December 9, 2016

Over the past weekend I visited with what I’ll call family down in Houston. They’re Mexican working/middle class and the immediate circle is, it’s fair to say, atypical of the majority of Republican voters in that they’d fit in fine at Free Republic yet also didn’t support Trump even though they voted for him in the general election. We get along, even when we argue.

On Friday I ended up hanging out with a neighbor down there and got put on the spot as being the designated spokesman for White People. He asked many questions which all boiled down to “Why?” I told him that I didn’t know, but as best as I could figure it came down to tribalism. You’ve probably seen it, no matter your tribe: disdain or fear of a people, but a more individual feeling when it comes to a person. Thus, I am, for this dude, “one of the good ones.”

I oversimplified, but I pulled out my Lakoff (not a pet name for muh schlong), and explained some of the “take our country back” bullshit in terms of Lakoff’s theories of categories and how, for some, “American” is a basic-level category that includes white folks and not much else (and here, the Doctor’s description of basic-level primacy is helpful: “basic-level categories are…primary with respect to the following factors: gestalt perception, image formation,[],knowledge organization, ease of cognitive processing…”). Which was a way of saying “when they hear, ‘American people,’ it’s a pretty homogenous group that comes to mind.” This actually came up after he told me how almost everyday he gets asked, “Where are you from?” And not just by white folks, but also by raza, and even after he explains that he was born in America: “Yeah, but where are you from?”

So this led me to think about not just how we treat recent refugees and immigrants, but how we treat people whose claim to Americanness is really only different to mine by maybe 50 years. And the Dog Faced Hermans song below came to mind. It’s nice to have poets.

From "Hum Of Life" (1993)

Hear The Dogs

Welcome, welcome
I would give you the freedom of my own home,
and you may sit in my kitchen,
between the hours of five and six.
And you may butter your bread
on the one side only.

And we can do this,
because we’re quite groovy so you’re lucky.
Remember.
Welcome –
wipe your feet.

-But hear the dogs barking
outside.

-Everything in limitation,
nothing open-handed
This is some country this is

What did you expect?
What did you expect when you came?

Hear the dogs barking
outside.

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