Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Dark Side; a source text:

From voting to finding the shard with the face to listened to Barack Obama's speech in one day was quite a span. Obama spoke of the voter who was 106, what an incredible span of change she had witnessed, and wondered what his daughters might live to see if they were lucky enough to live a century. I couldn't help but wonder what Pete would think of what just happened. There is a clue, but it is a dark one.

I found this newspaper article in the Historical Society archives, from the Somerset Interior Journal, dated November 7th, 1876. Pete would have been 39, and he may have been part of the "mongrel conglomeration". I didn't post this yesterday, as it just seemed a little too much of a downer on a day of celebration, but here it is:

" The day for which all other days were made (as the negroes and radicals seemed to think) has at last drawn to a close. Since 5 o'clock this morning, the ground in front of the courthouse has been swarmed with a mongrel conglomeration of humanity. At six o'clock the spacious doors of the courthouse were thrown open and the sheriff announced that the voting would commence. But as some enterprising individual presented himself to vote, it was ascertained that the poll books had been left at somebody's house so a messenger was dispatched for them, who returned to discover that the ballot box had not put in an appearance. It was sent for and brought, but for sooth, it was then discovered that no pen and ink were present. All things at last being ready the jam commenced; country negroes, railroad negroes, town negroes, big negroes and little negroes, took possession of every available point of egress to the polls, filling the air with their peculiar perfume, and crowding out entirely the Democrats, who felt above being jammed by such a throng. Every Radical was jubilant and seemed to think that they would everything own way. Toward noon, the Democrats began getting in their work, and wonderful to say, the polls closed with a Radical majority of less than ninety votes. This is a tremendous Democratic gain, considering that the Radicals have usually a majority in this precinct alone, a gain of about 200 over former elections. Every means that is low, unfair and contemptable has been resorted to by the Radical wire pullers in the county, but it has utterly failed them, and tonight they hang around with fallen crests, and looking as mean as their prototypes, sheep-killing dogs. Their secret meetings, running around railroad camps to secure negro votes by duping them with lies, of the foulest description, tacing their officials in the district to buy votes for Bradley and introducing social equality have done them mighty little good. While the Democrats have everywhere gained strength and have reduced (we have no doubt) Bradley's majority in the county, from six hundred to less than three hundred. Hurrah for Durham, the white man's candidate."

So we've come a ways, since that day. However one need only roll the tone around in your ear which Sarah Palin used to describe how Obama wanted to make government "like a part of your family" so that otherwise pure homes would have to admit "Uncle Barney Frank" - to realize that it will be a long time before a person who has a minority sexual orientation will be elected president, or marry in most states. But I digress...

Back in the summer I was asked to teach a class of minority students for a day. I asked them to name their favorite color, then we made a list of all the words the class could think of associated with each color, a method for revealing how some such associations are cultural, some personal, and thereby a key to how clusters of meaning have a structure and endurance.
Everyone in our culture recognizes the connection between "the blues" and sadness. On the other hand, because of the sky, almost everyone also recognizes the connection between blue, depth and infinity.

Then I asked them to make a list of words that they associated with the word minority. It started out with negatives, but pretty quickly they caught on to what I was up to and started giving counteractive positives - words like courage. Poets are the shapers of language. It surprised me though, when I asked a room full of African-American teenagers to describe the first time that they knew they were being discriminated against ~ 3 students did not mention race, they said it was for being intelligent (ie doing well in school). I heard from their teacher that they liked my class, so I felt good about that - but I didn't feel comfortable telling my story to them. "It is the fear of sharing our stories that keeps us apart."

After Mary Beth mentioned that the face on the shard was a half - I flipped the jpeg in photoshop and printed copies of both sides and butterflied them together. Then I added eyes from the photo of the unknown boy in the Dias de los Muertos image and photographed the result. The repetition of digital processing enhanced the coolness of tone in the original white to blue-ish. No doubt if the process was repeated over and over, eventually the blue of infinity would appear, like the video screen at the end of The Approach of the Mystery. The face of the spirit in the spring seems wizened but wry - like a good-natured ancient snapping turtle who knows its strength. We used to say that if a snapping turtle chomps down on your toe, it won't let loose until it thunders. So maybe You'll Always Come Back is, in part, about the virtue of persistence. Stravinsky said "I can wait as an insect waits."

12 comments:

SBD said...

David Brooks said in his NYT's column titled, Change I can believe in, quote: " Is it all just a dream? I hope not. In any case. Please be quiet and let me have my moment."
Our history is not a dream, the inequalities for ethnic groups, women and gays are all too real. We can only hope that this century will find a new and lasting reality for all people.
This wasn't depressing, Dan, it was enlightening...... Information gives us the tools needed to reflect and improve.

SBD said...

may I have another quote?
When we deny the rights we treasure to others, we only diminish ourselves.

Dan Dutton said...

I agree with David B. ~ a moment's better'n nuttin.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't like the term "gay" - I didn't request it, and I'm offended that my personal freedom requires an identity decision implying a continuum of being, when others don't. It isn't at all that I have a problem with telling anyone who has a reasonable interest about my intimate predilictions (scientific or courting) how I feel. And I'm very aware of the tremendous gains in civil rights and general acceptance that have been achieved by claiming a political identity - and I'm very grateful for it too. But deep down it feels wrong to me, some sort of concession that was forced, not chosen - and although it has done much good as a social movement, I believe that freedom and justice will not come as long as sexual identity is group identity. Intimacy begins with two individuals. I don't have an interest in belonging to exclusive groups, whether my behavior at present statistically matches theirs or not ~ I'm just contrary.

Transposing this onto family history, as I've been attempting, (especially considering the eugenics theme... and confirmed by Cathy's jpeg of the 1 in 44 different colored face...) I've wondered about the statistical pattern. Rather than the dull 10 (which is much contested anyway...) how about a more conservative 13. Take an entire family tree and highlight every 13th name in the chronology pink - there's your gay people. In our family only Gladys (in the last generation) and myself have been outed. Kinsey claims a lot more same-sex interaction goes on than is displayed in public relationships (no surprise) but for the secretive that broadened palette of experience is an option, not an identity. I know that in the local interaction pool, married men are on the downlow prowl in numbers that certainly shocked me. Who knew? Certainly no one in their social sphere, including their wives and children. Contrary to all the propaganda, there's no guaranteed limp wrist or lisp (those belong to folks more interested in theater than sex anyway...) and the reverse is often very true ~ super macho apparently tires of being on top all the time.

As Big Edie said, "We were high on top! Good way to smother somebody."

But I don't know what the answer is to advance social justice without forming clubs, groups, and parties ~ "Oft the loner endures and waits...."

I do believe that humanity benefits from the presence of same-sex attracted individuals, and genetics may well create them on a regular basis to ensure the survival of our species. "Uncle" Barney or Aunt Barnette, while they are not duplicating genes via offspring, have time on their hands to do other things. That's what the Navajo claim in their creation story, where the Nadlee (two out of the four first beings) invented weaving, pottery, gardening, etc. But even though a genetic confirmation of some lack of choice might help with the "if God made them that way they're ok" line of reasoning, it doesn't help me especially - (beyond being interesting in the way that the colors of bird feathers are interesting...)

I've been thinking about this topic for a blog - but I've got some other subjects in the queue.

SBD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SBD said...

I suppose I categorized into groups strictly from a repression point of view. Wasn't so long ago women were considered chattel and could not vote. I lumped out of solidarity..... Sorry:-(

Dan Dutton said...

Oh I don't mind being lumped (you're so sweet) - what I don't like is having to lump myself! & my objection bothers me too, since so much has been achieved by having the solidarity that a group name brings. Why am I so picky and utopian?

Mary Beth said...

Oh Californian is grieving! Woe to those who voted for Prop 8! Here in a climate of openess and acceptance, the West Coast has shown intoleratance, hatred, and bigotry.

I'm white, I'm straight, and I'm for ANY two adults who find love in a world of cold and bitter chaos!

If your heart and eyes must remain closed, try the quote from Comed Central, " Why not allow Gays to marry, then they can be as miserable as the rest of us?"

That's just it! We stop being miserable when we accept ourselves.

Come out, come out whatever you are!

It's a new day, it's a new freedom. Please dare to be. The world is waiting for you. We need your beauty! We need your wisdom!

SBD said...

Hear! Hear!

Mary Beth said...

OH OH one more thing! Do you know the tale that tells of turtle diving to the bottom of the water and bringing up mud on his back/ That mud became the earth we live on.

Did the turtle live in Pete's Spring?

Dan Dutton said...

There's a turtle story that I love ~ An anthropologist was collecting primitive folk beliefs from an elderly lady who was a member of an indian tribe. He started off by asking her one of the standard questions - how did the world come to be?

That's easy, said the little old lady - The world is the back of a giant turtle.

Smiling to himself at such a naive concept, the anthropologist, asked her what the turtle stood upon.

Why on the back of an even larger turtle!, was her reply.

So he couldn't resist asking then - And what is that turtle standing on?

It's no use, professor, said the lady, it's turtles all the way down.
.....................

Pete's Spring is a little fast and steep for snapping turtles, but the young ones used to be in Dry Branch (the stream that Pete's Spring flows into) and the adults, along with a couple of other species, lived in Pitman Creek, the larger stream that Dry Branch flows into. All these are pretty close together, and in Pete's day they were all on the farms owned by the Duttons and Cundiffs. (My grandmother was a Cundiff & the two families intermarried more than once.)

Mary Beth said...

I'm musing over turtles all the way down.

My step-father was from mainland China. His mother lived with us as I struggled through the social hell of junior high school.

From her I learned of the symbolic triple stack of turtles. They were for longevity and usually carved in "apple" jade.

My mind is going to be crawling all night! (Yes, puns are low humor but at least I amuse myself!)

Dan Dutton said...

Tee hee. If you keep yourself amused, then you bring humor to a most distinguished audience.

Now I'm thinking of the magic turtle steed in a Japanese story that my beloved friend and tea teacher, Chisato, told me. Oh those magic days!
I'll share it here at some point!