14 November 2017

Selves and Stories

For a great many years I have taught a graduate course in which I asked students to study the nature of stories and the stories they tell in the classroom. Curriculum, of course, is the story we tell our children. I hold that  to interrogate our stories is to discover the person we present ourselves to ourselves and to others, though I must admit that this program doesn’t always go over very well . . . “What is this shit,” I often heard from bewildered and sometimes angry students.
     But I receive some supportive comfort in Dickens’ character of David Copperfield. David writes, “I set down this remembrance here because it is an instance to myself of the manner to which I fitted my old books to my altered life, and made stories for myself out of the streets, and out of men and women, and how some main points in the character I shall unconsciously develop, I suppose in writing my life, were gradually forming all this while . . .”  I have at times puzzled over these lines, but I think they suggest that David knows that his character evolved from the events of his life and the people with whom he had contact but that the character about which he will write derives unconsciously from the stories has once told and will now tell about his own life. In this way, I believe, David/Dickens suggests that the lives we declare to be ours are no less fictional stories than are the events of any intentional novel, short story or dramatic creation, and how our older stories become adapted to newer circumstances, events and acquaintances and become inevitably, then, fictional narratives. We are never fully known to ourselves or others except in the stories we tell about ourselves: we become our selves in our stories, and perhaps we are not much beyond those stories.

     And it interests me to consider that David says of his autobiographical tome, “This narrative is my written memory:” this narrative is David’s story and its narration creates the memory and the life. At the novel’s end the most secret current of his memory, that which did not ever come to the knowable surface, becomes the subject of the book’s conclusion, and narrates the consummation of his love of Agnes, a feeling that gnawed at him even in the midst of his passionate love for his wife, Dora. He had earlier written, “I had a great deal of work to do, and had many anxieties, but the same considerations made me keep them to myself. I am far from sure, now, that it was right to do this, but I did it for my child-wife’s sake. I search my breast, and I commit its secrets, if I know them, without any reservation to this paper.” You see, David knew then that it was Agnes that he truly loved, but it was the child-wife Dora he married. He did not at the time link these anxieties to his love for Agnes, but as he writes these earlier anxieties take shape and become defined by his relationship to Agnes.
     And I think many of us carry within us these secrets that only in writing we will learn. WE can form to the vague anxieties and turn them into our stories and our life.  It is in the writing that David will come to realize and to understand his love of Agnes and how the loss of her through his voluntary actions left a cratered emptiness in him that nothing but Agnes could fill. This David learns only through his writing.

07 November 2017

Ignorance and Mass Murderers

Our ignorant President claimed publicly that the mass shooting at a Texas rural church was the work of a mentally ill person. “Mental health is your problem here . . .” it represents the act of “a very deranged individual.” The shooting last month in Las Vegas also seems to have been the work of a mentally unbalanced person. According to the ignorant President, these shootings were not an issue concerning gun laws in the United States but with lone wolves with grievances, guns, but no ideological position and mental derangement hugely. But these very ‘deranged’ individuals purchased their weapons legally after some clearly ineffective absurd form of background check! But there is no problem with gun laws, Mr. Ignorant President??
     The mass killing in New York last week by a man driving a Home Depot rental truck was deemed a terrorist act and confirmed to the Ignorant President the need for stricter immigration laws and the necessity for extreme vetting to exclude those criminal extremists from entering this otherwise safe nation. This description does not apply to the mass killings perpetrated by mostly white males. They must be considered mentally deranged and their actions cannot be termed domestic terrorism and thus, requires no action that might prevent future mass shootings by ‘deranged’ individuals.
     The existence of racism in the offices of the White House alarms me. The gubernatorial race in Virginia suggests that the Republican party following Trumps repulsive leald is willing to use racist language to win election in any way possible: they are no better than any low brow fascist. I read the papers and I reflect that the Republican Party is populated for the most part by mostly white men who have no conscience, no sense of social concern for the less fortunate: the widow, the orphan or the stranger in our midst. The party of Lincoln has become the street gang of Trump. If they weren’t so dangerous they would be comical.  But I think what alarms me lately is the normalization of his ignorance by the press and social media that he regularly excoriates. His calumny of them emphasizes his ignorance: but their relative silence allows him literally get away with murder. His lies should be headlines; his behavior should be described as what it is: the flailing of an egomaniacal buffoon playacting as a President, a narcissist parading as a moral leader.  One would imagine that such language, such behavior by someone other than Trump would be noted with horror by the newspapers, the population, the world. Who would tolerate such idiocy? But where are the screaming headlines??
     In the past month or so more than one hundred people have been massacred by gun violence: the damn fool says to move on!

02 November 2017

Trump's Tweets, Nixon's List and Sanders' Shame

I seem to remember back in the good old terrible days during the reign of Richard Nixon the revelation of his secret hit list—or was it called the Dirty Tricks list? Daniel Schorr earned an honored place on the list as a result of his reporting on the illegal behaviors of the President and his co-conspirators during the Watergate scandal. Nixon’s list became a source of some delight, and citizens often received accolades when their names were discovered on that infamous list. People wondered why they weren’t also given a place on that notorious list.
     Today there seems little need for such a list for the current holder of the office of President of the United States tweets his displeasure willy-nilly at all those who disagree with him or with whom has developed a peculiar pique, or whose knowledge and insight into public affairs highlights Trump’s ignorance. There are not a few of these in all parties and walks of life. The more recent attack on Charles Schumer, the Senator from New York, who the President accused of facilitating the terrorist attack on New York City for an advocacy of the Diversity Immigration Law twenty-seven years ago, is the latest outrage stemming from the government. The photo in the New York Times of the Gang of Eight whose immigration bill would have eliminated the diversity visa lottery is today’s Trump’s display of willful stupidity. Trump is not a simple fool; Trump is an ignorant and dangerous government official with a serious narcissistic personality disorder who endangers the welfare and safety of the world. And it seems to me that any government official is not on Trump’s tweet hit list is not doing his/her job. As it was an honor to be recognized for one’s activity by Nixon and his accomplices in 1972-4, so too should it be an honor to be today’s target of Trump’s absurd tweets. This is not a government.
     And next to Trump I would place Sarah Huckabee Sanders as second in stupidity as she brazenly defends Trump’s blatant lies. Obviously, the woman has no shame, and it is for this lack that she will be long remembered.