Friday, February 22, 2008

After about two years of posting, I've discovered perhaps THE major flaw in this blog business: just as soon as you decide on a post topic, something better and more interesting pops up, and the old topic goes out the window and you're left with nothing except the urge to write SOMETHING. It's pretty traumatic, actually, but the funny thing is, it dawns on you later that you would have been better off if you had just turned around and exchanged a couple words with, say, your 44 year old gay Italian room mate. His whimsical, self assured racism is like a breath of fresh air in the luke warm social atmosphere of intolerance that seems to characterize our society that "knows better." After growing used to mousy white men and their passive racism, their glances at the floor and locking car doors when black men walk past, there's something about hearing someone say they hate black people, Jews, gay men and Italians with clear conviction and white hot ignorance that's shocking and strangely refreshing. He's like an artifact, a crystallized specimen of something very old and poisonous, and watching him spit bile at all the peoples in the world he hates fills me with that same cocktail of dread and wonder that would toss around in my stomach watching a lion snap the neck of gazelle on National Geographic. It's the awe that comes with violence and watching something you know you can't stand to look at, but don't exactly know why when you think about it hard enough. The nearest I can come to is: it's just not decent to hate that many people.

Come to think of it, I've never heard him mention a group of people he likes, except maybe Americans. Then again, he never really misses an opportunity to snipe at them, like when he insists that Americans never go anywhere, not even to Arizona, so maybe it's not so much a love of them as it is a tender kind of ambivalence, a live and let live policy simply because he hasn't found a reason to hate them, yet. Though he's never expounded on why he hates black people, other than the fact that he's had a "bad experience," I assume he has some "reason" for it, some concrete and easily explainable series of events that would at least cast some light on the subject. Then again, an undefinable past experience is pretty much the reason he gives for hating all the people he hates: black people have a "bad attitude", Jews are "good with money, very intelligent and nasty", Italians are "horrible" and "loud", and gay men are "pigs" for their wanton sex practices. Aside from those words of love and understanding, I haven't gotten anything more specific out of Marco Polo. That, of course, is assuming I actually try one of these days; despite my best intentions and all the witty and enlightened things I think of saying the next time he slips on his nice fitting brown shirt, I end up sitting dumb-struck at the table, smiling when he's not looking and wondered where and when I am exactly. More than that, though, I try to figure out how this man, himself a gay Italian who has traveled enough to know the things he says about people can't be true, could hate Italians and gay men, or any minority at all, given the fact that he is keenly aware of his own minority status and seems to have nothing but contempt for those who hold it against him. I've come to accept hypocrisy as a part of the human condition, that you can't be 100% consistent 100% of the time, and that moments of weakness or sheer stupidity should be taken as they are and dealt with, but this is a level of hypocrisy that frankly makes me uneasy. It's the kind that makes you want to knock on the inside of his skull and yell right into his inner ear until he gets the point and baptizes himself with cooking oil and washes away his sins with whatever he has lying around the house. It's not just his own private psychological soft shoulder, but the great piece of wood in humanity's left eye, the gleeful and burning desire to chop people up into things you like and don't like, to hate because you can and because it's easy, and to sell ignorance for the truth in the comfort of your own kitchen.

He always has some "evidence" to support his claims, of course, like the fact that Israeli tourist aren't allowed in Malaysia because they're so terrible. That couldn't have anything to do with the fact that there's some prejudice against Jews in general in Malaysia, could it? No, of course not. Because, you see, the Nazis killed the Jews because Germans and Jews are too similar, too much alike for them to get along, and because Jews do everything better than the Germans anyway, the Germans were protecting themselves from getting screwed. Now, I do subscribe to the general theory that people, or groups of people, who are too much like end up hating each other. I can't spend more than fifteen minutes in a room with other people who identify themselves as geeks without wanting to choke them with the certificate of authenticity for their HSN Katanas or limited edition, gold plated World of Warcraft strategy guide, and the French and Americans can't seem to reach an agreement as to whose culture truly is superior and worthy of universal praise, but to imply that the Nazis killed the Jews because they thought the Jews would "out sneak" them, as it were, is insane and sounds less like an astute cultural appraisal of an experienced traveler, and more like a blabbering crazy appendix to the centuries of pseudo-theology and science that built the ghettos in the first place.

The fact that he is well-traveled tends to give the things he says a weight they don't really deserve, a weight he tries to use to break me of attitudes I should "get over," like not wanted to lie on my resume. Now, I would never claim to be the most honest man around, because I've lied about whether I liked a food, a movie, or even a person to make someone else feel better, but I would like to take this time and say quite self-righteously that I have never, and nor would I ever, lie about something on my resume. That doesn't exclude what I like to call the "Julienne Method of Job Application," the obligatory cutting up and stretching of past experience or positions to make it look like you've actually done more, but even then everything is true, just a little, "polished", you might say. He, on the other hand, seems to think I should just write something down that I've never done before, because, as he puts it "they'll never know." First off, that's not true; given the Orwellian potential of the Internet, I don't rule out my future employer's ability to know what I ate for dinner last night, or the names of the women I secretly wrote poems to, then erased at the end of an ill advised, three hour long, Percy Shelley-inspired declaration of doomed and unrequited passions. Besides that, I suffer from an over-active conscience and over-developed since of moral responsibility; I'd rather not get the job than snatch it under false pretenses. It's pretty stupid of me, but that's the way it is. And on the petty side of things, I refuse to take advise about how the world really is from a man who says things like "I hate blacks" and believes it so firmly that he doesn't want to go to the South because it's "all black down there." He actually tried to convince me that there aren't any white people in the South, to me, a white man from the South, after which he asked me what it was like to live around so many black people. Now, maybe it's because I'm not done with my education yet and haven't been taught how to answer such ridiculous questions, but all I could think to say was: "it's OK, I guess. I mean, they're people, so...." Enlightening, I know.

But enlightening is my business. I'll ever forget when I got that Email from Mrs. Turtledove, who told me how, while in her bathtub after a rigorous game of Bridge against those ghastly Cameron sisters, the Spirit descended upon her in the form of great flaming bird and healed her rheumatism. Her new found hobby of Roller Blading, she wrote, has given her a new lease on life. And that's why I do what I do, out of love of mankind and hackneyed metaphors, the salt and pepper of creation.