Maybe The Pro-Lifers Will Give My Brother $6,000, You Know, for the Baybeez!

So, yes, my brother is a dumbass, the kind of dumbass who probably needs Stacy Campfield to write up some legislation to protect him from the women he fucks and his own dumbass decisions.

That’s fine.  The thought of him sitting in jail makes me want to throw up and cry.  But then I think, well, at least he’s not in jail in metro Atlanta, and then I feel like a bad person for being grateful for that, since there are a lot of sisters with dumbass brothers sitting in jail in Atlanta and those sisters must be scared shitless.  I feel for them.  I am also scared.

Instead, I’ve been thinking about my parents, scrambling to come up with the money to get him set free.  I don’t say anything.  It’s their money; they can do what they want with it; and if it makes them feel better to spend it all on the recalcitrant brother, well, bless their hearts, they should spend it on the recalcitrant brother.

I guess.

But here’s also what I’ve been thinking, America.  I’m not sure how much money they have left to throw at him.  They threw a great deal of the inheritance they got from my grandmother at him.  They’ve thrown a great deal of their own money at him.  And now they’re scrambling to get a loan or, perhaps, to cash in my dad’s life insurance policy, in order to get him out of jail.

I don’t talk to them about their finances.  I don’t talk to them about how much money they throw at the recalcitrant brother, because a.) I know if I needed it, they would find a way to help me just as much and b.) I don’t think I could stand to know.  It’s got to be literally tens of thousands of dollars over his adult life, I think.

I don’t know where it comes from.  I worry that my dad has been fudging the truth about why he hasn’t retired.  Every year it’s some story about how the church is dicking him over on his insurance, and every year I’ve bought into that, especially because it seems like, for the past couple of years, there’s been real talk about him actually retiring when he hits 65.  But I’m worried they’re spending their retirement money on my brother.

And, if so, I feel like we have to have a talk about that.

Because, America, I can’t support them.  It’s fine if they retire and go to work at Walmart or something–you know, retire from these jobs to take other jobs.  It’s fine for a while.

But a point will come, I assume, when they won’t be able to work.  And they’ll have to have some money to live off of.  I don’t have it.  The Butcher, obviously, doesn’t have it.  And the recalcitrant brother sure as hell doesn’t have it.  If they don’t have it, they are screwed.

I am scared shitless that they’re going to need me to take care of them and I’m not going to be able to afford to do it.  I can’t even tell you.  I’m sitting here just staring off into space between sentences at the thought of them needing to move in with me.

I rent.

I don’t have a spouse.

I especially don’t have a spouse whose also pulling in a decent salary.

What will happen if I have to feed them and put a roof over their heads?

How am I going to do that?

If you are the praying sort, please pray that my parents are not stupid enough to squander what little retirement they have trying to save my brother from himself and the evil women he fucks.

Thank you.

p.s. Not to mention how shitty a blog this would become if every entry started, “Today, my dad yet again reminded me of how fat I am and how no man will ever love me because I’m ugly and bossy.”

Random Things That Made Me Laugh, Even as I Pounded My Head Against My Desk

–“Coweta County Sherriff’s Department.” […] “Ma’am, you’re not alone.  Many of us have dumb-ass brothers.”

–“You can pay by check made out to the Superior Court.  Call over there and see where to send it.”

–“No, you have to pay in person over to the jail.”

“But the jail said I had to pay you guys.”

“No.  You have to pay in person over to the jail.”

“But the jail…”

“Ma’am, just call his lawyer.”

“Do I give the money to his lawyer?”

“I’m not authorized to talk to you about individual prisoners.”


John Work, III Recording Black Culture

John Work is one of those people you wish you’d been fortunate enough to meet.  His sons are brilliant and charming and both funny and gracious in a way that feels like they must have grown up in a house full of laughing people.  And Work’s taste in music is evidence of a man driven by love and curiosity.

But what can you do, history being what it is?

I’m lucky enough to have just gotten my hands on an awesome CD but out by the Arts Center of Cannon County–John Work, III Recording Black Culture–which is a collection of music that Work collected over his life.  The packaging itself is just beautiful, a real treat, and the booklet is informative and will bring anybody unfamiliar with Work up to speed.

But, of course, you want to know about the music.  Well, I’m not through the whole thing yet, but so far, it’s a hoot and a real tribute to the pockets of talent around the South.

The first two songs are a couple of black fiddle tunes, which sound, to my untrained ear, very strange and archaic.

The third song, “Daniel Saw the Stone” has this neat little bit where the backup singers sound like a skipping record while the lead singer sings over them.

“Shine on Me” is much slower than I’m used to hearing the song, but I suspect someone in the unnamed quartet agreed with me, because there’s one voice who always sounds on the verge of breaking out into something more up-tempo.

“I am His, He is Mine” is the only female-sung song on the album and it’s a hoot and it ends with this kind of sung-prayer with the women providing back-up harmony to a male voice praying, while someone nearer to the microphone keeps shouting “Have mercy.”  You get a real sense for the ways in which the music in church services is an integral part of shaping the congregation’s emotions and experiences.  Very interesting.

Then there’s a cut by the Fairfield Four and one by the Heavenly Gate Quartet, a work song, some congregational singing, a blues song, and interview with Muddy Waters, and one example of “Colored Sacred Harp” singing.

There’s a lot of religious music on the CD, so if that’s your thing, I think you’d get a big kick out of it.

I think the other thing about the music is that it really exemplifies just how the sacred and secular lie together like two teenagers who promise themselves they won’t let things get too out of hand, and before you know it, a foot is tapping, a hand is clapping, and hips are wiggling, wiggling, wiggling, together until American music is born and reborn again and again.

“No, I cannot forget where it is that I come from.”

The trouble with privilege, of course, is that the system is designed to deliberately blind you from the suffering of others, to make it hard (or, in some cases) nearly impossible to imagine yourself in the position of the person who is suffereing.I think that Elle, phd is spot on today with her description of how that works in the case of black women who’ve been victimized. She’s talking about how “strange” it is that, suddenly, Megan Williams’s outstanding warrants must so urgenly be served against her, so that a woman who just got out of a prison of sorts, where she was held for a week against her will, ends up back in a holding cell. See how easily we slip from feeling sympathy with her? When we first found out about her plight, she was a victim of a bizarre crime just because she was black.

But wait (slip and slide away from her), she knew her attackers. But wait (slip and slide some more), maybe she even dated one of them once. And wait (slipping further from her), she herself is a criminal.

She’s not like us. She’s not us.

Those things would never happen to us. We’re good.

Sometimes, though, you get a glimpse of what it is that the dominant culture would like from black people. And watching the Jena 6 stuff and the Megan Williams stuff, it seems like what we want from black people is for y’all to have no ties–not to each other, not to your families, not to the community, not to history–and that y’all walk around complete blank slates. Something happens to you and you’re just supposed to be confused and surprised. Something happens to another black person you know (not that you’d really know them, but maybe you’d have heard some rumor about them or something) and you don’t draw anything from that about how you might be treated. Nope, I thnk you’re really supposed to be a people without history, without ties.

Let’s talk about small towns. I’m from small town America. I graduated in a class of 47.

I’m not from small town American in the same way most folks are, because my dad’s a Methodist minister and so we moved from small town to small town, but because of that, I’ve seen my share of how they work.

There’s some good stuff to be said for small towns. But let’s not kid ourselves–for a lot of people, they’re not easy places to grow up.

And folks who don’t understand how small towns work can pretty easily misunderstand what’s going on in them.

I mean, please, of course Megan Williams knew her attackers. Of course she probably socialized with them. She lives in West Virginia, for gods’ sake. How many people in a sixty mile radius of her do you think she didn’t know? Hadn’t socialized with to some extent? Is it really surprising that she’d been in stupid trouble before? That’s the kind of trouble folks get in (until you get meth involved, and then, Christ Jesus).

That’s what the heartland looks like. These are those “values” folks on the coasts are always crowing on about. You know people. You get into stupid trouble. You get a reputation. It sticks with you for the rest of your life. Things seem fine on the surface and underneath, bad trouble.

I mean, not to be flip, but that’s the fucking point of almost every Stephen King book ever written and he’s a best selling author. You think he’d sell so well if that idea–heartland America, fine on the surface, bad trouble underneath–didn’t resonate?

Now, let’s look at the Jena 6

CNN is reporting that the U.S. attorney responsible for reviewing the case doesn’t see any tie between the nooses hanging in the tree in front of the high school and the fact that six black kids beat up a white kid.This is laughable on its face.

Is there any person from small town America who doubts for a second that those two things aren’t directly related?

The U.S. attorney says, “there were three months of high school football in which they all played football together and got along fine, in which there was a homecoming court, in which there was the drill team, in which there were parades.” In other words, since everything appeared fine on the surface, it must have been fine. But who in a small town would believe that?

When I went back for my 10 year high school reunion, I had a girl bawl me out for a good ten minutes in front of everyone for thinking I was better than everyone else back in high school. Twelve years she’d been carrying that shit around, twelve years in which she saw me a few times and seemed perfectly happy to see me.

You think some kids can’t carry with them for a few months the fear and anger they must have felt at knowing they lived in a place where you could still have a “white tree” and where the simple act of sitting under it would lead to an implicit threat on your life?

And, while we’re being honest, is there one person here who doesn’t know that the message of those nooses was “You be afraid, ’cause we could hurt you.”? And is there one person here who doesn’t get that beating up that white kid wasn’t a message of “No, you be afraid.”?

First of all, that’s how boys work. You just have to hang out with teenage boys for, oh, say five seconds to hear “Fuck you.” “No, fuck you.” And second, we used to kill black people that way. Not that long ago. Within the living memories of the families of those boys. When they saw those nooses there, they had some tough decisions to make, decisions with old implications.

Do they trust the authorities to take care of it? To really get the level of the threat? Well, they tried that. And the kids got suspended for a few days. Yeah, if you walk into a school and announce you’re going to kill random people, you get tossed out. You walk into that school and make a gesture that threatens the deaths of black people and you get to come back to school.

Do they just take it? I’m not excusing their behavior. It’s wrong to kick the shit out of people. I’m asking though, for you to put yourself in the position of a teenage boy. Are you just going to take it? Or are you going to be a man and do something about it?

Again. I’m not excusing it. I think we have fucked up notions of what it mean to be a man and those ideas put boys we love in harm’s way, repeatedly.

I’m just saying, there was a time when black people, when confronted with a whites-only tree and then some nooses hanging in it, a time not very long ago, when they would have just had to take it. Proving to yourself that you no longer live in such times can be a powerful motivator.

I don’t know. I feel like I’ve gotten off track a little.

My point is that we talk about the heartland as if it’s one thing, when we all know that it’s another. Well, that it’s that one thing and that it’s another. It is the smooth surface and the terrible deep.

Why can’t we just admit that to ourselves?

I don’t know.