Thursday, December 10, 2009

Protective Covering

In recent years security measures have become an accepted price to pay for living in a multifarious society.  We have become inured to the point of thinking nothing about having to peel stubborn plastic covers or wrapping from books, bottles of aspirin, electronic appliances, even flea-control ampules for our pets.  If we stop to think about the reasons why some of these are necessary, our collective memory will take us back to such antisocial pathology as individuals embedding razor blade shards into apples given as treats for Halloween or of poison being injected into foodstuffs and over-the-counter medicines.  There are also statistics published by retail outlets reminding us that a constant percentage of humanity is given to shop lifting, which is in itself a euphemism for stealing.

Meeting such security measures head-on causes in each of us a particular response which could range from rage to a cynical nod of recognition and awareness to the prayer that the transgressor will mend his or her ways, not to forget the re-enforced resolve to be more careful of our own properties and actions that might make us vulnerable, actions such as trusting our brother and sister human beings.

Two disparate things today cause you to equate these idiosyncratic responses with the microthin vinyl covering that protects the faces of new products, faces such as dials of clocks and watches, computer screens, viewing screens of digital cameras, and the like.  These peel-off membranes are meant to protect a product that will ordinarily be scratched or dented, the theory behind such protection being that you would not accept such a scratched or dented product before you bought it.  When you do buy it and remove the covering, it becomes yours, a projection of you.  Each metaphoric ding or scratch becomes an assault on you.

One such assault comes when an individual of roughly peer equality disagrees with your taste in a matter that is of serious and considerable moment to you.  This is not a question of a friend or lover ordering a dish at a restaurant that contrasts markedly from what you have ordered because you after all want to chose friend and or lover for their individuality, not their complete, unflagging regard for your taste as THE standard for ALL taste.  This is a matter of someone having a differing view of a basic construct of story, of literature, of the men and women who write it, and of the men and women who edit it, and of the men and women who speak critically about it.  For example, in most areas, the views of your coffee chum, Ernest Sturm, who professes French literature, prizes the critical theory of Rene Welleck over that of Leslie Fiedler whereas you feel passionately that Fiedler is leaps and bounds ahead of Welleck in his visions of American literature.  Thus whenever THAT subject comes bubbling up, so too comes your attitude, which has infinitely less to do with defensiveness than it does a sense with a sense of trespass, which you allow under the wraps of civility to flare then pass without acting on the energy.  You give Ernest his opinion and respect him for having it, but you also give you the approval for your outrage before settling into the civility of dialogue and difference.

Another example:  a student gives you to read, evaluate, and make suggestions, a story, which becomes an occasion of outrage for you which you cover under that equivalent of a vinyl screen protector, focusing instead on trying to find ways to show that student keys to get deeper into the story, whereby it may be taken to a dimension of depth and originality and significance, all portions of your role as a teacher.

Today, in the upper village neighborhood of the quirky neighborhood in which you find yourself living, you encountered a display featuring two photographs of the President of the United States, the 44th president to be precise, each featuring a Photo-Shopped Hitler mustache.  You were not able to contain as much of your outrage as you wished.  "I suppose,"  you told the displayers of the photos, "this is your revenge for what so many of us said about the last President of the United States."  That did not set well at all, because their response, although you were alone, referred to you as "You people," rendered to suggest that "we people" need to learn what it is to be American.  Thus do arguments and differences of opinion escalate, fracture, Balkanize; thus do differing groups, points of view, and factions ramp up the rhetoric and the emotion of encounter, of turf, of outrage at the trespass of one's own view with the jackboot of moral certainty on the part of the trespasser.  Works both ways if you happen to be on the trespassing side.  One man's trespass is another man's side trip.

Although you are indeed political, convinced for instance that Democracy as experienced in present day America needs a shot of Darwinism, needs a tick or two of evolution.  Your own belief is that the evolution is toward socialism as opposed to what is being branded, packaged today as conservatism.  One of your arguments in that direction is that the conservatives inherited a remarkably large surplus from the administration of the 42nd President of the US, which they promptly gorged upon; now they caution us about fiscal responsibility.  But this belief and this observation are not the closing arguments here; the closing arguments relate to the need of the writer person to walk these mean streets without contributing to the meanness, to remove the protective covering from the viewing screen and walk about making notes, taking it all in, recognizing the flare-ups of the sense of being trespassed upon, then getting back to the job at hand which is not writing as rant but writing as discovery.