Friday, October 29, 2010

Fuzzy Bunny Slippers

I've tried to avoid going here. I really did. I hate word definition essays. When my students write them, they pick words like "love" and "beauty" and generally come up with writing that makes me throw up in my own mouth. One group of students worked together and decided the ultimate meaning of the word love was Jesus. I like a lot of christian values but their argument was that if you aren't christian, you'll never have love and will probably burn in a giant lake of fire for all eternity while being raped by Satan and assorted minions, goblins, ghouls and thieves. Like the worst fate is rape. Try reading 125 papers attempting their first rhetorical analysis. After awhile it's like dragging my eyes over broken glass. Bring on the sulfur and light a match. Meanwhile I have to sit back and clap and generally offer encouragement and repeat to myself "baby steps". They're not all bad. Sometimes students will take on concepts with some merit. Intermittently, they will come up with "justice", "freedom", and the odd definition of something like "fraternity". So those are a little better. The best ones I get are typically over social issues like oppression and racism. One student had the balls to write about the word "fuck". He was in love with his own ideas and so didn't do such a great job in the research department. Good visuals though.

Generally, I have my students look up a dictionary definition- something from Oxford and if possible, an older version since definitions tend to change over time. I have them find current connotations and uses of the word, alternative meanings and give examples, synonyms, antonyms and perhaps an image or two to go with it. Sometimes they respond with songs.

Now, because of my big mouth, I have to bite the fucking bullet and pull out a definition of "American values". I couldn't pull out something cute to define, like fuzzy bunny slippers. You know, if I wanted to define something, or analyze it, I think the more interesting subject would be the function of the bathrobe in the movie "The Big Lebowski". Old, musty, comfy and not unattractive- he is even wearing it in the scene just prior to conceiving a child with Julianne Moore. Probably far more pleasant to read than the dusty tear I'm about to embark upon.

I saw a poster online with a caricature of my president as a marionette. It was an older-style of depiction, one that looks , well, racist to me.
So I posted it to my Facebook page and put "These are not American values". And my friend R.E. let that one go for almost five seconds before he replied, "What are American values?".



So the Oxford mentioned words like "democracy, equality and material prosperity". Hmm. Ok, that's a start.

Democracy, then. But democracy for who? When the Native peoples were murdered and their lands added to America's, was that democracy? No? How about when we imported people from Africa and forced atrocities upon them, making them work for free and give up their families and children? And after slavery ended (No, it wasn't Abraham Lincoln who so patronymically freed the slaves out of the goodness of his heart. It was the work of hundreds and thousands of people), it took awhile to get past the 3/5ths rule, Jim Crow laws, then the separate but equal laws. Slave labor built this country, as it did Egypt and Nazi Germany. And the whole women voting thing too. In all these cases, oppressed populations have had to wrest power away from oppressors. It's not like some lawmaker in Washington suddenly grew a conscience and said to everyone, "Hey, those measly blankets and nasty government rations aren't enough. People deserve better." I'm pretty sure that democracy is or was an American value, but I'm also pretty sure that it isn't a value for just anyone. Today, we've got racism working against two groups. The first is the American Muslim population. Back in the day, prior to September 11, 2001, being Muslim meant you were eyed as vaguely suspicious. Now, Muslim is a dirty word because some extremists boarded planes and crashed them into our buildings on our soil. Now all people of this religion get profiled and occasionally for whatever reason, land on the no-fly list. Hispanic Americans are also suffering as a large minority group. Look at Arizona, where you can legally be pulled over for driving while brown and be made to furnish your citizenship papers. What the fuck?! I have never had to prove my citizenship. I'm a fucking American; the end. Do I look more American because I'm white? Apparently so. Perhaps what we fail to recognize is that we annexed part of Mexico into our great vision for the United States and that Texas reserved the right to secede if it wanted to. So excepting all of the legal Hispanic Americans, those who cross illegally do so at great peril, often die, and are vilified. However, there is high demand for illegal labor because it is so inexpensive. If we didn't have such demand, and if it weren't so crazy difficult to become a citizen, there wouldn't be so many illegal immigrants looking for a better life.

So I guess that does away with a demonstration of equality too. Equal if you're of a certain dominant race, or if you can pass for such. But our school system is still bound by race and by income and so those who are rich go to rich schools and the poor go to poor schools and those who are rich are generally White and those who are poor are generally Black and White and Hispanic. Because there can only be so many rich people. Someone has to have the sucky jobs. That's what material prosperity is built on- getting someone else to do all the work while you reap the benefits. The idea of prosperity is also relative, following Maslow's hierarchy of needs first and then if there is something beyond basic need, that can be classified as prosperity.

And don't get me stated on the whole "American values are Christian values" thing either. Bullpucky. Christianity was also used as a tool and rationale for slavery and for keeping women from voting. And also, I think according to the bible, I'm supposed to be stoned to death. And in the Christian version, women don't have any writing credits. So I'm not particularly into being subjugated by a book written in the name of a deity that condemns me for just about everything I do except for staying in my house and bearing children (preferably sons) for my husband.

Let me break here. I bet I know what you're thinking: that I don't love my country. That I'm a Socialist, Marxist, Fascist (cuz all those things mean the same thing, right?) Communist who wants to tear down capitalism. Oh, and that I'm an elitist intellectual with her head up her ass who can only think of rude things to say about My Country 'Tis of thee.. Right?

Ok, probably not. Of the five of you who read my blog, you probably know me well enough to know that I feel it my patriotic duty to bring up the ills of our past and our present so that we may not carry them over to our future. This is true. We've totally fucked some things up in the United States. And I think that we owe it to future generations to start cleaning up the mess. It's part of my job. And besides, there are a few things we do right as a country.

The big one is that jerks like me get to say whatever we want to in a blog and nobody can kill me for it. I can't be imprisoned for my ideas. It's my fundamental right as an American and as a United States citizen to speak out loudly when my government misbehaves. AND I get to practice any friggin' religion I want.

Know what else is cool about being a U.S. citizen? I get to have a gun. We all do. As much as I'm a left wing liberal and a bleeding heart and generally a terribly peaceful person, I believe in responsible gun ownership. Yes, yes I do. You know why? Not because I want to go hunting. I'm a vegetarian. Not because I'm scared of intruders; I'm a black belt in karate for cripes sake. No, it's because a government should fear the people and not the other way around. That's why. It's to protect me from oppression. And besides, what if there is a zombie attack?

I think right now, the U.S. is still redefining it's value system. We're deciding as a country whether or not Gays and Lesbians have the right to marry legally. We're deciding between oil consumption and ecological destruction, we're consuming the shit out of electronics and importing junk from other countries by the bucket load. We only manufacture 11% of our own stuff these days. Are we still a heavily capitalist (ignore the socialized programs like education, fire and police departments and social security) nation with emphasis on the dominant ideology filled with the rhetoric of White, middle class Protestants?

I can tell you what I'd like my country to be like. I'd like my country to be filled with political wrangling of two-term Congress and Senates who don't get a pension and pay raises every other year, without the need for social security payments or parking tickets. I'd like true ombudsmen and trust that the people we send to Washington are doing their jobs and then coming home and being careful with resources. I'd like to have more faith that not all politicians are dirty cheating scoundrels. I'd like to live in a country that values education enough to spend more on it than it does on the prison system. I don't have children but I always vote for school bond issues. I'm glad to pay for education. I'm a home owner and I know that's where some of my taxes go and I'm glad for it. Best investment ever.

I'd like a country that legalizes and taxes the shit out of marijuana. Nobody ever went on a pot rage. I'd love it if two women I know who have been together for 14 years could have a legitimate wedding if they so chose, and health benefits for spouses. Let me tell you, there are no unplanned or unwanted pregnancies in gay and lesbian couples. Just saying. And in my own state of Oklahoma, I'd love to be able to buy wine in the grocery store and to be able to order online from my favorite winery in Washington, because currently that is illegal too.

And a pony. I'd really like a pony. And for people in opposing parties to stop flying off the fucking handle and listen to each other. Move towards the middle already.

So to sum up, I'd like us to stop being a country with a teenager mindset and grow into an adult. I hope that's what American values are. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And a copy of the Big Lebowski's for everyone along with some fuzzy bunny slippers. Cuz that American.


  1. 10 Bu-bu Billion Stars! Love this article and I kid you not... You have redefined America. I Love you!

  2. Make it six listeners. Well said.
    (Anonymous only cuz it's easier)

  3. Nothing wrong with remaining anonymous. Most of my six readers are. :)