Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bathroom Monologue: Redefining Ignorance

There's an interesting debate about what words should be spoken, and by whom, and what they're allowed to mean. It's an interesting debate, in part because no one’s allowed to say the words even when they’re discussed. The master debaters want the words remembered, and their hateful meanings to be permanent - they're outraged that the words ought to be given other, simpler, dumber meanings that undermine the history of hate behind the syllables. For some reason, they think a century of slavery or a trail of tears can be forgotten if a rotten word turns into a joke. That's a shame, because it's only a way of keeping hate alive, of preserving the tools of social pain. A "kike" ought to be a typo for what a five-year old learned to fly yesterday. "Jewing you down" ought to be the Hebrew style of breakdancing. The "colored water fountain" ought to be a rainbow pool that kids of all shades of skin wade in when it's hot. There is value in remembering the past, but it's not always a case of those forgetting history being doomed to repeat it - often, it's the case that the malign study history in order to out-do it. We need to be careful with what history we decide to write and how we share it, because in 2050, the only "burning cross" I want to see in someone's front yard is a wicked skateboard move. Then "Jewing you down," "redskin," and "towelhead" will be as "fuck," "shit," and "damn" are now - pale ghosts of offense. Because really, "Jewing you down" shouldn't be anything but Hebrew breakdancing.

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