Demonization and Domestication

[Edited to add a warning about a disturbing bunny incident. If disturbing bunny incidents bother you, skip on to something else.]

The Professor’s blonde colleague is a hoot and loves my dog, just to admit my bias towards her up front.

At dinner on Saturday, she was talking about her work, which involves interpreting the ways medieval Japanese Buddhist culture incorporates non-Buddhist deities. And she was talking about how it’s clear that the deities are at first demonized–all of their worst traits are foregrounded–and then domesticated–all of their best traits are foregrounded and their worst traits downplayed–before they are wholly integrated into the medieval Japanese Buddhist world-view.

Obviously, I know nothing about this, so I don’t know if the Japanese Buddhist part of it is right.

But I’ve been thinking a lot all weekend about this “demonization and domestication” shit, because here, folks, is some wisdom.

The Professor just sent me an email which reads, in part, “The future will not always resemble the past.” She says that I can’t always know what people are thinking, “So stop trying. Continue forward on your adventure.”

This is why I love the Professor: this is how the conversation about my being too judgmental continues, with her sitting at my personal crossroads, laying out for me my two choices. Get tangled up in trying to anticipate what other people want from me, which, of course, I can never accurately guess, or move forward.

For a mere mortal, she does a passable impression of Legba when the situation calls for it.

I was thinking about sitting in the bathroom of our house in Winston-Salem, perched on the edge of the tub listening to my father telling me that the Butcher had been arrested.

I was so pissed off I got in my car and drove home to kick his ass.

When I got there, of course, he was already out of jail and there was this air around the house like “well, the worst thing that can happen has happened and now we will just deal with it.”

When they just suspected him of dealing drugs, he was the thing they were afraid of. Once they knew, they could let him back into their hearts.

Demonization and domestication.

The Professor says “The future will not always resemble the past.”

I can’t quite bring myself to believe this.

The recalcitrant brother and I have a strained relationship. I think that’s the best way to put it. He doesn’t know what to do with me. I don’t know what to do with him.

Once, he ran over a nest of rabbits with the lawn mower. It was an accident and the only time I can remember seeing him cry. He ran in the house and found me and begged me to do something.

I went outside, saw the baby rabbits scattered around the side yard, legs and ears detatched, heard them whimpering, and went to the garage and got the shovel.

I had this idea that I could just bash their heads in and give them a relatively painless death, like the boys at the stockyards who stand above the chute, sledgehammer poised, to do in the cows that survive that far.

It didn’t work, though. I don’t know if I wasn’t strong enough or if the ground was too uneven, but all I was doing was hurting them worse. I remember them screaming, but I don’t think that really happened.

In the end, I took the sharp edge of the shovel, put it against each bunny’s neck one by one, and stood on it, figuring that decapitation meant death, which meant an end to suffering.

I haven’t thought about that in a long time, but last night, I dreamed about Rex L. Camino’s dog eating bunnies in Rex’s side yard while I was drowning in a pond behind his house.

I used to dream I was drowning all the time, when I still lived in Illinois, that I’d be sitting in a chair or laying in my bed as the water rose around me and for a while, the chair or the bed and I would float up, but then, eventually, we’d settle back down on the floor, completely submerged in the darkness, and just as I was breathing that muddy water in (in my dreams, I’m always drowning in the Mississippi river, even if the river is just a pond in Camino’s back yard), I’d wake up gasping for breath.

That’s how I woke up last night, startled out of drowning.

I was telling Sarcastro this morning that many people don’t really want to be active participants in life. They want to sit back and let shit happen and react to it or bitch about it, or whatever.

I can tell him that, because I know it’s true, because that’s how the people I love work.

Not that I blame them. Shoot, I’d love to do it too, if it didn’t make me so desperately unhappy, because it’s sure easier.

But it’s imperative that I learn to live in the world, to be happy, and to be lucky.

Not only for my own welfare–though, obviously, that’s first–but for the welfare of the people I love. There are so many ways that stupid crap echoes through our family.

But I have this idea that good things could work that way, too. That someone could dare to be happy and open and alive, even if she wasn’t sure exactly what that might entail, and that those things, too, might echo through the family.

So, I think it’s not true that the future will not resemble the past. What else could it resemble? But the future will not be identical to the past, because it also has to resemble the present, which, as the Professor keeps reminding me, can be made to suit us.

I’m sure this was going somewhere, but I can’t quite remember where. Still, I’m feeling kind of good about things and so I think I’ll just end here in this happy place.

Conservatives, Make Ready Your Fainting Couches

I agree with Andrew Sullivan that, in the end, looking at the results of someone’s judicial decisions instead of the reasoning that got him to that decision really is utterly pointless. As old Sully puts it, “What matters is not the result of someone’s decisions, but the reasoning that led to them.”

Now, of course, I don’t completely agree with this. Obviously, the results matter.

But look at this stuff from the American Progress Action Fund. “Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade”; “Alito would allow race-based discrimination”; etc. It’s clear that they’re basing this on the position he ended up holding. Fine, but what I need to know is how he got to that position.

There’s a big difference between “Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade and I know it because he doesn’t rule pro-abortion every chance he gets” and “Alito would overturn Roe v. Wade because, as you can see from the wording of this ruling, he doesn’t think there’s any constitutional right to privacy.” One is alarmist hand-wringing and the other is a reason that people can rally behind.

Maybe it’s the weather, but I’m just disgruntled with the Democratic party today. They just assume that they can continue to rally the Left behind them because the alternative sucks so much. And, I guess that the disgusting truth is that they can.

But I wish they’d treat me like a god-damned grown up and give me some well-reasoned reasons to dislike a guy I’m clearly ready to dislike, rather than hauling out my issues like little flags they wave to rally the troops behind.

I Reject Constructive Criticism

So, this weekend both the Professor and the Butcher told me I was too judgmental, that I am unforgiving of the ways in which the people around me aren’t perfect.

The Professor even threatened to beat me up about it. And since, unlike me, the Professor doesn’t go around letting her mouth write checks her ass can’t cash, I think she’s serious.

I’m kind of shook by it, I’ve got to tell you. Especially because, when I thought about it this morning on my walk with the dog, I came up with a lot of good reasons why I’m that way, but no good arguments that I wasn’t.

The Butcher says, “I just don’t know why you care. It doesn’t affect you. Can’t you tell when things don’t affect you?”

No, jackass, I can’t.

See, that’s what I mean! Right there. The Butcher is offering me constructive criticism and I’m getting angry and defensive.

Anyway, this should probably go some place meaningful, but I’ve got nothing. If the two people you’re closest to in the world tell you that you’ve got to do things differently, then you’ve probably got to do things differently.

We’ll see how it goes.