I’m Covered in Petroglyphs and Other Random Things

1. I am both confused and delighted. What is this? What does it mean? Where are the critics who can explain this to me?

2. The arrival of a girl from Fulton, Mississippi in the comments to this post, to explain why they just had to have a second prom sounded so real to me that it gave me chills. I mean, that, right there, is the truth, unvarnished. There will be backtracking, later, but rarely do you see someone speak so frankly about why the majority had to exclude a minority and how they experienced it as being justified. I wonder, a little bit, if her second comment isn’t an indication of the realization that what sounded good and justified in her echo chamber sounds like evil to regular people. I don’t know. It’s interesting. You do wonder what it’s going to mean for those kids that the class of 2010 in Fulton, Mississippi did this–that you’ve done something so wrong when you were so young that you’re never going to live down. Do you become hardened to it or does it eventually kick you in the soul?

3. I love Beverly Marrero. But, yes, we get it, State of Tennessee. You think women are idiot children who need your constant observation and guidance or else we breed properly. Yes, it’s insulting. But it’s also hilarious.

4. I guess you might say that the Tea Party folks have a broad range of views–from “we are not like the Klan” to “but if we were like the Klan, you’d be dead.”

32 thoughts on “I’m Covered in Petroglyphs and Other Random Things

  1. 2. No, it looks to me like her second comment is dismissing all the criticism with “I’m sorry I hurt your little fee-fees, you oversensitive radicals.” But I could be misreading. I didn’t go to my own prom, considering it a celebration of nothing much. But to want to go to your school’s celebration and to me treated so cruelly … how wrong.

  2. I grew up about 1 hour from, Fulton Mississippi. I have relatives that live in Fulton, Mississippi. There are a lot of good people in Fulton, Mississippi.

    So to lump a whole town in together b/c of the actions of a few, well, that’s counterproductive to the whole argument in my opinion.

  3. Yes, Beth, but almost everyone who could go to the prom went to the secret prom and only the rejects went to the real prom. That’s not the whole town, but that’s a vast majority of the seniors (and juniors, I’d assume) and the parents who helped organize it.

    This isn’t just a few bad apples. This is some serious rot that the people who chose to go to the secret prom are going to have to live with.

  4. I’m not saying you’re wrong about bad apples. I’m just saying it’s wrong to lump in an entire town.

    Interestingly enough, a friend of a FB friend commented on it yesterday over there. As it turns out, this person said that the parents of the other girl, her date, filed “statutory rape” charges against McMillan. Not sure how true that is. I haven’t talked to my family in Fulton. I”ll get the scoop soon, hopefully before I see you tomorrow.

  5. I understand what you’re saying, Beth, but here’s my problem: what is the argument to which ‘lumping in the entire town’ is counterproductive? As I see it, this would never have been a story had McMillan been allowed to attend the prom with her chosen date without opposition. Furthermore, McMillan has much nationwide (and global?) support, as well as the backing of the ACLU. But where is the local support? This is a case of a young woman being discriminated against for trying to do something that would have brought harm to no one. There appears to be much active local opposition to McMillan, but where is her active local support? With such widespread participation in this discriminatory (and, let’s face it, down right cruel) behavior, can one remain silent and not be an accomplice? How many massacres, pogroms, and genocides could have been stopped if all the regular, decent folk stood up in opposition?

    In fairness, I haven’t followed this story with any thoroughness, so it’s possible that a great many people in the town have been speaking out and standing up for McMillan (if for no other reason than to display basic human decency). It’s also possible that such support has been completely ignored by the shit-stirring corporate media. If neither of those is the case, then it seems we can, indeed, lump in the entire town.

  6. “It’s also possible that such support has been completely ignored by the shit-stirring corporate media

    You’re right about that. I actually know a lot of people, still in Mississippi, and from there (living in other places now) as well who support her. But that doesn’t sell newspapers or get website clicks.

    The media has this thing about kicking the state of Mississippi. It’s a wonderful state with wonderful people. But, unfortunately, that isn’t the popular spin on things – and it’s more fun, I suppose, to treat the state like “Mississippi Burning” – whether race or sexual orientation – is still the thing.

  7. Beth, I get what you’re saying about media/etc vs. Mississippi but….

    Ummmmm…. the majority of TCP readers & commenters (as well as the blogmistress herself) live in Tennessee. I’m sure you knew that.

    We’re not exactly untarnished by media slant & ridicule in these here parts y’know.

  8. Lynn, I couldn’t agree more with you about how TN is portrayed – particularly re: the fact that Appalachia is here. And yes, I know that.

    But being from MS, I hear a lot of really nasty things about it – the people that unusually nasty are most often times the people who have never set foot in the state. I once even had someone, who had just found out I was from there, literally ask me, astoundedly “But… you’re wearing shoes”

  9. I’m from Oregon, where we think nothing of going to the symphony wearing flannel shirts and socks with our sandals, and you all can go ahead and hoot away if you want. I’m not going to take it personally. If the rest of the country thinks we’re covered in moss and our women look like Tonya Harding and our men like Bob Packwood, it doesn’t bother me in the least. There’s a reason for stereotypes. Of course, I can take it because we have really good beer.

  10. that you’ve done something so wrong when you were so young that you’re never going to live down.

    Judging by their parents, the answer is “you get meaner and more defensive and extend your bullying to your children’s classmates”.

    I can too easily see something like this happening where I live (which is not Mississippi, nor even the US).

  11. I’m wondering about the involvement of school officials in the fake prom. Did they know it was fake? If they did, that just adds one more layer of sadness to the whole story, that students, whether they’re gay or learning disabled or whatever, can’t depend on the people who are by their very positions supposed to stand up and protect them from cruelty.

  12. I think it’s hard to say (but I bet the ACLU will find out). Fulton is a tiny ass town, about the size of the ones I grew up in (less than 4,000 people) and I can tell you, with assurance, that there is NO way this could have happened in any of my schools without the knowledge of the school administrators.

    But Fulton’s high school serves the whole county (which has over 20,000 residents) and is near to Tupelo, which is a small city/large town.and within easy drive of Muscle Shoals and other cities right across the state line.

    Once you realize that it’s not like they had to do business only in Fulton, it’s easier to imagine how they could have kept the school administrators out of the loop.

    Which is not to hold the school administrators blameless. They were the ones who told the girl to begin with that she couldn’t go to the prom with her date, thus starting the ball rolling.

    But I think we’re going to have to wait for the court to get involved again to get at the truth.

  13. A second student showed up to comment in that thread, and her take is even more appalling:

    as another student of IAHS i’m TIRED OF THIS. it has made me LOSE FAITH IN THE MEDIA.

    “NONE OF YOU KNOW CONSTANCE. she has been pulling this stuff for years and I doubt she’s a lesbian frankly. but whatever she’s got her college paid for and she got to wear her “different” tux and everyone loves her and she’s got exactly what she wanted. it is ironic that we are called the close minded when you all throw slurs at us and you don’t even know us. you’re all so hateful. all we wanted was a quiet night away from this mess and her but we have that taken away from us now.

    “and i don’t understand the disabled kids stuff, we don’t even talk to them, so stop judging. they could have come to our prom if they wanted to.

    “also i’m proud of our administration for backing us up by the way instead of running away from all of you. that’s courage, not trying to get away with wearing weird clothes. you all think she’s an angel..

  14. You know, if that’s really what these kids believe — that Constance McMillan is a lesbian because she’s just trying to get attention — then at least they are still left with the capacity to realize that she just pwned their sorry asses. Hard.

  15. Those kids feel entitled to enforce homogeneity, and their parents enabled them. At the root, their problem was that she wouldn’t be just like them. (Not to mention that they excluded the kids who couldn’t just shut up and pretend as well.)

    I’m having a hard time balancing my usual impulse to forgive teenagers for being assholes with hoping that some colleges withdraw admission offers.

  16. I’m actually hoping they do get into a good college, because Lord knows they need some exposure to a different way of looking at the world.

  17. and i don’t understand the disabled kids stuff, we don’t even talk to them, so stop judging. they could have come to our prom if they wanted to.

    For real? We don’t even talk to them so don’t criticize us? Oh, of course, if you exclude disable kids all the time but would have let them come to your party in order to point out that you hate a lesbian even more than you hate them, well then, that’s perfectly OK.

    All teenagers want homogeneity — even the rebels tend to rebel in certain approved (by their own small group) ways. I can remember. But that the parents involved haven’t gotten past it, have not only not taught their kids better but encouraged them in this littleness, that is dreadful. I mean, at the very least you’d think that a couple of the kids would be all open and tolerant just to freak the grownups out.

  18. I can’t speak for Fulton, but I can speak for my own hometown. Conformity is the rule. Everyone goes to one of 3 churches. All kids go to the same school. It’s like being trapped in an environment where you are constantly surrounded by the same people, and if you get out of line, there are social repercussions.

    In my hometown, the school system was a joke. My parents, and many other parents with means, sent their children to schools in neighboring towns (Tupelo, etc) or private schools nearby. And let me tell you, we paid a price. I can remember crying uncontrollably as a child because I wasn’t invited to a few birthday parties solely b/c the parents of these children resented the fact that my brother and I were getting more opportunity – actually, the way it was spun was that we thought we were too good to go to the local school.

    The way I see it, this isn’t about Constance being a lesbian. I know plenty of gay people in Mississippi – and they are all well thought of and liked because they are good people with successful businesses who participate in the community. Constance’s “sin” was to rock the boat. That’s just not acceptable in a small town. It’s like people can’t wrap their heads around that notion.

  19. Beth, I get what you’re saying. But these two kids, in their comments, seem to be saying that Constance is constantly rocking the boat, just by being an out lesbian. Just by existing, ya know?

  20. I get what you’re saying, NM. And, it sucks, but that’s the mentality I was trying to illustrate. If a person doesn’t color inside the lines, that’s rocking the boat.

    the mentality: well, it’s pathological.

  21. I don’t know whether it’s pathological. But I think that saying that’s it’s not about her being a lesbian (I mean the kids’ claim that it’s not; I don’t mean your explanation) is an outright lie. Since the way she rocks the boat, colors outside the lines, whatever, is by being who she is. And it seems to me that that lie ought to be an entry into the wrongness of it all: get them to see that her living is not an affront to them, is not something she’s doing as an affront (good grief, does a person have to do more than write that sentence to perceive how wrong their attitude is?) and the falseness of all the rest is evident.

  22. I can’t speak to much of this. I grew up as homophobic as any straight white kid in the south. Then I entered the real world and made friends some of whom were gay. The man I am is different from the boy I was.

    I know you folks want change to happen more quickly in small town America. And you are correct to scream and shout at the cruelness and not stew silently. You can scorn the parents, they are likely permanently broken. But the kids are just now entering society, those that get away and travel a bit will probably be unrecognizable in 10 years.

    I doubt they will carry scars of shame, they’ll simply accept young people do stupid things and try to teach their children to do better.

  23. I think the notion that “she’s doing it to get attention” can be viewed as a simple projection. They can’t stop focusing on her and the thing that makes her different, so it must be her fault somehow, not theirs. It’s a simple rationalization of their own uncomfortable thoughts.

    By the way, among the photos of the shadow prom that were posted on Facebook, there is a photograph of two female attendees with the tips of their tongues pressed together, much in the same way porn stars do. In other words, it wasn’t a lesbian kiss, but rather the use of female homosexuality as a device to titillate young men. That told me all I needed to know about what was going on here.

  24. I have to agree with Beth about this. This is a small town thing. Maybe not every small town, but many of the ones I’ve lived in (and not in the south, obviously) have this same recognizable level of ridiculousness.

    I mean, I think, nm, that, if I understand Beth clearly, you and she are talking past each other. It is exactly her living that is an affront to them and thus everything she’s doing is an affront. It’s not that she’s a lesbian; her gayness is just one more way for them to get at her.

    But I assume, based on what I saw happen to kids that were perceived as “wrong,” is that she has always been “wrong”–that they’re not lying when they say that, for them, it’s not about her being gay. I believe them. They probably hated her all along.

    I lived in one town where a couple of kids were ostracized the whole time I was there (from second grade through high school) and no matter what they did–played by the rules or not–they could not NOT be free from being picked on.

    And I watched teachers turn away from kids spitting on those kids or kicking them or pushing them down and even if your heart went out to them, if you showed too much compassion for them, you would get it just as bad as they did.

    Why? Who the hell knows? But I sure know that dynamic. And I do know that they are being honest when they make it seem like her living is an affront to them.

    It is.

    It’s like bullying, but the dynamic is… I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s bullying, but many of the teachers and parents go along with it and the ones that think it’s wrong still think you should just keep your head down and try not to draw attention to yourself.

    I think Freaky Weasel is right, that these kids will just grow up and, even if they have some conversion, it will, in general, not be something they think of as being very terrible, just something that they did as kids.

    Which is true.

    Every year, in the town I was talking about, a kid would walk in front of a train. There was always a lot of hand-wringing and tearful renditions of “Dream On” at the school dances, but nothing was ever done about the dynamic of the town as it played out in the schools.

    So, I have great sympathy for the “well, they’re kids and they’ll grow up” position. That is true.

    But not everyone kids, unmitigated by their parents and school officials, get a hold of do ever get to grow up.

    So, on the other hand, I don’t have much sympathy for it.

  25. B, you articulated very well the point I was trying to get across.

    I have to add this: the people who are coloring inside the lines — I honestly feel that there is an element of jealousy… a “how dare she/he”
    in that they’re so restrained by these unwritten rules of the society of which they live. And I truly believe that they (the ones persecuting) don’t have the guts or the wherewithall or whatever to stand up, dare to be different. In all this negative behavior they project onto the person marching to a different drummer, I see, at the heart of if pure resentment – that they wish they could do the same, but it just wouldn’t be acceptable.

    It’s like a John Hughes movie setup on crack.

  26. I dunno. I was picked on plenty at school, in grade school at least. I have always been pretty sure that it was because I was I was getting whomped on at home. I don’t mean that the other kids knew that, but I’m sure that they sensed something different about me. And different, to them, was wrong. Or scary, so that if they picked on me they wouldn’t get whatever it was I had. And it’s awfully hard for me to think that it hasn’t been about her being gay all along. Sure, it could have been about something else: she could have been learning disabled, or physically disabled, or a victim of abuse, or have had the wrong color hair, or anything. But all those wrongnesses ultimately rise up out of being things that they hate or fear. Saying that they don’t hate the sexuality, or the disability, or the haircolor, or whatever it is, is a lie. It’s just that they hated it even before they could articulate what it was.

  27. So, I have great sympathy for the “well, they’re kids and they’ll grow up” position.

    On the otherhand, our lives are a journey, not a destination, and how we treat others and are treated by others as children surely continues to effect us as adults.

  28. Beth’s comment at 11:37 is dead on. And I would hope that somewhere deep deep in their minds, the conformists are realizing that the prize for conforming for all of those years is that they got to go to a prom arranged by a bunch of evil assholes, for evil assholes. A young life spent conforming and that’s all you get. Not much of a deal, that is.

  29. NM’s comment puts me in mind of grade school. I rode the bus with a family of girls, and while they were all picked on, the youngest was picked on worst of all. From her first day of kindergarten she was tormented, and the only way her sisters could avoid being tormented was by tormenting her too. And when I stode up for her (which I was able to do because of the intense support I had at home from my parents, who would have skinned me alive if they’d have heard of my not sticking up for her!) my life went from middle of the road wallflower status to living hell- dog poop thrown at my head, daily verbal abuse, etc etc. It was insane. It was horrible for me, but it was horrible times a million for her.

    I went to a tiny little school in a tiny little community, and when I came home to visit years later as an adult and asked after the family, I learned that the mom and step-dad had divorced after it came out that the step-dad had been sexually abusing the little girl, daily, starting when she was a toddler (and the girl, eventually, had ended up in foster care). It is horrible, but it made a lot of sense to me on some level- of course she was already on the bottom of the pecking order. That’s why she was such an easy target.

    It’s terrible, that logic, but I see it. I see it’s there. And I guess I’m biased here, but I think its that kind of cruel logic that we’re supposed to transcend, as human beings with souls. I think giving into that sort of group think basically eats away at our souls.

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