I have been finding my reading more and more absorbing. Gerald Vizenor and Gertrude Stein are charming me. I have added them to my other daily readings. This takes up quite a bit of time each day. Time spent in pleasure and learning. From Stein I am learning to rethink families. In The Making of Americans she slowly but surely documents how individuals are in families and how traits and behavior move through individuals. These traits and behavior are embedded in a never ending dance of emphasis or fading. It has helped me thinking about my family.
Vizenor has also helped me in this way. I am beginning to understand that the “other” is a creation of the dominant group of people. It is easy to see in natives. As the colonizers pushed people from their land and redefined them as “noble savages” at best and non humans to be exterminated at worst, it’s easy to see that this about the colonizers themselves. Part of the insights of Vizenor is that natives who remain connected to themselves as natives end up easier understood in terms of a post modern understanding of what has happened and is happening in America from the point of view of the “other.”
So much of the history of America is about refashioning the stories to fit the dominant discourse.
Vizenor quotes Hayden White (Tropics of Discourse). White “argues … that ‘in general there has been a reluctance to consider historical narratives as what they most manifestly are: verbal fictions, the contents of which are as much invented as found and the forms of which have more in common with their counterparts in literature than they have with those in sciences.’
Verbal fictions. A good name for much historical thinking and writing.
As I begin to see indians as a creation of the people who conquered them, it’s easy to see African Americans in a similar way. After all the caricature of the Minstrel Show was invented by white people. The racialization of the people who were brought here and enslaved is something done to them, not by them.
This is a simple insight but it fits into my own attempt to understand my own connection to the “other.”
If I have been misunderstood in my life as a bit of a misfit or a one of kind weirdo this is something that was done to me not by me. Of course I exacerbate this little dance partly out of survival but admittedly out of mild narcissism.
Scapegoats are created by communities for a reason.
If I think about how white nationalism is returning to America it helps to think of people creating “others” to despise and revile and repress for the needs of themselves and a dominant culture.
My own position as misfit is a mild thing compared to the terrible things that are done to the “other.”
As Vizenor and Stein help me understand my life I continue to examine my ongoing role in my extended family.
Of course this also reinforces my sense of well being and gratefulness at how my life has proceeded and is proceeding now in retirement.
On a crankier note, I am having trouble getting through Nico Muhly’s BBC Inside the Music show. Muhly is a young composer I have paid some attention to as a church musician. His choices for his show have been putting me off as has his own comments about the music. Click above and listen for yourself if you’re curious. I found Julie Fowlis’s show (no longer available) representative of someone who obviously loved music. I learned stuff from her. Muhly show seems to be about his paltry ambitions to connect with stuff and disguises his own preferences. At least that’s what I got out of it.
Granted I’m not getting more tolerant of this sort of thing in my old age.