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Posts Tagged ‘ignorance is bliss’

Names

Je m’apelle Eric.

But that’s not what everybody calls me.

Over the years I’ve been called a lot of things.

In Spanish class they always used to give me a Spanish name at the first of the year.  Mine never seemed to stick.  I was always so Eric.

Queer used to be really popular.  I got that a lot in “middle school.”  Do they still have middle school I wonder? Or have they gone back to having junior high?

Fag really gained in popularity in High School or the more formal, faggot.

I was so sexually naive that for a long time I didn’t even know what it meant.  It was just bad.  And then of course I understood what it meant.  And then I understood that I was.  But was I bad?

I didn’t think so.

For a long time, these names made me really angry.  Then one day it hit me.  I am a fag.  By every definition of the bigot’s efforts to slur me, I am.  The name only hurts if I think there’s something wrong with being a fag, and I don’t.

I live in West Hollywood where I’m told we have the largest concentration of gay people per capita of any city or whatever.  That means a lot of great things for me.  Mostly it means that I get to be not special as I go about my day.  What it also means is that if there’s some bigot out there who wants to call a gay person a fag, they pretty much only need to drive through town, roll down their window and shout.  Yelling fag in West Hollywood is like using a semi-automatic weapon, you don’t have to aim very carefully to hit your target.

Such affronts used to send me into a defensive rage, memorizing license plates, answering in kind.  Now, I just smile and wave.

I am.

You can’t hurt me with your hatred if it is no longer shared.

Still, I’m not big on the rather casual play that gay slurs get in the media.  What if Anne Coulter had called John Edwards the ‘N’ word? A very different outcome, I think.

It is currently okay to use slurs against gay people and white men, it seems.  One group because they really don’t care cause they already rule the world and the other because the government still sanctions institutional discrimination against them, so it must be okay.   Guess which is which.  This is not to say there aren’t many groups suffering the pains and privations of bigotry.

My point I think is that the power of names is given by the recipient not the user.

Everybody is calling everybody else a racist.  It is heartbreaking to witness the plight of the white Anglo Saxon American heterosexual male, these days.  N’est ce-pas? (I think that’s French for “You feel me?” or, for the other white boys out there, “Get it?”)

In the end the charges are at worst cynical manipulation or at best useless.

I can’t stop anyone else’s bigotry or their feelings of hatred, but I don’t have to participate.  Waving my flag and freaking out doesn’t seem to be helping.  In fact, with the current spate of poor put upon white men being ‘discriminated against,’ outrage seems to have been co-opted by the most bigoted among us.  Ask Shirley Sherrod.

I think the solution is the same now as it was for my Uncle Glenn.  When he was a little boy he was surrounded by a house full of doting women.  He had no need to speak.  He could just cry or throw a fit and he would be provided with all his needs.  By the time he was three, or so the story goes, he had yet to utter a word.

My Grandfather Silas, by all accounts a rather forbidding man, decreed that Uncle Glenn was not to be fed again until he spoke.

Apparently he was jabbering like a magpie by suppertime.

The point, I think, is this.  If we stop paying attention to the “shocking” utterances of bigots and racists and stilly white boys trying to draw a foul, they’ll try something else.  They really only want our attention, so what if we only pay attention to the good stuff? What if we only answer to the names we want to hear?

Meanwhile, just smile and wave.  It really pisses them off.

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