On Banning Gone With the Wind

As most of us know by now, HBO MAX pulled Gone With the Wind from streaming video. I don’t blame them. This is a movie that makes the Confederate South seem like a place where the slaves loved being slaves, and where the way of life was all fine and dandy until those pesky Northerners butted in.

Here are the opening credits, according to IMDB:

“There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South… Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow… Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave… Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilization gone with the wind…”

Make no mistake: This movie glorifies a system that should be shown as the ugly, racist, deadly and ignorant thing that it was. Slavery and everything that came with it is not pretty or gallant. It isn’t a dream remembered. It’s a nightmare for which this country should be truly ashamed.

But this movie is also a work of art. The cinematography is stunning, and the costumes are even more so. In the 1940 Academy Awards, it won an Oscar for best actress, best actress in a supporting role, best director, best writing, best cinematography, best art direction, best film editing, and best picture. Whether we like it or not in modern times, it’s a classic.

I do not believe in censoring works of art. What I believe in is providing context for those works that are offensive. This movie should be forever linked with a disclaimer/explanation/warning label. It should discuss how these views and opinions seemed acceptable in 1940, but we have come to realize how unacceptable they really are in modern times. It should come with links to other movies, books and articles that more accurately portray American slavery. It should warn that this film’s racism and misogyny will be offensive to many. It should also warn us not to fall victim to the false nostalgia that is Gone With the Wind.

I think everyone should see this movie and learn from it. It is a gorgeous work of art. I hope will never be created again, but it’s there, a huge boulder in the center of our cinematic culture, and we should acknowledge that. We also should celebrate that so many of us now find this movie inappropriate at best. You might say that we should all give a damn.

(Oh, and it’s rumored that Clarke Gable had really bad breath, so think of that during all the kissing scenes. Poor Vivien!)

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“Oh, Rhett, please take a breath mint!”

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The Church of the Random Word Generator

Here’s why I take exception to the implication that any multi-language translation of an ancient text is the exact and perfect word of its author: Have you ever used Google Translate? Seriously, most old texts that are still studied today have been through so many idioms that the very idea that they bear even a passing resemblance to the original intent is laughable, at best. And even if you go to the original documents, in some notable cases, they were written 40 years or more after the events in question took place. Could you accurately describe something that happened 40 years ago? I couldn’t.

In addition, ancient scripts were written in the context of the times, and now we’re attempting to interpret these messages through our modern lens. That’s like dropping a modern teenager into the year 1530 and expecting that kid to fit right in. Whatever, as they say. Good luck with that.

Now, you also have to realize that many of the texts that came down to us came without spaces between words, or even vowels and punctuation, and you can see where the finished version that we currently rely on is a little sketchy in terms of accuracy and original intent. So maybe those words were separated rather, um, randomly.

I’m not bashing your religion. I’m just saying that rigidity is not the way to go. Add common sense into the mix. Throw in a dash of critical thinking. Remember that historical context is everything. Then you can be as spiritual as you want. Amen.

But thinking about all those translations and all the loss of integrity that has crept in over the years as various people added, deleted, and changed things, has made me think of my old friend, the Random Word Generator. What if religious texts got so altered over time that the words seemed random, and we were forced to interpret that mess?

I decided to do a little thought experiment. I pulled up a fairly standard version of The Lord’s Prayer (which is the only religious thing I know by heart), and I determined that it was 71 words long. Then I asked the Random Word Generator to spit out 71 words. Whoa, Nelly. That makes for one strange religion.

For added fun, I broke up our random words as if they were the Lord’s Prayer, giving it the same word count in the stanzas, and the same punctuation as this English version, and wound up with this:

The Lord’s Prayer (as per the Random Word Generator)

Record Pause, bronze stuff pottery shoot,

route drown attitude Photocopy,

compose write hallway,

curriculum bold cultivate racism,

worm harass death rotate staff crown protest.

Ice campaign elect snack adult conservation strict.

Roll traffic self inside license,

age convince limit crosswalk

witch wrong jump master.

Charm building treat electron mirror winner,

glare recession gold competence wrestle.

Eat concentration grain hurt bang,

wing ensure miracle, pool hen train,

Museum victory carry pity. President.

If I tried hard enough, I’m sure I could find some great advice in there. It might even alter the way I live my life. There does seem to be a certain level of violence implied as well. (That’s something that most world religions can’t seem to avoid.) It also shows hints of politics, a little bit of economic socialism, and it has me thinking that maybe children shouldn’t be able to get drivers’ licenses at the tender age of sixteen.

Hmm…

Heiroglyphics

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Facebook Drops a Bomb

Recently I got an e-mail from Facebook. “Today is Chuck’s birthday! Let him know you’re thinking about him!” A better question would be, when am I not thinking about him? Since his death my life hasn’t been the same.

Were it not for Facebook I might have made it through that day without the occasional heart squeeze of memory. It might have been business as usual. I might not have been sitting here in a blue funk.

This is not the first hand grenade Facebook has dropped into my life. It does this “memories” thing, which I’ve turned off in my settings on multiple occasions, but it always seems to pop back on. Memories of Chuck. Memories of beloved dogs that have since passed away. Memories of my cock-eyed optimism that never quite panned out. It sucks.

I don’t suppose it’s Facebook’s fault that I lay my life out on their site for the world to see. They don’t know which memories are happy and which ones I’d like to forget, or at the very least, remember at a time of my choosing. Their algorithms don’t allow for the fact that context changes. People change. Memories change.

And then to make matters worse, I went and visited Chuck’s still active Facebook page. (I just can’t quit him.) He was so loved. And I saw a picture of him that I’d never seen before. That cut right to the heart of me. There he was, sitting, being his unwittingly sexy self. I wonder what he was talking about? He was smoking a cigar. I hated when he did that. But if I could have him back, he could smoke one every single day, for all I’d care.

So far, the joy I get from connecting with friends and family on Facebook far outweighs the occasional shiv to my ribs that it delivers. I guess it’s not Facebook plunging the knife in, really. It’s life. It’s just life.

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Chuck.

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Context is Everything

God, but I love Seattle. And of all the unique neighborhoods that make up this city, my very favorite is Fremont. If houses went for something less than a half million dollars and actually came with parking spaces and decent sized yards, I’d live there. I do believe that this quirky, artsy neighborhood may in fact be the center of the universe, as its residents claim.

And right in the center of that center, so to speak, is a 16-foot communist-era bronze statue of Lenin, straight out of Czechoslovakia. The first time I saw it, I almost drove off the road. (I bet he gets that a lot.)

Needless to say, this statue is more than a little controversial. Lenin was the architect of destruction for millions of people. An indescribable amount of evil was done in his name. This is not a man that should be glorified by anyone. At a time when this nation is struggling with whether to keep or tear down its confederate monuments (Get rid of ‘em, I say. Check out my blog post here.) why would anyone even consider letting a statue of Lenin stand?

Context, I say. Confederate statues are still revered by many in the areas in which they were erected. More and more, they are becoming rallying points for hate rallies. Many of them were put up with an agenda, during the era of Jim Crow. They say, “Never forget who’s boss here, boy.”

Fremont’s Lenin, on the other hand, is mocked. People like to sit on his head during parades. His hands are often painted blood red, which I think should be a permanent change. He’s been dressed in drag during Pride week, and has been known to sport a clown nose. People pose in front of him, making funny faces. If that statue says anything at all, it’s, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen.” And thank goodness for that.

Unfortunately, this statue is a source of pain for some. That does make me sad. I hope the fact that in this case he is depicted in front of flames and guns, and the idea that no sane person looks upon it longing for that point in history, as many of the viewers of the monuments of the confederacy are wont to do, will bring people some level of comfort.

So, as long as the current context remains, I hope that this Lenin will remain standing. Lenin, with a clown nose and a tutu and blood on his hands, has much to teach us about the follies of the past.

It’s been for sale for years, by the way. $250,000, or best offer. So if you’re looking for a 16 foot communist lawn ornament (although I can’t imagine why you would be), there’s one available in Seattle.

Lenin
The Fremont Lenin, with blood on his hands and “murder” written on his leg.

 

Clowns in Context

Clowns get a bad rap. Many people are really freaked out by them. It’s ironic, when you think about it. Most clowns (unless they are pedophiles or serial killers), only want to make people laugh and smile. They are simply there to entertain. Very few career paths can make that claim.

But I’ve known several people who are coulrophobic. I get it. Clowns are masked, essentially, so you can’t be sure of their true intentions. And there have been plenty of evil clowns in media and literature.

For me, it’s all about context. Clowns don’t bother me at a circus or a festival or a children’s party. But put one in a dark alley, or in a tunnel, or at the edge of a forest, then, yeah… no bueno. At that point, even my instinct to think the best of everyone would be severely challenged.

Every once in a while, the world experiences a creepy clown epidemic. Teenage boys (the origin of most ill-conceived ideas) will dress up as clowns and wander the streets, making people nervous, or actively trying to scare people. If this is something you’re thinking of doing, I’d strongly encourage you to change your mind, because if your clowny ass tries to scare me, rest assured I will punch the red nose right off your face. And if I manage to stop there, you should consider yourself lucky, bozo.

Clowns

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Sphallolalia

I learned a new word today. I enjoy enriching my word power. But I fear that in this case my opportunity to use this term is rapidly diminishing.

sphallolalia     “sfa-lO-‘la-lE-a

Noun

  1. Flirtatious talk that leads nowhere.

Origin

From the Ancient Greek σφάλλω (sphallō, “to stumble”) and λαλιά (lalia, “talking”).

I do love to flirt. There was a time when I couldn’t get through the day without at least one good flirt. But I was younger then. Thinner. And the range of flirt-worthy men seemed much wider.

But I have always made an effort to avoid being inappropriate with my flirting. It’s all about context. I would never flirt at work. I never flirt with someone who is subordinate to me in any way. I never want to intimidate anyone or give them the creeps. I only flirt if I’m certain that at the very least it would be taken as a compliment.  If I knew you were in a relationship, I’d give you a wide berth. Unlike Trump, I’d never grab anyone. That’s not acceptable. Ever.

Flirting was fun. But I’m starting to feel that the older I get, the more awkward it becomes. That, and I’m getting pretty gun shy after years of rejection.

So I’m entering a new life stage. Henceforth I won’t be initiating sphallolalia. That’s probably for the best. In retrospect it kind of sounds like a disease. But if you hit me with some sphallolalia, I’ll most likely respond in kind. Fair’s fair.

flirt

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One Slap at a Time

I am convinced that the reason so many violent and/or abusive people in this world get away with their bad behavior is that we have a tendency to break things down into separate incidents. If you look at a wife beater’s conduct one slap at a time, for example, it should still be considered unacceptable, yes, but it’s a lot easier for society to discount. (That is, unless you are on the receiving end of such treatment.)

When forming an opinion about someone, it’s really important to look at the totality of their actions. If an individual has a bad day and is moderately nasty only once, and shows some form of contrition, that’s one thing. But if that person is moderately nasty the majority of the time, that tends to add up. Working or living with someone like that can be exhausting.

It’s an insidious form of abuse, because to the outside observer, who is seeing only one incident, it may appear that the victim of this abuse is overreacting. But context is important. That’s why it’s so vital to speak up. If you don’t share that history with the wider world, then you enable your abuser.

Think about it. Before police agencies were able to share information about criminals, they were able to get away with a lot more. They could just continue their shenanigans in a different city, county, state or country. Now it’s not quite as easy to turn crime into a career.

We are still lagging behind, though, when it comes to disclosing the behavior of domestic abusers and the small percentage of the mentally ill who pose a danger. Knowledge is power. Until dangerous behavior is shared among various social agencies, there is no way we’ll be able to reduce the number of tragedies that occur every single day.

The system is broken. It needs to be fixed. That needs to be a priority. How many more people need to die before it becomes one?

abuse