Whenever we move, I pack a small set of six or seven words with the care I’d devote to ancestral Meissen porcelain. To friends who visit, to those who attend our Saturday morning salon, we serve warm almond cake on these treasured #word-plates. Not to be vain, but none have broken yet. #Simplicity, #serenity–that beautiful class of words.
Like many, I’m appalled by the rise of rudeness in America. Funny, but I find myself employing a simple test–would #Jesus Christ approve? It’s one thing not to follow any religion and fail that test. It’s another to say you believe, and fail that test quite so brazenly. Jesus Christ could be terse but seems, in all, to have been a courteous, courtly rabbi with a vast, kindly, salvational grasp of our humanity. Even when he was dying an elongated death for political insurrection, he was considerate to those around him. Wonder what he’d think of the acrimonious rudeness stamped these days with his name?
Recently at the grocery store the clerk, when I asked for paper, hissed back: Bag it yourself, asshole (the last unspoken). All I remember thinking was–everybody’s mad. Brexit in Britain, Trump in America. Jung might call it a national psychosis. But as the British writer #Rachel Cusk points out in a patchwork meditation on rudeness, rudeness is also a sort of #truth. #Politeness, like reason, even like truth itself, can get spotted, can constrain, it can seem to oppress and deprive those who don’t match its polished criteria. Unfairly, to be sure, the liberal élite has become a term of spitting derogation. I’ve stopped looking at the bumpers of pickup trucks in North Carolina, where, to be sure, I never see a sticker saying thanks liberal élite for saving my mother’s life when faith healing didn’t work.
Some point is reached where, to use Cusk’s wonderful term, an almost #“licentious pleasure” is found in destroying, almost in a Dionysian spate of rudeness, those very qualities of the world that once were seen as uniform standards of coherence, decency and honesty. Now they are seen as #abusive. Not all revolutions work out, but those that did, like our own, we acknowledge in retrospect to have been essential. No doubt each side thought the other was a basket of shit, a basket of deplorables, and hurlingly said so.
#Language bears the brunt of this–its role as communication, even communion, its magical ability to let me hear what you say, be intrigued and appraise its merits by some universal grammar of meaning. It was never meant to be a whiplash weapon deployed as a mere reflex of malice. But in using it that way, like using a child as a bomb carrier, its honesty, power and innocence is evilly undone.
Same goes for #fantasy: calling truth fake and what’s fake truth is a cheap way of getting around the telling of lies. You’ve entered the #dark end of the fantasy spectrum, which in America is very dark indeed. The willful suspension of disbelief has numinous borders, essential for fiction, art, faith and a thousand other redemptions. Messing with those in the cause of partisan deceits is to poison for a long time those ancient preserves of imagination.
Shit. Hardly have I tapped out the syllable, than an Asheville cameo comes to mind. You shit. No, no, baby, you shit. A young, assortedly dressed pair is grinding along the sidewalk ahead of me. I wasn’t even sure what the issue was until she pulled out her iPhone and made a call. You lie. She says you slep with her five or six times. Here talk to her yourself. Him: Hell, you gonna trust her? No I didn’t an anyway if I did it don’t mean nothin’. Really baby, it don’t mean nothing. You gotta believe me all that was way in the past. I never slep with no one. She’s just lyin’ to hurt me. Her: Last week is the past. You nothin’ but shit. Hell, git on the other side of the street. Go north.
Angry times. Maybe not entirely. Have a piece of warm almond cake.