"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Marfa Higgins, The South, And LGBTQ

“Buggery, welfare, and black people”, said Marfa Higgins. “That’s all you Yankees care about. What about all the good, decent, white people in America?”

She pulled out a recent copy of the Yale Alumni Magazine which she had ‘borrowed’ from her wayward uncle, Compton Blaine ‘57, waved it for all to see, and read the following Letter to the Editor:
Your obsession with race is unbecoming, absurd, endlessly tiresome, and – strange to say – racist. With this article (“Who was the first African American student at Yale”) you are in effect saying , “Wow, a black guy was smart enough to get into Yale in 1857”.  My answer is, “Who cares?”. As long as you are going to parse minorities for thrills, how about telling us when the first left-handed albino ever got into Yale?
 “At least there is one of you over-bred, Ivy League poufs who has some sense”.

 No matter where you turn these days, she said – The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, all journals of record, intelligence, and objectivity – you will find the broadsheets and glossy pages saturated with race, gender, and ethnicity.  A poor Kazakh immigrant, thanking Allah for the open arms of America as he struggles through any one of these journals to master English, might well think he has landed in Sodom, a land of libertinage, miscegenation, and a chaotic world of cross-dressers.

The Atlantic recently featured an article on dwarf sexuality, a piece bordering on the prurient and usually reserved for the Daily Mail or worse. A politically sensitive and sexually aware dwarf – or more correctly a ‘Little Person’ – had become frustrated with the limitations of an ‘other-shaped’ body.  One tended to get tangled or obstructed somehow, and there was a clear need to write a Kama Sutra for the 21st Century, or at least a Masters and Johnson.
Mary Lou Naccarato called it, “Heighten Your Sensuality & Intimacy: Innovative Techniques for the LP Body,” a resource manual used in conjunction with her workshops. It addressed everything from living with a disability, chronic illness, and injury, to LQBTQ topics, to explicit details of techniques, sexual positions, and even personal hygiene. In addition, it tackled the broad topics of intimacy and sensuality, body image issues, safe sex resources, and even topics like how to kiss, how to have non-intercourse sex, and how to simply embrace or caress another.
Naccarato wanted to deal with all types of ‘alternate sexual behavior’ including not only Little People but gays, lesbians, and transsexuals who might need some guidance in figuring out what goes where and who does what to whom.

Now many of Marfa’s friends figured her for extra bits of male DNA.  She, despite her Southern belle pedigree and antebellum upbringing, could out-man men at every turn. Yet she chose her political persona from the opposing camp.  Despite the fact that she was as tough as any radical feminist, she sided with the traditional woman – homemaker, homeschooler, obedient wife, church-goer, and community volunteer.  “The salt of the earth”, she said. “Descended from Esther, Ruth, Miriam, and Deborah. Obedient, faithful, honest women who cleaved to their better halves”.

A friend of Marfa's who had lived for years in the Northeast; and because of his class, education, and upbringing, was destined to become a liberal.  The parents of his New England friends were far from progressive.  They were the captains of industry who profiteered during the Civil War, producing armaments and hardware at exorbitant rates to the desperate Union; and who in the early days of the Republic made millions from the Three Cornered slave trade. Their grandfathers were relatives of the Rockefellers, Jay Gould, and the rest of the Robber Barons who resided on Park Avenue, hunted on Jekyll Island, and summered at Newport.

Something happened in the Sixties.  The cultural strands of DNA were snipped, and the children of these scions of American enterprise turned radically Left.  Yale had only a tenuous hold on these political rebels, and they lent their support to the Great Revolutionary Experiment of the Sixties.  Only in insulated redoubts did old-fashioned American conservatism survive – Nantucket, Bar Harbor, and the Upper Peninsula.

These reconstituted liberals migrated far from the rock-ribbed Republican conservatism which was based on frugality, parsimony, discipline, and service; and lost their bearings. Yale classmates who perched on the Yale Fence, dined at Mory’s, and sang with the Whiffenpoofs, rejected Jefferson, Locke, and Rousseau and took up with Paolo Freire, and Saul Alinsky.

“In the South, honey”, Marfa continued, “we have our share of pederasty, interracial intercourse, and uppity women. We just don’t make a big deal of it. The Mississippi carries all kinds of flotsam and jetsam, but its channel is deep, wide, and powerful.”

All the peccadilloes of the North - infidelity, sexual hijinx, gender bending liaisons - were routine and commonplace, not worth noting in the South and behind every woodshed, but insignificant for the white, conservative, family values mainstream of the community.

“We prefer murder, embezzlement, and deceit”, Marfa said.

Leticia Harper, for example, had been married to her husband, Randolph, for over thirty years. They had both married when they were quite young – at Ole Miss as Leticia liked to recall, reminiscent of Tennessee Williams’ Maggie and Brick, but with a whole lot more passion and blood – and had led an exemplary life.  They were master and mistress of Live Oak, a grand antebellum mansion that had been in the family since 1850 when it was the residence of Randolph’s great-grandfather Ellison, the most successful and prosperous cotton merchant of the town.

Live Oak was on the Pilgrimage Tour – one of the South’s last celebrations of the antebellum plantation period – and was always shown last because of its grandeur and Gone with the Wind romantic appeal.  It was indeed magnificent, overlooking the river, set on tonsured and manicured grounds reminiscent of Versailles, four stories of polished mahogany, Empire lowboys, Baccarat crystal, Audubon prints, and Mallard beds.  Its centerpiece was a long, winding staircase which rose from the formal foyer up to the bedchambers of the first floor, the studies and libraries of the second, and the clerestory, a widow’s walk lookout with Revolutionary War period colored glass through which the morning and evening sun cast rainbows.

No one will ever know whether Leticia pushed Randolph to his death down the narrow circular staircase to his death three stories below, crushing his head on the Victorian bust of Julius Caesar; or whether he stumbled drunk out of his ‘little room’, nest for quickie trysts with the black maids and fell of his own accord down onto the Venetian marble floor.

“She pushed him, of course”, said Marfa.

Eugene O’Neill, despite his presumptive status as America’s greatest playwright wrote some pretty awful grand guignol melodramatic stuff in his early years; and it takes a passionate devotee to conclude that Long Day’s Journey Into Night makes up for Mourning Becomes Electra.  Nevertheless Southern Gothic owes a lot to O’Neill, more so than to Tennessee Williams, native son and literary genius.

“Williams claimed he was a Southerner”, Marfa said, but he didn’t understand jack about the South. O’Neill is our man.”

She was right. Mourning Becomes Electra has incest, murder, jealousy, family heritage, greed, and ambition – all the makings of Southern Gothic.

“I am sure that the only Williams play that interests Northern liberals is Suddenly Last Summer” – a play about incest, homosexuality, family pimping, mental disorders, and sexual dysfunction.” 

Marfa was right.  If the ‘progressive’ academics of the Northeast who determine the curricula of today’s colleges were to choose a favorite American play, they would certainly choose Suddenly Last Summer.  How could they miss? An intense mother-son incestuous relationship never fulfilled.  A homosexual son who preys on Italian street children.  A mother who pimps for her son then reluctantly relinquishes the task to another.  A final Biblical consummation of cannibalism.

“We like Shakespeare, Lillian Hellman, and Edward Albee”, Marfa said.  “They speak to us.”

All three playwrights hated marriage, that most unnatural of social accommodations; but knew that it was the crucible within which moral, ethical, and philosophical conundrums were resolved.  George and Martha hated each other – or so it seemed at the beginning of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf – but they really loved each other.  They needed each other desperately it turns out, regardless of the twisted, destructive play-acting of the evening with Honey and Nick.

In the final accounting, no one cares who did what to whom in the bedroom.  Whether dwarves have to rig struts, balances, and trapezes to achieve orgasm; or how complex LGBT intercourse comes about.

There was a recent article in a well-known liberal magazine about the challenges of complex transsexual relationships, and described a sexual free-for-all where men dressed as women masquerading as men with men dressed as super-macho men but with submissiveness.  “Sexual Identity”, the piece was titled. “Who’s on Top?”. The article was far less interesting than a Letter to the Editor from a reader from Dubuque who raised the dominatrix-child-innocence theme; and wondered where in the Victor Victoria scenario portrayed in a recent movie, the primordial and essential element of woman-female child sex had gotten lost.

The Histories of Shakespeare have real resonance – greed, self-interest, venality, ambition, and murderous intentions are the truest expressions of human nature.  Tolstoy wrote about death and its contemplation.  Dostoevsky and Nietzsche wondered about Will, Good, and Evil. Chekhov understood the ponderous weight of history and the inability of Man to throw it off,  Ibsen and Strindberg valued human decisiveness, courage, and amorality.

Race, gender, and ethnicity are temporal follies – eddies on the shoals of the cultural Mississippi, catching random and insignificant flotsam and jetsam.

The ‘progressive’ Left is caught in these drifts.  Academics and political shills have missed the point again and again. Ukraine and Palestine are about Will, determination, and higher purpose.  Religious unrest and the rise of fundamentalism is more about Tolstoy, the Crusades, and the Holy Roman Empire than it is about gay rights.

'Enough already!', said Marfa Higgins.

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