Mar 3, 2010
The visitor comments last time were so good that I’m responding to them as a post today. Therefore, organization today might be a little iffy. Hang in there. Pretend this is a somewhat elliptical poem.
Altadenahiker, I’m glad you like the poems. I often worry that poems so rhyme-y and didactic will seem simplistic, but in their different ways, I don’t think these are. In fact, I’ve always thought “Dream Deferred” (the title I’ve seen everywhere but Poetry Foundation), is as much about human psychology—repression, denial—as it is a protest against ethnic or economic deprivation.
Harlem by Langston Hughes : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.
As for Hamlet, I might have mentioned a while back that I find it to be approximately six superb speeches strung together by ridiculous actions and not one human who makes me care, with the possible exception of Ophelia. Give me Lear, Macbeth, Henry IV both parts, and As You Like It. And ketchup.
Altadenahiker and Jeff, the small fraction of my brain with good sense knows to strive for the more or less Zen approach you advise (by the way, I love the E.B. White quote, along with Jeff's fantastic "cognitive sloppy joes" [speaking of Hamlet] ). But sometimes I just can't get the good brain to fire up and the bad brain to calm down. That’s why I mentioned Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own.” (Frisky beat, witty lines).
Brenda, when I lived in Tennessee. the Yankee comments were one of surprises for me. Among the events, my then-brother-in-law introduced me to a couple of his friends: “Yeah, he’s a Yankee, but he’s a good ol’ boy.” He meant well, I think.
I figured there would be comments behind my back, but I wasn't ready for the remarks to my face, though that might be the better way to get them. And they were always jovial, not at all pernicious like yours. I've never witnessed anything like your 11th grade English teacher and hope I never do.
I'm (pleasantly) surprised those two poems were taught in Tennessee high schools, by the way, especially if you go further back than I think you do. But I suppose it wasn’t the 11th grade teacher who gave them to you . . . or did you come across them on your own?
My school in Ohio also used the paddle, but that was in the 18th century. Also, I only remember one paddling, plus a father-to-son swat across the face—two teachers with bigger problems than we understood at the time. Yet they had long careers as teachers. In fact, the swatter was a good teacher, but his son, my friend, was hard to handle, and subtlety was not in fashion there.
About the "rebel flag"—what a shame that it's linked to so much awful stuff. Regional pride can be such a comfort if you stop it well short of fascism. I'm not a historian, but it does seem there was a different way of life in the ante bellum (and later) South, which might indeed have been more elegant, etc. than the industrial North. But how can anyone separate that elegance from the slavery used to support it? And how much of elegance anywhere, anytime is a matter of sugar-coating monstrosity.
To fly the flag on public buildings in the 1990s and 2000s is strangely confrontational and alienating to those who aren't members of that fraternity of blood or thought. If "history is told by the winners," and the South lost, why are they clinging to the story of southern gentleman and Yankee monsters? What motives could there be other than clinging to bigotry and bitterness about having lost?
Of course, many tell the story in romanticized terms, then turn around and bellow "You lie" to people who probably have a firmer handle on accurate information, on the truth, "revisionist" though it be. (Ever since the lunatic Right started flapping about "revisionism," I've thought the word was a synonym for the latest attempts at accuracy, like doctors revising their prescriptions as they learn more about a disease).
So maybe I'd aspire to be a revisionist. Yet I'm no renegade—in fact, too much the boy scout, as I see it, which might account for much of my bafflement about epidemic hatred. But I've managed to refuse to swallow whole everything my parents, church, school, and nation have told me to swallow. I’m sure that means I’m going to Hell, but that Hell was good enough for Huck Finn, and it’s good enough for me.
Commie Lib. Revisionism. Yankee. Redneck. Bigot. Language is so much more important than we realize until it’s drawn us into confusion and hatred far too often.
Jeff, if you’re still with me, when you fart at the pump, has anyone called you inelegant? I think Ma Kettle in that black pickup might have found you inelegant, her with her pinkie in the air . . .
Posted by Banjo52 at 4:28 PM