We’re all living in Amerika
Amerika, it’s wunderbar.
I certainly hope everyone enjoyed the bread and circuses known as the Superbowl. I also hope that everyone was paying attention to the commercials because apparently there’s going to be a quiz. Are you Team Coke? The answer to this question is vital because it’s hard to know a person’s true worth without knowing what brand names they support.
Hey, remember the Chick-Fil-A controversy? You know, the big showdown between homophobes and non-homophobes? Remember how people with nothing better to do lined up for miles to support Chick-Fil-A’s right to give money to wacky Christian causes? Remember how people who opposed Chick-Fil-A’s donations were also wishy-washy about patronizing the place because they just can’t resist a deep-fried piece of bird, values be damned?
Well, here we go again. It’s slightly different this time, since the so-called “progressive” folks are playing defense and the so-called “traditional” folks are on the offense. (Hey, I made a sports analogy! Hell really has frozen over!) Apparently the good freedom-loving, All-American Coca-Cola corporation made an ad in which the longstanding patriotic hymn “America the Beautiful” is sung in a number of languages. Unfortunately, only one of those languages happened to be the composite tongue we like to claim as English.
So we, the Internet, will now proceed to “have a conversation” about “tolerance” and “diversity” and lots of other buzzwords that are meaningless due to overuse. Remember Paula Deen and the Duck Dynasty guy? It’s like that, only not as funny. Coke lacks a mockable spokesperson. And just like those “conversations,” this one will get absolutely nowhere.
Twitter is afire. Tumblr is roiling. The major blogs are gearing up for outrage. Again. Because when white people are outraged the world must listen. White people are pissed that our national anthem hath been most egregiously soiled by heathen tongues. (“America the Beautiful” is not the national anthem, of course, but good luck telling them that.) Members of the military are speaking up, tweeting their rage that their service has been useless if those people are allowed to have happy, Coke-drinking lives in America. These people (let’s call them traditionalists) swear they’ll never drink a tasty Coke product again.
On the other side, we have the “progressives,” those tolerant, colorblind individuals who are fully in support of this ad because it makes them feel better than those who aren’t. These people support diversity, especially when it comes to the help. People of all colors and religions are free to come to this country and seek a better life cleaning the toilets of tolerant white people. Progressives have the advantages of better spelling and nuance in their arguments. However, these advantages are often tainted by an air of insufferable smugness.
Progressives feel that their beliefs are validated when a major corporation panders to them. In fact, the traditionalists feel the same way! Isn’t it wonderful that Americans of all stripes can agree on the utter superiority of marketing? Apple or PC, hybrid or gasoline, Whole Foods or Wal-Mart-how you spend dictates who you are! To think otherwise is simply un-American. You don’t want to be un-American, do you? Of course not.
So you pick a side. You choose pro-
Skub Coke or anti- Skub Coke, even if it’s just for water-cooler conversation. You defend your long-held beliefs about the place of brown people in white society. You don’t question the fact that a thirty-second advertisement deserves your time and energy. You don’t think about the fact that Coca-Cola exists only to sell sugar water and therefore does not, as an entity, give two shits who buys the swill as long as they buy. You do not, in any sense, contemplate your position in a capitalistic society that values spending power above all else. And you’ll drink the Coke, sooner or later, because what else are you going to drink? Water?
I have spared you all the horrors of the meandering, navel-gazing piece of whiny tripe that I composed earlier this morning. You’re welcome. Instead of another roundup of why my life sucks, I thought I’d make a list of what I learned from this shitty, tooth-grinding year.
1). United Airlines does, in fact, suck as much as everyone says it does. Though I flew with United once a year for several years, the true shitty management of this most heinous airline was not known to me personally. This year, however, United chose to fuck up my return flight on not one but two occasions. Both vacations were so awful that I couldn’t wait to get on the plane and drag myself home. Both times I received snotty and ill-informed service from United workers as they laughed at my pitiful efforts to return to Hickville.
2). The Internet is full of advice. Approximately .001% of it applies to me or most of the people I know. I need to stop wasting time by clicking on yet another article about reducing debt or getting a job. None of them are meant for people making less than 50K a year who can’t afford another useless education. As for relationship stuff, if I ever find myself in a sexless marriage I will know what to do. If I ever find myself occupying a New York apartment with my choice of sex partners and a mere ten pounds to fret over, the Internet will be there for me in my time of need. Otherwise, I’m on my own.
3). No one is going to help me. I don’t mean that in the friends-and-family sense, though my family is quite fucking useless. No, I mean people who are technically paid to assist but are just too apathetic or ignorant to do so. As an example, I have paid Comcast to come to my house twice this year. (They have actually visited three times, but one visit was free.) Connectivity is still buggy as all hell. They can’t seem to tell me why. I get emails blithering about how our service is X times faster, but it still craps out on a regular basis. At this point I have given up because I am just too tired. Further examples: the motherfucking bank, rental car companies, the oil delivery guy, any given HR department. Any time I make a purchase or pay a bill, I have to double check RIGHT AWAY to make sure I wasn’t double charged (or the payment rejected) just for the hell of it.
4). I’m totally justified in my pickiness regarding men. I don’t have the patience to date stupid men or those who don’t match my values. I don’t have to “take a chance” on men with children, relationship issues, or poor attitudes towards women if I don’t fucking feel like it. I’ve watched plenty of friends and family settle for partners that make them miserable just to avoid being lonely. I’ve stayed the course and it’s served me well.
5). Some of my favorite people are bigots. I’ve got to accept that.
6). I’m probably going to have to go back to school. Unfortunately Lesson 3 comes into play here so I’m not sure if it’s even possible. But I haven’t got the funds to move and I can’t make any more money at this income level.
7). I can’t tell anyone about any good fortune until it’s in the bag. I lost Nick after I bragged about him. I lost out on several job opportunities after I mentioned them to other people. It seems superstitious, I’m sure, but I can’t afford to lose anything else. I really, really can’t.
8). I put myself in a box. Now it’s time to climb out. Where did my limbs go?
Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
Sometimes I wonder if a “traditional” family structure would have made a difference. When I was ten, my mother married the man that I eventually called father. He made a huge difference in our lives, so much so that his death has almost broken my mother entirely. But since I wasn’t his biological child, he deferred to my almighty mother when it came to my upbringing. His parents were emotionally and physical abusive to him; it’s entirely possible that he would have remained passive even as a biological father.
What am I babbling about this time? Long story short: I joined OKCupid and now I’m actually dating. There are a few gems in the slag heap after all! And none of these men will ever meet my family if I can help it. If marriage ever enters the picture (extremely unlikely, but still), I might introduce the “lucky” man to my mother. Unlike last time, I have been honest, though vague, with my mother and my extended family. I figured I’d let the chips fall where they may, and of course I regret that decision already. One branch of the family is already carping about my supposed boyfriends. (I haven’t given them much to go on, but who needs facts when you’ve got opinions? Yes, they are Fox News fans.) My mother-ahh, my mother. My mother is going to make me pay, as she does every damn time I try to escape my little box.
She doesn’t raise her voice, exactly; my mother’s style is birdlike, with little verbal pecks that come at random. She knows exactly where to peck, too. Such is the gift of motherhood. She found my condoms and now I’m interrogated every time I go out. I’m almost thirty-one, for fuck’s sakes. It’s not a matter of moral purity for her, either. She has nothing against premarital sex. But for her, life stopped when my father died. How dare I have sex? How dare I try to have a life? My life should be here, in this rotting hulk of a house.
She spent some time on dating sites after my dad died, and now she’s an expert. Men just want One Thing, you know. The implicit assumption is that I don’t want to give it to them. There is also a healthy dose of paranoia, because of course she needs to follow me to my dates in case one of them tries to murder me. Fortunately, she’s too depressed to actually do it. Gee, I wonder where I get my anxiety issues? I wonder why I needed Valium in order to have sex?
Anything I tell her becomes a weapon. I am reminded that I shouldn’t date outside my race because “bluebirds and robins don’t mate.” She has choice things to say about Jewish men, because all Jewish men are the same. None of them will ever be good enough, because if one of them is I might leave her.
I have tried to explain to people, but none of them ever see what she becomes behind closed doors. That is the way of our family, you see. Outsiders are given the best of us, while all emotional detritus is dumped at home. As I have mentioned before, this entire family is barking mad, and so we have learned to put on a good front in order to avoid the consequences of our madness. It seems to work fairly well. I’ll grant you that each and every person related to me is emotionally scarred in some way, but we have yet to produce any actual murderers or serious criminals. We channel those urges into the children.
Most of the situational insanity flows through the women, since they outnumber the sons of our peculiar clan. Most of my aunts should not have been mothers, and perhaps did not want to be. The dictates of society and religion forced them into marriage and motherhood. My mother was the exception in her generation. She refused to marry my biological father; she pursued a career and raised me on her own. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to keep dysfunction at bay. Those who know me tend to think of my mother and I as a package deal; we are invited to parties and weddings together, for example. I doubt anyone thinks of it as a normal arrangement but then, my mother is just so lovable if you don’t have to live with her. Why would I ever want to cut the cord?
“Just write it already!” my brain says. So here’s a little story that’s been banging around my head for months. It’s not perfect but it will do. WARNING: There be sex in this one. Not too graphic, but definitely R rated.
When leaving a shitty low-wage job, do so with a bang. Preferably the genital-slapping kind. Assuming that your partner is competent, you will not only enjoy the quitting but also give your coworkers a great story for new hires.
His name was Henry, and I did not love him. He in turn did not love me, and that was all right. Ours was a bond forged solely of simmering employee rage. Partners in underpaid misery at a city hotel, we were on a first-name basis since the night shift is a small one. I worked in the downstairs bistro; he was part of the ever-rotating housekeeping staff. We bitched to each other about our coworkers, our asshole bosses, and the weird guests walking the halls at night. Henry had been adopted from Nigeria at the age of six and had been an English major at Penn State. However, his ill-tempered supervisor still complained about Henry’s English and referred to him as a “dirty immigrant” whenever he felt it convenient. Since I also had a useless English degree, Henry and I amused ourselves by making Shakespearean jokes about the “ill-bred tyrant of the night shift.” We had been each other’s cheerleader for months as we sweated towards Quitting Day. At last it came. And so did we-but I’m getting ahead of myself.
So our boy Orson Scott Card wrote a charming essay a few months back that supposedly predicts a dire future under the Big Black Hand of the Big Black Obama Clan. It’s being passed around the Internet, stirring up outrage because nobody had any idea that Orson Scott Card is a racist wackjob before now. But I’m not going to comment about the content of this essay. That’s his opinion and we love
Grandpa Card just the way he is! He wrote Ender’s Game, after all!
Instead, I’m going to grade this piece of poorly-written crap as if I were a bitter, underpaid English teacher. I printed it, marked it with supremely girly pink pen, and I’m going to post it. All six pages. This man is a professional writer and a hero to the neckbeard community. He gets paid (presumably by the word) for his clickbait essays. His books (well, two of them anyway) have influenced many readers and writers across the science fiction spectrum. He is supposed to be good at this writing thing. This essay would earn an “F” in any eighth-grade classroom, even in “urban” schools where “disaffected youth” learn to kill Whitey for the glory of our Great Leader. I cannot believe I typed that. If you are unfamiliar with this essay, you’ll understand why I’m applying sarcasm with a trowel.
Scans under the cut. (ETA: Cut tag hates me. Sorry!) This will take a lot of space, but I am a writing geek and I shan’t apologize. I do, however, apologize for my printing, which resembles that of a caffeinated five-year-old. Summary at the end, just keep scrolling.
It occurs to me that my last entry was angrier than I meant it to be. I’m not really that angry about OSC and his running-at-the-mouth issues. He only gets one middle finger from me. I’m sure he’s perfectly nice in person, as long as you belong to an approved demographic group. I just think he could handle his shit a bit better. Okay, a lot better. However, I said this is not really about him and I meant it.
Every so often, the society-within-a-society that calls itself “speculative fiction” has a huge internecine “issue” of some kind. There is blogging of blogs and tweeting of Tweets, with an endless web of responses. These conflicts involve death or rape threats for women and much merriment in the Kingdom of the Trolls. The Card affair is a longstanding issue; it has endured rather well, considering the Internet’s short attention span. Other conflicts include the SFWA Bulletin Affair, the Harlan Ellison Shuffle, Racebending Star Trek, and so many more. I don’t mean to make light of the underlying incidents here (harassment, sexism, the Almighty Badass Khan as a white guy). These things are serious concerns rendered into cotton candy by the stirring of social media. The rendering is what amuses me, in a bleak sort of way.
All of this can be counted as communal growing pains. Ugly, public growing pains for a nebulous community that has grown and changed rapidly, largely due to the Internet. It amuses me terribly that fans of science fiction, which is a genre devoted to the future, are so damn slow to embrace the real future, with its attendant diversity. We live in the future, right? Space stations, cloning, palm-size computers, and robots on Mars-all parts of a balanced future as envisioned in the past. Awesome, really. But this future was largely envisioned by white, hetero, cissexual men who failed to consider anyone besides themselves in the hero’s place. And now that we have the sci-fi technology, the sociology needs to be advanced to match it.
To me (and the nagging pattern-seeking analyst in my head), the Orson Scott Card issue is a small wave on the ocean of change. Card is very much of the old school, in terms of his place in science fiction. In Ye Olden Dayes, Card and his peers were like unto gods in the small world of their preferred genre. Their every essay was received as scripture, their words never questioned. If anyone gave him any crap, he had the power to silence them. No one would have criticized his views on homosexuality, and there were few forums in which to do so anyway. Not to mention that the personalities of the writers were somewhat less important than their work. Now, between blogging and Twitter, most writers have put themselves into the ether as people rather than writing machines. And we, the consumers/fans, have the power to judge them for it.
Unfortunately for Card, his religious beliefs are not really compatible with the modern world. He refuses to compromise his beliefs or at least shut up once in a while. However, he is struggling to stay relevant. Hence, the movie version of his most famous work. Ender’s Game is almost thirty years old. The movie should have been made twenty-five years ago. It would have been a perfect cheesy cult movie, an excellent vehicle to sell the endless series to follow. Most of Card’s other books tie into Ender’s Game somehow. In fact, he has spent a goodly portion of his writing career capitalizing off the fame of a single book. Before media was beamed directly into our faces, creators of any kind could spend years leaning on the success of a few creative works. (See Lucas, George). That isn’t possible now-the culture is moving too quickly. Sales peak and drop weekly. People have options, too. We can read anything we want or watch anything we want. So a writer, especially a genre writer, needs to appeal on several levels.
Orson Scott Card does not seem to understand any of these things. Either that, or he refuses to understand because his church and his inner circle assure him that he doesn’t need to learn anything new. I don’t have sales figures on Card’s books, but I don’t need them. He’s not anywhere near where he was even fifteen years ago. His output has been pretty good for the past few years; it’s not that he isn’t doing anything. It’s not even solely about his work (although Ender’s Game is itself rather irrelevant). Women and gays and brown people have greater voices now. People care about things like equality so much that they will take a creator to task over it. The impression that I’m getting is that Card doesn’t understand why all of these strangers are criticizing him. He’s the artist! Look at his art! Why is everyone being so mean?
And the problem we’re having is that he’s not the only one. Card is in the club with Mike Resnick and Barry Malzburg and all of the other white guys who refuse to embrace change. They have a sense of entitlement that seems quite common to men of their age. They feel that they deserve a level of respect and success that is earned differently in the post-Internet world. And they’re going to keep getting hammered by the Internet until they grow the hell up.
I’m so dizzy and I am going to bed. I shouldn’t bottle things up for so long. Apologies for any typos.