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Kola_boof
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Post Number: 4839
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Posted on Friday, January 16, 2009 - 02:24 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Steve_s,

When Toni Morrison "attacked" Ralph Ellison as you say...it wasn't quite the way that you claim.

Since you're a White male and not a Black female, I will try to explain the "blind spot" that you're missing.

What Ms. Morrison has said (and quietly argued) when asked about the book "THE INVISIBLE MAN" was quite simply this---"Invisible to WHO?"

And she's quite right, because when I read
that book---as much as I loved it and consider
it to be a masterpiece---as
a Black woman who has given birth to
2 black males, I found myself constantly
asking that question all throughout the
book as well.

For one moment, Steve...try to pretend
that you are Black--but have the same
dignity and intellectual prowess that you
have right now as a human with White skin
and critical thinking skills.

In Morrison juxtaposing Achebe's book
"Things Fall Apart" with "Invisible Man"....

...just as Morrison has pointed out, the
Ellison book and its lead character places
THE WHITE DEVIL MAN as not only the standard of humanity, but the "God" that blacks must
reach and be SEEN BY.

By accident (and undeniably), Ellison
indicates that the all important
"bluest eye"...is what
validates any man's manhood

---and reveals it as an obsession for
the oppressed.

As she stated, she loved Achebe's "Things
Fall Apart"--because in that book---the
tribes completely dismiss the White man.

As "Invisible Man" focuses solely on the
White Man's great power and his cruelty
in not sharing power with Black men he once
owned...the characters in "Things Fall Apart,"
in the midst of all their disarray and "falling apart", do not consider the White Man an
equal, let alone an abandoning "father figure."

They acknowledge that White men's actions in
COLONIZING, killing and robbing them were those of an ENEMY...but they never deify him.

To them--what THEIR EYES SEE, right or wrong
(and God knows Africans are wrong-headed quite
a lot
)...but they measure the validity of everything on what THEIR EYES see.

Morrison's question, "Invisible to WHO?"

...addresses the millions of Black Women
who were right there by the Black man's
side and whose eyes were not and are not
"valued" by the thing they gave birth to.

The thing they protected and kept alive
with what little power they had---even
if they had to bed Mr. Charlie to keep
a son from being lynched, or get him
that job on the rail.

The Black Man did not fight his revolution
in this country---Black women did.

Going all the way back to Harriet Tubman
and Sojourner Truth--Black women put him
up to it and literally carried his revolution
on their backs.

And right now today, the spoils and rewards
of that revolution are firmly in the hands
of "Black men"---women who look like Tubman
and Truth are not even acknowledged as
women
in 2009.

As Alice Walker wrote: "The revolution never
seems to come for the Black woman herself
."

If you are an intellectual person, then
you should have the depths to understand
Morrison's argument---and especially to
realize that "different types of people"
have a different perspective by virtue
of skin color, sex and class.

Morrison's point is not only valid, but
it could be applied to the programming
on the BET network or the newly released
movie, "Notorious."

Perhaps you take comfort in these type
of men (the lead in "Invisible Man")...but
don't you also see that these men are
abandoning their own identities and
destroying themselves?

I particularly HATED the scene in the
book where the lead character rapes his
sleeping daughter (a little child)---while dreaming that he's broken into a great
and magical White-White Room full of
all things WHITE and Breezy
(a white woman).

As the movie "Amistad" broached---why
shouldn't Black Men exist as themselves
without the Faux souls of White men and
their white mothers?

And WHY, STEVE?...would a competent
Black Mother not take issue with a
Black man saying that only the
"bluest eye" and what IT SEES has
the power to define and validate him?


I felt quite vindicated in my own
written works when Morrison stated
quite bravely to the entire publishing
world----"INVISIBLE TO WHO?"







.
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Chrishayden
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 10:43 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Tony Morrison is right but unfair.

Invisible Man was written and published in the 40's. It is like I can get up in front of white folks now and denounce slavery and then put down Black people before the Civil War for not doing the same thing.

In the 40's it was a brave thing to even say this.

But the woman seems to completely be loosed from any sense of time.
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Cynique
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 12:22 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Isn't there some kind of irony in the fact that Barak Obama's mother was not a strong black woman but a starry-eyed young white girl who married a wayward Kenyan man because she apparently wanted to prove she wasn't racially prejudiced.

When all is said and done, there is validity to what certain critics grumble about America's first non-white president; his roots are not in common with the slave descendants who have so slavishly embraced him. Moreover, his teflon exterior has made his personal black experience superficial. And the accomplished black woman he is married to has been relegated to the role of child nurturer and fashion icon and dog petter... Happy Inauguration, y'all.
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 01:42 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Chris Hayden,

Even if it was written in the 1940's,
"ELLISON" being a great master of language
and the "meaning" of words---should have
seen the inherent "de-humanizing" of
Black folks by using the title and
theme "Invisible Man."

What I suspect...is that she's getting
revenge for how the MALE WRITERS trashed,
rejected and disrespected Zora Neale
Hurston---whose classic book from 1937
manages to read just as fresh, modern
and SUBVERSIVE as anything I am writing
today.

And how do you explain that "Their Eyes Were
Watching God" acknowledges white people's
racial oxygen, but ALSO (like "Things Fall
Apart") dismisses them as irrelevant
to dictating how Hurston (and her
lead character) SEE themselves.

The book "NATIVE SON"--which was written
by my favorite male author of all time
(in fact, along with Morrison and
Walker he IS my favorite period)...but
in "Native Son" and my favorite book
"The Outsider"---well, scratch that,
"BLACK BOY" Is my heart, but anyway
----in those two novels, Wright does
the same exact thing. He posits that
the White Man is the CENTER OF THE
UNIVERSE; the vantage point through
which all things must be either blessed or cursed in order to have MERIT.


Cynique,

I think it's totally expected that a
young open-minded liberal white girl
(and a mostly "progressive" white environment
and travels to Hawaii and Indonesia)---
coupled with the ABSENSCE of the all
desired and mysterious African father
who "abandoned" the mother....would produce
a child of color who doesn't hate blackness
but in fact LONGS for it and
cherishes it.

If you think about it, the
very opposite occurs in Black
American children.

What it does...is PROVES what
the Black Americans are saying
about "post-traumatic slave syndrome."

OBAMA proves that it's real by
being one of the few to not come
from it.

Even I, who don't come from
slave descendents, am deeply
affected by it from being raised
in a very large family that is
SOUTHERN black.

BTW---one of the things that
makes me IN AWE of "Black Americans"
(who to me are "Africans") is that
they actually SURVIVED what I
consider to be the most extensively
abusive psychological dehumanization
in modern human history.

Unlike the American Indian, they're
still standing.

And since Africans greatly believe
"Extinction is not honorable"---this
is the badge of victory that makes
the "slave descent" extraordinarily
SUPER-HUMAN.

What Africans have against AAs
is not the belief that Africans are
superior---but the perception that
these SUPER HUMAN have rejected Africa,
are ashamed of us and hate their
ancestors.

In other words--that they're
like Africans.




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Cynique
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 03:06 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

None of what you say detracts from the fact that the soon-to-be most powerful figurehead in the world did not spring from the womb of a black woman, Kola, - the point being that Fate has once again mocked black women. Obama and his slave descendant wife have not even spawned a male heir.

I'm not condemning my boyfriend Obama or lamenting his ascent. I'm just saying that the victory of this light-skinned man can be considered a triumph for white people as well as black. There has been some implication that his mother having been a rosy-cheeked Kansas girl from the heartland of America is what squares him with whites in high places.

BTW, "invisible Man" was written in 1952 which places it in an era that was quite distinct from the 1940s and makes this book a harbinger of things to come inasmuch as the 50s ushered in the civil rights movement.
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 03:15 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

None of what you say detracts from the fact that the soon-to-be most powerful figurehead in the world did not spring from the womb of a black woman, Kola, -

But since when have any of the most
powerful figureheads on earth sprung from
a black woman?

You're confusing me.


the point being that Fate has once again mocked black women.

HOW? I don't feel mocked at all.

And remember...to me, Obama is not Black,
which is why I don't feel mocked.

He is a Half-Caste African.

I also don't see him as King of Black
People...but as an American President.

The reason I love him is because he
dares to AFFIRM all black people by
affirming a Black womb.



I'm just saying that the victory of this light-skinned man can be considered a triumph for white people as well as black.

I agree 100% and have always said so.

You should read the 3 essays I wrote for
DAILY VOICE while campaigning for Barack.
I said just about everything you're saying
here, Cynique.





.
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 03:30 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Cynique, earlier when I talked
about a "BLACK MOTHER" taking issue
with "Invisible Man"......

I was speaking of Toni Morrison,
not all black mothers.

My point to Steve_s is that Toni Morrison,
a mother of 2 sons as well as Ellison's equal
as a novelist and intellectual can only
give a perspective steeming from her
experiences(and the revolutions that were
waged by Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman),
which, to me, gives Toni the right...to rebuff Ellison.

If my child stands up in public and
claims that he is invisible and has
been so all his life----then why
wouldn't I, his mother, reply,
"Invisible to who?"

THAT was my point.

Toni Morrison doesn't dislike Ellison,
she's not disparaging his brilliance or
anything about him.

She WAS giving insight as to why she
wrote "The Bluest Eye"....and she didn't
want ELLISON to be given credit for her
coming after him, when in fact, her book
was a rebuttal to his.

Of course, since no one studies the inner
workings of Black female experience to
the extent that they study Black male
experience---Scholars and intellectuals
haven't noticed that "Bluest Eye" is saying
something COMPLETELY OPPOSITE of what
"Invisible Man" is saying.

I don't see how that has anything to
do with Barack Obama and his white mother.

I will say this...

Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, and the
revolutions they waged and Black women
like them egging on Black men to stand up are what made it possible for Barack Obama to now be
President of the United States.




.
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 04:23 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

...STOP; a voice in my head is reminding
me that I keep forgetting to
include the ferociousFrances Ellen
Watkins Harper
when mentioning Truth
and Tubman.

She was their contemporary, just as bold
and accomplished as them and deserves to be mentioned.

One of the things I LOVE about Black
American history is that NONE of the
first "written books" by Blacks in
this country were written by educated
free blacks, but by escaped slaves.

The actual marrow.

Being that I have no formal education,
AND as a detractor put it when I won
Sweden's Kavinna-Kavinna Prize..."just a
social climbing palace whore who reinvented herself as Dorothy Parker
"....

I feel that it's those [end of slavery blacks] who are the ones guiding my light.

I DID deserve that award and the rise
of BARACK OBAMA proves that change really
is the Window that's open right now---the
ACADEMICS and the ESTABLISHED RULING
PEDESTALS are shakey and they're being usurped by us Paupers right now.

In her way, Michelle Obama, is a pauper, too.




**SORRY I WENT OFF TOPIC.
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Cynique
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 04:33 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Oh, good grief. Enough with the essay answers. Blah, blah, blah. Because YOU are always championing under-appreciated strong black women and blubbering about Mother Africa I'd think that you wouldn't be so clueless in regard to the ironic overtones that dim this shining moment of triumph. Once again Fate has cast a white woman in the goddess role - as the "Virginal Mary" who gave birth to the savior. And Michelle, of course, has been marginalized. Po sistahs jes cain't catch a break. GET IT???

And I didn't inject Toni Morrison into this observation. I just pointed out that, contrary to Chrishayden's claim, "Invisible Man" was not written during the 1940s.
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 05:28 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Cynique,

I...and a lot of African women...loathe
the term "Mother Africa."

And I hardly ever hear anyone talking about
Obama's White mother or even showing photos
of her.

Images of MICHELLE, on the other hand, are everywhere.

Not to mention Michelle's mother and Obama's
Grandma Sara...2 more dark skinned black women.

And then there's Obama's darling brilliant
little girls...Malia and Sasha.

So I am extremely shocked that you
wrote:

Once again Fate has cast a white woman in the goddess role - as the "Virginal Mary" who gave birth to the savior. And Michelle, of course, has been marginalized. Po sistahs jes cain't catch a break.


Who sees her as a Virginal Mary?

If his White Mother is such a goddess--how
come he grew up and married Michelle?

And how come he made it very clear in his
2 bestselling books that for him...it would
have to be a Black woman?

Obama has a "white" sister that his
"virginal" mother had by an Indonesian
man (one of many men she experienced
after she was considered sell out
"Ho-trash" by White Men).

His sister is very beautiful and sweet. I hardly ever see her image anywhere.

I just don't think images of White Superiority are getting any traction in this particular case.







.
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Cynique
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 06:15 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I don't have to answer any of those questions. Obama's mother was white. Period. History will record that.

Unless Michelle does something other than be a doting mother and clothes hanger, history will gloss over her.

With his eye on one day running for president, there was no way Obama was going to marry a white woman. Obama is nothing, if not calculating. He has to be harboring a lot of inner satisfaction knowing that his plan to be America's first non white president worked. "Hope", hell. "Brilliance" is what got the job done.
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 06:29 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Unless Michelle does something
other than be a doting mother and
clothes hanger, history will gloss
over her.


I agree 100%





With his eye on one day
running for president, there
was no way Obama was going to
marry a white woman.


But the fact remains--he doesn't desire
White women.

I read "between the lines" of everything
he wrote in both of his VERY CALCULATING
autobiographies.

And when it comes to Black and Biracial men
describing what drives their insecurities
and their passions about women and what
kind of woman they like

---none of them can fool me.

Obama's "neediness", not only for Michelle
but towards Black women in general is
undeniable and IRREVOCABLE.

In his mind...it's MICHELLE who validates
him as Black.

His supreme connection to Michelle goes
far beyond any Political aspirations.

Michelle anchors his identity.

By making him feel "black" and making
him feel that he is connected to his
LOST and LONGED FOR father

---Michelle makes him feel like a man.






.
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Cynique
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 06:35 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

And don't forget in his speech at the Demcratic convention, the one which launched his career, Obama described himself as the grandson of Kenyan goat herders and Kansas farmers. He put that phrase out there. And you better believe he did it for a reason.
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Thumper
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 06:53 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hello,

Cynique: I have to agree with you about Michelle. I think they (the media, most prejudice white folks) will do their best to marginalize Michelle because with Obama they can always argue and have that he is half white and half African; thereby, not a descendant of the slaves. This is why we constantly hear, why don't he promote his white side? Idiots, they are all idiots. Lord knows if it had not been for his mother's family, he would not have gotten to where he is now.

Now, Michelle is a different issue all together. Michelle IS the descendant of the slaves, and that's what really set them on edge! It does not help that she's gorgeous, intelligent, accomplished, and has the nerve to have a for real woman's figure and she doesn't talk through her nose or reach for any bleaching cream. I LOVE HER!! She's not anorexic and she don't look hungry, which is the look that most of these white women and your crazy nieces are going for. Actually, I think that is what ticked a lot of your Republican, fake black men, nephews off. Obama became the leader of the free world with a real black woman by his side. Cindy Lou and/or Mary Jane, Biff, Tiff, and Buffy is nowhere in sight! *LOL* You gotta love the irony of it all.
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Cynique
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 07:00 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I don't buy Kola's romantic notion that Michelle fills the void created by Obama's father's absence. To me, it seems like it's all he can do to keep her and her feisty self in check. Playing the subdued wife role does not come natural to her.
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Yvettep
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 07:21 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I have read somewhere that each, Barack and Michelle, perceived the other as "exotic" and that was part of their attraction to each other. That rings true for me. I also think that folks' choices can be "calculating" while also having genuine love, caring and respect at the core. Everyone does that mental calculation: Will this person be good to and for me? How will we look together ad what will others think? What will they and we be like in X years?

Thumper and Cynique, I also thought I read somewhere that BO's father or paternal grandfather was some sort of domestic help in Africa. I know that is not the same as slavery, but I think we often forget what Africans went through under colonialism.

Kola, I recently read an interview with BO's half sister on his mother's side. She does seem quite personable. Also, I'll try to find something about a half brother on his fathers side who is a restaurant owner and pianist in China. A truly sprawling, international clan!
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Kola_boof
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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 07:32 pm:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Cynique:

To me, it seems like it's all
he can do to keep Michelle and
her feisty self in check.



LMFAO!!!!!!!!!!









Playing the subdued wife role
does not come natural to her.



I would argue that like Hillary Clinton
before her---MICHELLE's "Dreams
and GOALS" surpass even Obama's when it
comes to Political machinations and
calculations.

Michelle is the QUEEN from the
Chess board; Chicago-style.

Of course you've seen her lay down a
speech...or answer a tough question
lickety-split fast from left field.

She ain't no Jennifer Hudson, honey.

Michelle BELONGS in the White House.





.
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Steve_s
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Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 - 02:57 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hi dear Kola, how are you? Thanks for the nice things you said :-) I'll explain my recent remarks about "A Mercy," which I'm sure won't be sufficient. Happy Martin Luther King Day.

I know I said that I still haven't forgiven Toni Morrison for calling Ralph Ellison a "black literary patrician"-- an aristocract, in other words --- the same name she gives the little Vaark boy in "A Mercy" (het varken = "pig" in Dutch) who dies of a "cloven hoof." Does anyone beieve that that's not a symbolic death? When characters have names like "Patrician," "Sorrow," "Complete," "Malaik" - Swahili for "angel" (there may be a doubling because a ship called the "Angelus" took Rebekka to America) - and even "Messalina" (either the wife of a Roman emperor or a "whole mess 'a Lina"), it usually means that they're allegorical or stand for something larger than the story itself. "invisible Man," with its unnamed main character, is an allegory, and in my opinion, so is "A Mercy." And if I'm not mistaken, I think the blacksmith who can cure the pox is unnamed too, isn't he?

I read the book in a couple of nights in the large print edition, because that's all that was available at the library, so I'm mostly going by some notes I made. The narration alternates between Florence (Florens) and other narrators, with hers being the first and next-to-the-last sections (her mother narrates the final section). The story begins with Florence's narration in second-person, and as I remember, the "you" she's addressing in the story is the blacksmith, but I think it's also intended as "you" the reader. Florence talks about "reading signs" -- like the profile of a dog in the steam of a tea kettle, the position of a corn husk doll in the room, and the nesting of a pea hen. Then she asks something like, "you can read, can't you?" She's asking the reader to decipher, not the dog's profile in the steam, but the meaning in the symbolism of the novel itself. When novels begin this way, it's a reference to "semiotics" or systems of meaning in language. For example, "Steal away to Jesus" has a whole other meaning in black culture besides the literal one. Another example of this kind of novel is "Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje. It's about a young woman whose work as a forensic anthropologist takes her to trouble spots around the globe, where her job is to unearth mass graves and determine (by "reading the signs," as it were) how and when the people died. She visits an old blind religious man who reads the signs carved in stone artifacts. The remains of one of the victims that she nicknames "Sailor" become crucial evidence for the UN commission, and finally they try to smuggle either the bones or the report of the forensic investigation out of the country. I think this a metaphor for the novel itself, which, when read by readers around the world, may shed some light on the meaning of the civil war. It ends with an artisan piecing together a statue of the Buddha that overlooks the countryside that was vandalized by one faction in the fighting, which may have a parallel in the Buddhist monk who blew himself up in the presence of the prime minister at the start of the civil war (although the monk's sucicide is not part of the novel, I read that somewhere else and just inferred it).

I recently read Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not," and I remembered that Ms. Morrison had included it in her Norton Lectures monograph, "Playing in the Dark," so I re-read a little bit of her analysis. She's a professor at Princeton, not a glorified artist in residence like some writers (not that there's anything wrong with that), she has a Ph.D. in literature and knows linguistics inside and out. She reads for a living. I don't. She's basically interpreting the politics of racial representation in Hemingway's novel for a group of academics who probably don't usually consider that subject the way some of us do, but she's using the terminology of linguistics: "metonymic displacement," "pleonastic reinforcement," and all the rest. The main character is very macho - for instance, when he loses an arm, it's almost a joke that way he disregards it -- and he's very crass in the way he refers to African Americans (but also to Jewish and Chinese people, which, for her purposes, doesn't merit a mention). I agree with most of her observations, however, for me, when a woman dies her hair blond, I don't consider it a "reification of whiteness." That seems like some conventional wisdom of times past. And when the afro-Cuban man on the street makes some unwelcome comment to the main character's wife and he responds by punching him, Ms. Morrison describes it as "black sexual invasion thwarted." I don't. I've been in a similar situation, and I don't punch anybody out. I've also read her analysis of Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick, and while I find it interesting, it's not my interpretation, it's her subjective opinion. But why would she not want us to read her book in the same critical spirit that she reads other people's books?

"Sorrow" is raised at sea and survives a shipwreck when she's carried to shore by whales. In most literary universes, this would symbolize a person who's favored by the gods, if not a god herself. But she seems persecuted by Lina, the Native American character, who holds her responsible for the three boys' deaths. Sorrow has an alter ego, an "identical self" called "Twin," who disappears when she has her baby, at which time she changes her name: "Now I am Complete." (It's probably coincidental that the main character in Helen Oyeyemi's "Icarus Girl" also has a doppelganger; there are twins in Esi Edugyan's "The Secret Life of Samuel Tyne;" and there are characters named "Twin" and "Twin-Twin" in Zakes Mda's "The Heart of Redness." In the first two books, it might have some psychological meaning relating to adapting to two cultures, I'm not sure). Sorrow is described as "mongrelized." I think that's supposed to be the white equivalent of a "tragic mulatto."

I've mentioned the tragic mulatto, so let me say this. Ms. Morrison's "patrician" comments are in the Arnold Rampersad biography of Ralph Ellison, a book that's very dismissive of Ellison's "Juneteenth. That's okay, it's an opinion, like when she calls it "a book that didn't need to be written," however, when she labels it a "tragic mulatto story," I have to disagree. If you know the story, I think you'd agree that the chances of "Bliss" not being a "mulatto" are far greater than him being one. It makes more sense in context of Ellison's thesis about culture.

Another thing that Rampersad says about "Juneteenth" is that it's like Faulkner's "Asalom, Absalom!" because it's told in a series of flashbacks. Well, many stories are told in flashbacks, in fact, the book I'm currently reading, "Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone" by James Baldwin, is, so far, mostly a series of flashbacks. What's unusual about "Absalom, Absalom!" is that some of the flashbacks are "imagined," and as I remember, some crucial pieces of information about the "racial" identity of Charles Bon (or whether he is a "mulatto" or not) are contained in one of these "imagined" flashbacks.
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Steve_s
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Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 - 03:02 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Lina and Faux-Native Culture: Pan-Africanism by Proxy?

Lina seems like a throwback to the "noble savage" of centuries past, the idealized concept of the "primitive," unspoiled by civilization, except that in some ways this novel describes paradise despoiled.

A praying savage, neighbors call her, because she is once church-going yet she bathes herself every day and Christians never do.


As I remember, "A Mercy" is set in late-17th century Maryland (it's interesting that Bacon's Rebellion in the Virignia Colony is mentioned in passing, by date only), but Lina comes from somewhere in NY state, either the Hudson valley or somewhere farther north.

Her people had built sheltering cities for a thousand years and, except for the deathfeet of the Europes, might have built them for a thousand more.


This is not literally possible. Lina may be a Lenape or Algonquin, but these northeastern tribes did not build "cities" like those we associate with the Hopi pueblos of the southwest or the cities of the Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas of Central and South America. Lina's people may have built long huts. Inuits and Aleuts built another kind of structure.

"Europes" is faux-naïve terminology for white people intended to indicate that this was a period in which "race" had not yet been codified and institutionalized. Calling Lina a "native" (small "n") is a politically-correct compromise between "Native-American" (too anachronistic) and "Indian" (too politically incorrect, heaven forfend!), but neither term is possible. The characters in this book would either call Lina an Indian or whatever she calls herself, a Lenape, an Algonquin, or a Human Being (and I mean that literally, I read somewhere that some aboriginal peoples may have called themselves human beings and called everyone else by another name).

Lina relates some faux-native folklore (or is it "fakelore"?) to Rebekka. She tells her that her that her dead children are "stars in the sky" or "yellow and green birds" or "playful foxes." "Pagan stuff, but more satisfying than the Judgement Day rhetoric of the Baptists." (not an exact quote, but close)

More of Lina's native folklore about acquisitiveness:

One day a traveler climbs a mountain nearby.  He stands at its summit admiring all
he sees below him.  The turquoise lake, the eternal hemlocks, the starlings sailing
into clouds cut by rainbow.  The traveler laughs at the beauty saying, "This is
perfect.  This is mine."  And the word swells, booming like thunder into valleys,
over acres of primrose and mallow.  Creatures come out of caves wondering what it
means.  Mine.  Mine.  Mine.


The last part is the basis for one of a number of "semantic reversals" in this novel. I'll come back to this "Mine. Mine. Mine." a little later.


But more importantly, I don't think there is a cultural connection between the Native-Americans of 1650 in what is now the Northeastern United States and the Inca Empire of a century earlier in Peru. Ms. Morrison is implying a "racial" connection, but there is no Pan-Amerindian culture any more than there's a Pan-Asian culture, and if there were, Ms. Morrison wouldn't speak for either one. I was once standing with a Japanese friend of mine on the street in NYC when we were approached by a Indian woman asking him for directions in Spanish because he looked Indian to her.

The rules of property ownership disenfranchized certain natives, to whom it all belonged.


The NY Times reviewer's response is to cop to it. Maybe he owns some choice property:

Does anybody own the earth we all inhabit as brothers and sisters? From that perspective, property really is theft, and if you don’t think Europeans did the thieving, I’ve got $24 worth of beads I’d like to sell you.
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Steve_s
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"Crossing the Continent 1527-1540" by Robert Goodwin

It's a good book I've been reading about a black conquistador named Esteban Dorantes (1500-1539), sometimes called "Estevanico," for instance, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, however, I don't understand why they use the diminutive. Although he was a slave, a squire, more or less to another man, he was ultimately appointed by the viceroy as the military commander of a religious expedition sent to establish a permanent route from the Spanish imperial capital at Mexico City, into Arizon and New Mexico.

Here's the review in the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/11/AR2008121102957. html

I'll post a couple of excerpts from the book, which will explain better than I can the climate of violence in the conquistador culture, the beginning of slave trade, the conquest of the Americas, and the genocide of Amerindians. These things are not inherent to Europeans.


1.

The Reconquista: Why Sketches of Spain Matters

In AD 711 an Islamic army crossed the narrow Strait of Gibraltar, a channel only eighteen miles wide separating Spain from Morocco--Europe from Africa--and quickly overran the weak Spanish kingdom. In the mountains of the far northwest, a few Christians resisted these invaders, but Islamic Spain soon developed into a great intellectual and artistic culture and its principalities and caliphates became centers of religious and political tolerance. Still, occasional periods of puritanical fanaticism led to social unrest and cultural censorship. During those periods of trouble and conflict, the tiny Christian kingdom in the far north was able to expand its territories and grow in strength.

The relationship between the Christian north and the Muslim south was complicated. Mostly, alliances were formed and broken with no regard for religion. But the call of the crusade or jihad was a potent political force, and from time to time border conflicts degenerated into outright holy war. More often than not, the Christian Spaniards won those wars, so that eight centuries after the Islamic invasion, almost all Spain was Christian once more. Finally, in 1492, Granada, the last remaining Islamic kingdom, capitulated to the Catholic Monarchs, as the joint King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, were known.

The character of Christian Spain had been defined by this long history or reconquista, the "reconquest." It was a history of bloody battles, border raids, hostage-taking, and ransom. Spain was a land of warlords, overmighty aristocrats who won their wealth by violence and who ruled their estates with an iron fist. They were proud of their warrior status and their pure Christian heritage. Blond and blue-eyed, they despised work and commerce, the business of peasants, Jews, and Muslims. But there was no more of Spain to conquer. They had quite literally, reached the sea.

In the crusading euphoria surrounding victory over Granada, the rulers of Spain decreed that the Jews should convert to Christianity or be expelled. Legend has it that money stolen from these refugees paid for Columbus's voyage. That tradition is largely myth, not fact, but Columbus was able to manipulate the triumphant spirit of the age in order to persuade the Catholic Monarchs to support his proposed voyage to China across the Atlantic. [Robert Goodwin, Crossing the Continent 1527-1540]


2.
For centuries only a few black slaves at a time could be brought north across the desert by the camel trains. But the number rose dramatically when the Christian Spaniards and especially Portuguese defeated the last Islamic kingdoms on the Iberian peninsula. Eight hundred years of the reconquest, eight centuries of continual conflict, had forged a warmongering culture and a warrior aristocratic class. The Portuguese now turned that bellicose and acquisitive approach on Africa, taking control of important Muslim towns such as Azemmour and exploring far down the west coast, raiding for slaves.

For six centuries the Portuguese had ridden side by side with their Spanish cousins, waging holy war, pursuing a crusade against the Muslim presence on the Iberian peninsula. But by the early 1400s, the Spaniards had claimed exclusive rights of conquest over the last Islamic kingdom in Spain, Granada, a place far from the Portuguese frontier, steeped in romantic legend and ruled by indulgent sultans from their opulent palaces of the Alhambra.

The Portuguese aristocracy had a long and noble history of winning their spurs by waging war on the frontiers of Christendom and Islam. But now, without that religious borderland, they were deprived of an infidel adversary and instead went to war with Spain. The fratricidal butchery continued until shedding the blood of fellow Christians began to weigh so heavily on the pious Portuguese monarch and the Spanish king that a truce was called in 1411. But peace brought a new problem: a generation of Portuguese noblemen who had been bred for war faced the unexciting prospect of living out their lives as gentlemen farmers on their estates at home, idly watching the Atlantic waves break on the rocky shores of their isolated homeland. [ibid, p. 91-92]


3.
The textile market of Mexico, Cortés claimed, was even richer and more sumptuous than the wonders of the silk market in Granada. The mention of Granada was doubly charged with significance for the Spanish monarch, Charles V. Granada was the Islamic jewel in his many crowns, a former Muslim stronghold that was for centuries an Oriental thorn in the side of Catholic Spain. It had long been a reminder of the 800 years that Spain was culturally part of the African, eastern, Asian, Islamic world.

But in 1492 the city had been recaptured by Charles's grandparents, the Catholic Monarchs. Suddenly, the cloud was lifted and the Spaniards lost their sense that a mysterious, alien world was a threatening presence close at hand. With the fall of Granada, Spain felt that the real, truly mysterious Orient might one day be hers to conquer.

Columbus had believed he was landing in China when he first set foot on the shores of Cuba in 1492 and had sent ambassadors inland to communicate with the Great Khan, but it was quite clear to Cortés that Mexico was not the east. [ibid, p. 45]


4.

The basics are certainly true. A small force of Spaniards, perhaps as many as 1,500, seized control of the mighty Aztec Empire [...] They had in fact managed to capture the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlán, later renamed Mexico City, only because they were supported by a coalition of indigenous armies drawn from a population long subjugated and persecuted by the Aztecs. [ibid. p. 4-5]


5.
The Requerimento, the "Requirement, or Mine. Mine. Mine.

This peculiar document had its origins in some of the strictest interpretations of Islamic Shari'a law, medieval interpretations that had once encouraged Muslims engaged in holy war (jihad) to enslave non-Muslims wh refused to accept Islam. Reinvented by Spanish bureucrats for use in the New World, the Requirement must be one of the most ludicrous legal institutions ever conceived of by a lawyer or legislator. It was an official statement of crown policy toward subjects in the New World. All Spanish conquistadors were obliged to have the document read out loud in the presence of a notary and other crown officials whenever they formally took possession of a new territory on behalf of the Spanish sovereign.

As a result, from the date of its institution, the Requirement was regularly read to empty beaches, forests, mountainsides, and deserted villages. Often it was read to utterly uncomprehending Indians who understood no Spanish and so had no idea what it meant.
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Kola_boof
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Username: Kola_boof

Post Number: 4876
Registered: 02-2005

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Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 - 03:07 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Steve_s,

How great to see you again! :-)

Thank you for being so kind to me
on my return...I've ALWAYS admired
you and appreciated your genius
(not to mention your literary
KNOWLEDGE!).

I owe you an apology...

I thought you meant Morrison's
remarks about something else
---NOT calling him patrician
and that word's ties to "A MERCY."

I guess I can understand now
why you might have the right
to be upset with her.

Imagine if someone called my
precious Alice Walker "country"
or, as someone actually did piss
me off when they called Morrison,
"Old".

Sorry, King.

SO GREAT TO SEE YOU. :-)

If you have a "KINDLE"
you might want to read one
of my books on it, too.

(Hint, hint)







(I KNOW...it's a bit much
but I'm so happy to see you
again!)
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Kola_boof
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Username: Kola_boof

Post Number: 4877
Registered: 02-2005

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Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009 - 03:25 am:   Delete Post View Post/Check IP Print Post    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)


P.S.


STEVE said:

I read somewhere that
some aboriginal peoples may have
called themselves human beings and
called everyone else by another name



That's very true of Africans as well.

At least the tribes I've known
--Oromo, Nuer, Shilluk, Dinka.

Nubians over age 50.

On my birth mother's side, I was taugh
that only "Black People" are
Human beings (aka "normal").

Especially my Auntie Ramah believed that.

Like in Sudan, we call ASIANS "The Foon"
(sort of like a cotton worm, but from
rice).


















.

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