Things

–I’m less bothered by the people who don’t believe that anything happened to Shia LaBeauf than I am the women I’ve seen who believe that he’s telling the truth about what happened to him, but that it’s not rape because the point of his performance art was that you could do anything to him. He had, apparently in their minds, pre-consented to having sex. They also seem to blame him for not crying out for help, apparently ignoring the part where her boyfriend was at the door–keeping anyone who might have heard and helped him at bay.

I don’t know. Anyone who’s seen how people act around people with even marginal amounts of fame can’t possibly be surprised, I wouldn’t think, by this story.

But I think it’s a two-fold problem: we have a hard time as a culture accepting that men can be raped and we have a really hard time believing that women can commit the same kinds of wrongs that men can.

Still, man, people are weird about famous people. I have a harder time believing this didn’t happen than I do believing that it did.

–The Butcher made me listen to the slowed-down Robert Johnson recordings this morning. They’re going around again, for some reason. There are two hurdles that someone would have to overcome before I put any stock in this: 1. Both of his recording sessions were fucked up? But no one else who recorded on those days with that equipment was? 2. He had friends and people who knew him. Some of whom died very recently (and hell, some of whom might still be alive). Is there even a single person who heard him perform live who then listened to the records and said “Wow, that doesn’t sound like old Bob. It’s too high or something.”? He had a lot of musician acquaintances and friends who would have been familiar with recording processes. Did any of them say “Oh, god, that’s not at the right speed.”?

–Last night, I made chicken noodle soup for dinner and the Butcher caught me singing “Oh, black pepper, ram a lam” and he laughed so hard it kind of makes my day to think of it now.

I don’t think business ever had ethics, but otherwise

–The Nashvillains book is harder than I imagined. Here in the middle anyway. I have been thinking a lot about Alfred, lately, Andrew Jackson’s slave who’s buried in the Hermitage garden. A man long held up as an example of just how benign slavery could be and how much slaves might love their owners. His was, I guess you could say, a best-case scenario. Scroll on down to the green sign.

I have to give credit to the Hermitage, though, for trying to reckon with it.

I don’t know how to, really. I find myself using words other than “slave” to try to get at the scope of it, just because, to me, it’s become a kind of mental shield as well as a descriptor. It lets you narrow down to just one part of it. And, because of the weight of history, it feels almost inevitable. So, I’ve been using “enslaved person” but I’ve also been using “prisoner” and “captive.” Something that makes it clear that these people are not in this situation by accident of birth, but because of someone else’s ongoing decision to keep them in this condition.

But I have a mental block against that, too. I want to see the past as clearly as I can. And I still find this so horrific it’s hard for me to look straight at it. You just kept some people prisoner at your house. That was the fashion of the day. You sold your prisoners to others or exchanged them for new prisoners. You kept your prisoners’ children prisoner as well, but you often let them play with your children. Sometimes you raped your prisoners and they had your children. You took those children, your own children, captive as well.

This was normal. It’s what people aspired to–to be rich enough to afford your own prisoners. It was a mark of status to have captives.

It’s ludicrous. But I think it also sheds light on what was going on with guys like Jackson–whose prisoners had guns and could read and write, even though it was illegal for you to let your captives do so–or the Macons–whose prisoner, Jack, practiced medicine, even though it was illegal.

Why would men who imagined themselves free enough to own property and bad-ass enough to hold prisoners for generations submit to any kind of overarching authority? Each man is is own pirate enclave.

It’s one of those things that does make me wonder how the Confederacy would have ever actually governed, when so many slaveholders thought laws about slavery were dumb.

One thought on “Things

  1. I think people who hold up Alfred as an example of devotion to his masters are ignoring some of the most unusual details about his situation. As I understand it, the big house was left unoccupied for much of the time between Zkackson’s death and Alfred’s. The property remained in the family’s hands for a while, the fields were still worked, but the residence was shuttered most of the time as the family members lived elsewhere. That probably had little impact on the day to day lives of field workers, but it must have been a drastic change for someone like Alfred, most likely for the better. He probably gained a otherwise impossible degree of autonomy and took a certain internal sense of ownership over the house and it’s grounds. And then, after the state took ownership, there was even less of a regular monitoring of what he was doing there.

    I suggest that Alfred wasn’t loyal to the Jacksons so much as he was able to make their home his own. He knew he’d found himself in a truly unusual pocket of day-to-day independence that he’d be unlikely to recreate elsewhere. And of course part of maintaining that unusual situation would have been saying careful, reverent things about the president whenever pilgrims come by to see the president’s house.

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