“. . . and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare. . . “ (*)

Dangerous dignitaries stare

Dangerous dignitaries stare

My writing is dangerous. No, silly. It’s mere “oily palaver” to you (I wish I could remember who said that phrase in my presence many years ago, said it in such a way that I have remembered it since).

I have been to the Providence Zoo to see the badgers. It’s officially the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Named after Roger Williams, contrary to popular belief the only one of the “founding fathers” who came to the New World to find religious freedom. Don’t believe it when Tea Baggers tell you this country was founded on religious freedom—it was founded, except for Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, on the desire of various groups to live in places they controlled under rules that reflected their personal beliefs, rules they forced everyone to live by.

If The Massachusetts Bay Colony had had anything like religious freedom, they would not have expelled Roger Williams, and he would not have founded Rhode Island with the understanding that  “. . . .it is the will and command of God that (since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus) a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries. . . . [“Turkish,” of course, here meaning “Muslim] (1).

I’ve written about all of this many times, so that’s not what I’m up to this morning.

No, I’m simply admitting that my writing is dangerous to me—and, perhaps, to a few acquaintances whom I quote and mention. I’ve assumed ever since I wrote a blog posting about my friend Mufid Abdulqader in 2007 that what I post electronically in any format is (or used to be) of some mild passing interest to the NSA or the DHSS. I suppose that’s delusional thinking about my own importance, but I’m not sure. The younger half-brother of the head of Hamas is certainly a person of interest (he’s now in federal prison for something like 150 years, convicted of being a “terrorist,” which is a loose translation of “working on behalf of Palestinians attempting to live in freedom in their own homeland”).

So when I mention you in a post here, you can bet the NSA is watching you.

Make us some money, guys.

Make us some money, guys.

Of course, they are watching you anyway. I and my writing have nothing to do with it. You gave up your rights to “freedom of association” and “freedom of the press” and “freedom of speech” when you let your Congressmegalomaniac vote for the so-called “Patriot Act.” You let the Congressmegalomaniacs strip you of any right to privacy when you let them hoodwink you into being terrorized by your own shadow and let the Congressmegalomaniacs give the terrorism industry control over your lives—the same Congressmegalomaniacs who have now shut down the government and are about to destroy the world economy. How is it working out for you that you’ve let the Congressmegalomaniacs take over your life?

But I digress.

A student in one of my “Discovery & Discourse” classes (yes, “D&D”—and the university after two years of it still doesn’t see why that’s funny) wrote the following in his essay on the Flannery O’Connor short story “Parker’s Back.” (The specific topic of my course is “Writing About the Grotesque.”)

O’Connor shows in “Parkers Back” through the ideas of the grotesque that everyday experiences people live, they never notice their own reality. People ignore the truth and create what truth is giving everything in life a wide spectrum of truths, making life itself grotesque (2).

The student’s essay is, quite frankly, virtually unfathomable. His writing is confused and totally out of control. I’m pretty sure most of my colleagues would have struggled through reading it and put some kind of D or F grade on it and told him to get an appointment at the Writing Center before he submits his next essay.

But I think his writing is pure poetry, and any teacher who would not spend enough time to comprehend his writing does not deserve to be in the classroom.

He understands O’Connor’s theory of mystery and the grotesque.

Everyday people experience the ideas of the grotesque,
and, thus, they never notice their own reality.
People ignore the [real] truth and create the truth
that they believe is giving everything in their lives a wide spectrum of truths,
thereby making life itself grotesque
.

What “truth” are we creating that we firmly, and with every fiber of our being, believe is broadening out for us into a wide spectrum of truths? (The Patriot Act, government shutdown, the Second Amendment, Debt ceiling crisis, racism—shall I continue?) We’ve made this grotesquery, not our Congressmegalomaniacs. We’ve just asked them to do it for us.

A throwaway member of a university football team can see it better than you and I can. Taken all together we have less sense than a flamingo “eat[ing] upside-down, by dragging his tremendous head through streams.” Or two tortoises “one push[ing] the other over the grass, their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs in toto.” Or “vigilant lemurs, wrens and prestidigitating tamarins.”

The university uses the student to bring in TV money and this year One Billion Dollars from alumni (I kid you not). Far better the university should discover its own “wide spectrum of truths” and understand we are ignoring truth while our “dangerous dignitaries stare at one another like badgers.”

____________(1) Williams, Roger. The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed; and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered (1644). New York: Hard Press Editions, 2012. (2) I won’t cite the source because I don’t have the student’s permission to quote him.

Roger Williams. "Let the Muslims in."

Roger Williams. “Let the Muslims in.”

.
.
.
(*) At the Providence Zoo
      by Stephen Burt  (b. 1971)
Like the Beatles arriving from Britain,
the egret’s descent on the pond
takes the reeds and visitors by storm:
it is a reconstructed marsh
environment, the next
best thing to living out your wild life.
*
Footbridges love the past.
And like the Roman questioner who learned
“the whole of the Torah while standing on one leg,”
flamingos are pleased to ignore us. It is not known
whether that Roman could learn to eat upside-down,
by dragging his tremendous head through streams.
*
Comical, stately, the newly-watched tortoises
mate; one pushes the other over the grass,
their hemispheres clicking, on seven legs
in toto. Together they make
a Sydney opera house,
a concatenation of anapests, almost a waltz.
*
Confined if not preserved,
schoolteachers, their charges, vigilant lemurs, wrens
and prestidigitating tamarins,
and dangerous badgers like dignitaries stare
at one another, hot
and concave in their inappropriate coats.
Having watched a boa
eat a rat alive,
the shortest child does as she was told?
looks up, holds the right hand
of the buddy system, and stands,
as she explains it, “still as a piece of pie.”

––http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16843

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