Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Coalition Of The Oppressed

Last Tuesday when my pal came over for our weekly no-girls allowed pot-smoking hangout session, we decided to watch Def Poetry, because we felt like making ourselves projectile vomit. Okay, I exaggerate. But we found the show to be entertaining, although not for the intended reasons. Let’s just say it should be called Def Comedy Poetry, because if you don’t take yourself as seriously as all of the self-righteous alleged poets on the program, it’s pretty damn funny.

It’s also incredibly predictable. Almost every poet waxes, uh, poetic, about how oppressed they are. And it’s not just the black poets who do it, they all do: Hispanics, nerdy whites, geeky whites, dorky whites (all the white poets on the show are either nerds, geeks, dorks or a combination thereof), humans with vaginas, Jews, and even East Asians. Almost every poet bitched about how hard life is for them in America, although to be fair there was one poet who talked about how lucky we all are to live in America—and he didn’t get booed off stage. But that’s probably because he was black…

Anyway, after laughing at all of these self-righteous semi-rhyming sob-stories, a young Korean poet stepped on to the stage and started gripping about the tensions between inner city blacks and inner city Korean store owners. Fair enough, I thought. I mean yo—she was flowin,’ and her humanity was showin,’ and so my sympathy was growin,’ until she started insinuating that the “white” police routinely ignored the pleas of Korean store owners who were under attack or being robbed. Why? Because Koreans are Asian and obviously evil whitey doesn’t care about them or the inner city, that’s why (And No!—it’s not racist for non-whites to assume that most whites are racist.)

But any modicum of sympathy I might have had for her story evaporated when I remembered—through my marijuana clouded brain—that my late grandfather, a pharmacist, owned a store in Milwaukee’s inner city, not much unlike her Korean parents. My hardworking grandfather was robbed COUNTLESS times. Once he was SHOT in the back from a SHOT GUN as he ran for his life during a robbery. Another time he was PISTOL WHIPPED into unconsciousness in front of my shocked grandmother who had the fortitude of mind to fake passing-out in order to spare herself a similar beating. Literally, my grandparents’ store was robbed countless times. I grew up on stories of these robberies, some of which were hilarious. Once, my grandfather was held up and he bolted out the back door and ran out into the ally only to run smack-dab into the same robber who had held him up! Or, the time they opened the store and discovered some guy who had stayed the night reading porno-mags (In between begging for free candy, I recall sneaking over to the magazine rack to glimpse at those same magazines.).

But I digress… Did it ever occur to my grandparents to blame society for not preventing every robbery and petty crime in their store? No! Did they ever become racist against black people and Hispanics? No! Did they ever inculcate my parents or their grandchildren to feel like victims? No, no, no!

I don’t think it ever even occurred to my grandparents to draw a connection between their store getting robbed, the police not being able to prevent it or responding quickly enough, and anti-Semitism. It didn’t occur to them because for one, there is no connection, and secondly, we don’t go through our lives feeling or acting like victims. This doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of anti-Semitism (anybody reading this blog knows how I feel about it), but we don’t use it as a crutch or an excuse.

There’s a whole bunch of people out there who will never admit it, but they have a perverse attraction to being able to feel or identify as a victim. I know because I’ve encountered it numerous times in my life. On many occasions people—usually other minorities—have intimated to me that because I am Jewish, I can also lay claim to the badge of honor otherwise known as the oppressed minority club of America. Well, that’s a club of losers that I want no part of.

The seeming desire to be a victim, to latch on to victim-hood, is what’s so annoying and yet pathetically funny about Def [Comedy] Poetry. Almost every poet, despite his or her ethnicity, tries to latch on to victim-hood status. That is why the white poets are self-identified geeks, nerds, or dorks; they need that moniker to earn their victim credentials. The Def poets all seem to think that being victims makes themselves and their shitty poetry more “real.”

Please, keep it coming. It’s funny.


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