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Friday, April 30, 2010

SWEET UNSWEET

spring buds





A cousin in Kansas City sent an email with her email address on it so we could write back and forth. It was long, having to do with horses and feathers. To respond to her about it, I hesitated to use the word Indian, because only Indians use it. White people now say Native American, which the Indians think ridiculous. I don't like to use the term, because it's so PC, politically correct. It's an American school phenomenon of conformity cranked up the next notch to class mind control. What it amounts to really is white middle-class think. I think of people who live in a subdivision so huge it is a maze; all the multi-plexes are exactly alike and painted the same color. Like Malvina Reynolds' song about little boxes on a hillside, they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.




I chose not to use that term, and chose not to use Indian, because my cousin is white, a nurse, works in a hospital, a conscientious woman who wants to be respectful of everyone. She doesn't live in a ticky tacky subdivision. I don't know what she makes of the word Indian, like it's colonialist to use that word. When PC is the rule, middle-class, I know without having to decide. But cousin Barbara is a working class woman with a fairly middle-class way of thinking. I couldn't predict with her. I chose not to use either. I said her email address seemed pow wowish. That seemed neutral to me. Pow wows are about the only way Indians are known now by white people in person. She wrote back asking why I don't like her email address. She said she didn't quite know how to take it, so she took it I didn't like it. I had to write her back and explain I didn't mean it disrespectfully.




It's like unsweet. I'd have done better to say, Native American. Indian would have been ok too. I had to complicate it until the meaning was lost. I learned years ago, years ago, thousands of experiences ago, never in the South do you order tea without sugar. It's unsweet. Unsweet is all the waitresses know it by. Every time I say tea without sugar, which is automatic for me with a mind that pays attention to words, the waitress says, "Unsweet?" I finally caught on a year or 2 ago, but still I slip and say tea without sugar, and invariably get the answer, "Unsweet?" They're training me. I'm trained, but sometimes lapse when I'm not thinking. I remind myself every time I want tea without sugar it's unsweet. Like 7up is the uncola. What? You mean it had cola in it and they took it out? The tea had sugar and you have to take it out to make it unsweet? Seems like it would be an expensive process to take the sugar out of Southern iced tea, and it would cost more, but it costs the same. Ought to cost less.




I came to the mountains all those years ago to get away from urban thinking, which I found largely superficial. I checked out the urban first looking for something real to live by. Our civilization had become so incredibly superficial that I wanted out on the edge of it, not in the thick of it. The real landscape in a city is the human mind. It's a forest of human minds. They're all whirring all the time, day and night, money, money, more money. I thought it would be better for my mind, for living with my mind, to live surrounded by the world of flora and fauna, the "natural" world, what's left of it, where the vibration is harmonious with the spirit of life. When I'm in a city, the energy I feel is drive, stop, wait, start, drive, stop, wait, start, get out of everybody's way. They're all in a hurry and I'm not. They want more money than I do. They want position I don't want. They want big things I don't want. They want status I don't want. They want big tombstones and I don't want any. I tend to like a plain rock for a tombstone. It's what I've given all my pets I've buried. I like Jr's daddy's tombstone, polished black marble and no words, no ID.




I've thought about old man Wiley's life after Christmas 1945 when his son, who was up in his 50s with his 2 kids in their 30s, killed his second wife, seriously maimed his in-laws, then killed himself, leaving their baby an orphan at 4 months old. I can't help but suspect the block of black marble represented to him his heart. A man of constant sorrow. He didn't even get a chance to know the grandbaby, which he'd surely seen a time or two. He's buried next to his boy who did all that, and he knew in advance where his grave would be. It was such a trauma in the family that Jr, age 23, left here, divorced, ended up in Decatur, Alabama, operating heavy equipment in construction. Had a good woman there, intended to never return. Not only did Welter kill his wife and himself, he killed the Maxwell name. He told me some time ago Maxwell is a bad name in the county. All on account of a brother who was "too quick to use a gun." Old man Wiley was 80 when it happened and lived 13 more years. I'd say they were years of relentless sorrow. Today, they'd have him so jacked up on mood enhancers he couldn't do anything but sit in front of a television and feel good.




The blow to Jr's mother, who was not Welter's mother, was devastating. It was devastating to Jr's wife, Maggie. Welter played fiddle, Jr played banjo, Maggie played guitar and sang. They made a lot of music together and were close. Jr's heart never recovered from that time. I talked with Maggie in Maryland after Jr died, and she was still reeling from it, had all her life. She lost Jr, her man she deeply loved and continues to. At 87 years old, she said, "I just don't know what happened." Meaning, I take it, that so much changed that night so drastically, she still can't digest what happened. I find it interesting Jr chose to be buried with his mother and wife Lois in another cemetery, his mother's family cemetery, the Joines cemetery in Whitehead. I never asked Jr questions about what it did to his dad and mother. It was such a painful subject, and had to do with private lives, family, the part most private, he didn't like going there. I wonder if it wrecked the relationships between all Maxwells, there weren't very many. He tended toward his Joines relatives because they were so many and neighbors. A lot of his first cousins and uncles were musicians. Every Whitehead/Pine Swamp Joines I've known has been good people, the kind you want for relatives.




What does this have to do with political correctness? You're not going to find much of it in Whitehead and Pine Swamp except for transplants. I can't help but think the people caught up in PC are people who really wasted their college years, shouldn't have gone in the first place, except that parents demanded it. I went into college with the most unrealistic of expectations, that it would be about learning. In my first year, a man who'd gone to the U of Chicago told me college is not about education, it's about socialization, learning to socialize. I had a hard time accepting it, because I was investing in learning, but the only way I could miss that what he said is evident everywhere would be denial. And there you get American school conformity. Too much school, too much conformity in adult life. Too much conformity and you get all the girls in high school looking as much like Barbie dolls as can be done. It's shocking for somebody who came up in the 50s when Barbies were new to see that Barbie is now the model young women follow. It's really a corporate tv reality of a look that sells. Britney Spears--corporate living Barbie, nervous breakdowns, losing her kids and all. The American Girl grown up. The worst thing that can be said of somebody, she's / he's different.

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