Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Weekend musings

watching: 'Nazi America: the Secret History'

I did something to my neck last night, but I decided to go ahead and at least work out using the treadmill and bike, even if I didn't do any weights. Since I prefer the weights at Richmond Road's gym but the cardio theatre downtown, I decided to take my swimsuit along to the Executive club. After my workout, I tried out the whirlpool for the first time, then sat in the two-tiered sauna room for a few minutes basking in over 200 degree heat (mind you, it was something like 15 degrees). That really helped relax the muscles, although it's still stiff.

I'm still putting off my laundry. It's just too cold outside to really relish taking loads of laundry anywhere. It's supposed to be warmer tomorrow. The main thing is that I get it finished before work Monday. So, instead, I've been watching the History Channel. There was an interesting show earlier on the attempt by Nazi Germany to send Americanised Germans to New York and Florida to blow up various targets--a plot that disintegrated mainly because one of the leaders went to the FBI and turned them all in. It was especially interesting in terms of the parallels we see today in terrorism and the government responses. Because no actual attacks were made, President Roosevelt instead chose to prosecute through military tribunals.

Now there's an examination of the history of Neo-Nazism in America. It's amazing how for those in the mainstream, this sort of ideology sounds ludicrous, and yet how seductive it is to the people who are drawn into it. I really think when it comes down to it, it's really not racism that stands at the heart a matter, so much as a desire that some people have to belong to something where they're not really encouraged to think for themselves, and also a desire of some for power. The rhetoric, which tends to be racist, is a means to an end--but it could easily be other forms of ideology. Look at the case of John Walker Lindh, who apparently was bored with a relatively easy life and needed a 'cause' in which to belong. He reminds me of the young men in Les Misérables who are ready to storm the barricade because they're on fire to do something, anything, and they become swept away into a doomed revolution.

Granted, I realise that that's an oversimplification, but I think it's important to understand to fight that form of intolerance. In a way, the Timothy McVeighs of the world are sort of like the Jeffrey Dahmers--they lose (if they ever had) any real sense of empathy for others, see their activities as a means of control over others and and over their own daemons. But despite the ideological spin, those who would kill innocents over some misguided sense of patriotism or defence of the race are just like those serial killers who wander around the country killing strangers. In the end, they're pathetic losers whose way of thinking and response go way beyond the pale that most people would...and yet the seeds of that violence are unfortunately not as alien as we would like, but part of an aberrant--yet unfortunately still--part of the human spectrum. Whilst their activities should in no way be glorified--and it's sad we usually remember their names rather than those of their victims--it's important to look at the making of these movements and these individuals and how they become something most would describe as a monster.

Want to uncover your hidden biases? Check out some of the tests at Tolerance.org. I've discovered, for example, that I'm one of only 1% of respondents who associate European Americans with weapons. I think it's a combination of my history studies (and some of those weapons were historic) and the fact that I saw more white military growing up as an Air Force brat than black. I also discovered I had some difficulty identifying people's faces to one category or the other, and that I think of a mag light as a weapon. :)

Growing up in the military and in the 70s, where diversity was really promoted on TV, I grew up with a strange (but I think good) view on race. For example, I didn't realise Asians were even a different race until I was about 16, and still have trouble seeing that, and usually just see a person as Thai or Chinese, depending on their ethnicity. I've never had a real sense of Hispanics or Jews as different racially, just culturally. (Ben Affleck's recent comments that he thought some of the fascination with his relationship with Jennifer Lopez was racially-based because he was white and she she Puerto Rican really threw me into a state of confusion. Someone I was talking to thought she was black, whereas I didn't see her as different than me racially, but just culturally. Well, and she's obvously thinner and prettier.) I did have a sense that whites and blacks were different, but I didn't really think it mattered. It wasn't until I lived in California and was beaten up by black and Hispanics girls--probably because I had a Louisana accent at that point--that I realised others thought differently. It wasn't until I was in high school in Kansas in a town with no minorities that I heard racist jokes. Even among the older people in my family, the closest to racist comments were 'coloured'--which at the time they were growing up was the accepted term, rather than perjorative in any sense. I was 34 before I realised--through a conversation some coworkers were having about lawn jockeys, of all things), that one girl who threatened me in junior high thought I'd called her a lawn jockey when, in fact, in my clumsy pubescent bisexual nascency, I tried to compliment her athletic ability and picked the first athlete I could think of--no doubt because of my parallel horsey-girliness by calling her a jockey. Almost every lawn jockey I had ever seen was white, for one. I really didn't realise how I'd insulted her. I wish I could go back and apologise. Of course, if I told her I was actually attracted to her, I'd probably done more than just lived in fear on the way home from school for wa week. :)

Sigh. The clueless do not fair well in cultural clashes. I hope I've learnt a little since then.

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