Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/11/2009

A totally HYPERGRAPHIC morning: read at your own risk

OK. Let’s “Oedipus out” this writing as far as it will go.
(Professor Nelsen used to tell us in fiction-writing class to “weird out” our short stories.)



I woke up hearing my mother’s voice: “You are a stiff-necked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against you.” It’s a biblical quotation (Exodus 32:9). God screaming at the Israelites through Moses, my mother changing the words just enough to make it obvious that God was angry at me.

This is a morning when my writing is trying to catch up with what I want to say, and I have no way to make sense because it’s so confused in my mind that it would take four or five well-reasoned essays, and this morning well-reasoning is beyond my ability. 

The stiff-necked people are the ones Charlton Heston came down from Sinai and smashed the Golden Calf built by Edward G. Robinson with the gold he bilked his friends out of. Did you ever think that “Charlton” is a faggy (I can use that word; you can’t) name for a macho man who wanted us to pry his cold dead fingers from around his gun when he died? I had a high school friend named Charlene who looked like Ben-Hur (blonde hair, blue eyes, and a jutting chin). It would be slanderous for me to say Bruce Hoffman looks like a skinny Edward G. Robinson. See? I told you this wasn’t going to make sense.

Back to Mother’s voice. I have no idea why she was in my head this morning, except yesterday I was thinking about the “stiff-necked” people dancing around the Golden Calf and making Charleneton go back up that ridiculous mountain, bizarre fireballs zooming out at him again writing on those silly tablets. I was thinking about “stiff-necked people” because even Obama got in on the act yesterday saying that we have to hate the Ft. Hood killer because he’s a Muslim (read the speech!). 

Let’s all hate, OK? Stiff-necked. Bearing false witness. The ninth fireball.

That got me to thinking about Mother and me. Don’t ask me to explain the connection. She and I had this sort of special musical relationship. She was ridiculously more musically talented than I. But she was the preacher’s wife and mother of three kids, and had no chance of a “career.” When they were in high school her brother would buy her sheet music of all the popular tunes, and she could still play them from memory when I was learning to play. I have some of that sheet music. And you should have heard Mother play gospel hymns after she was too far gone with Alzheimer’s to make much sense in any other way.

So I’m thinking about Mother and stiff-necked Americans-who-hate-Muslims (I do wish the NPR “hosts” would learn to pronounce “Muslim” so it doesn’t sound like a racial slur), and then suddenly (and there is absolutely NO connection here, but I can’t not write about it) I remember her taking me to hear a traveling men’s choral group with a small orchestra and one woman (soprano) soloist through the Community Concert Association in Scottsbluff (stopover of Charlie Starkweather) at the high school auditorium. This men’s choral group plus one woman sang Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. One of the great formative musical moments of my life. Why on earth they were singing Stravinsky in Nebraska in the ‘50s I will never know. But it’s one of those “Small Good Things” (see Raymond Carver) for which I will be eternally grateful (or at least until this poor abused body dies and I cease to exist—back to my disbelief in heaven).

I remember the music. 


Oedipus and mom

So we have ole Oedipus gouging out his eyes because of the monstrosity he has committed. Imagine. Gouging out your eyes because you couldn’t look at the disaster you’d caused. 

I’m back to yesterday. Finally, but the strands are still not-tied-up out in the universe. Oh well. Yesterday I wrote about Bruce Hoffman which I’m sure hardly anyone understood because the quotes were too long (but no one would have read my bizarre attempt to write all of that out myself and tie it together). I let people who know what they are talking about say what I was trying to say. 

I’ll quote the crux of the matter one more time. 

There is now a Homeland Security Institute as well as related journals, degree programs, and conferences, all of which continue to develop approaches and procedures rooted in the idea of a United States in a perpetually defensive mode against a hostile world . . . . the fact of the war [on terror] was rapidly concretized for audiences across the political, professional, and cultural spectrum. Distinguished academics from the country’s most prestigious universities provided intellectual grounding; Washington think tanks supplied the administration with a perpetual flow of policy assessments that . . . .played the overall role of confirming the larger effort; and the mainstream media either cheered the war or muted its criticism…

The American people are wacko. Wacko. They believe the idiocies that Bruce Hoffman (I don’t care if he is a full professor at Georgetown University) spews out—every Muslim, everyone with an Arabic name, everyone who has a friend who is in jail because he’s been convicted of “terrorism” is himself a terrorist. (I wonder why the FBI hasn’t set up Muslim American women to entrap them in bogus plots to bomb 60-story buildings. The FBI is as sexist as the next US government agency.) 

How does this relate to the “stiff-necked” people or to Oedipus or to Scottsbluff? or to Charlene Heston or the golden calf? or Bruce Hoffman? I feel like a Greek oracle singing in Latin. 

It’s pretty simple. The American people are so willing to be hoodwinked and propagandized by weaselly (in the Hebrew Bible sense of “unclean”) little men like Bruce Hoffman—just as the Hebrews were convinced by weaselly Edward G. Robinson—whose entire career has been spent doing research (RAND Corporation, anyone?), not to find the truth but to prove his presuppositions, and then to feed to the results of his “research” to a government made up of weaselly little men and women who want desperately to hold onto their jobs (their Golden Calf), so they propagandize YOU and scare good sense out of you (us) so you will believe that a deranged murderer who happens to have an Arabic name is a terrorist. To them that’s logical, of course, because every Muslim is a terrorist—or at least in a “sleeper cell” devoted to destroying American Christianity. 

This country is wacko. Wacko. The likes of Bruce Hoffman have driven us out of our collective mind. I’ll bet there wasn’t one letter to the editor of the Christian Science Monitor asking what in God’s name Bruce Hoffman meant by saying, “I don’t see a nervous breakdown as being mutually exclusive of terrorism,” or why a newspaper with the word “Christian” in its name would print such an incendiary, xenophobic statement.
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And so we’re back to “STIFF-NECKED PEOPLE.” Edward G. Robinsons all. Not a Charlene Heston in the lot (much less a gun-toting, ten-commandmants-toting Charlton) to tell us that Yahweh is pissed. Tell us that we should at least have the decency to repent—maybe not go as far as Oedipus, but repent. Get over our worship of the Golden Calf of xenophobia. 


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