I'm wondering how to be cheerful about murder.
I was hustling yesterday, getting things ready for my Wednesday take-off, in a good mood. I was listening to the radio. Now, I tossed out my television in the spring of 2004 and I quit buying the Sunday newspaper around the same time. I used to enjoy the comics and Dave Barry, but the last time I bought a paper -- a couple years ago -- he wasn't in there anymore and the comics had no charm for me.
I only listen to the radio in my car, and only sometimes, and when the news comes on, I switch to a CD, even though the radio's tuned to NPR. A shrink said that this is a survival technique on my part. I don't know about that. I've always had long periods of not watching TV. When I was twenty-four, I went to Mohawk Valley Community College for Advertising Design and Production, and a teacher there told me I'm "culturally deprived" because of my lack of television.
He's correct, of course, but, frankly, it doesn't come up a lot. Now and then, someone -- maybe just a fellow consumer in line -- will mention a potential hurricane and I won't know a thing about it. Guess who's less anxious. I've got friends who went to hear some comedian I'd never heard of, but they know I'm ignorant of many things and don't seem to care.
I'm not sure about the depth of my ignorance. Isn't it just details? Dates and names? I'm a typographer; I know God is in the details. But culturally? Does it matter which politician is getting ___ from ___? Don't I already know a bit about corruption? What more do I need to know?
I certainly don't need to know about missing babies. Even less do I need to know about the lives of actors and athletes.
I've chosen a few organizations I support with money and mouse-clicks. That list changes occasionally, but mostly I do what they say. I'm a blind activist.
Maybe watching TV and reading papers -- staying culturally sated -- is just a conversation-starter -- literally something to talk about, a way to make a connection in a seemingly too-busy, too-fast world. How 'bout them Bucs? Oh, did you hear about that poor little girl ...? Can you believe that bastard in Washington --? Those people over in Pakistan had better --! And oh! the gas prices!
Look at that. I almost forgot to mention the gas prices. That's because, I believe, I'm culturally deprived. I forget I'm supposed to be crazed and frustrated and frightened by all that. Hah! As if I am not perfectly capable of providing those emotions for my own self.
So yesterday I was changing my habit a bit, listening to the radio in my house. I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion, involved in something -- painting a mailbox or sorting through photos for the class reunion or searching for directions to Louisville -- when the news came on. Well, I barely noticed it. It didn't even occur to me to switch to a CD because I wasn't paying attention to the radio.
But then I heard these words: the massacre of Muslim men and boys.
And then I burst into tears. I was walking to the kitchen, heard the words, started sobbing. The radio continued with the story, something about war crimes, I think, and what to do with whoever it was who ordered the massacre. Those are the details I'm talking about. Do I need to know this guy's name? I sure don't know the names of the murdered men and boys.
I know the name of one of the unmurdered Muslim boys: Fahrudin. I used to work with him. He's a sweet-natured Bosnian who's got great language skills. I'm always so amazed when an immigrant can make a joke about words in his step-mother language, like a pun or a double entendre. I went with Fahrudin to the doctor's office after a horrible dental experience that left a six-inch scar on his neck. He wasn't sure enough of his English to do this alone. I actually had to read "penis" to my friend, from the doctor's intake form.
Everything I know about Islam (which is a lot more than a lot of people, and a lot less than a lot of people), I know from Fahrudin. He's now a father of a son, by the way, and while his own parents long to return to Bosnia, he and his wife do not. They like America, although they're extremely unAmerican in the sense that they don't use credit cards.
I don't know what all that crying was about. I kept thinking that it doesn't matter what they do to the man who ordered the slaughter. They can kill him, forgive him, whatever. What matters is that it should never happen again, ever, to anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances. Look at this. There are people trying valiantly to save the humphead wrasse as others are trying just as tirelessly to rid the world of Tutsi.
Jesus. Well, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, and Diosa.
I thought this, too ... Hmm ... they "massacred Muslim men and boys." And what did they do to the women and girls? Ah, rape. Of course. Silly me.
All my life, I have heard "men" and asked "what about women?" That seems to have come with the texture of my hair. I remember singing When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again and wondering what my part could possibly be. The men will cheer, you see, and the boys will shout. The ladies? they will all turn out! But what about the girls? What will the girls do? I won't buy that the girls are tucked in with the ladies, because the boys are not tucked in with the men. They are separate, with separate duties. I will, however, grant that the use of "men" and "ladies" does not employ the literary device of parallelism. It should be men and women, or gentlemen and ladies. The song mixes them, as, of course, our culture (!) does.
I took a Women in Literature class one time, in the mid-seventies, and one assignment was to pick a quote from a list, and talk about it. I chose Dorothy Parker's ditty, Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses because I myself wear glasses and because it points out the oneup stance of men. If men are making passes, they should be doing so at women, not girls. Jeeze. I delivered my oral assignment and the female teacher's response was, in a condescending tone, "Well, you'll think differently when you're older."
She was wrong, of course. I am not amused when I'm referred to as a girl. Nope. It doesn't make me feel younger. It makes me feel less-than -- or at least that you think I'm less-than. I don't mind someone calling me girl like it's my name. Hey, girl! How are you? That's kind of fun and homey (if not homie).
The waiter at the Pasadena Steak House referring to me as "the young lady" is offensive, too. On which planet is fifty-eight considered young? That my dining companion, an elegant woman of eighty-one, was also called "the young lady" only makes it worse. I understand that the waiter, a middle-aged man with a radio voice, thinks he's being charming or flattering. I would like the understanding to change hands. Let him understand that it's an insult. I don't like the assumption that young is preferred and that lady is preferred. I am certainly not young (nor wish to be) nor, most times, a lady.
"But you're not old!" some would say. Get this: there's a place other than young and old. There's grey, as in matter and hair and area.
In the melodious waiter's defense (sigh), I must add that he called the men "gentlemen," so at least he was literarily correct. He did not, however, call them young gentlemen. Wouldn't "young gentleman" seem to refer, cutely, to a boy, a child? Then surely "young lady" refers to a girl.
And now I must go read some more of Byron Katie's Loving What Is.
Oh. And do you get it that the title is the tag from some song from some era sung by some group?