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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair


05 Jun 2009

Ten years ago, I thought this was edgy or funny.  At least now, parts of this entry made me chuckle.  Would this writing be considered edgy or funny today?  Probably not, but, eh, here you go anyway:


At this point in the journal, I would like to insert a little honesty.  I don’t actually believe this paper is going to be 30 pages unless I go back and expand on a few stories that happened but I didn’t write down.  The reason for not writing them down was the fact that I was extremely busy doing something else, but as of right now I’m not exactly sure what it was.  I’m sure it was something Mexican. 

Speaking of things being Mexican, here’s a fun game I played over the month.  It’s called the “Let’s-Make-Everything-Mexican” game.  It’s very simple, and all you have to do is put the word “Mexican” in front of any noun. 

For example, one morning I was in the bathroom, getting ready to take a shower.  I pulled the shower curtain close, took my towel from the hook, and tossed over the shower curtain rod, when I noticed a spider on the wall, behind where the towel was just hanging. 

Now you might think, okay, fine, spider, but wait!  It was not just any spider.  It was a Mexican spider.  Suddenly, the arachnid seemed a little more dangerous.  It was about the size of a cassette tape, and moved across the wall in short, quick strokes.  It was flat, and a brownish-grey color.  The worst part about it, aside the fact that I hate spiders, is that I had nothing to bash it with.  That, and I was completely naked, so I felt a little more helpless.  I looked around the shower, and decided to let it go, but to keep an eye on it the whole time. 

When I told my host family about it, they told me that this sort of spider isn’t deadly, unless you’re a mosquito.  Of course, I didn’t know that and assumed the worst, thinking that this was the infamous Oaxacan Jumping Spider my professor teased me about moments after I dove into an archaeological tomb just days before.  Granted, the Oaxacan Jumping Spider could be fictional, but hey, I’m not taking any chances.  The funny thing is if it were a lizard in the shower – excuse me – a Mexican lizard, it wouldn’t have bothered me at all even though lizards are probably more dangerous to people than spiders.

What this all boils down to is stereotypes.  One of my favorite movies that deals with fantasy, reality, stereotypes and truth is Toy Story.  That’s right.  There is a lot of assumption in this film, and that is what makes it as good as it is.  The scene where Buzz Lightyear and Woody get trapped in Sid’s room, Sid’s toys come to help.  Woody assumes they are cannibals, but he is wrong, as I was about the spider.  However, neither of us were taking any chances.
This is the same with the “Let’s-Make-Everything-Mexican” game.  Try it.  Even in the United States.  Just for fun, make everything Mexican (even if it’s not), and see how your perception of that thing changes.  Try to keep an open mind, too.  Or, if that doesn’t work for you, try it on a more realistic level.  Atlanta traffic.  Los Angeles smog.  New York subway floor.  Chicago pizza.  Advertisers use this tactic all the time.  Look in any supermarket, catalog, or shopping mall and see how they have manipulated a stereotype in order to sell a product, service, or idea.  “Australian Body Works”.  What the hell is that?  I suppose it wouldn’t sell as well if it were called “Cambodian Body Works”, would it?  This is just my way of helping out.  You can thank me later.

One Saturday morning, Dr. Vougel asked a bunch of us to assemble in the zocalo to help him tape a recruitment video.  We agreed, and I was the person doing the commentary in between the segments.  Hopefully, you’ll never see it.  It was extremely cheesy, as it needed to be, and I didn’t get to improvise the things I wanted to, but hey.

Dr. Vougel said he wanted “An authentic Oaxacan experience” for this tape, so we have shots of the other students walking toward the tables in the zocalo, sitting down, brief commentary, blah, blah, blah.  All the while, I was still wearing the microphone on my shirt, and as he panned around the table and asked how everyone was doing, I volunteered “This morning I passed Elvis through my colon.”  The best reaction was when Dr. Vougel pulled the camera away from his ear (the speaker is on the ear side of the video camera) and gave me a look like “Why on Earth would you say that?” amidst my fellow students comments of “Gross!”  “What did he just say?” and laughter.

By the way, at no time did I pass any people, I just wanted a genuine reaction and a few laughs, and that is exactly what I got.  Speaking briefly about assumptions, someone commented about “Why did you say that about Elvis Presley?”  I didn’t.  They assumed it was Elvis Presley.  It could have been Elvis Costello.  It could have been anyone.  I didn’t specify.

After the video session, I was heading  to the computer center to check my E-mail when I was stopped by a woman sitting alone at a table, who inquired about my shirt.  I was wearing my grey “House of Blues” shirt I picked up in New Orleans.  I stopped to talk with her for a few minutes, and ended up sitting down and talking for about an hour.
The woman’s name is Josephine Wallace, and she is originally from Perth, Australia.  She lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Los Angeles, California (I think).  She paints blues musicians, and we began talking about New Orleans, and then segued into religion, attitudes about society, Miles Davis, Mexico, etcetera.

There are a few things I would like to sum up about that conversation, the highlights, if you will, but before I do so, I would like to point out a few things.

First, this is both a journal and an assignment.  Usually when I write a journal, the only assumed audience is myself.  For this, I decided to elaborate because I wanted to mix my words and photographs for the best overall summary of this experience so I can read it six years down the road, pass it along for other people to read, whatever.
You see, there is an assumed knowledge of character by the professor who is reading and grading this paper, but none by a stranger who may come across it.  For this to be a good story – and it is indeed a story -- it needs good character development.  I am the main character, and I have to assume the audience knows nothing about me, so it is my responsibility to share certain attitudes, feelings, and opinions with them so they can better understand what is going on.  I also need to share with them when these things change to prove that the character has indeed developed, to make it a good story, but without sacrificing any authenticity or making anything up.  So far, so good.

This is a journal, so it does need to be realistic, authentic, and honest.  It needs to be non-fiction, or else I have failed with this assignment.  The truth is, no one will know but me what is real and what is not, but for my sake I have kept everything totally true, only for the fact that I don’t want to have to remember which is which.  Besides, there was enough interesting stuff happening here that I really don’t need to lie.

Back to Ms. Wallace.  We talked for about an hour or so, and there are a few things she shared with me about Mexico, Oaxaca in particular, that I didn’t know.  This is the third poorest state in Mexico.  It seemed evident by the people in the streets that this wasn’t exactly the best situation for some of them, but I didn’t know how poor it was.
White people, no matter how long they have lived in Oaxaca, will be treated like outsiders.  It doesn’t matter how well you speak Spanish, where you live, or what you do, the white people are all just tourists.  Remember, these attitudes reflect her experiences, not everyone’s.

I felt a little bit of this when I was out on the street.  People would offer to sell me things, or bump into me, or whatever, and it would start to get on my nerves.  The worst part of it were the times I waited patiently in line some place and a Mexican would cut in front of me – sometimes forcibly – and then get served!  I had to be a little assertive myself, but it all came to light during one of my Anthropology classes when the professor’s wife thoughtfully pointed out “Maybe now we can understand how black people felt in the 1950s.”  I was immediately filled with an honest sense of remorse, even though I am in no way responsible.  The truth is, no matter how much I was bumped into, ignored, or pushed away, I can’t even pretend to know what it was like to be black in the United States in the 1950s.

This brings me to another point.  Reverse racism.  If I hear one more newscaster or see another news article complaining about “Reverse racism”, I’m gonna scream.  Did you ever notice you never see a black person doing a story on reverse racism?  There’s a reason for that.  REVERSE RACISM DOES NOT EXIST.  I hope I made myself clear.  Let me explain.

The term “Reverse Racism” is a phrase concocted by the white media to make white people look more like victims than they actually are.  The Merriam Webster Dictionary  defines racism as “n: a belief that some races are by nature superior to others; also: discrimination based on such belief.”  No where does it say anything about color of skin.  There is no such thing as reverse racism.  It’s still just racism.  The same applies to sexism, ageism, and any other discriminatory category you can think of.

Ms. Wallace and I talked about a number of other things, including survival, and entertainment.  My attitudes on those topics are as follows:

As I mentioned before, we should all look out for each other, but not just in this little group.  I mean all of us.  If you can help someone out, help them out.  Do what you feel is appropriate.  I, for example, never give money to anyone begging, but always offer food, if I have it.  That’s the way I was brought up.  I am in total support of people looking out for one another and lending a helping had when capable.  However, there are times when we should all remember this phrase: 
I don’t think that situation is any of my business.  Repeat that to yourself three or four times or until it makes sense to you.

Let’s say I’m walking down the street and I see a couple of guys beating the hell out of each other.  Am I going to interject?  Hell, no!  Let ‘em kill each other for all I care.  It’s none of my business.  It may be a selfish attitude, but it keeps me out of trouble.

Now, let’s say I see a couple of guys in a fight and one of them is a good friend of mine.  Now it is my business, and I’m going to help him out.  I’m a pacifist, so I’m going to try to talk the situation down, but if that doesn’t work, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  If I was in a fight and a friend of mine saw me, I would want him to jump in and kick the other guy’s ass, not tell a story.

There are other situations that are a little more gray.  Someone beating a child (I hope to God no one has ever been or ever will be put in this situation.  I have not.).  Maybe you can’t take on the oppressor, but you might be able to call for help.  Two kids fighting.  I’ve seen this.  It’s none of my business, but it’s easy to break up, usually.  There are other things aside from fights, but that seems to be the thing people tend to react to, or at least be able to associate with.

On the topic of entertainment, I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of a Mexican Matador get gored during the morning news.  Good.  I love when someone gets painfully injured when they are trying to show off.  The bull got him bad, too.  You had to see it; the guy got tossed in the air a few feet and then slammed on the ground.  By a bull.  A really, really, mad one.  In all fairness, they arm a guy with a spears, a sword, a costume, and, just to irritate the bull, a red cape.  The bull has…horns.  That’s it.  You have to admit, the cards are pretty well stacked against El Toro.

I also love it when the crowd starts chanting, “Toro!  Toro!” cheering for the bull.  Sure, the bull doesn’t know what’s going on, but it’s gotta hurt the matador’s self image a little.  Now he’s out there in his little costume and the people are rooting for his opponent.  You know if there are any other bulls in the stands who they’re cheering for.  Basically, everyone’s against this guy, and it’s gotta ruin his day.  If his wins, he gets booed.  If he loses he gets gored, but the fans are happy.  Tough choice.
Religion was the final topic we discussed, and before you cringe, I want you to know that this one is short.  There are only two (2) rules any religion needs to follow for it to be okay with me. 

Bills’ Rules for Religion
1. It cannot harm any unwilling people. 
What this means is the following: I don’t like to see cars blown up, school children shot, countries declaring war on each other or any of that in the name of The Almighty, unless the countries agree to kill one another.  I think religion should be peaceful.  Its purpose should be to help people out, not kill one another.  There should be a really honest recruitment policy that would let you know if you are going to come to an early demise because of the deity, prophet or whatever you chose to pray.

2. It doesn’t personally inconvenience me. 
That’s right, I don’t care what you do, but if I have to be bothered in any way because of someone’s choice of religion, I’m automatically against it.

Example of a bad religion: Waco, Texas.  Bothered and hurt a lot of people, most of them unwilling.  Also, I couldn’t escape from it, no matter how hard I tried.

Example of a good religion: Heaven’s Gate.  They didn’t bother anyone, and then they killed themselves.  Perfect.

I am not going to get into all of that, which is the “one true God”, beliefs, or whatever but as far as I am concerned, you can pray to Jesus or a flock of pink flamingoes .  It’s all the same to me.  Just keep the above rules in mind for yourself and see how they apply to your day. 

Anyhow, now that we have taken this insightful trip through my psyche, maybe you can understand me better.  I do want you to know that I am an optimist, a pacifist, and very open minded.  I enjoy peace and harmony, but when something goes the other way, you have to admit it’s a lot more interesting.  I’ll get off the soapbox now.

© 2009

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