Where’s Waldo? Martin David, entry #21

Waiting for Godot--OOPS! Waldo!

Some of us continue the hunt for a national identity: not where are we, but who are we?

Literati

Let me start by reminding everyone of my motivations, and the part I play in all this. I have grown up (or, at least, aged) in a country in which I was only vaguely aware of prejudices that have kept us from reaching our full potential.  I laughed at, memorized and even told racist jokes, “fag” jokes, Jewish jokes, Pollock jokes(oops!  My proof-reading professor from U of I advises me that Jackson Pollock was no joke–should be Pollack jokes!)  and probably  every other kind of joke that found its base in the humiliation of others. My reward was to be accepted by my peers. My own transformation ( still a work in progress) was not brought about by any life changing event at any specific hour and day. And I was never marginalized, except to be mildly rebuked for being “four-eyes” : wearing glasses since the age of five meant I was an intellectual,which, in the America I grew up in, was associated with being effeminate, a serious crime.

Yet, in all of us, regardless of the circumstance of our birth or position, is that tendency that can be either nurtured or bludgeoned to death: empathy.

Unrelated suffering (mild) in my own life opened me up to feel the suffering of others.  The suffering that many people are subjected to in this country is not random, but institutionalized, and I see hate being celebrated and promoted.  Like so many others, I have had enough, so I sought to use this website, these contests I sponsor, as a way to engage people in conversation, for victims and survivors of our institutionalized neanderthalism to share their stories, and for those growing up in America who were either passive or oblivious to the racist/sexist under-pinings of our culture to now be part of the solution, show the commonality of empathy for their fellow creatures, and let a healing begin. As Alex Haley ghost-wrote in the Autobiography of Malcolm X, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”

Is this overly ambitious?  Of, course, but I do believe this contest offers cathartic moments to those who share their experiences, and who leave comments.  I am dismayed that some of the commentary has devolved into personal attacks between authors, but my role is simply to provide the forum, unfettered except if stories or comments reflect overtly racist views or demean any category of people.  Other than that, sadly, you are free to tear each other apart, as some of you have done.This website, up until now, has always been about developing each participant’s skill to convey their thoughts and feelings by writing, a de-facto writers’ workshop.  Upon completion of this contest, we will return to that format.

I am intruding too much on the space of author Martin David, who offers what appears to be an experimental style and story in response to our contest. I do envy  Martin, who has been a life-long devotee to civil rights, marching, sit-ins, jail time. I regret I did not do the same. But it’s not too late for any of us, is it?

Here is:

Section from Novel-in-progress I Think this is a Short Journey

by Martin David

Stages of Attention

What are some of the other times and memories? Where does reality blend with fiction? He was born. He lived—a lot, a lot, a lot, and he didn’t die. Is that the whole story?

Weather: Blank

Political Situation: Blank

The stages of attention. First is noticing. Being aware of time and space and place and pace. What’s happening? Sound—going down—going around—coming around. Notice and know. Knowing means having a view. Viewing, observing, thinking. He started with knowing. Unfairness was what he was taught to know. Unfairness implies that fairness exists. Balance is fair. Scarcity in the face of plenty is unfair. That was the gospel on which he was raised.

The next step is complaining.

“Hey, that’s unfair.”

March with signs that declare, “Unfair.”

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, you are being unfair today.”

Complaining was a family business from before he could walk.

Another stage is negative action.

“Don’t buy—pass them by.”

“Look for the union label.”

Boycott, boycott, boy cott, girl cott, apricot, army cot, cottage cheese.

Don’t shop at Woolworth, don’t buy lettuce, don’t eat grapes. Avoid, evade, boycott, boycott, boycott.

And then came action. Action, take action, act now. Even sitting still can be an action. Sit down, sit in, sit down and stay a while. He sat down and they took him away. At an unfair construction site, and some friends sat down in front of a cement truck. All work stopped until the police dragged them all away. He had seen jails before. In one town he had been on the streets without a job or a permanent address, so they introduced him to their jail for a few hours before releasing him on the road to outward bound. In another town they let him sleep on a bench in their jail when he asked politely. Sitting down in front of the truck introduced him to another aspect of jail. He was caged; an animal whose stinking toilet was in public view. His sleep was serenaded by the shrieks of the junk sick junky in the cage across the way. Cold turkey withdrawal is not a movie you want to see, but better to see than be.  A pale white body stretched itself rack-like on a jail cell bunk until the skin looked like it would tear. A blue tattoo glowed neon bright against the whiteness of the tortured flesh. After a while the screaming died—but the junky lived—sweat soaked and vomit-splashed.

“While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”–Eugene Victor Debs

Jail is an action. Action is a stage of attention.

“Henry, why are you in there?” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Waldo, why are you out there?” –Henry Thoreau

********

Ready to play your part?

 

19 comments

  1. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    It’s hard to examine this fairly without seeing the rest of the novel from which it’s been excerpted, but I felt this was an example of the word games writers play before they get down to business and turn the raw ingredients into a compelling work. There’s talent but it’s not gelling here for me.

  2. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    In my appreciative opinion of your lyrical prose, beginning with “Even sitting still can be an action.” and ending with “After a while the screaming died – but the junky lived – sweat soaked and vomit-splashed.” remains the trimmed down, raw meat, choice cut of your entry, Mr. David.

  3. Michael Stang says:

    like old home week, eh?
    Back in the day, sixties coffee houses where street poets took over the mic, served strong Columbian with cinnamon (a new gimmick), and chocolate cake from next door…who could want for something more?

    Jail time prejudice for sniffers and chippers was third-world stuff. Stephen King was Warden, Africa’s David Koresh C.O.

    Trippy, Martin, just like those poets.

  4. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    “…but my role is simply to provide the forum, unfettered except if stories or comments reflect overtly racist views or demean any category of people.”

    Thorn, you have indeed published a story expressing outright bigotry towards a category of people, and to fail to realize that is not just to miss the teachable moment, but to kill and bury it. It is to condone views in direct contradiction to the purpose of this contest.

    I must further point out that comments did not devolve into personal attacks between authors, but rather into personal attacks on commenters who pointed out the bigotry in an essay expressed not merely as the opinion of the entrant, but as fact.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      There is a fallacy deeply cherished by some who regard themselves as “progressive” that bigotry can be aimed only at those regarded as minority or less-powerful populations, and not by them or by their supporters towards those regarded as being in the majority. One hears that in statements such as “blacks can’t be racist,” which is of course untrue. Anyone who despises an entire group or category of people and who ascribes to them collective guilt, rather than rightfully calling out individual perpetrators or unjust laws, is expressing prejudice. The history of the world demonstrates that the oppressed lose no time in becoming oppressors at the earliest opportunity to do so.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      (…not this story, of course, but a previous one, and I am of course responding to the editorial which introduces Mr. David’s entry.)

  5. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    I live by: 1) Considering one living being at a time as unique, not part of any group offering respect as a dedication to understanding them, but unwilling to condone toxic behaviours. 2) Considering toxic behaviours towards an artificially separated out stereotyped group as unacceptable no matter what the source. 3) Considering the use of bullying, force, priviledge, revenge or violent speech to be toxic by any individual or artifically assigned group. 4) Considering equality through the sobriety of civil dialogue, manners and listening deeply with respect towards all to be the hope towards a more decent Earth existence.

  6. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    On this Valentine’s Day of love not massacre, I will remind myself & those not on the staff of AWWYP that we are mere guests here, nothing more. I respected Mr. Sully, in June, asking his permission to submit to his publishing/editing site. I am grateful that he welcomed me & published my first story on AWWYP as written. He didn’t have to, but has. My goal as submitter, friend & commentator has been to uplift each author unless personally attacked which I was & others have been. My advice forward is to not respond to any insulter towards guests or staff. Please provide Mr. Sully & staff & guests the respect they rightfully deserve.

  7. Jeff Switt says:

    Unless this site is a mutual admiration society of “writers” who need a companion animal in their lap when reading comments about their submissions, any writer of sincere ambition should welcome all comments, positive and critical, and to see where others might be right.

  8. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    I think the distinction between combative/constructive writers’ groups/thoughtful beta readers/editor suggestions while preparing for publication & presenting a finished work on a publishing site is lost on some due to their lack of manners & authoritarian egos. This is not a social media site, but it is one of writers & readers who appreciate & encourage the efforts put into a finished piece of prose or poetry & the courage it took to offer their work to us. With that being stated, this contest/conversation is an opportunity to address the many forms of inequality to better all humankind, not to add to injustices & sufferings too long ignored.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      When bigoted screeds are accepted and published as entries to a contest intended to examine bigotry, with the apparent excuse that they reflect the passion of the author, it may fairly be suggested that an editor has failed to fully appreciate the meaning of words.

      Prejudice and generalizations expressed about any group of people remain prejudice and generalizations, regardless of the pain experienced in an individual author’s life that an essay may be intended to relieve. This is why discussions of injustice and bigotry are so difficult to conduct with rationality.

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

        …and though dialogue has been invited, it cannot honestly be conducted when assertions of fact, in entries and elsewhere, are unsupported by evidence, and to point that out is regarded as attacks on writers and commenters.

    • Jeff Switt says:

      Which, by your definition of this site, renders it just above an 8th grade oration of “What I did This Summer,” followed by polite hand clapping.

      • Lady Pafia Marigold says:

        As I add you to my will-not-engage-anymore-in-life-list, Mr. Switt, I will remind others that the original 9/2017 prompt was to imagine ourselves as an eight years old child (not 8th grade) seeing the “Drinking Fountain” plate & asking our parent or an adult what the plate means. I included this prompt, but realised that in 2017 by age eight, US children are aware of hate crimes & global threats from news & social media. I choose a naive child from a planet which solved all of these in their past by uniting not dividing their own. Inequalities & hate crimes still exist in the US & globally, needing to be resolved.

  9. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    My research of AWWYP’s first 50 contests tells me that Mr. Sully has welcomed with humour & warmth, writers professionally established, those wishing to be published for the first time & everywhere in-between. These contests of more than prose & poetry have welcomed diversity, but not meanness for meanness sake from anyone. Friendships have developed, professional connections made while “playing nice” with each other. My research of reading a good majority from archived intros & entrees from conception to present gives AWWYP & its historical community praise for being constructive not destructive.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      The historical evidence may well be true but does not obviate the issue currently under discussion–that describing a commenter as “hateful” without evidence to support that may fairly be regarded as an unwarranted personal attack, though purportedly the remedy for what may fairly be regarded as an imaginary one. We see in this current climate an outright rejection of facts when they are uncomfortable ones; that does not make such facts unfactual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *