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Event # 233: LARGER THAN LIFE
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Baltimore - 16 September, 2000 - Before we start dissecting my past and personality this week, my Beloved Voyeurs, I want to encourage you to explore this edition of the magazine.
I believe this could well be the best edition we've put out this year. You owe it to yourself to check out the great features, from the debut of Kenyan writer ROBERT ODOUL to RAKESH AGRAWAL'S wonderful piece on relations between the USA and India. I'll just mention those two, but I think this cornucopia of an issue has some of our best features in months. (And I'm the guy who's responsible to see that we're sterling every week!)
Odoul's piece is on Tiomin Research's titanium mining project in Kenya. Just the mention of that word, "titanium," brings up images of ultimate strength... but it also could mean the death of people far from your shores. Read this article and find out.
And that's only one of ten great features...
On another note, it was my privilege this week to begin correspondence with Boris Kagarlitsky, a Russian sociologist, as part of the joint venture we're doing with the Media Channel.
If you're at all concerned about the current situation in Russia, I'd recommend you read this Moscow Times article, published on Saturday, that Boris contributed.
MY E-MAILI've told you before, I get A LOT of e-mail. A goodly percentage of it has to do with how I've made my life a Glass House here on the Web. Usually, for reasons I don't fathom yet, people who've learned more than anyone needs to know about my life have only MORE questions to ask.
I'm an accomodating exhibitionist, so I try to fulfill their (your) needs for everthing that happened. All the blood and gore.
Got this request most recently:
"...You've mentioned that you were not the ONLY black person at your high school --- considering how hard you tried to fit in, I bet you had a nemisis [sic] , a 'brother' who deridded [sic] your efforts (i've seen this in action, I just don't have first-person perspective) - I bet THAT would make for interesting telling...."
Well, I wish there had only been one brother. Actually, there were a lot of people for whom I had to pass the "Black Enough" litmus test. And not just in high school. I went to college during the zenith of the early 70s protest movement, Kent State, the Black Panther Movement, all that. Malcolm, King, RFK had all been assassinated, the Democrats had begun their self-immolation and Nixon was being reborn. When I graduated high school, it seemed like the only alternative for any thinking young person was to join the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) --- no lie. And back then the SDS was talking "Go underground and blow shit up!" It was the height of the turbulence.
In college, I found myself having to utter those defensive words, "And is that Black Enough for you?"
So it wasn't just high school, Correspondent, it was my life as a young Black man when America was working out whether it was REALLY into equal opportunity --- not just for Blacks, but for women and other minorities.
I still have friends in the American Indian Movement (AIM,) so as far as I'm concerned it ain't over yet.
That's why I'm a radical.
But --- to get back to your question --- a difficult one for me even now, I have to tell you that not that much has changed since 1970, when I graduated from high school, until now. I am still wrestling with questions of identity and how I deal with the larger society around me. That's what sociological "marginality" is all about...
I'll give you a couple of snapshots:
- Because of the amount of property my parents owned in our rural area someone must have assumed that we had to be white. (These geniuses didn't take the time to drive by and see who lived on the property.) There were Black families in the area, but they only owned a few acres of land, if they owned at all.
So we regularly received solicitations to join the Ku Klux Klan in our mailbox. (Of maybe I'm totally off-base here, and the mailings were an intimidation tactic. Who knows?)
- My high school, whose population was 3,000 students when I graduated, was approximately 10% Black. Some of that 10% were my neighbors, of course. We rode the school bus together for years. But I had two things going against me: 1) I was a wonk. High grades, definitely on the college track, and 2) I made no secret of my rabid ambition. I was wholly committed to having everyone acknowledge that I was the smartest, most talented person in that school and I was unapologetic about it. I was too stupid, at the time, to realize how that would alienate my peers, both Black and White.
- Consequently, lots of students disliked me intensely, both Black and White. Ever see the movie "Election" with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick? I was the Reese Witherspoon character.
But then, there was The Other Rod, The Writer. He was ambitious, too, but in a different way. He was the one who presented the sensitive side that some of my high school peers gravitated toward. He was funny, and kind, and generous, and --- despite how it undermined the efforts of the Captain of Debate Team, Student Body President, yatta-yatta-yatta --- he was reckless and a dyed-in-the-wool REBEL.
He was the one who wrote poetry, plays, essays, and you could depend on to drive you home drunk from a party. He was the guy who acted as DJ for first period study hall, cut classes as often as he could, knocked back beers with his pals from the football team DURING THE SCHOOL DAY. The guy who always had something sarcastic to say --- even to teachers.
WIN ROD AMIS'S MONEY!!!
IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER THAN FREE BENJAMINS IN YOUR POCKET? You tell us.
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Remember what I said last week about being a juggler?
Performing this balancing act of the two Rods meant that I didn't take the people who didn't get along with me, the Blacks who said I was too much an Oreo, or the Whites who said I was too Uppity, that seriously.
Hell! I didn't have time.
Besides, I was so arrogant that I believed that they were insignificant annoyances in my turbulent life (remember, I'd run away from home.) Gnats on an elephant's butt.
I had submerged some of the indignities I had seen my parents suffer as a child --- I had problems with my parents, as we've covered before --- and I considered "crackers" who couldn't handle my up-front attitude as below my contempt.
Sure, they caught me off guard and hurt me sometimes. I could see those losers who thought they were better than me simply by dint of pigment. But I could hold my grades and achievements up to them silently.
Every Black child in those days, as we moved into integration, was taught that you had to be BETTER, STRONGER, SMARTER than them. I took it to heart with a vengeance.
AND --- if I really wanted to --- I knew I could "get my own" on them because of the power I'd managed to accumulate in my political activities. (And I can be a calculating and vindictive bastard.)
SIDE NOTE: The principal of my high school was actually named JEFFERSON DAVIS. He disliked me intensely. We were at war throughout my high school career. But I think most of my peers would acknowledge today that I kept that man in check. I did so by forming a coalition of city high schools (with myself in charge, of course, and taxing the other high school's revenues to go into my treasury) which had representation at the School Board level.
It wasn't really until college, honestly, that I began to grapple with the issues (and answers) inherent in my Blackness. I left the ruthless ambition behind then and started looking for who I wanted to be as a man.
And that's another confession for another time...
My e-mail Correspondent's second question was about how what I've undergone in my many storied relationships will impact how I deal with "The Last Woman," should I ever find her. I'll share that with you next week, O dedicated Voyeurs.
THINGS THAT BOTHER ME THIS WEEK1. Needing more money to support all of my "dependents."
2. Pining for friends in California and not being able to tell them when I'll next be able to visit.
3. Wanting just one day when I feel pampered instead of pushed.
4. Budgetting out some time to resolve my healthcare issues.
5. Finding The Last Woman.
Thanks for coming back this week.
"Work like you don't need the money,
"Love like you've never been hurt,
"Dance like no one is watching..."
This is another Web site made on a Macintosh.
ROD AMIS has published this magazine since 1990. It first appeared as a hardcopy 'Zine. In March, 1996, he launched it here on the Web. Rod was a Contributing Editor at Suite101.com, where he wrote the " 'Net Publishing" feature. His work has been featured in the San Francisco Bay Guardian Online, NRV8, and at WebLab's Reality Check site. Rod was also a contributing writer on technology for Faulkner Information Services.
Rod was a columnist for the Andover News Network, where he wrote over two hundred articles on web design and development issues. He is also principal writer and Editor for IT Manager's Journal, where he reviews technology issues weekly. He became the Managing Editor for Electronic Mail/Newsletter Publications at Andover.net at the end of February, 2000.
He lives in Baltimore, MD, at the moment (though it seems to most people he *actually* lives on the Web,) edits the writing of people from four continents for The World's Magazine, and wonders who The Last Woman will be in his "spare time."
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