Wednesday, February 10, 2010


More "Too Long for a Twitter, not long enough for a blog post.":

1) Last week I had a bizarre feeling. From out of nowhere, the sense that I was awesome overcame me. I was just working. I think that I had just finished putting together some touches on the accommodations for a speaker, and the idea organically rose. "I am awesome!" I thought.

It wasn't a pep-rally for myself feeling. It wasn't a conceited or narcissistic feeling, at least not more than usual. It was just a simple sense that I was all right. I mean it in those two words, too. All right.

The feeling stunned me. "Whoa!" I thought. "Is this the way normal people feel?" By "normal," I mean people who haven't been told from the womb that, whatever it is they are doing or being, it's wrong, people who haven't accepted that they are so wrong that they gravitate toward more people who think that they are wrong, which only reinforces the belief that they are wrong. Wrong down to their very souls.

"Do other people just have this simple feeling?" I wondered. "Do they understand that they are o.k.? Do they go around all day with this understanding?"

Let me tell you, it was intoxicating!

2) NO MORE SNOW! Really, we just dug out and now we get more?

Of course, I have these images of living in 30 or 40 years, where the entire continent is a vast desert and there are no polar ice caps, and fondly remembering the days of blizzards.

Meanwhile, they have to start letting flights out of the big airport. I want to see my Gentleman Caller this weekend, dammit! I haven't seen him in over a month and I miss him! Get those planes in the air! (Because it IS all about me and my romance.)

3) I am hoping that the roof doesn't collapse. That never seemed like a possibility until the news started reporting rooves caving in across the city. I live on the top floor of a building with a flat roof. I just don't want to deal with the annoyance of having my ceiling on my floor, all under six feet of snow. That would be a pain.

4) My efforts to "rehabilitate my reputation" -- which I cannot say without a massive eye-roll -- are going well. I have managed to set up three speakers drawn from our own faculty, reserved the space for the speakers, arranged for most of the publicity for the three speakers, may be able to have the speakers filmed for podcasts, and may end up having refreshments if my contact in the student service office can scrape up the money. The campus has an event for Black History month that is actually related to black history and an event for Women's History Month that is related to women's history, the dean is happy, my colleagues are happy, and I look good without a whiff of the vengeful spite that hangs about some of my ambition in this.

5) Consequently, my writing is suffering and I have to get a handle on that. Teaching and writing -- especially the grading part of teaching -- somehow seem antithetical to one another and I have to learn to switch gears more efficiently between the two.

Speaking of which, have you ever been writing something, and as you write, you realize that what you thought you were trying to say is no longer valid, or not valid in the way that you thought it was? I was trying to make a point about Douglass and the ways that he diverged from Harriet/Ruth Adams (his not-sister) , and realized mid-argument that the differences were more subtle than I thought. Now I'm stuck trying to ferret out exactly how they are different or even if they are at all different. After all, there is some sort of qualitative difference between invoking the Haitian and American revolution to warn about the consequences of the Fugitive Slave Act and actually taking up a weapon in preparation to defend oneself. I'm just trying to spin out this argument and am hitting a wall. I think Douglass is talking a good game, and is not completely opposed to the need to resort to violence in self-defense; but, again, he isn't taking up arms himself as far as I can tell, and his position to talk that good game is quite different from Adams's family and seems connected to his class status -- which is really the bigger point that I'm trying to make.

Shoot, I can't even articulate the point that I'm trying to make here with any eloquence. Time for more freewriting and shitty drafts. Perhaps I also need to read more to get more of a context about what other black organizations are doing in response? I just don't want to end up in that position of never finishing something because I can't stop researching and just write. I hate stalling. Stalling leads to nose dives.

6) My apartment complex will now check out shovels to residents. Thank goodness, because there isn't one to be bought anywhere nearby.

7) Which makes me wonder, did Frederick Douglass shovel his own walks. I'm sure Thomas Auld made him shovel them in Baltimore. In New Bedford, perhaps he helped out the person owning the houses that he rented. Heck, given that he had to work at such jobs as hauling coal, he could have shoveled people's walks for cash, too. In Lynn, maybe; but what about when he was off on lectures. Did Anna do the shovelling? Harriet/Ruth? How about in Rochester? Did he hire people to shovel, did he do the shovelling, did he roust his sons out of bed to do the shovelling, did he hire someone, did Anna? In D.C. and Anacostia, too. If he hired someone, that might be a mark of class mobility. If he got his sons, well then that could be interpreted as instilling a work ethic in them, since he was also bringing them into the print shop to work on his paper. If Anna did the shovelling, what might that say about her role or her perception of her role in the house, especially if they could afford to hire someone? I'm actually quite interested in how the Douglass household operated because that seems to be the way in to Anna's world. Also, I like to imagine famous historical figures doing regular stuff. It's kind of like that section in People in which they print paparazzi pictures of celebrities doing their grocery shopping or whatever.

8) Meanwhile, I'm still kinda awesome, just because.


Ink said...

Can totally relate to two of these, especially. The wondering if Other People walk around feeling ok most of the time (because that is NOT my experience) and the brief, startling moments when I do feel ok.

And the midway writing when I realize that I'm not convinced anymore about what I'm saying. But I think that's good because it opens up new directions/better nuances.

And you ARE awesome!!!

Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

You are totes awesome, Clio. Paws and fingers are crossed here for the security of your roof and for the continued good health of the tall trees in our ridiculously large backyard. We've got a little snowpocalypse psychosis starting to set in over here. Did you see Kathleen Parker's dumb column in the Post this morning about how men have this primordial need to shovel snow? OMG, so stupid that my typist nearly spit her coffee across the breakfast nook. It's here:

Ubab said...

Was Frederick Douglass involved in raising money for John Brown? If so, you've got an even more subtle class difference. The difference wouldn't be so much in the theoretical versus practical use of violence as it would be in what role do you play in the violence. A working class family would be on the front lines. Someone like Douglass if things got really bad after the Fugitive Slave Act would probably be in Europe somewhere raising money and being a symbol for the cause. Douglass the class agent would see those roles or the role of a martyr as being more valuable than that of someone like Bailey. Douglass the skilled political operative would probably agree.

RPS77 said...

I also have those moments of feeling content and good about myself, and wonder if "normal" people feel this way most of the time. Just replace "haven't been told from the womb that, whatever it is they are doing or being, it's wrong ..." with "haven't been telling themselves since they were capable of conscious thought that everything about them is wrong and inferior".

As for eloquence, based on some of the papers and articles that I had to read back in the day, if you can achieve comprehensibility*, you have an advantage over at least 30% of the stuff out there.**

*I'm not sure if this is actually a real word in the english language or not. If not, it should be.

**Or maybe I just wasn't a very good student, but it's much more fun to blame the people who wrote the papers.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Ubab, actually, I think you've nailed what I've been trying to get at. FD was involved with John Brown -- who is not entirely peripheral to this article -- and did exactly what you said: he ran off to Europe to be a symbol and raise money for the cause so he wouldn't be arrested. He didn't have to go after the Fugitive Slave Act because he was legally free from the last time he went to Europe to be a symbol and raise money for the cause instead of being dragged back to slavery. In fact, he says something almost exactly like what you say to justify the purchase of his freedom despite that being exactly opposite of the abolitionist party line. He is more valuable free, speaking and writing. People like Bailey, however, are more valuable as the martyrs, being hauled back to slavery or at least into court where their case becomes public.

As usual, you articulate what I'm trying to say!

Clio Bluestocking said...

Ink, Roxie, and RPS77: You guys are pretty awesome yourselves! (As are you, Ubab!)

Roxie: I saw that article and didn't even go there. Perfect case of dumbass. Still, thanks -- I used it in the post after this one! Dumbassery is always good for blogs.

Ubab said...

I'm on the right track? Cool. Let me leave you with a couple of other things, then.

(1) He's probably right. Raising money and publicity is probably more important than standing at the door with a rifle to fight off the slave catchers. As a practical man who wanted to fight slavery, FD would realize that even if he felt guilty about taking advantage of it.

(2) His class identity didn't give FD any protection against the slave catchers. If anything, it made him more vulnerable as he wouldn't have had a communtiy of vigilance around him to help protect him as the Bailey's would have had. He would have lived as an isolated family on a middle class street in a house full of women and children, making him a much easier target. FD got his protection from his identity as a celebrity. That's where the money came from to free him, that's where the opportunity to go to Europe comes from, that's where the alibi of raising money and publicity comes from. It's his celebrity that gives him value to the cause, not his class.

Celebrity also give a new spin on the ideas of danger and martyrdom. Douglass' celebrity made him to valuable to put on the front lines. John Brown's celebrity, though, got him killed. His execution was an international event, much more so than the anonymous men who were executed along with him. John Brown the celebrity martyr was far more important for abolitionism than John Brown the soldier who attacked Harper's Ferry. Celebrity is a weapon of war and a powerful political tool. It's also more important than the person who carries it and doesn't necessarily coincide with that person's self-interest.

bitternsweet said...

This is why I read your blog. Who else would think to wonder whether Frederick Douglass ever shoveled snow ... let alone whether his wife ever had to do it for him.

Kudos, Clio, for being such an original thinker.


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