My Blog Week: January 26 to February 1
A Word on the Week
Not long ago, doing research reading newspapers from 1989, I was reminded of a phenomenon I hadn’t thought of in an age. America in the late 80s was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The obituaries of gay men often concealed the cause of death, yet this was discernible in the story of the victim’s life, whom he was survived by, a career in the arts…
The AIDS epidemic cost the world a lot of talent, and untold projects that would have been brilliant. That strange obituary sleuthing, the horror and fascination of this particular disease… The trouble, of course, was sex, and America’s wonked-out circumstance with it. In the present epidemic, we see the first stages of punishing sufferers in bigoted ways, effecting restrictions that will cause more hardships than prevent infections. But, there is no “secret shame” in being sick with coronavirus.
Seguing then, to the accident that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others—
Bryant was accused in 2003 of a sexual assault, a case resolved when the charges were dropped, the victim made to feel uncredible; to his credit, Bryant had made a public apology to her. Is it right to make an issue of this case? For my own argument it’s necessary, but I wholly favor considerations of timeliness, and stake. Stake is the degree to which you count yourself personally benefiting from any cause you become partisan to, any comment you feel you must make. Again we have a squirming nation, as we discuss body rights and the importance of not shaming victims, rather, empowering them. The wish to destroy a person accused of a sex crime before due process takes place, which to some extent has been happening (Al Franken, Garrison Keillor), implies these are the worst of all crimes. In societal terms, if we deprive someone of every possible living, we’ll have to provide one, a social program to house and feed those convicted of…
Well, here, it takes some parsing. Violent rape is the apex, but rapists function in permissive environments, or better to say the general social environment is muddied by questions of consent. There’s no dating precursor to being burglarized or mugged, no mutual exchange of pleasantries that allows a thief to claim he’d thought she wanted it. But there is a type of early grooming that a predator engages in, that masquerades as acceptable behavior, and exists everywhere. Universities, hospitals, military bases, are notable among other institutions for high rates of anecdotal, often unreported, sexual assaults. But every workplace has its office predator, who makes comments about his “prospect’s” appearance; says dirty things in front of her. He wants her to thank him, to giggle at his jokes. This is a step towards dominance, and the imposition of an “I’m allowed to do this because you let me” mentality.
People who were not willing to have the Bryant family mourn without calling attention to his past, seemed to feel this reporting was a duty. That some ill might occur if the warning were not given. But we as a nation are radically inconsistent at policing the beginnings of sex crimes. We permit attitudes and practices that encourage the worst; we howl over it when it happens.
Was there actually stake for anyone in raising this complaint in the week of Bryant’s death? Since he has only daughters, to honor not even a grace period before attaching the accusation to his legacy affects, or burdens, them. There may be a better interpretation of social duty.
Now, briefly, the American Dirt controversy. When the gap between having and having not reaches mutant proportions, it’s a recipe for revolt. Stories of a bidding war and seven-figure advance, a sum that could comfortably accommodate at least four new writers, are factors to raise standards higher than they’d be if a paperback romance author didn’t “get it right”. We don’t want segregated Americas in fiction. I doubt anyone expects a writer to understand her characters if she can’t try making them at all. But when writers who are novices at the given endeavor get the limo ride to the front of the line, it leaves publishing houses looking insular, presumptive, and not even business sensible.
On Monday, the last Mr. Boots poem, “Madam Black Widow”, with the cat incarcerated for stealing a chicken bacon sandwich. Tuesday’s Impresario was part twenty-six, the wax-man’s chance to mount a defense for his client. Wednesday, a new Jumping Off poem, “That You Love”. On Thursday, Frédéric Boutet’s “An Investigation”, went up in its entirety, a short short story of a wife not trusted with a secret. Friday, the first part of The Totem-Maker’s chapter seven, “The Recalcitrant One”, in which the character thinks of gods. Saturday, an opinion piece, “The M Word That Isn’t Moscow”, some observations on Maoist parallels in Trumpery, and nuisance suits. Next Monday (tomorrow), a new feature: Cartoon Stories.
Images on my posts often have a link to related information (click first image), sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical, sometimes in answer to a direct reference. Since people can be leery about links, I include them here: what they are, what sites they point to.
My Blog Week: January 26 to February 1