Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Saaaaaay WHA?

I have successfully returned from a couple of weeks out and about. I LOVE to travel. Seriously, it makes life in a smallish, townish-type city worthwhile. It helps to relieve the pressured, sinking feeling I begin to acquire after being planted here for so long. Perspective is a great gift that you can give yourself, for free, just by paying some attention to wherever you happen to be. My travels, lately, have not been fruitful in the same ways as they were before. I’ve been picking up a-lot more thought than airport trinkets and hangovers. I’m not sure how I feel about it all just yet.

Regardless: lots of recent traveling!

Two weekends back: Amarillo for a wedding. Fantastic wedding between two fantastic people. I seriously doubt they would ever read this blog, so I do not feel obligated to give them a whole-hearted shout-out. It would be a lost sentiment. Suffice to say, they were worth me driving over 1,300 miles round-trip, through shit-hole north Texas towns, while gas was cha-chinging between $3 and $3.30 a gallon. And I would do it again if requested. My love for them runs that deep.

Moving along.

MY LORD, Amarillo is an interesting place. If you’ve never heard of it, you are far from alone. Most of the modern and moving parts of the world have not either. But here in Texas, Amarillo is a pretty sizeable fish. Thar be oil in them thar plains.

I don’t really know the complete history of the city, nor do I particularly care. It’s in the middle-of-nowhere panhandle (insulated from the outside world by the sheer and understandable disinterest everyone else has in visiting), there’s an obscene amount of oil money there (held by like, ten families), and it is quite possibly the most conservative place I have ever had the displeasure of hearing people express themselves in. One comment I heard (NOT overheard, as this comment was specifically directed to me for response):
Well, you know, the real shame about the New Orleans “situation” is that a city like that, with, you know, “elements” such as those who stayed behind, is that it’s kinda like a rock. New Orleans is. And when you pick up a rock, well, there are cockroaches down there, hidden most of the time. And it’s a shame that this is how we have to see them.
Whoa. That one really threw me back. I said nothing in response. What the hell can a person say to THAT? I mean, all cities have their share of disenfranchised, underemployed, addicted, criminal, or just plain lazy people. And… uh, so what? Takes all kinds in this world, and to even try and classify such things based on CNN coverage seems beyond brash and cavalier. Hell, it borders on straight-up, textbook prejudice (potentially racially based, depending on what video footage or personal experiences birthed her insect metaphor).

Well, if I could have gotten over the shock of the thing, I suppose I could have asked what I honestly wanted to know: “are you seriously comparing those who are stuck in New Orleans to filthy insects which we only associate with disrepair and waste? ‘Cause that’s mad-fucked-up if you are.” And it would be.

And I think it was.

She was in her late fifties I would guess. Very well-off. Probably educated up to at least the lower collegiate level. Hell, she is probably fluent in French and collects genuine Egyptian obelisks (along with an astonishing amount of Elizabeth Arden interior d├ęcor, which as a side note: makes me want to vomit in a cotton candy gin while tightening a vice on my dick - it's that unpleasant for me). But obviously not terribly active in the day-to-day workings and recalculations of a modern and moving society composed of an ever-increasing and ever-heterogeneous mix of races, nationalities, and socio-economic backgrounds. In other words: at the risk of fighting accidental ignorance with brazen ignorance, I pose that her viewpoint is not a minority viewpoint in Amarillo. Further more, I am tempted to believe that such an insulated community, having more than enough financial resources to avoid coming to terms with the real world can and will remain that way. I see no motivation in and amongst similar populations for advancement in perception. If your Daddy (Pappy, Lord of The Manor, whatever) or your Daddy’s Daddy was a bigot (as historically, most of the white folks you’ll ever meet are familiar) and you essentially live in the same if not MORE comfortable environment touting as much… then I’m just not sure how something so culturally anchored would miraculously fix itself. In an experience vacuum.

And it worries me quite a bit.

We live in a Red State. Texas is blood-red-Republican, politically. Now I take no issue with our state’s political leaning, regardless of my personal feelings, because I do believe in the rule of the majority… to a point. If I lived in a place where the MAJORITY of the population beat their dogs with aluminum bats and believed that the Chinese were all too mentally deficient to live outside of holes in the ground… well, that would kinda fuck up all that faith in the “will of the majority” now wouldn’t it?

Sometimes, I wish there were some sort of requirement, as awful as it sounds, which provided a measure that would ensure that anyone in a position of authority, political influence, or financial wealth, had to have a testable understanding of the necessity and beneficial interest behind diversity: different countries, languages, customs, religious practices, skin colors, sexual preferences, favorite Star Wars movies, whatever.

Because it seems to me that with the influx of that information and experience comes understanding. And with that understanding, comes acceptance (NOT “tolerance”, which to me is a bullshit word used to establish majority/minority relationships, which is hollow unless you intend to capitalize on those lines, making it an even deeper bullshit word) which leads to collective involvement, which eventually leads to a reasonably educated and rational political base. A well-groomed, intelligent, and logical political base which will make decisions without being confused or manipulated by the use of subtle metaphors which may or may not be dehumanizing for those who lack the means to rebut.

Better yet, a well-groomed, intelligent, and logical political base which would never say something so casually callous. A political base that would know better than that. Better.

But for the record, all the friends of the happy couple were cool as shit. Well, except for that one dude who smoked with me out front when everyone else was too scared to look like a dirtbag in front of the families (who all smoked it up after they got blasted). He was cooler than the rest of them.



Anonymous said...

Have I ever told you I love you?

I just happened to have sent this to a friend earlier today:

(don't ask why I was on the Princeton website)


dungsta said...

You know its really hard for me to comment here. People like that still get my goat regardless of how retarded their personal development as a human being may be. I have freinds who talk to me about living out in the country and living in small rural areas. I understand the pull that nature has on these folk, cause it pulls me as well. However, when i say that im "too dark" for those waters in a humorous manner they look at me like im a racist. The example you give is a prime example of what im talking about. Would anyone of reasonable intellect voluntarily subject themselves to a life similar to that which spawned a woman of her stature? i really wish i could live in a cabin in the texas hill country. Unfortunately, the texas hill country runs red and my blue blood resists emulsions of that sort.

glad to hear the wedding went well though. and glad to have you back writting.


Anonymous said...

welcome back!

I think, growing up in a small town separated by only 10 miles but a cultural gulf from Houston, one of the key words here is "insular" - which can be physical or self-imposed. We may be saved by the technology and media bringing experiences and ideas not available to everyone in the 80s. Still, I would never raise a child in a small, small-minded community, as charming as the rural life might look from this side of the opportunity fence.

Truecraig said...

Lisa!: Princeton, by that article and its mission statement, sounds like a fine place. Now, what were you doing on their website? You're Barnard, all the way, so don't front!

Dungsta!: it's strange, but I was sort of involved (bystanding, really) in a conversation last night about this same topic (none of those who I was talking to had read this post though). I almost wanted recant the whole thing due to an almost vindictive reaction to those with more conservative AND less formally educated minds. I felt like I was standing on the wrong side of the fence when negative blanket statements (not unlike my own, unfortunately) were getting tossed around like gospel, such as: "the problem is that these/those people are too ignorant to be saved [from their plight of uneducatedness, presumably] so, it sounds bad, but I wish they’d just stop reproducing and die off.” This statement, while lacking a charming metaphor, is of the same ilk as the cockroach one. The targets are different, but the intent is the same: we must RID ourselves of those “different”, and thus “incorrect” by our standards. It’s some knee-jerk shit, and without spending some real quality time in a place like Abilene or Clayton, NM, one might be just as tempted to dehumanize country-folk as the country-folk might be to dehumanize some suffering city-slickers.

Bottom line: like you allude to, everyone’s hands are dirty in these things (especially those who shout the opposite) and I still can’t get my crutched mind around the roots of the real problem, so I’m stuck hacking at the trunk. I know it’ll just re-sprout later, and that will piss me off. Meh.

Mammalara!: Agreed. I feel for anyone trying to get by in any of the little towns outside of Houston. Tumor on a tumor. Bleck… But YOU turned out GREAT! WHOO HOO!

Pisser said...

ME: Why is it called "Amarillo"? Doesn't that mean "yellow" in Spanish?

DAD (lives in Austin): Yep.

ME: Is it yellow...?

DAD: No, it had yellow dirt.

ME: It did? What happened to it?

DAD: It all washed down here.

Sean said...

Ah, Texas weddings. Where you're garunteed to have to tolerate a heaping helping of intolerance.

dungsta said...

i agree on a certain level with your perspective. One distinction i would make is that one's knowledge base is not static. That is, that the difference between "hating" on new orleans "cockroaches" and hating on "country folk" are like comparing apples to oranges. Though i due take your point to heart that generalizations are Generalizations regardless on who they are aimed at. Nevertheless, i reserve my right to be an asshole cause that damned Jack Pallance made a mockery of us city folks. Fuck cowboys and their smelly breath!!!

Girl With An Alibi said...

Excellent post Craig. I'm especially impressed that your newlywed friends are so highly ranked in society as to have Barbara Bush as a guest.

But all kidding aside. I agree with what you're saying. I was thinking about what makes a civilized society "civilized." I think we assume it means a certain amount of education, logic. practicality and a sort of "what's best for the majority" sensibility. But I realized that all of that amounts to organized savagery if we leave out the all important ingredient of COMPASSION. In fact, I might even suggest that you can have complete ignorance and a large supply of wantoness and still have a recognizably civilized society as long as you have genuine compassion. The kind of attitude that wedding guest displayed will lead to the downfall of our nation if it's not checked.

Anonymous said...

i'm new to this here state, but apparently it wasn't always quite so red. in fact, it seems that mr. karl rove (oh and gubner bush) turned the tide not too too long ago. if you haven't already, watch bush's brain. that small-time election in which rove turned the tide with an ill-concealed, poorly executed but well timed farce of a scandal? that seems to have been one of the catalysts of change around here. not to say that before that all the not-in-austin gun totin' texans were previously gun totin' liberal texans... it was just, you know, different. more blue.

doesn't really matter i guess, just an interesting thing to know. no matter what we do, there will always be specimens like your lovely amarillan running around. but wouldn't it be nice if they aimed their ignorance in a less destructive direction (politically speaking)? imagine that.