Monday, November 28, 2016

humor is reason gone mad

"The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

That is what I call Marxist insight.

I miss Groucho. His quips could prick the pretensions of anyone.  And usually did.  If he were alive today, he would live in a target-rich environment.

A friend of mine recently forwarded a link to an article in The Guardian* with the neutral-sounding observation: "Here is an article that might give you some grist for your blog-mill."

He was correct. At first reading, I thought it was a satirical piece from The Onion. The tone was perfect, but the logic was a bit outrageous. A second reading brought me up short when I realized its author was quite serious.  Dead pan serious.

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin is identified as the editor of an Africa-based blog; that is where The Guardian lifted the piece.

He has a beef. He wants to know why people of color are called "immigrants," while white people are called "expatriates."

My reaction was: "Darned if I know. I am not certain that is even true. Or that it matters."

It matters, of course, because the voice of silent hurt constantly seeks new ways to feel pain.

Having written that sentence, I know that I am part of the problem, and that I should really feel bad -- very bad -- that someone else feels awful that I do not even see that silent hurt is welling across the planet because I "just don't get it." After all, look at the banner at the top of this page. I parade around daily with "expatriate" emblazoned across my smug, elite features.

If you have not yet figured it out, Mr.
Koutonin knows why people of color are apparently prohibited from using the term expatriate: "In the lexicon of human migration there are still hierarchical words, created with the purpose of putting white people above everyone else."

Yup. It is part of a world-wide racist white conspiracy designed to stamp non-white people with a label of inferiority.

But hang on.  If Mr. Koutonin were to live here in the barrio with me, I would call him an expatriate. And I don't think I would be wrong to do so. I certainly call my neighbor from Ecuador an expatriate. Or, I would, if I called her anything except her given name.

Part of the problem, of course, is that a certain class of folks love describing people by their group identity. Hispanic. White. Left-handed Lithuanian women who use lemon in their tea. Somehow, we have forgotten that we are all individuals first.

His solution to this outrage? "
If you see those 'expats' in Africa, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there."

"Jump in the air and stay there." I like that. But he is no Groucho -- the masterful author of: "
I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."

Groucho would have a better explanation. Have you seen the people who revel in the term "expatriate?" They either look as if they are auditioning as extras in A Passage to India or have pretensions that they are Ernest, Scott, or Gertrude in Paris. Entire pockets of them live throughout Mexico.
Let them have the term. The rest of us can call ourselves immigrants or residents. Or maybe just Steve and Mawuna.

Of course, there are other choices, Mawuna.  Courtesy of Emma Lazarus: exiles, tired, poor, huddled masses, homeless, tempest-tost.

I am reserving "wretched refuse" for myself. 

* -- The Guardian is considered a quality newspaper amongst a certain wing of the political spectrum.  It is the kind of publication that calls Bill Clinton a "posh white bloke who is holding back the struggle for a fairer world."  I think they mean "more just" world; "fairer" world sounds too much like something else. 

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