Wednesday, September 27, 2006

WARNING: Offensive Content!

Which, as you must know by now, is a redundancy. Come here and you may be offended. I don't go for it -- it's not on purpose. But any strong opinion stated unapologetically, as one will find here, is inherently offensive, to a certain mindset. Those people can go get fucked. No, that wasn't the offensive part. Just rude. And arrogant. And rather meaningless. Since when is getting fucked a bad thing? Now if I'd said they can get fornicated -- that's bad. It contains the idea of immorality. You can't fornicate with your wife. But as for the other, well. And notice how I avoided using fuck in a legitimate context, to describe the actual act itself, with one's spouse? What's that about? Well, it would have been disrespectful to you. You make love to your wife. But all that is neither here nor there. It's not the offensive part.

What, then? Hmm. Did you hear that some Virginia senator is being attacked now, because a couple of, uh, witnesses have come forward during his campaign and are saying he used the N word back in the '70s and early '80s? The accusers are closely associated with Left or Democrat politics, but even so, maybe the charge is true. Maybe Senator Allen, some twenty five or thirty years ago, said nigger.

My grandfather was born in 1899. He lived his whole life in the northern midwest. Montana. North Dakota. A railroad man. He never knew a black man. But I remember as a child in the '60s hearing him talk about the coons. Coons. Coontown. "What's a coon, mom?" "That's a Negro, honey." Not a word I've ever used, in my own voice. Never used kike. Never used spick. Etc. Not how I was raised. It was, however, how my grandfather was raised. Coons is the word he knew, for black people. Or am I being insensitive? Is it African American? Or Afro-American? Or person of color? Or colored? Or Negro? I'm not really white, you know. More a pinkish-yellow -- sort of a light salmon. What we used to call skin color, back when I used crayons. But yeah, I'm white. And my African countrymen? Black seems like an okay way to describe the condition. But not, not, not nigger.

Driving home from a place today, I heard a replay of Oprah Winfrey, on a right-wing radio show. She was intoning about how white folk used to give her mother used clothes. Now she's got white folk working for her. Lots of them. They good workers. There's Bill. Hi Bill. See? He's smiling. And Tony there. Oh yeah. They work real good. And now I give the used clothes. Mm hmm. And on and on.

Did Bill do a little shuffling dance, for Oprah? A happy buck and wing, white teeth gleaming in his white face? Because Bill would have understood Oprah's ironical and greater meaning. He could have felt no discomfort, being singled out before her national audience. She was not misusing her very great influence and power in the slightest. Because one of the things people are for, is to stand as object lessons. And Bill is a sophisticated man. He's in on the joke. As are you and I.

And when the fellas on the basketball court want the ball passed to them, nigger, and hussle there, nigger, and throw me the ball nigger? Well years ago Richard Pryor went to Africa, and when he came back he had resolved not to use the word anymore. Because the Africans weren't niggers. Get it?

It's not okay for the fellas on the court to use it, but not me. It's wrong of them. But they say fuck just as much. So. Why will I say fuck, as I do, in my angry and casual moments, but not the other?

A few weeks ago I was chillin' with my homies ... hangin' with my bros, my peeps -- no, I can't carry it off. I was cooling down and relaxing after my exercise, and a couple of fellas ... could I say friends? It seems so intimate, and is surely too intense a word ... a couple of the fellas were talking about getting a certain ethnic food. I was right there. I wasn't eavesdropping. And one fella, J, with a pronounced hesitance, with a notable embarrassment, with palpable vulnerablity, said, confessed -- it was obvious what was coming -- that he was reluctant to try such and such a cuisine because of the people who cooked it. The other fella indicated an attitude something less than scorn. I don't recall if I said it out loud. People have a right to their feelings. He knows he's wrong. I think I kept my mouth shut. Because scorn too, and something less, is a feeling we have a right to.

We have a right to be the people our parents taught us to be. If they taught us wrongly, we have a right to be wrong. If the foul-mouthed Richard Pryor has an epiphany beneath the equatorial sun of the Eastern and Southern Hemispheres, and if the enlightened Oprah makes the observations she made under the klieg lights of her studio -- if grandfathers and basketball players and fellas deciding where to eat are faced in varying degrees with their upbringing and the broadest applications of its effect in the world, well, there is a lesson, surely, in all that.

The Code of Moses had a provision for unwitting sin. Now we give offense all unawares, and bear the opprobrium of it until we find forgiveness. Just what the fuck did he mean by that? Who the hell does he think he is? And we have an enemy. For my part, I have enemies. Real enemies, and the harm they have effected was not limited to words or harsh opinions. I do not need forgiveness, for any of my actions in matters tangential to all this. I do need to forgive. Desperately.

There are offenses, you see, that go beyond words and attitudes. The harm they cause is beyond the reach of any statute. And there is no rational possibility for redress, for apology, for retribution, for justice, for satisfaction. There is only rage, or its opposite. What is the opposite of rage? Peace? No. Love? No. Forgiveness.

Grandpa Jack? -- you are forgiven. Senator Allen? -- forgiven. Basketball guys? -- forgiven. Oprah? -- forgiven. J? -- forgiven. It is so easy to forgive those who have not offended me. But that's all I can say, of forgiveness. Because my wrath is righteous, and the harm done to those I have loved is unspeakable. Nigger seems such a slight little bit of speech, compared to what is unspeakable.

You will have noticed something, of course. I do. I do. I most certainly do. Need. Forgiveness.


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