Journaling in the wee hours of the 4th of July (plus book review)

In a bit of a melancholy mood this evening. I don’t like to hear myself bitch any more than others care to listen to me bitch. But it’s fucking difficult to bottle up my emotions and to pretend they don’t exist, especially when I feel disrespected. And that’s probably a problem I have to sort out for myself since life isn’t fair and it’s never going to be. Just is what it is. Not going to go into any of that on here tonight.

Been a weird week overall. Weirdos abounding. Arguments reigniting. That car crash from last week and its aftermath. Another holiday approaching, which gets people all antsy. And here it is — the 4th of July. Independence Day. A day for Americans to wave around flags and watch parades and scarf down hotdogs and beer while reminding one another how we’re the best country on Earth, bar none. Patting ourselves on the back for what our forefathers bestowed upon us, as if we’ve proven to be good stewards of these historic blessings.

Bah! This holiday makes a scrooge out of me.

I tire of so much propaganda and the guilt-inducing patriotism. Gotta love everything about this country, right or wrong, or else GTFO. So they like to say. How kind we are to our fellow natives.

The_Bluest_Eye_Toni_MorrisonAnother thing that’s bothered me this week is I read Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye. Pretty darn depressing read, though I figured on that before ordering it. Wanted to find out what this supposedly amazing author had to say that’s made her such a literary icon within the black community (as well as favored and applauded by Oprah Winfrey herself). Started out by watching an interview of Toni Morrison on youtube (was it from a Charlie Rose episode? I can’t recall). She came across as pretty darn racist. So decided to order a couple of her books (used through half.com) to find out what all the hubbub is about. Read an essay by her on the writing craft, then moved on to the book The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, this version including an afterword by her published in the 1990s.

What can I say about this book? It was well-written, I’ll give it that. Compelling enough to keep me wanting to read on. Wrapped up in the end as though its completion was being hurried, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. In her afterword section, Toni Morrison wrote on how she wasn’t terribly pleased with the book. But what got me is how she bent everything back toward race and racism. All throughout the book she described black characters who mistreated one another in awful ways, ending in a father raping and impregnating his young teenage daughter and then her mother beating her so badly that the girl went full-on crazy from thereon. The author described black parents who ordered their children around as if they had no thoughts or feelings of their own, who screamed and griped and carried on, particularly after another black man in the story was found out to be trying to molest another young black teen girl. The white people mentioned in the book were treated with scornful envy or reduced to being nasty idiots in need of black folks to care for them and their homes in order not to live in squalor. Aside from the two white rednecks who disrespected the young Cholly (the one who grew up to become the alcoholic who raped his own daughter) as he was attempting to lose his virginity the night of his aunt’s funeral — those two white guys were depicted as being part of the cause for why Cholly came out the way he did. That along with his father’s rejection after traveling to find him after Cholly’s aunt (and primary caretaker) had died. As well as having been tossed on a garbage heap by his mother when he was little more than a week old.

What gets to me about this story is that it showcases degradation within the black community, and Toni Morrison keenly portrayed it in all of its reckless degeneracy. And yet, still, somehow she found the problem to ultimately point back to white society as a whole. Not the choices of the black people written about. Not their poor parenting skills and heavy-handedness without first finding out the facts involved when it came to discipline. Not parents having sex in the same room as their kids, not to mention fighting and beating on one another. Not the drinking taken to the point that lust overcame all decency and familial bonds. White people had nothing to do with why Cholly hated women. Not even those rednecks who humiliated him deserved that honor. Yet Toni Morrison seemed to lay a good bit of the blame at their feet, claiming that Cholly redirected the animosity he felt at white people toward his own people, particularly black women and girls, as if that simply makes sense all unto itself. The mother who abandoned him was rather casually dismissed as assumed to have gone crazy. The aunt who chose to raise and care for him was spoken down about, as if her help had barely mattered at all. This was made clear when Toni Morrison claimed that the character named Cholly Breedlove had had no parenting skills to observe while coming up since he hadn’t been raised by his own parents. So what was his aunt? A nobody? Should she have simply left him to die on that garbage heap as a baby? Seems she received no credit for her sacrifices and love shown, or at least only trace amounts. Why? I think it’s because, for whatever reason(s), Toni Morrison didn’t care to flesh out his character in greater depth. She aimed to depict him as a loveless, broken man who’d given up and turned to the bottle, who hated women because he actually hated white people but couldn’t show it as openly, who came to care about nobody at all — yet the cause for all of this is somehow, somewhere, ultimately rooted in white society. These black people in the tale couldn’t love themselves or one another because of their envy toward whites, hence the fixation on blue eyes.

In the story, the white people mentioned all appeared to have money, whereas the blacks mostly didn’t. As if that’s the realistic split historically — yes-sirree, all white folks from time immemorial were blessed with money while black folks were not. Yep, that’s totally realistic. Right?  BS. But that’s how she wanted to frame her tale, creating a big divide between what she saw as the Haves and the Have-nots. Typical.

The book’s content was disturbing all unto itself without the added doses of racism toward white folks. Was going to loan it to a guyfriend, but after finishing it and telling him about it he stated he was afraid it might damage his spirit. And I agreed. Not loaning this book out to my friends. Not much good will come from doing so. Black folks who read it may very well accept Toni Morrison’s race-baiting antics without further scrutinizing all the black characters involved, and that’d be a shame. I found it to be more of an indictment of the black community itself rather than anybody else outside of it. Just a showcase of one scoundrel after another, some worse than others, but mostly scoundrels either way. The characters who might’ve proven to be fairly decent were mentioned in only a line or two and then left out of the rest of the story. The spotlight here was shined on these three black girls (Pecola, Claudia and Frieda), and it seemed nearly every adult around them wasn’t worth much of a damn. Hardly in any way conducive toward bringing up healthy, intelligent, competent and confident children. And I struggle to understand how that must be the outside world’s fault when so much control does and always has belonged to parents and families. Poverty alone can’t make people beat and rape their children. Hell, poverty is less likely to occur if one doesn’t drink and/or gamble away most of the money brought into the household!

Just kinda sickened me to read Toni Morrison’s afterword on the subject. Personal responsibility appears to mean to little to her since she’s caught up in this victim narrative and can see little else. Or at least that’s how her words came across to me. She stated this story wasn’t based on her own life but rather is a fictional account of an impoverished black girl (Pecola) who was taken advantage of by everybody, leading to the other two black girls (sisters Claudia and Frieda) who had befriended her to feel embarrassment and shame later in life when reflecting on how they couldn’t help her. But what was their primary concern expressed in the beginning and end of the book? That Pecola’s baby, conceived through rape from her father, had not lived. And that right there did me in. Makes me shake my head and wonder what planet we’re living on when that’s the primary concern here.

When I ordered that book I also ordered Toni Morrison’s Songs of Solomon. Hmm. Will wait a while before cracking that one open.

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