Saturday, March 04, 2006

Go Away, Dixieland

I see we have another case of people getting upset over the "right" to display the Confederate flag. Three students (or, more accurately, their pissed-off parents) are suing the William Blount High School in Knoxville, TN, who were made to cover up tee shirts glorifying the insurrectionist Southern flag. As always, the Southern Legal Resource Center, hellbent on preserving a mythical Antebellum past of slavery and elitism, have supported the lawsuit and started whining about free speech and "pride in southern heritage." Black students, of course, tend to feel differently about that southern heritage.

In this day and age, it's hard to see the Confederate flag without seeing it as an endorsement of the slave system. The education system here in the north has taught us that slavery was the major factor in the Civil War, while ignoring other key political reasons. Still, I don't think we can detach slavery from the Confederate Rebellion; it was a major part of the "Southern way of life" that they were fighting to protect. And when Southerners today go around wearing the flag or making it a legal issue... well, why have they built a symbol of racism and intolerance into something they take immense pride in?

I really do need someone to explain this "Southern heritage" thing to me. But I do feel that the rebel flag has no business being displayed in a government building (such as a school) or on government property. Not for racial reasons, but because the Confederacy, despite what Southerners get pissy about, was not a real country. It was an insurrection within the United States of America. The South attempted to secede, but one crucial political factor came up short: recognition. The "Confederate States of America" was only recognized by Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a loose collection of two minor German states, which was short-lived. You can call your little nation a country all you want, but if the land is, in fact, stolen from another nation, and it goes unrecognized by other major nations, it ain't really a country. England and France ultimately refused to recognize and legitimize the Southern gathering because they felt it would be an endorsement of slavery. Which was illegal in England and France.

"But we had our own government!" I hear. "Our own currency! Our own flag and constitution!" Yeah, well, so do a lot of clubs. And, really, that's about the only nation-status I'm willing to see offered to the "Confederate States of America." A club. With a lodge in Richmond.

Yeah, so, we shouldn't allow the symbol of an anti-US insurrection to be displayed in a government building. It's like asking to wear a swastika armband at the Knesset.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Third Co-Workers

More of the staff of Barnes & Noble during my purgatory there.

SPENCE was one of the coolest guys I've ever worked with. He was older, but we had the exact same interests in comics, SF, fantasy, and bad movies. He was married, but cheating on his wife. The thing that most disturbed me was the way he made constant reference to his wonderful collection of things as being in box after box in his own basement. I vowed never, ever to become like this; my collection, I thought, will never be consigned to storage. I just hated the notion of never knowing where my books, comics, and DVDs were. I've lived in my apartment for five years now, and I still haven't gotten it all unpacked. God damn it. Anyway, Spence and I went to the movies a number of times during a particularly good wave of B-movies: Dragonheart, Star Trek: First Contact, and several others. He lent me The War Lord and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. I loved him. Unfortunately, Linda K. loved him, too, so when he was magazine supervisor and later receiving manager, she always had him out on the floor and away from his work. He ended up becoming an assistant manager and then, of course, a total dick.

DEANA was the woman Spence was having an affair with. Hey, I almost had an affair with her too, even though she was spacey and on some kind of crazy-person's medication. She flirted with me a lot, right down to groping. I liked her, what can I say? Until she finally got really, really headache-inducing, that is.

PHYLLIS was a cool chick who came off really tough. I was intimidated by her at first, but melted her insides with my relentless flirting. I used to make her blush, which only emboldened me to flirt more. She had a real thing for Mark, and everyone wanted them to get together, but he was too lame to see it. He was engaged to the shrew, and by the time she cast him off, Phyllis was long gone. Boy, I loved Phyllis and I was in a foul mood when she quit. She was supervisor of the kids' section, but she hated it; who wouldn't? All those damn books from Klutz with harmonicas and magnets and toys and shit? It's a nightmare section to clean up after, let alone be stuck in! She was moved to fiction, much to the anger of Peter.

PETER was the biggest literary snob I've ever met; the kind of guy whose only real delight is in making other people look less intelligent than he felt he was. If he was so smart, why was he magazine supervisor at Barnes & Noble? Well, that argument never swayed him; he was still a prick. He respected you if you could argue back, which I always did. But he could hold a grudge, too. When Phyllis was given fiction over him, he stopped speaking to her. Even when she came back to visit, after which time HE had been given fiction. He was also a former film critic, which made it hard for me to discuss film with him.

GIGI was a wonderful woman, incredibly sexy and vivacious, whose husband ran a tavern in Chicago. She was a suburban housewife, but way too hot for it. I will always love Gigi, because she helped me out when I was bad off. I lived in an apartment with my co-worker, Ray, and when I moved in, I was receiving manager. Then I was demoted in the winter, and suddenly I couldn't afford to eat anymore. Because of the crappy heating, I got sick with a sinus infection, and I wasn't eating right. Gigi would give me sweaters she was throwing away. She would give me granola bars and soup that she claimed her children didn't like. And she never once made me feel like it was charity, even though it obviously was. Georgette, wherever you are, I will always be grateful to your for helping me out when I was too poor to eat and too proud to beg my parents for help. Even though you loved Metallica, which was just bizarre. She always laughed at me when I would look at her over my glasses (she called it my "Grandpa look").

Once, after I had quit Barnes & Noble, I ran into Gigi at Unicorn Comics, the best independent comic book store in Illinois. We chatted for a while, and I helped her pick out some comics for her kids. Then I went to B&N to visit Becca, and Spence, now in manager-dick mode, complained about Gigi having quit and told me to call her a name next time I saw her. I was shocked; not only did I have respect for Spence until that moment, but I don't know how anyone who ever met Gigi couldn't be a little in love with her for the rest of his life. So I told him off for it. Dick.

Props also to JEN G., whom I barely worked with (she worked mostly nights). She lent me a space heater for my crappy apartment that I didn't share with Ray. Jen helped to keep me alive, too. She was a nice, Nordic looking girl who resembled the main character in Leave It to Chance!, the excellent comic book. Becca had a thing for her, I remember.

ELIZABETH D. is a name I know Carl will cringe to remember. She was a flighty, crazy old woman who worked in community relations and was a total bitch. One of those New Age/old hippie types, which I can handle, but constantly on about how hard her job is and how much respect she deserves just for being old/a woman/whatever. She used to use cutesy language, cursing "Oh, lions and tigers and bears!" or "Ribbons!" instead of just swearing like a person. Carl hated her violently; I think he really wanted to strangle her and feel her life empty out of her. He used to go to great lengths to avoid even having to walk near her. Not that I blame him, really. She was a mean fucking witch. She was eventually fired for working at home too often. We were all pretty happy about it, because she used to work in back with us, and the complaints were insane.