Regarding Zimmerman being half white, Charles Reichley, a white columnist, asks an important question in a recent column:
--That means my part in this story is to be blamed for
what Zimmerman did. That is a small part of what it means to be a white
person — to live in fear that somewhere, sometime, a white person
will commit some crime against a minority, for which I will be held
Why must I feel compelled to condemn Zimmerman, or apologize for his actions?
I wonder — do other racial groups feel this way [ when
a crime is committed by one of “their own”? Do blacks feel guilty if
some random African-American commits a crime? Do “Hispanics” worry when
other “Latinos” do something wrong? Do Asians or the Irish or Indians or Aleutians feel it necessary to answer for wrongdoing by others of their respective “races”?--
The answer is "yes." People who have spent time around other ethnic groups know this. I suggest white people make more effort to associate with those from other cultures, and vice versa.
I suppose I can't blame it entirely on a single customer, but it's probably fair to assume that the man in the jeans overalls was the one who made my ulcer begin bleeding. I've not had a single day without pain since the day he visited the Town Clerk's office, which means I've not had a single day without nurturing the grudge I still hold, though the incident occurred more than a dozen years ago. I've been told that holding grudges contributes to poor health, but my grudge is warranted more so than others, or so I have come to believe, and since I have this biological, constant reminder of the man who gifted me with this malady, I see little hope that I will be able to eradicate the grudge or the illness.
The day my ulcer began to bleed was a promising looking Monday. The sun shone in that way it does when spring is about to spring. I had washed my car the day before and the rays bounced off the windshield. I had packed leftovers from the dinner I had made last night, namely, pork chops with carrots and potatoes. How I wish I could eat those things now without going into spasms!
I took the same steps I have taken for forty-two years now, noting someone had swept the winter's dust off. My key easily opened the entrance to the 1873 brick building, my other key, the cherry wood door to the office. The morning smell of my work space greeted me. Few things are more pleasant than the scent of a cleaned, polished counter, a freshly vacuumed carpet and a waxed, buffed floor.
Lights got flicked on, lunch went into the refrigerator out back, and I, ready for nine o'clock, took my place up front. It would be another hour before our part-timer, Janet Hornberry, arrived, and I looked forward to the next sixty minutes of quiet, because even though this is not a busy office, Janet can be a tireless talker. Rarely did I have to speak to anyone before ten o'clock. And on Janet's day off, I could go a full eight hours in silence, certainly a perk to the job, in my estimation.
Imagine, then, my surprise when the door opened and in walked an average sized man dressed in overalls, a greasy, tan, thermal shirt underneath and work boots.
"Can I help you?" I asked the early arrival.
"I need to apply for a marriage license."
His voice was of medium tone, neither high nor low, smooth nor grating. His face was neither light nor dark, his hair a vague hue of brown, his eyes an indecisive hazel.
"Okay, sir, here you are," I said in my usual polite tone, though I rather resented his intrusion.
"You need to fill out this information, and have your finance fill out these sections." I highlighted the areas, in the event he had poor recall. "And you both will also need to show two forms of identification."
"I can do that right now, then," he said, taking a pen from the coffee cup of writing instruments on the counter.
"That's fine. Your wife-to-be is outside, then?"
"Oh no, I have her right here with me."
I raised my eyebrows, but he did not catch my questioning look. He continued to write with his oddly clean, soft looking hands, filling in part of the spousal sections after he completed his own. He then handed me the form.
"Ah, I see your finance's name is Diamond," I said. "A lovely name."
"Yes, it is."
"And you said she is here with you?"
I waited an uncomfortable few moments, not looking at the man, for fear he was looking at me rather than taking the appropriate action. "And...you said she is here with you?" I asked again finally, understanding my apprehension had been justified.
"Yes, she is," he said, reaching into his front-bib pocket and removing what appeared to be a shred of greasy, white rag. Uncrumpling it, he dropped the contents into his open palm, the contents being, unbelievably, a diamond.
Admittedly, it was a lovely diamond, tear shaped, probably one carat, shined to perfection. Having purchased three engagement rings myself throughout my life, I knew there was little chance of that diamond being fake. Were it not for my professional position and shock, I surely would have asked to hold the gem, run my finger over the smooth top, turn it over, relishing in the points pushing against my skin. Instead, I cleared my throat.
"Sir, it is a wonderful diamond, and I am sure your betrothed will very much appreciate it, but I need her to sign the form and present ID in order to process any kind of license."
"Betrothed?" he asked.
"Yes, the woman you intend to marry."
"Well, I mean to marry Diamond."
"But I need to see her, or at least her signature," I said, growing a bit impatient. Clearly the man was being obtuse.
"You are seeing her. This is her."
I am not sure how long I paused because I cannot remember how many seconds or minutes it took me to process his statement. I could not possibly have heard him correctly.
I smiled and feigned a chuckle. "I think, sir, I misunderstood. It sounded like you said you are planning to marry this diamond!"
"That's what I said."
"But sir, you cannot marry a diamond." (If memory serves me well, I said this immediately, as if reminding customers that wedding inanimate objects is frowned upon is part of my job description.)
"Why not? It's not illegal, is it?"
"Actually, it is illegal, sir. Section five point three of the marriage code says..." I took out the legal handbook stashed in the drawer behind the counter. After reading the text, I looked up at him. "I'm sorry sir," I said, closing the book and returning it.
"Well, okay then."
He took the piece of rag off the counter and stuffed it back into his front pocket. The diamond remained in his hand.
"Would you be able to get me a little water, then?" he asked, as if he deserved compensation for an inconvenience.
"Certainly," I said.
I retrieved a three-ounce paper cup of water from the cooler in the back of the office.
"Here you are."
"Thank you," he said, raising his open palm to his mouth, popping the diamond in and drinking the water in one mouthful.
"Much appreciated," he said, smashing the cup and handing it to me.
I extended my arm to take his trash.
"Think nothing of it," I murmured. "Nothing at all."
This blog entry is courtesy of Pencil, the personage who reminds me I've been in some horrible relationships. Pencils are complex beings, men and friends whom I allowed to suck the life from me, people whom I have since divorced physically, spiritually and/or emotionally.
Have you ever been stabbed by a literal pencil? I have, and at a very young age. It happened quite by accident. I was in elementary school. The pencil was sharp. I did something and the tip punctured the palm of my left hand, the hand I write with. The unleaded point made a permanent gray spot under my skin. I am looking at it now. Okay, not this very second, because I am typing, but I just paused to look at the souvenir this pencil (un)kindly gave me.
Pencils can be dangerous, as is our friend Pencil. They can be frightening. They can be depressing. They can be exhausting. They can ruin our lives. They can be things we want to avoid but can't because they are requirements. "Take good care of your Pencils, children," says the teacher. "Stop losing your Pencils!" And, "Don't sharpen your Pencil down so much! You'll waste it." If you've had a Pencil in your life, you are well aware that society deems Pencils important, things to be cherished, even when Pencils can cause accidents and should be replaced by pens or keyboards, the more mature choices for developing human beings.
Why we mandate children use sharp objects is beyond me. We give kids dull scissors and don't allow them to use a stapler, yet, not only do we have Pencils forced on us, we often are forbidden or at least discouraged from switching to pens. After all, Pencil marks typically can be erased, leaving a few streaks to be covered with things like math problems. Sometimes overused erasers leave holes in the paper, but that's okay, because if Pencil's erasers are ground down to the metal, separate, pink erasers help Pencil out, ensuring enduring use.
Erasable pens, for whatever reason, have never met the standard, educational, institutional norm; they are said not to perform as well as Pencils. Graduating--evolving from pencil to pen--becomes a task not worth taking on because who wants to challenge an entire culture of Pencil-pushers? So we become accustomed to Pencils. We welcome them, buy packages of them, worry about running out, especially during a test. "Bring two, number two Pencils. Don't forget." We remember, sometimes bringing three, just in case. The sight, feel and smell of Pencil become comforting, familiar signs of promised success, even though we know if we allow Pencil to get too close, we can get hurt, or Pencil might break right in the middle of an equation. And while we think we are using Pencil, in reality, Pencil is using us, our hands, our minds, our muscles, our money, everything it takes to allow Pencil to function as prescribed by the powers.
Thanks to some great helpers, most of my Pencils are long gone, thank God. I use the computer far too much to allow a Pencil to get in the way of my work and relationships. This is not to say there are no Pencils in my life. There are, but they are relegated to one professional area with a sharpener that tends not to want to release them until they are ground down to the least hazardous material. My current Pencils get smaller and smaller, eventually becoming smooth nubs.
I am well protected when I am with Pencils as I assist the sharpener with the job of shrinking dangerous wood and graphite. At the same time, I have compassion for Pencils. They were manufactured. They were enabled. I don't believe Pencils should be condemned. I want to help make their sawdust into something better. Perhaps scrapbook paper. Yeah. Scrapbook paper. Now there's something pretty that smells good and keeps happy memories intact.
Like many short pieces, this poem was something that initially twitched in my head, like sections of a worm cut in quarters, which is how most of the poetry I must write introduces itself to me. I say "must" because once I start thinking about disjointed ideas, I naturally want to assemble them into something meaningful, even if the parts don't necessarily fit together neatly. I often call this process "synthesizing," something I do to make sense of what I can't quite grasp because there are so many ideas, perceptions, thoughts and feelings pushing through my blood and brain, I feel like I've got my own cerebral high-tide.
Since interviewing with Bill Golden at Prince William Life yesterday, I've been thinking about my own writing process. Considering one's own process is a fairly masturbatory activity--it can be amusing, self-indulgent, but not especially useful. Now and then I allow myself the pleasure, though, because in its highest form, examining the way in which we think and create can lead to higher functioning in our artistic, professional and personal lives. That's my theory, anyway, and I'll leave it up to you to test it. As for me, I'm using Bill as an excuse to deconstruct my latest Haynaku, which I don't consider an impressive piece or even one I would be interested in, necessarily, were I the reader as opposed to the writer. I am curious, though, about the places from which these six words sprung and what the words might mean. So, I am going to approach this Haynaku first as an audience member with questions:
1. Why does the narrator want to be remembered, or, why does s/he believe s/he might be forgotten?
2. In what way does the narrator want to be remembered?
3. Whom is the narrator addressing?
4. Why is the narrator not free?
5. When the narrator says, "I am not free," what does s/he mean?
6. What made you write this poem? Where did it come from?
In reading these questions, I realize I have set myself up for a bit of work if I plan to answer them, which I do. It is nearing 9 p.m. EST, and I normally don't get this philosophical or intellectually motivated after 7 p.m. or so, but like I said, I had this interview yesterday, and it has been a pretty stimulating week in general. In order to keep the neurons active but peaceful, then, I will generate some off-the-cuff answers which I will try not to edit obsessively.
Let's begin, but please indulge me by allowing me to name the narrator Pencil. Why? First, I don't want to deal with pronoun madness, that necessity of matching she/he with his/her in order to maintain objective gender identity since, presumably, we don't know if the narrator is male or female. I like "Pencil" because it is genderless--or at least it is in the English language. I suppose we could attribute all kinds of Freudian qualities to Pencil, and you could offer me a rest on the counseling couch to discuss why I chose the word "Pencil" as opposed to Pen or Window or Cloud or Dingleberry. But let's not over-analyze this. Pencil was the first thing that popped into my head, perhaps because there is one sitting here on my desk (though admittedly, there are hoards of items on my desk, so if you really want to play mind-reader or Sigmund, have at it. I assure you, however, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar").
That said, let's move on to the questions.
1. Pencil wants to be remembered, quite obviously, because Pencil doesn't want to be forgotten. Why Pencil might be forgotten is tied up in the words "I am not free," which means I will not be able to address these questions in any particular order. Poetry is rarely so linear in meaning, and besides, I am not a linear person, so I feel skipping to question 4/5 and moving back to 1 is justifiable.
4/5. Here are some theories about Pencil's lack of being free.
Pencil is a physical prisoner.
Pencil is a metaphorical prisoner.
Pencil is expensive to maintain a relationship with.
1. If Pencil is a physical prisoner, it would be easy for someone to forget Pencil exists. "Okay, Pencil, you're behind bars where you may or may not deserve to be, and it's a lot easier for me to forget about you and carry on with my own life. Bye bye, now." By saying, "Remember me," Pencil communicates, "No, don't do that!" I think the tone in which this version of Pencil says "Remember me" would be plaintive, perhaps desperate. Pencil fears the environment, the separation and potential for hopelessness, and rightly so.
However, if Pencil is a metaphorical prisoner (for example, a prisoner of the mind, a prisoner of a social system, prisoner of beliefs, prisoner of love, prisoner of sadness, etc.) then Pencil probably does not want to be left alone physically, but more so, Pencil does not want to be abandoned emotionally. In this case, "Remember me" could be a soft request put forth by a logical but feeling Pencil who is saying, "Please remember me because I'm not free to do what I want and/or need to do." There might be some tears here, but I don't sense as much drama with this version of Pencil, though maybe I'm just insensitive to Pencil's real needs and I should be referred back to the couch.
The third reading of "I am not free" puts Pencil at the head of the socio-economic line. Pencil reminds the reader who Pencil really is and what that means. Pencil is expensive. Pencil will tell you just how expensive it is to have a relationship with Pencil, and Pencil might not say it nicely. I can picture Pencil putting "Remember me" with the sarcastic emphasis of a question as opposed to a suggestion: "Remember me? Yeah, that's right. Me. The one who deserves that Mercedes. You want to keep me around? Prove it." This Pencil is neither sensitive nor sad, at least not visibly. Someone should break this Pencil.
3. Whom is Pencil addressing? I think that's a story yet to be told. In this poem, Pencil is doing the talking and we're doing the listening. So the answer to question 3 might be tied up in how we view ourselves. Are we physical prisoners? Are we people who would prefer to walk away from trouble or needy people? Are we people who fear institutions? Are we people who fear being abandoned? Are we people who do not feel free no matter what we are given? Are we people who, under no circumstances, want to be alone? Are we demanding people? Are we presumptuous people? Whom do we identify with--the physical prisoner? The metaphorical prisoner? The privileged?
6. I wrote this poem because I am a confused person with a lot of stimuli to metabolize. Since I've asked and answered all of my own questions, you can probably assume that, in some way, at one time or another, I've been the people I have written about, or at least I have connected with people like those I describe. This dynamic leads me to believe all writing is, in some form, biographical.
What comes out on paper or computer screen must originate from the mind of the writer, a mind formed by experiences, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, etc. We cannot create what is not in us, and what is in us are the things we are born with and gather throughout our lifespans. We can order things in a unique way. We can process. We can synthesize. But creation--the act of forming something from nothing--is not within our human capacity. It's actually a scientific premise. Matter is neither created nor destroyed. Neither is energy. And we are matter and energy. So are our minds and our work. So here, in this poem, and in this ridiculously long entry, I've not created anything--though it's possible I've introduced a goodly amount of circular thinking.
I'm not quite sure how to end this intellectual jaunt, and since I've been writing for more than an hour now, I feel I'm entitled to a lazy, abrupt conclusion. So here it is. The end. No more. No mas. Alla fine. نهاية
Added 4/11 "Poetry is always slightly mysterious, and you wonder what is your relationship to it." Seamus Heaney
March 26, 2012 — NEW YORK (AP) — The United States was the only Western democracy that executed prisoners last year, even as an increasing number of U.S. states are moving to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International announced Monday.
America's 43 executions in 2011 ranked it fifth in the world in capital punishment, the rights group said in its annual review of worldwide death penalty trends. U.S. executions were down from 46 a year earlier.
"If you look at the company we're in globally, it's not the company we want to be in: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq," Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told The Associated Press.
Unfortunately, I can't write to these Virginia leaders at the moment because I'm too outraged. I've heard there is little room for emotional responses to matters like these, so it's probably best I save any outbursts for blogs where I don't have to repress myself for the sake of bullshit politics and lawmakers who have never seen the bottom of a peanut butter jar.
Thank Delegate Patrick Hope (lead Patron), Delegate Jim LeMunyon & Delegate Michael Webert for Co- patroning HB 836 – Pregnant Prisoner - Prohibiting use of restraints by any Correctional Facility - defeated in Militia, Police Safety Subcommitte #2
Be sure to Read this--Letter: Cline's 'Shameful' Role... and let Chairman Ben Cline, & SubCommittee members-Edmunds, Wilt, O’Quin, Filler-Corn hear from you about this. It’s sad there was no recorded vote.
You can contact SubCommittee members at (let them hear from you):
I would like to thank David Cox for his column "Deliver Us" for informing the public of Delegate Ben Cline's shameful role in torpedoing a bill that would have prevented the state from shackling incarcerated women during their labor, not to mention Cline's even more shameful statements insinuating that women in prison actually DESERVE this sort of treatment!
I would like to add that, according to the Associated Press story, it was a representative from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture who described as "barbaric and appalling" the ghastly treatment of one Virginia inmate during her labor--to which Cline replied, "Does it show concern for the child for the mother to engage in criminal activity when she knows she's pregnant? Do you agree choices have consequences?"
Might I inquire why this subject was covered in a column and not in an editorial? I should think the public would be extremely interested to hear that our local delegate thinks incarcerated women deserve treatment which an anti-torture group deems "barbaric and appalling"--particularly when one considers his recent vote in favor of forced transvaginal ultrasounds. My goodness, what sort of individual do we have representing us?!
"That’s one of the great frustrations of African-American life, those times when you are standing right there, minding your business, tending your house, coming home from the store, and other people are looking right at you, yet do not see you.
They see instead their own superstitions and suppositions, paranoia and guilt, night terrors and vulnerabilities. They see the perpetrator, the suspect, the mug shot, the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginings. They see the unknown, the inassimilable, the other.
Language Professor Jordi Villasante graciously agreed to answer some questions about his experiences as a Mexican American who holds dual citizenship.
Jordi, thank you for agreeing to this brief interview. As you know, I've been advocating for immigrants, particularly Hispanic immigrants, here in Northern Virginia where a contentious debate over immigration has yielded negative effects within our communities. I'm interested in hearing about your experiences as a Mexican American living in the northern part of the United States. So let's get started.
Where were you born?
Mexico City / Mexico D.F.
You are a citizen of both the U.S. and Mexico. How did that happen?
Yes, I am a naturalized U.S. citizen and recently, proudly reclaimed my Mexican citizenship.
Do you think dual citizenship compromises your loyalty to the U.S.? Why or why not?
No, it enhances my love and loyalty for both countries.
Has there ever been a time you felt discriminated against in the U.S. or Mexico for your ethnicity?
Yes, in both places. Because I don't look like a typical Mexican, it was only after some people found out I was Mexican that they discriminated. It was in school and nobody knew or thought I was Mexican at first, but then some kids from California moved to the area. Of course, there are plenty of Mexicans in California, and they heard my name and asked where I was from. One day, our class was cutting through another class and the lights were off because they were watching a movie and an ignorant American kid yelled, "Mexican!" as an insult. I was really angry, and the teacher in the classroom we were cutting through did nothing about it. However, I must say, that the grand majority of people I've dealt with, have not discriminated.
In Mexico, I have been called a "rich white boy" because some people who live outside Mexico City are jealous of defeños (people from Mexico D.F.).
Have you ever witnessed discrimination against Hispanics in the U.S. and Americans in Mexico? If so, what happened?
Yes, and to my face as well: not knowing that I am Mexican, some Americans belittle and discriminate against those "no-good Latinos," as they call us. In Mexico, there is more resentment toward the U.S. government and not so much toward American citizens.
Why do you think discrimination against Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. is so prevalent right now?
People are afraid of the unknown. It's really ignorance and fear, as in most cases of discrimination.
How do you view the current crisis with immigration, and what are your suggestions for rectifying the situation?
The U.S. government knows about illegals and turns a blind eye due to cheap labor. If they regulated immigration and had more guest-worker programs, I think it would tremendously help the situation. Of course, to do this, the U.S. government would have to respect certain rights for the workers and pay them a fair wage.
What is your educational and professional background?
I have a B.A. in Modern Languages and Political Science and an M.Ed. I have studied in Mexico, the United States, Austria and Germany.
Thank you, Jordi. Your perspective is valuable, and perhaps we can dialog more about this in the future.