Welcome to Maoist Orange Cake. Each week one of our Divas posts a thoughtful (but not necessarily serious) essay on whatever calls forth her Voice or strikes her Fancy. We invite you to join us wherever the discussion leads.
Motto of the MOC: Sincere, yes. Serious? Never!

"I would also like to add that ‘Maoist Orange Cake is possibly the best name for a blog ever. Just my twopence." -- The Sixth Carnival of Radical Feminists, 1 October 2007

The Twelfth Carnival of Radical Feminists is up at The Burning Times blog and mentions one of our posts, Helen 'Wheels' Keller, for recommendation. Orangeists spreading our zest!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Introducing your new Divo — by Josiah

Hi, folks. It's Josiah, Maoist Orange Cake's first Divo here. (As I said to the Graces who run this place when I accepted their kind offer to join, I'm happy to be a Diva, a Divo or even Devo.) Yes, I'm a straight man, and yes, I'm a feminist and strong supporter of LGBT rights. That combination is, alas, far more rare than it ought to be.

I recently learned that one early male feminist was L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels. (I'm thinking about Oz a lot lately, because I'm playing the Scarecrow in a production of The Wizard of Oz which goes up in September.) Baum's feminism might not be immediately apparent if your only familiarity with his work is the 1939 MGM film, but the original Dorothy is rather more forthright and active than the tearful damsel-in-distress Judy Garland played. From the second Oz book on, the Land of Oz is ruled by Princess Ozma, who spent most of her childhood as a boy named Tip. There's a good argument to be made that Ozma is an early transsexual heroine — she's certainly queer.

Baum learned his feminism from his wife, Maud Gage. Maud was the daughter of the abolitionist and suffragist Matilda Jocelyn Gage, and seems to have been a strong influence on L. Frank Baum. Before finding success as a children's author, Baum tried his hand at many lines of work, including a stint as a newspaper editor. In one editorial supporting women's suffrage Baum wrote that a man who does not support the rights of women is "selfish, opinionated, conceited or unjust — and perhaps all four combined," adding that "the tender husband, the considerate father, the loving brother, will be found invariably championing the cause of women.'' I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment.

Of course, women don't need men to champion their cause. That's something that's difficult for a lot of men to accept. I thought that I had accepted it, but recently I found myself being "chivalrous" in a situation which really didn't warrant it, which made me wonder how much I've internalized the feminist lessons I thought I'd learned.

My wife Erin is a medical student. About a month ago, we went with a group of medical students to see Sicko, as part of a protest supporting universal health care. The plan was that the medical students would attend the screening, all wearing their white coats, and afterwards would pass out flyers with information. We had printed out the flyers in advance. We were a few minutes late, but arrived as the trailers were beginning, and happily joined the throng of white-coated viewers. The film was of course moving — Michael Moore is such a great propagandist — and after it was over, Erin chatted with her colleagues and I stepped back a bit. This was her show; I was there to support. However, I soon noticed that nobody was handing out flyers. I thought that perhaps the other medical students, unaccustomed to activism, were being shy about confronting strangers — even strangers who, having seen the film, were presumably sympathetic to the cause at hand. I spoke to Erin and encouraged her to give out the flyers we had printed. She's an introvert by nature, but feels strongly about the issue, so she stepped up readily and started handing out the flyers — not just to the folks who were filing out of Sicko, but to other filmgoers as well.

One of her friends started chatting to me, and I was distracted; when I looked up, I saw a tall man in a blue Oxford-cloth shirt saying something to Erin in a brusque manner. I didn't hear his remark, but went up to her and asked what he had said. She told me that he had said, "Get away from me, you damn socialist." Now, if someone had spoken like that to me, I would have shrugged it off, or perhaps tried to engage them in conversation on the subject ("what's so bad about socialism?"). But when I heard what this man had said to Erin, for some reason I saw red. I stood for a moment fuming, while one of Erin's colleagues spoke to her quickly. I looked over at the man in the blue shirt, and saw him talking to the movie theater's security guards. I started striding towards him determinedly. My intentions were not violent; I merely wanted to speak to him. My words would have been forceful but civil. But Erin pulled me back, saying that he wasn't worth it. And here I made my mistake. Instead of listening to her, I shook her off and said loudly, "I just want to talk to him." The security guards saw me and stepped quickly between me and the man in the blue shirt. "I just want to talk to him," I repeated. "That's not going to happen, sir," replied the security guard, intoning the word "sir" in that particular manner of voice that means "I have no respect for you at all". At this point, the man in the blue shirt started yelling at me from behind the security guard's back: "You hate America!" (Can you believe it?) I yelled right back, "I love America!" — which is actually true. I love this country, even if I hate its current rulers. At this point, the security guard asked me to leave the building. After a moment of huffing, I complied, yelling on my way out that if someone was going to curse at my wife I wanted to be able to speak to him. (There was a smattering of applause from someone standing in line, but I'm not sure if they were applauding my sentiment or the fact that I was being thrown out of the building.)

After we left the theatre, Erin told me that before we had arrived, the protest organizers had told the other medical students that the theater management had had a change of heart, and that they weren't going to allow us to hand out flyers. We had missed this announcement, and so were technically in the wrong. The security guard started to follow us to our car, to make sure that we weren't going to go back inside; then Erin told me to stay put while she explained to the security guard exactly what had happened. She asked him how he would feel if it was his wife that the man had cursed at. He said, "I'd be pretty mad too," and when we headed towards our car he didn't follow us any further. As we drove out of the parking lot, I saw him speaking to the man in the blue shirt, who was also in the parking lot. Was he reporting that he had dealt with the troublemaker, or telling the blue-shirt off for his part in the altercation? I don't know.

On the drive home, Erin was furious. She told me that by not listening to her when she asked me to let it go, I had shown disrespect for her and her autonomy. And she was right — I had. I was treating her like a prized possession that needed protecting, not an agent of her own. In that moment, I was just another testosterone-drunk male, butting heads with the rival who threatened my mate. All my feminist beliefs, all my civilized veneer, fell away, and I was a caveman posturing for alpha position in the pack and the right of access to the females. Or, at the very least I was a gentleman of the old South, "defending his lady's honor" against the crudity of a rascal — which, when you think about it, amounts to about the same thing.

I was raised in the South, in a prominent family. My father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather had all served as mayor of the small city in which I grew up. My father-in-law once said that my family has been in Virginia so long we stole it from the Indians, and he was right. My father was dedicated to the family business, and spent almost all his waking hours at work. His absence meant that I was raised almost exclusively by my mother, a real "steel magnolia" of the old Southern aristocracy. I also have three older sisters, so the house I grew up in was very female-dominated.

My oldest sister was (and is) a feminist, and ensured that I grew up listening to Free to Be You and Me, Marlo Thomas's wonderful feminist kids' album. I soaked it up, along with a degree of old-school chivalry taught by my mother. This breed of "chivalry" was largely beneficent: standing up when a woman enters a room, holding doors for women and anyone older than you, and the like. Then I went away to an all-male boarding school, and saw the underbelly of this Southern chivalry. Many of my schoolmates were clearly of the opinion that the only purposes women could serve were laundry and sex. Anyone who didn't plaster his dorm walls with posters of pneumatic blondes wearing as little as the dorm masters would permit was instantly accused of being a fag, and beaten up for it. (Yes, I was gay-bashed for preferring Doctor Who actresses to Pamela Anderson.) I had never seen this side of the South, and it disgusted me.

I had yet more whiplash when I went from this reactionary high school to Yale, bastion of Northern liberalism. There, I had a serious relationship with a bisexual woman who was very active in "Yalesbians" and had founded a subchapter, "Biways Biwomen". I used to accompany her as she'd put up Woman Power posters and chalk the sidewalks with slogans like "My boyfriend knows I'm a dyke." (She later spent several years as the head of NOW's New York City chapter, defended a case before the Florida Supreme Court as a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, and now heads up the reproductive rights project at the NYCLU. Incidentally, it was she who introduced me to Dykes to Watch Out For, and generally taught me that LGBT rights are as important as women's rights — indeed, she taught me that if one really believes in women's rights, one must also believe in LGBT rights.)

By the time I got married, I thought that I was a pretty well trained feminist. I offered to change my surname to Erin's. (She demurred and ended up taking mine, but if her novel is published it will be under her birth name.) I support lots of feminist and LGBT rights organizations. And yet when I was confronted with another male threatening "my" woman, I reverted to chauvinistic type.

I apologized for my behavior that night, and Erin forgave me, eventually directing her anger at the theater's management and the security guards who assumed that those lefty troublemakers must be at fault. And yet, I still feel uncomfortable thinking about my behavior. Am I the prisoner of my biology, or of the social structures which still say that women need protecting by men? If a supposedly enlightened, feminist man like me still behaves like this, what hope is there for the unreconstructed masses? What place is there for men in the feminist world?

That's why I was so delighted to be invited to be a Diva, or a Divo, or Devo. If there is any hope for feminism, it's in engagement and thoughtful discussion, of the sort this blog specializes in. So thanks for admitting this straight male into your midst.


Maggie Jochild said...

Hey, I get to be the first to respond! What a stellar job you did, Josiah. Lots and lots to chew on there. I'll just offer a few takes.

I really do believe that knowing you've let your conditioning run your behavior, contrary to your own best thinking, is half the struggle. Back in the SF dyke community, we used to believe that it would take you half as long to get "over" a lover than the time you spent together, a formula we used for reassurance. I think in order to get over conditioning, it could well take as long as the years it was being laid in, or longer. But what alternative is there to investing the time?

I don't judge you. I also can't offer you absolution. That comes from inside. (Or at the end of a Ridley Scott movie.)

Before our foreign policy was taken over by jackboots and apostolics, I heard a mediator on NPR explain how he envisioned being able to bring Israel and the PLO into accord. The long version was fascinating, to the point where I pulled my car to the shoulder to listen and, eventually, to weep in hope. The short version is "baby steps". One side does a tiny, tiny thing to engender trust. The other side maybe responds, maybe not. The mediator keeps everybody talking.

When things are this bad, when the conditioning controls reality in every direction, a cinematic solution will not be forthcoming. But first we have to admit things are this bad.

I also want to say, I was very distracted by wondering WHY Blue Oxford Shirt went to see Sicko, if what he got from it was that the people in it (or supporting it) "hate America?" It's not common that the blind faith crowd bestirs themselves to attend a movie where the opposing viewpoint will even be acknowledged, much less a Michael Moore flick. I wonder if he was having an identity crisis at that moment. It's a shame you and he didn't get to converse -- I mean, really talk, not just huff at each other.

Well, opportunities abound. There'll be another one tomorrow, no doubt. I had the chance a few years ago to listen to David Roche, a physically different man who is a motivational speaker. One thing I loved was his Church of 80% Sincerity. "We in the Church of Eighty Percent Sincerity do not believe in miracles," he says. "But we do believe that you have to stay alert, because good things happen. When God opens the door, you've got to put your foot in. Eighty percent sincerity is about as good as it's going to get. So is eighty percent compassion. Eighty percent celibacy. So twenty percent of the time, you just get to be yourself."

Maggie Jochild said...

P.S. Congrats on the kick-ass use of labels at the end of this post!

Josiah said...

Maggie, Blue Oxford Shirt had been to see another movie at the multiplex. He just happened to walk past the entrance to the theater that was showing Sicko at the moment that Erin started handing out the flyers.

I still wish I could have talked with him.

Maggie Jochild said...

Yeah, Josiah, I have no doubt that good things would have come from that conversation, no matter what you struggling with at the moment -- your inner Orange Cake would have come through, I think.

Ginjoint said...

Your wife may wish to kill me for saying this, Josiah, but I think you need to ease up on yourself just a bit. Yes, you didn't listen to her wishes to just "let it go" with the jerk at the theater. That wasn't right, and perhaps made her feel a bit infantilized. But I think it's a crossover experience - as a woman, I've responded (in varying degrees) as you did to perceived insults to my female friends, my male friends, my mother, my father, etc. They didn't need protecting, I just wanted their "adversary" to know that they (my friends) had support. It's almost impossible to watch a loved one - male, female, young, old - be treated poorly and not want to act out; I'm not sure that your reaction was entirely gender-focused. Of course it played a part, but just from your writings, it seems you are a more complex being than that!

I've seen women standing up for the men that they're with, even if the guy is twice her size. So love must have somethin' to do with it.

Josiah said...

Yeah, ginjoint — that was my mother-in-law's take as well. She told Erin, "He just loves you, dear."

For what it's worth, when I showed Erin the post she said I was being too hard on myself too. She's long since forgiven me; I just haven't completely come to terms with it myself.

Josiah said...

Hey, folks. This is apropos of Maggie's last post, not mine, but I thought people might not see it if I commented there. Back on August 13 I said, "I'm honestly surprised nobody's had the nerve to made an updated film based on Johnny Got His Gun." I just found out that two days later a story was released mentioning an upcoming film of Johnny Got His Gun, to be released in 2008. IMDb has a few details here. Were we all surfing the zeitgeist, or what?

shadocat said...


Just wanted to say I love this post, and I commend you, for not only being so self-aware, but for(even though you went a little over the line)being supportive of your wife. I know the times my loved ones have been threatened, my emotions also trumped my common sense, so if you're guilty of anything, it's being human.

For those of you wondering about the drag king contest, I have a picture of the grand prize(s) and the winner; however, I also have a temp of 101 and I am way under the weather. Once again I'm having trouble posting, and my temper is right up with my temperature. so I've decided to take a break until I feel better, and then figure this thing out. Stayed tuned folks; the post really is on it's way...

Liza said...

Ozma of Oz is underappreciated. Powerful and feminine, serious and playful, Ozma was a role model for me for years. Thanks for bringing her to the cake.

little gator said...

Hi Josiah!

Oh dear. I never liked Ozma. She had none of what I liked in Tip, and was just another boring girly girl to me(not that I mind girly girls, just the boring ones)

I was put off by the sexism used in describing Jinjur and her Army of Rebellion. Her army of women took over the Emerald city for a while. When Ozam took it back, all the women of the Emerald city were thrilled to be able to cook for their husbands again, rather than having to eat what the inept men cooked.

Worst was the scene where all women fled when mice were relased in the palace.

Thoug I still like Baum and adore the Thoroughly Educated and Greatly Magnified Wogglebug.

As far as protective: One time I was ay the ER with Mr. Gator. He'd cracked a rib a few days earlier and had developed a cough and was hallucinating from the painkillers.

Since it was Mr Gator, the hallucinations were of spiders in his skull. He has a big spider phobia whcih sometimes manifests as a fear that they are all out to get him personally. And he has dreams that he's an escaped spider and they're looking for him to drag him back to spiderdom.

When he said he was walkgin in ritualistic patterns on the tile floor cause it kept the spiders from escaping, I decided it was time to go to the ER.
Plus he was coughing(turned out to be "only" bronchitis) and we'd been warned that broken ribs can lead to pneumonia.
Since deep breathing hurst, the lingscan atrophy fairly quickly. And later his regular doc had him blowing up balloons as lung therapy, which is NO FUN with a broken or even cracked rib.

So there we were in the middle of the night, he was trying to sleep while we waited for results. I wondered why people were looking at me funny until i noticed I was planted int he entrance o the little patient alcove, my arms crosssed and me glaring at anyone who might wake him up.

I got pretty offended at the nurse whotook me aside to suggest he might have overdosed on the narcotic painkiller. I said he was afraid he'd do that and had asked me to log his use it of.

The bottle said one evry 4 hours, and he'd had 4 pills in 6 days. She seemed a bit grumpy when I showed her the index card with the evidence.

Josiah said...

Hey, Gator. I agree that the portrayal of General Jinjur and her army is offensive, but when I was discussing it with Erin once she pointed out the outcome of Jinjur's revolt: the stuffed man who ruled Oz is overthrown, and the wise woman Glinda places a girl on the throne. Yes, the Army of Rebellion and the women of the Emerald City are portrayed as quite foolish — but then, practically everyone in Oz is foolish in one way or another. Heck, while the Army of Rebellion is taking over the city, the Scarecrow has to get Jella Jamb to "translate" for Jack Pumpkinhead, even though they speak the same language! Meanwhile, the Army of Oz is being overthrown by women armed only with knitting needles. Nobody really comes out of that situation looking good, do they?

LG, I sympathize with your husband. I once took an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, which made me temporarily psychotic. I was hearing voices and feeling bugs crawling on my skin, and my pupils were dilated so far that Erin says I looked like a Betazoid. She ended up protecting me in the hospital in much the same way that you protected Mr. Gator. But then, in those cases Mr. Gator and I weren't really capable of protecting ourselves, were we? The feelings of the "protector" are the same, but when the person being protected is in posession of all their faculties and can act as their own agent the situation is somewhat different.

Jana C.H. said...

Not only is there Princess Ozma, born a girl, transformed and raised as a boy, then re-transformed into a girl, there is Ozma’s Secretary of State, Minister of Defense, and Grand Vizier, Glinda the Good, who lives in a palace with fifty girls especially selected for beauty and intelligence. Oz isn’t just ruled by women, it’s a dictatorship of lesbians! Allow me to offer a few quotations:

From Ozma of Oz, when Dorothy first meets Ozma: “…as soon as she heard the sweet voice of the girlish Ruler of Oz, [Dorothy] knew that she would soon learn to love her dearly.”

From The Road to Oz, when Dorothy and Ozma meet after a separation: “Dorothy threw her arms around her little friend and hugged and kissed her rapturously, and Toto barked joyfully.”

And somewhere, though I can’t find the exact quotation, there’s a bit about how only Dorothy is allowed into Ozma’s private apartments at any time.

Little Gator, I have to agree with you about Ozma. The idea of her was wonderful, but it wasn’t much fun in execution. Not only did the transformation from Tip to Ozma change her from being mischievous and adventuresome to being lovely and sweet, but it also turned her from an irresponsible (and fun) boy into a responsible (and boring) ruler. Unlike Captain Kirk, who constantly beamed off the Enterprise for personal adventures, Ozma stayed in the Emerald City and ran Oz.

Ozma, however lovely and sweet, is the Ruler of Oz, and even Dorothy, who has herself been created a Princess, is not allowed to forget it. Ozma is sort of a benign socialist despot, and she has a magic picture that allows her to spy on anyone, anywhere, any time. Glinda has a magic book that does much the same thing. Of course they use these powers only to benefit the people of Oz, and all of Ozma’s subjects love their Princess dearly. Well, it is a fairy tale.

Jana C.H.
Saith Oscar Wilde: Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.

P.S. When I first read The Land of Oz, I too was offended by the sexism, but I have come to think of it as Baum poking affectionate fun at his feminist mother-in-law. In a later book we meet the rebellious General again, peacefully married and settled down, cheerfully tyrannizing her poor husband. Baum didn’t have a modern idea of feminism (Why would he?) but he isn’t as bad as he sometimes seems.

shadocat said...

Josiah, I want to take this opportunity to apologize for interupting your post, it's just that I promised the resolution to the drag king contest a long while back, and now that I have everything together, I thought I'd better get 'er done before any more time passed.

I remember reading the "Oz" books long after I watched the movie and being so delighted that in the books, Oz was a real place, not just a stupid dream. Oh, and the adventures were WAY more violent and therefore to me, exciting. An added benefit (remember, I was a little kid) was being able to share the books with my best friend, a little girl who desperately wanted to be a boy---it gave us some hope for a time, as I remember. I mean if a boy can turn into a girl, why not vice versa?

Josiah said...

Things did occasionally get a bit violent and gruesome in Oz. In one of the later volumes, the Tin Woodman and the Tin Soldier, who were both dismembered for loving a Munchkin maiden called Nimmie Amee, search her out and find her married to Chopfyt, a man assembled out of their cast-off body parts. That always struck me as grotesque, but Nimmie Amee seemed happy about the situation.

Josiah said...

I only just noticed that Jana mentioned the Matilda Jocelyn Gage/Oz connection in The Flying Sasquatch ages ago. So much for bringing an original voice to the blog!

shadocat said...

On the subject of being protective of a loved one: My ex and I used to go to a certain park every July 4th to watch the spectacular fireworks display.Due to a death in the family one year, and illness the next, we missed going their for a couple of years. The following year all was well, and we decided to go back. Little did we know things had become very different.

Over that short period of time, the neighborhood had become drastically different. The crowd was rougher, tougher, and not afraid to show their homophobia. After tolerating various comments (and we weren't even holding hands!)I heard something pretty bad (someone's theory about converting us) and I decided it was time to go. As we were walking away, someone heaved what I think was an M80 that exploded right behind my girlfriend's right heel. I went ballistic. "Who did that!Why don't you be a big man and show yourself?" My girlfriend hoarsely whispered a chorus of "shutupshutupshutupshutup..." in my ear, but I wasn't listening. Several large young men emerged from the crowd. My girlfriend grabbed my arm and started to "limp-run" towards the car, all the while I was stupidly shouting stuff like "those thing's are illegal, ya know!" (M80's, that is.)
I didn't realize how much trouble my big mouth had gotten us into until we tried to get out of there and two cars chased us out to the highway. Fortunately, the highway patrol appeared, and they disappeared. And my ex (who is still my friend) has never let me forget that the sequence should be "think first,THEN talk."

Jana C.H. said...

Just because I mention something on the Flying Sasquatch doesn't mean someone else can't expand upon it. Feel free to take the Sasquatch as inspiration.

Since most of the Sasquatch items are derived from books I read for fun, you can get a good idea of my interests by noticing what types of items turn up frequently.

Did anyone say Classical Antiquity?

Jana C.H.
Saith Floss Forbes: If you don't know the tune, sing tenor.

little gator said...

Time to post Baum's "genocide editorials."


Josiah=you wanna be a divot? A divertor?

Josiah said...

There's a typo in that link, Little Gator: it should be http://www.northern.edu/hastingw/baumedts.htm.

Those editorials are pretty horrific, and I've struggled with them myself before now. There are elements in them which appear to acknowledge that in the conflict between the white settlers and the Native Americans, the natives had the moral right. Baum writes of the "white man's spirit of hatred and revenge", hardly the language of one claiming racial superiority. On the other hand, the call for genocide at the end of the editorial appears unequivocal. It's frankly (no pun intended) amazing that the romanticized view of the "noble savage" is promoted hand-in-hand with a call for extermination.

He also writes, "Having wronged them for centuries we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth." It almost seems as if he's saying that the moral high ground was lost so long ago that the only reasonable course of action is to ignore morality completely. That train of thought is terrifying. It's even more terrifying when you realize how similar it is to the train of thought that says, "Well, of course we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, but now that we're there we've got to stay because the result of leaving would be disaster" — a train of thought which has tempted me on occasion.

One more thought: Wikipedia notes that Matilda Joslyn Gage was living with Baum when he wrote these editorials, and that there is no record of domestic strife on the subject of Indian rights. Gage was later adopted into the Wolf clan of the Mohawk nation — although, of course, relations between the Mohawks, an Iroquois tribe, and the various Sioux tribes were not always congenial. I don't know whether at the time Gage was initiated into the Mohawks, they had put aside past enmities in recognition of the common enemy (the white man) or not. Of course, we can't really come to any definite conclusions about Baum based on his mother-in-law's life or opinions.

As for being a divot — if I am the divot, who or what is the club which carved me out of the ground? That gets us into pretty deep theological territory...

Maggie Jochild said...

I've been thinking for two days about the "genocide editorials", and some of the questions raised in your post, Josiah. I don't have a complete response -- mostly, more questions and some impressions. But this is fascinating stuff. And very, very timely. Tancredo, Brownback and other "lesser" lights are very much on the genocide trail right now with regard to brown people in the U.S.

I watched (for the first time) a few minutes of Drew Carey's new game show tonight, name something like 1 in 10,000. The contestant was a 19-year-old man from El Paso, Hispanic, brilliant college student who had so far gotten 14 scholarships, and he was blazing through the competition. His ally and advisor was his twin brother, also in a prestigious college. There were frequent shots of their parents in the audience, very Texas-border-looking Latinos who were agog with pride.

The format of the show is that the contestant must guess correctly, within an ever-diminishing range, the results of a nationwide survey on a particular question. I was starting to enjoy the show until the $100,000 question, which was "What percentage of Americans believe America will still exist as a nation 100 years from now?" As the young man tried to decide what range he was going to select, Drew Carey (whom I knew was a Republican, but still...) takes the opportunity to say "It'll be a moot point if we don't get that wall built sooner and higher." The young man's smile froze. And nobody booed.

I turned off the TV instantly. I'm formulating my latter to the fucking network -- I want to add, "As if that will make any difference" but despair is a luxury and a nasty one at that.

We here in Texas have a unique perspective in that our land was, until recently, a state of Mexico and was flat-out stolen from that nation, with thousands of Mexican citizens suddenly forced with the choice of leaving their land or changing nations. Most of the white people who poured into Texas during the 1820s and 1830 to accomplish this theft were Southerners. There was another huge influx from the South post Civil War. So, we're Western, we're Mexican, we're Southern in culture, all at the same time.

I'm sixth generation Texan. My ancestor Brinkley Davis (born in Maryland) moved his family here in 1834, swore a loyalty oath to Mexico and became a citizen, then promptly supplied "beeves" and material aid to the Texas revolution. His elder sons all fought in the Mexican War; his younger sons fought (and died) for the Confederacy, one of whom was my great-great-grandfather.

I'm sick unto death of the myth that white people who stole land and labor "brought civilization with them" or have in any way earned what they now have. Despite the extreme poverty of generations of my family (to present), we still had it better than the folks we ripped off. I know the names of two ancestors who were Native American -- one a Cherokee woman, one a Choctaw man. Their culture was seemingly extinguished in our family tree within a generation, with "white" taking back over -- except, as both a Southern historian and someone very knowledgeable about some Native American tribes, I can in fact trace their impact to present-day. (Aside from our dark hair and eyes.)

But both the lines descended from these folks were the most determinedly racist. It's the contradiction you speak of, Josiah. I tend to think of it as Southern, but it goes much farther back in white European reality -- it's why Kipling could write "Though I've belted you and flayed you / By the living God who made you / You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din."

It's why the men who are revered as the generals and commanders of the Union Army, defeating the South "to end slavery", gleefully moved on to become the wagers of genocidal war against the Plains Indians.

It's the evangelical Christian mindset which believes Jews are g*d's chosen people and vociferously defend Israel while simultaneously being certain that come the Rapture, they will all be condemned to eternal damnation for failing to accept Jesus.

It's the difficult fact that men who use children and teenagers sexually often do actually love their victims and may be the only adult in their lives to pay any sort of meaningful attention to them.

I know all of these ills and distortions are linked at a fundamental level, and what keeps them going is hopelessness. Baum could not imagine undoing the damage his people were in the midst of, or of stopping "manifest destiny", but his conscience said a decision was called for, so he went for genocide. People long to be logical, and will fill in gaps with whatever is handy like birds building a nest.

It is my goal, and responsibility, as an artist to imagine other solutions and offer them in a package which can be absorbed by the terrified and angry.

And hope seeps through. Brinkley Davis's granddaughter, Leah, left behind her family and community to move to a county in Texas swept by Comanche raids. She raised her five children to be avid readers and extreme free-thinkers. One of them, my grandfather Bill, in 1919 agreed to let his wife earn the family income while he stayed home with the kids. His brother Auther was a Wobbly, brother Oscar refused to register for the draft during World War I, and their sisters Zora and Annie were Jehovah's Witnesses which was extremely radical for the time. I'm a direct product of Leah's rebellion. The sifting continues.