FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2021
Their racism brought center stage: According to literary experts, we liberals have always been willing to generalize about The Others, often in mocking tones.
In recent years, we at this site have gone all the way back to sainted Thoreau for a possible example of this tribal predisposition.
"The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation," our former neighbor wrote in Walden. It's one of the famous book's most widely-quoted passages.
At this site, we've occasionally asked how this sweeping statement might have sounded to The Others of that time and place. We acknowledge now that this question first came to us through the auspices of the experts with whom we've consulted over the past several years.
As a general matter, our sociological band has never been shy about pointing to the shortcomings of Others. For many years, we were willing to restrict our mockery to the sexual prudishness such entities would display.
Sometimes, books really were banned on the basis of the way The Others recoiled from their flagrant sexuality. Performative displays by our own band would follow.
Lady Chatterley's Lover comes to mind. We also think of our band's all-time favorite beach novel:
Written over a seven-year period from 1914 to 1921, Ulysses was serialized in the American journal The Little Review from 1918 to 1920, when the publication of the Nausicaä episode led to a prosecution for obscenity under the Comstock Act of 1873, which made it illegal to circulate materials deemed obscene in the U.S. mail. In 1919, sections of the novel also appeared in the London literary journal The Egoist, but the novel itself was banned in the United Kingdom until 1936...
The 1920 prosecution in the US was brought after The Little Review serialized a passage of the book depicting characters masturbating. Three earlier chapters had been banned by the US Post Office, but it was Secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice John S. Sumner who instigated this legal action. The Post Office did partially suppress the "Nausicaä" edition of The Little Review. Legal historian Edward de Grazia has argued that few readers would have been fully aware of the masturbation in the text, given the metaphoric language.
"Few readers would have been fully aware of the masturbation in the text, given the metaphoric language?"
Puckish scholars sometimes joke, though only among themselves, that few readers would have been aware of the material in question because none of The Others would ever have read that far! Or anyone else, for that matter!
All through the past century, our band was willing to limit itself to mocking The Others for their objections to books (and films) based on their sexual content.
During the 1980s, we even dragged out Frank Zappa to mock certain "Washington wives" for their objections to misogynist rock lyrics and video content. At that time, we hadn't yet begun to perform our current objections to misogyny and the mistreatment of girls.
(The hero Zappa also made Holocaust comparisons.)
For many years, we were satisfied to mock The Others on the basis of their prudery. In recent years, however, our band has begun to perform a sudden vast interest in matters of race.
This brings us to the recent flap involving Laura Murphy, the "older blond woman" and "white mother" of recent wide denigration.
Starting in 2012, Murphy objected to a certain book based on its sexual content. Just as a matter of fact, she wasn't seeking to ban the book. She was asking that her son, a high school student, be allowed to pursue a separate assignment, a policy which already existed with regard to the showing of films.
Murphy wasn't seeking to ban the book in question. Beyond that, she said her complaint was based upon the book's sexual conduct.
She also said that she expected her son to be taught about slavery in his public school. But given rules of otherization, such comments couldn't be allowed to stand.
For that reason, our tribe began changing the facts. We began to say that the older blond woman had been trying to ban the book. We insisted that her complaint stemmed from her obvious racism.
In their lengthy interview at Slate, Rebecca Onion and Assistant Professor Knox showed remarkable stamina in advancing this Storyline. Their interview went on at some length; they never stopped saying that the objection to the book had been based on issues of race.
This was the story we wanted to tell. We took turns performing this mandated tribal story.
In a related matter, Michelle Goldberg came along and buried large chunks of the story concerning two sexual assaults in the Loudoun County schools.
In that instance, parental anger about what had occurred had to be seen as a mark of their transphobia. Goldberg helped us perform that Storyline, even as one blogger referred to the sexual assaults as a "trivial local story."
(We're sure that isn't what he meant. Tribal imperative being powerful, it is what he actually said.)
We now acknowledge that our insights concerning these matters have come to us through consultation with an array of credentialed experts. Sometimes, these despondent scholars tear at their hair as they watch these performances unfold.
"God must have loved The Others," these disconsolate scholars ironically say, "he made so many of Them." If you could see these experts when they offer this sally, you would see that their scholarly sarcasm is aimed directly at Us.
At any rate, these are the "Otherization Rules" which obtain within our tribe. This is also who and what we actually are.
According to major anthropologists, this is never going to change. Also, your lizard brain is going to tell you that none of this ever happened.
By rule of law, the older blond woman had to engage in the behaviors which fit preferred Storyline. Prudishness no longer sufficed. By now, it had to be racism, and she had to be banning books.
Those are the otherization rules of our whole war-inclined species. These rules extend back through the annals of time. Such rules are obeyed within all human tribes, and nothing is going to change them.
Maybe this afternoon or tomorrow: Math on the coast