Probably Not What the Southern Poverty Law Center Has in Mind

The nephews were watching two Chinese dudes cross the road when one of them started and the other joined in with “Hit the Mexicans!”

This continued until my brother threatened to smack them. He then said, “What the fuck are you running around being racist when you can’t even tell your races apart? I don’t want to hear shit about Mexicans when you don’t even know what a Mexican looks like.”

Needless to say, it was both funny and mortifying.

I don’t know. I just get bummed out when I think of my family, in their own clumsy ways, trying to instill in us this notion that people are people. And here, unless the Butcher gets on the ball right quick, goes our family line descending into this nonsense.

Is there any way to combat that? They’re so young and it just pisses me off that they’re already picking this shit up.

Mack and I were having a fight the other day about Aaron Sorkin* who, on one of his shows–Studio SportsWing, maybe?–, was having this discussion about how (so I guess it was Studio 60) this small town in Missouri or Kansas or where ever, you know, out here were we golly gee just don’t know any better but to be so gosh darn ignorant had banned their high school from doing some musical–Grease, maybe–and the show in the show was going to do some joke about this and then they found out that everyone in that small town works at a chicken processing plant** and that’s the only industry and these folks are just hard-workin’ god-fearin’ folks who just want to bring their kids up and so maybe we shouldn’t make fun of them.

Holy Jesus, this pissed me off. One because it just seems so patronizing to me. Oh, don’t criticise the hicks. They’re just hard-workin’ (etc.) folks trying to do what’s right. As if trying to do what’s right makes you immune from criticism. And two, look at what they think is right!

It’s not right to raise your kids to be afraid of being exposed to ideas that are different than the ones you hold. It’s not right to demand that your children be kept ignorant because that’s all you’re comfortable with. It’s not right to let your fear of art or the bigger world or whatever dictate what other people’s kids can do. And it’s really not right to ignore what people who dissent from your views in your own community say just because you think you have the line on what’s moral.

Romanticising what passes for “what’s right” out here in the heartland is bullshit.

Look at my nephews. That’s what half of their families think is “right.”

Oh, Atlanta, I pray for you to grow right out to the Alabama border. Shit, grow farther than that. Stretch out I-20 and I-85 and blanket my nephews in urban sprawl. Please let them go to school with and become friends with kids who are different than them.

I don’t know.

Aside from the fact that I’m embarrassed to know they’re picking up on that crap, I’m also worried for them. I want them to have good lives and I don’t want them to be limited in their choices.

At the end of the day, that’s what pisses me off about it. That they’re being trained to be reactionary and afraid, to view people who look different than them as remarkable because of it, and those attitudes are going to make their lives hard.

How do you counter that?

Can you?

*Note to readers: When around Mack, it’s just easier to pretend like Sorkin is a genius. No, I know, you’re thinking “No, I could totally have that fight with Mack and win.” You cannot. He will glue you to his couch and tape your eyelids open and force you to watch as much Sorkin as he has Tivoed until you’re, for some reason, compelled to walk up and down his hallway with him having rapid-fire exchanges about foreign policy, your love for a wayward prostitute (or coke), and how much bloggers suck while his kids run in and out of their rooms throwing in pithy rejoinders at appropriate times.

It’s not worth it.

**And is dying of TB, brought here by time-travelling illegal immigrants! No, not really, but wouldn’t that be great?

Edited to Add: Upon discussion with Mack, I want to say that a.) I was wrong for jumping down his throat and want to2_20.jpg publicly apologize; b.) He has a brilliant point, that one mustn’t let small town politics distract us from larger political issues and that we do run the risk of being grossly patronizing to small town folks if we only focus on their short-comings as if we are so much better; and c.) he is so awesome that the women of Iceland, whom he has never met, put up this statue in his honor just based on the legends they’ve heard of him.

11 thoughts on “Probably Not What the Southern Poverty Law Center Has in Mind

  1. Not to get us distracted from the important content of this post, but I gotta say that Mack’s strategy for winning the Sorkin is a genius argument should actually be his downfall. I mean, I like Sorkin just fine; however, he only has 2 or 3 genius ideas and they are about storytelling, not new plots or positions or anything. So, when you watch one episode at a time, then you can be impressed. But when you line a bunch of them up, especially from different shows, then you see that they aren’t really different and he’s just good at giving the appearance of such by switching genres. Okay, I guess I do think he’s kinda brave for some of the social and political stances he takes, but it’s on TV not in Washington.

  2. Ahem. Me thinks the word genius gets used a little too easily these days. I watch all things Sorkin because unlike you and all of your friends, I ain’t educated and things don’t come quickly to me. I’m not particularly well-read, and I am not smart enough to pass judgement on what a very successful television writer is doing wrong. Particularly if his stuff entertains me.

    I was a huge fan of West Wing. It wasn’t because I thought Sorkin nailed down the inner workings of the White House, but because I really like fast paced dialouge. Also, i came to care about the characters. I have no doubt alot of the appeal was because most of the characters echoed my own biases. Guilty as charged.

    I loved Studio 60 for the same reasons. I felt a connection with every single character in that show. The head writer, the Lorne Michaels character, the television exec, even the hick sheriff and his deputy. I’ve been to Pahrump. You want me to say he didn’t nail that fucking town? No way.

    Every show I have ever loved was at times schlocky and over the top.

    Bloggers suck? Talk about over the top. Or are you just flexing your hyperbole muscle?

  3. Oh, and I know how it is oh so cool to proclaim you do not watch television, but I’ll admit that I do. Interpret that episode any way you like, but the point that the woman comedian was making was, to me, that banning a production of Grease at the local high school may indeed be ignorant, but there is nothing to be gained by calling them out for it. She was right, it was a cheap shot, intended for the super well educated to get, and no one else. I didn’t know what a “Midsummer Nights Dream” was about. The irony would have been missed by most people. I live in a backwards-ass small town, I’d hate to be made fun of because the local school principal did something stupid, like, …I don’t know…passed out bibles in class? (Oh wait….)

  4. A.–I did not say bloggers sucked. That’s Sorkin’s pet pony to ride, not mine.

    B. You’ve been an adult in small town America. I’ve been a kid.

    C. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Fuck you, with that bullshit. Don’t you even fucking dare pull that “Oh, I’m just a lowly stupid ass, unlike you and your fancy brainy friends” crap on me. God damn.

    God damn. Fuck you.

    How dare you think, even for one second, that I, in any way, look down my nose at you?

    First, bullshit on the not being well-read. Is there a room in your house that’s not stacked with books? Is there not a topic about which you’re interested that you don’t don’t set out to make yourself an expert about?

    Two, bullshit on the things don’t come quickly to you. You’re a city kid from LA. You single-handedly have turned yourself into a gentleman farmer. You decided three months ago that it might be fun to have chickens. Yesterday, I stood next to your half-done chicken coop.

    No, you know what? Fuck it. I’m not going to sit here and refute this nonsense point by point. If I had heard anyone else on the planet spouting such fucking hateful nonsense about you, I’d be pissed and heartbroken and have to fight them.

  5. A.–I did not say bloggers sucked. That’s Sorkin’s pet pony to ride, not mine.
    Mis-read, apologies for that. I thought you were inferring I said it. (Though I do think some blogger suck. ;) )

    That said, a few too many fucks yous for my tastes. I didn’t say that you and your friends look down at me. I was making the point that while Sorkin’s platitudes and themes and what have you might indeed be “too cute by half” for those with degrees in history or literature, his shows have made me think, and go look stuff up, and then I am frequently laughing out loud all by myself. Do I care that I am late to get the joke? Nope. Somehow, that makes it more funny to me.

    True enough, I know too many people sporting paper from big name colleges that should only be manning a cash register. I’m not afraid to learn things, I’m afraid not to.

    C. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Fuck you, with that bullshit. Don’t you even fucking dare pull that “Oh, I’m just a lowly stupid ass, unlike you and your fancy brainy friends” crap on me. God damn.

    God damn. Fuck you.

    Not very Sorkin like, really. He’d have left room for a pithy rejoinder or two…

  6. I feel like my highly educated ass has been hit by a drive-by and I didn’t even get a chance to comment yet. I have no opinion on Sorkin; I’ve never watched more than five minutes of any of his shows, but not because I’m a snob. It’s because I watch TRULY STUPID TV when I watch TV. Dancing with the Stars and such. And I live in a ass-backward big Northern town whose residents embrace hair-raisingly narrow views on race, provincial social values, and entertainingly corrupt machine politics. So fucking relax already. Nobody’s patronizing you or questioning your intelligence, except maybe on your coyote- and hawk-feeding plans for free-ranging your chickens.

  7. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Fuck you, with that bullshit. Don’t you even fucking dare pull that “Oh, I’m just a lowly stupid ass, unlike you and your fancy brainy friends” crap on me. God damn.

    Oh, that’s just Mack pulling a “but everyone here works in a chicken-plant” on you.

    That said, Mack is right that Sorkin is a genius. He is a genius at writing dialogue. When it works (Sports Night, The West Wing), a show has a rhythm and sound all its own. When it doesn’t (Studio 60), nothing in the show works. Obviously, that’s a question of taste, but my taste trumps Mack’s and he’s wrong about that show. The only character in Studio 60 one could care about was the Steven Weber network chief. I wanted them to do a spinoff show about him and his wacky deadpan Chinese boss. I would watch a show like that forever.

    Of course, Sorkin occasionally being a genius doesn’t stop him from being an asshole from time to time. This, I think, is what you object to, B. But, really, if Mack can get you to walk up and down the hall exchanging witty and significant banter, what are you complaining about?

    As to the real point of your post, at least each of your nephews has a parent teaching them not to be racist. They’re going to find out that some grownups they love find it hateful, and that’s going to have to count for something.

  8. NM, bingo on that Steven Weber character. “How many words do you know?” “All of them”.

    Sorry it didn’t work for you, so many potentially interesting characters. The show always felt “rushed” to me, and wasn’t my fave, but still head and shoulders over most TV fare.

    All of this has detracted from the more important point, NM. I liked your answer, but if the overwhelming number of adults echo similar sentiments, B runs the risk of being dismissed as “my bleeding heart Liberal Aunt up in Nashville.” Perhaps. Or, maybe they will only listen to her instead of their parents, like my kids do…

  9. Well, I can only hope. I have failed, so far, to be as bad an influence on your children as I’d like to be. But I’m working on it.

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