Oct 27, 2010

TRIBES and VILLAGES. Thomas Lux, "The People of the Other Village"

The People of the Other Village by Thomas Lux : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

In the Visitor Comments here, for my Oct. 25 post, M says, "cities (or tribes) must compete with one another." Although I probably agree, “Must" is a big word.

Also, I'm hearing the word "tribe" more and more in the national parlance. A couple of poets at conferences have referred to their colleagues and the audience as their Tribe. There must be tribes of journalists, print and broadcast, global, urban and village, and so forth. Tribes of M.D.s. Tribes of every damned thing, including New Critics vs. New Historicists.

Maybe it's all too huge to discuss here, much less solve, but the first obvious problem is how far we should take all forms of Us vs. Them business. It's probably an evolved and/or genetic thing, a sensing of danger in any Other, an instinct that’s necessary for survival; but surely our goal should be the prevention of knee-jerk hostility and blind allegiance to Tribe.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, but when I hear references to “my tribe” I feel an intent to exclude and raise arms more than a healthy sense of warmth and welcome into this or that small group or surrogate family.

The Hatfields and McCoys were two Tribes. What did it get them? Nazis were one tribe, weren't they. And our current Skinheads. Or the Amish and the Methodists? The Crips and Bloods? Red States and Blue States? Sunnis and Shiites? Oh my, the Tea Party!

“It takes a village” — to do what? I grew up in a village, where I got, yes, a clear sense of identity, rank, belonging, security, fellowship . . . and, yes, lack of privacy, rank, ample gossip and backbiting, provincial and belligerent thinking about various forms of The Other (certain families, big cities, minorities, other religions, other nations).

Along those lines two old expressions have been . . . born again? . . . in my consciousness in the last decade or so. A person might not be “our kind of people,” and, conversely, a person might “think he is somebody,” in which case he is again not our kind of people.

So when President Obama said something like, “Let’s talk first about where we can agree, where we can come together,” it struck me as enormously, movingly profound. Though it was a simple and vaguely familiar suggestion, it felt like centuries since I’d heard such a constructive, rational, calming, welcoming thought.

That Warm Fuzzy has pretty much gone to Hell in the last year or so, but it remains one of the reasons I value Obama so much. So when I hear of towns where adults genuinely hate a rival town’s sports team, want to see their players hurt, or at least humiliated, I genuinely don’t understand it. I’m sick of the New York Yankess and New England Patriots, but I don’t wish their players any harm. If you can’t beat ‘em, say so and surrender. Trying, behind the scenes and outside the rules, to kill superior opponents misses the point and turns the wannabe assassins into soulless vermin.

Indeed, the Yankees of Forever and the Patriots of the 2000s are not your kind of people; they’re better than you and yours and mine ever hoped to be. So why not withdraw and improve our teams? Illegally killing the better teams proves nothing except your own lack of character.

Poet Thomas Lux is able to muster more humor on the subject than I have.

The People of the Other Village by Thomas Lux : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.



Pasadena Adjacent said...

Patriots and Yankees killing each other? Ha! I'm all about the graphics. Lets hear it for the Rancho Cucamonga Grizzlies

....you've got me thinking with this tribalism and athleticism. I'd like to see a third part on how agism fits into the mix. How we kill the father to allow the young to sprout. More art then hammer, but it seems connected

Banjo52 said...

PA, a favorite of mine on youth killing the father is Faulkner's story, "Barn Burning." Reminds me of the movie "Winter's Bone," which we were raving about a couple months ago.

Susan Campisi said...

Good stuff. Lots to chew on. I have to come back when I'm not so tired. But the Yankees / Patriots reference - is that true? People are so effin crazy.

Great poem.

Banjo52 said...

Susan, thanks. And no hurry--I know I've been windy if not deep here and the next post, so I'm pausing for awhile.

Maybe I'm stretching it on the Patriots, but I've heard plenty of "Damn Yankee" comments over the years, maybe even a couple of my own. But as the corny old song goes, I hated the foe "with a playing at hate."

Tom Brady is the real thing, but I'd like the Patriots better if they'd kept their red unies and not gone down Triteness Boulevard with the silver helmets and boring blue shirts, britches.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Banjo, I don't know whether to post this here or on your Friday's post... but here it is. Please help me along. I picture tribes as those Russian (Ukraine?) nesting dolls. A big doll twists open, and you find another doll inside. Open her, and yet another doll is there... and it goes on until you 9 or 10 dolls, each one smaller and smaller. That is tribes, in our lives. Our family is our small tribe. Our best friends in school is our next larger tribe. Then our neighborhood. Then we head off to college - our classmates/lab partners/friends are our tribe. Pretty soon you hear your lab partner's spouse complain "You are all alike." She describing your tribe.

Then off to work. Sit in the cafeteria to eat your lunch? Likely you are sitting with your tribe.
Those you go to church are joining with their tribe. Join a political party? A tribe. The Sierra Club or PETA? A tribe.. A Yankee fan? Pure tribal hunger here.

The common thread is that even as we encompass more, we exclude more. We are always tribes.

Can we ever shake the tribalness of us? Has any one ever done so? Did Thoreau do so? Or did his tribe become his nature, his isolation? I love to hear your thoughts! (I love being a member of the Banjo52 tribe of readers!).

Brenda's Arizona said...

PS, so are you a "glad it is anybody but Yankees" tribal member?

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, haven't thought long and hard yet on the Russian doll analogy, but on a first take, it sure strikes me as apt.

"Even as we encompass more, we exclude more." That sounds cavernously deep AND mathematical AND true, you sneaky old math teacher.

Seriously, if the numbers crunch like high fiber cereal, why would your proposition NOT be true?

Viggy, my philosophy friend, says Thoreau was largely a fraud on the solitude biz (Walden was close to town, and he stayed less than two years), but Viggy says T. said a lot of worthwhile stuff anyhow.

I used to be that rabid anti-Yankee guy, but with the incredible, saggy wisdom of age, I think the legend of their tyranny is good for the game, and it's a good game.

Back in Clawson, in the . . . hills of youth . . . two classmates were Yankees fans. In SE Ohio! In Appalachia! What the hell did they have to do with the Yankees or the Yankees with them.

But I suppose that after the Indian's '54 fiasco and the Pirates continuous fiasco (until 1960), the Cincy Reds (well, the Cleveland Browns too) were our only connection to success. So maybe I should forgive those guys, but it goes down hard. :)

How do I NOT like Derek Jeter (a Michigander)? And give Steinbrenner SOME credit: at least when he spent billions, he got something for it, year after year--which gave the rest of us something to hate (with a playing at hate--that's England's "The Harrow School Song," by the way).

Sports are all about myth and legend. Don't tell me you love Homer-Virgil-Sophocles, but hate baseball. That dog won't hunt.

P.S. Surely I have the best visitors on the Internet!


Brenda's Arizona said...

Love baseball. Something about the math and keeping mindless, useless statistics.
My dad was a huge Cleveland Indian fan. He took my mom to see Al Kaline (?) and swears she swooned over him.

Out here in the FAR WEST, you are either a Dodger fan or a Dodger hater. The Yankees are poo-poo next to the Dodgers. I always hear that the East coast fans go to sleep before the West coast teams even start to play. Well, out here we say the East coast games are over before we even get out of work in the afternoon...

Let's talk basketball soon!

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, I'll be glad to talk hoops, but I don't follow it as closely as football and baseball, esp. the NBA.

I'd guess the young Kaline was a hunk. He's sure a legend here in Tiger town and was a decent TV color commentator my first several years in Detroit.

Our pasts continue to merge. My first major league game was a Little League Day at Cleveland. My dad drove a carload of us to see Ted Williams. For some reason Dad preferred the Cleveland game against Detroit and tried to convince me to see Kaline instead of the Red Sox and Williams--and SKIP Little League Day! I stood my ground and won, for once.

But I got lost going for a hot dog. Story of my life: stand up against authority and you end up a stray mutt with your hot dog in a big, cold, concrete cavern (Municipal Stadium was that).

Thanks for the memory! I wonder if big-time athletes REALLY understand how "iconic" they were and are for fans. Maybe they were kids too?

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