand? Do we not want to accept the truth staring us in the face?
We are all related.
Imagine what America could be if we embraced that. Imagine if the United States was actually united. Imagine the potential to excel for our children — for the mixed-blood child growing inside me now.
Let’s get out of the teenage mentality and grow into adulthood as the people of this country. Let’s admit that each race, culture, religion has done something — many things — wrong, and move on with breaking down the walls that divide us.
Let’s acknowledge, as I had to, that we are no one side. We are all.
So, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind stopping by every once in a little while or more and give a little of your own love in return.
I was wondering if you could read over the submissions in these features and, you know, “Like” those that you like. You know, give those Authors and Poets and Artists, all those Creators of the Sublime, a little support because, let’s face it, it can get a little scary putting our stuff out there like that in the open, all exposed and vulnerable like…
It takes a lot of courage sometimes to be original, to dare to be different and to be exceedingly loud and proud about it…
Can you do that for me?
Oh yeah…one other thing since you’re already here.
There are a lot of strange and interesting and wonderful and sad and scary things going on all around this petulant little planet of ours…
And I would love to know what your take is on all of it.
I mean…just look at all that is happening right now that will be defining this period of our lives – this Is of our collective Now – for years to come.
Ferguson? How can something as tragic as what’s going on down there still possibly be?! I am very concerned about what could happen as a result of the forthcoming grand jury decision.
ISIS? I cannot even begin to get my head around that level of evil. But, really, what are all the historical drivers behind that beheading madness?
Russia and Ukraine? What in the fracas is going on over there?! I mean, it’s like déjà vu all over again, to quote that ever-prescient and wisely wry yogi-like Yogi of a Yankee guy…
And that’s not even the tip of the terrible and towering iceberg…
It’s more like a minutely miniscule drop of condensation floating gas-like in the air looking for an iceberg to become…
So so much is going on right now…
So yeah, I was wondering…what do you think about all this madness of a mess that is happening Right. Now.?
I would love to know…
And not just because I’m an inquisitive querying kind of guy…
Which I def am…
But also because I believe you just might have the key…
That golden kernel of Karmic Truth…
That wise Way of how this wonderful world should wax…
Tucked right inside that magic of a marvelous mind of yours.
And, you know what…
I kind of feel it is incumbent upon you to share that wisdom with us.
You have the responsibility for allowing us to know what it is You know to be true.
So we can, like you, be a better We like You.
I believe that.
Truly I do.
So please please please, share your Wiseness with us by submitting something, anything, to one of the Relating to Humans features.
And if you got something that just doesn’t seem to fit with any of the features already profiled…