Not that I read it that much in the first place. But let me start at the beginning.
R, my partner, loves magazines. He loves browsing those “Press Internationale” stores and buying magazines in his many areas of interest. As a lefty, he always checks out the lefty mags from the U.S. and Canada. Copies of Walrus, The New Yorker and Harper’s ends up in our house.
Although I am a lefty (duh), the ramblings of white lefty intelligentia alongside ads for luxury cars and diamond necklaces just don’t turn my crank. I’m an outsider that way. You know, grassroots.
So I flip through the mag, browse a bit and then turn to the last page, where, to my surprise, there’s an advice column authored by a man named Jeffery Goldberg. I love advice columns. “Cool”, I think (naively as it turns out).
First, there’s the image accompanying the text:
My first thought was: WTF?!? This can’t possibly go anywhere good. It really really can’t. I was right.
The first letter reads, in part:
I’m 63, but I tend to attract men in their mid-to-late 40s or early 50s. I believe in “truth in packaging,” and anyway, I don’t believe that such an age gap bodes well for a long-term relationship. So on the first date, or first encounter, I bluntly tell potential swains that I’m too old for them. If they ask my age, I tell them the truth. This is an ethical necessity, right?
Goldberg’s response, in part:
I fear that you might be pulling my leg here. I’m not acquainted with too many 45-year-old men who are wildly stimulated by 63-year-old women. Then again, perhaps you are uncommonly hot. I mean, hot-like-Sarah-Palin-except-even-older-plus-you-read-The-Atlantic hot. (The Atlantic is very sexy, by the way; in Asia, copies of The Atlantic are ground into paste and used as an aphrodisiac.)
Trying to be funny hm, Jeff? You racist idiot pig asshole! I don’t think I have time to deal with such levels of ignorance that you can make that kind of joke and think it’s funny. Maybe only your drole white lefty intellignesians find it funny. I knew there was a reason why I hate you guys so much.
And now I see the connection of the image to Letter #1. Hahaha so terribly amusing! Not. Because Orientalism is always funny, those Asian people sure do funny things, and in these times especially, it’s so very mirthful to mock an entire fucking continent.
So I read on. Why? Because it’s there, and I can get hypnotized by text, and ever the optimist, I imagine that the next letter will get better. I can be such a doofus sometimes.
I have just realized fully, after seven years, that I am married to a racist. He’s used the “N word” a number of times over the years, and we always fought about it. But he has always claimed to be directing the slur toward somebody “acting” like one, and not toward people of color generally. Well, I recently learned how he truly feels. He voted for McCain and I voted for Obama. He said, “Looks like we have an ‘N’ for president.” I was saddened and disgusted by his remark. I don’t believe I can live with anyone who thinks like this, and I’m planning to get a divorce. (snip) Do you think we can change racists’ minds?
To answer your deeper question with a question: Why try to change their minds at all? Racism isn’t a burden for us; it’s a burden for racists. In any case, trying to bring a racist to civilization is like trying to teach a dog to sing Verdi.
Let’s say the best part again: Racism isn’t a burden for us; it’s a burden for racists. Wow, just wow. Who is “us” Jeff? White left urban hipster intelligentsians? HAHAHAHAHAHA! So you aren’t racist, hm, Jeff? Nope, you know racism is bad, therefore you can’t be racist! Ever! All evidence (like Letter #1, this one, and Letter #4) to the contrary! Kewl!
Jeff, if you’re reading this, please read my post on the “get-out-of-racism free” card, that doesn’t fucking exist. It’s just below this post. I beg of you. Then read other stuff. And also, shut the fuck up.
I’ve always felt that my sense of humor has suffered because I’m not part of an inherently funny ethnic or religious group. My best friend is Jewish and Italian (a veritable font of humor), and my wife is Catholic (also good for laughs). But I was raised Presbyterian. How do I mine my psyche for better party repartee?
The idea that Presbyterians are not funny is a calumny propagated by Episcopalians, who are jealous of your dancing abilities. (snip) It’s true that genetic memories of pogroms, or the Middle Passage, or at the very least the Bourbon occupation of Sicily provide a crucial spark of humor. But it’s not true that Presbyterians are naturally unfunny. Here is one famous Presbyterian joke:
A Presbyterian husband makes love to his Presbyterian wife. After finishing, the husband asks, “I’m sorry, dearest, did I hurt you?” The wife responds, “No, dear, why do you ask?” The husband answers, “Because you moved.”
Okay, let’s count the levels of offensiveness:
1. Turning mass historical systemic oppression into a joke. “Let the hilarity begin”. Really? It’s 2009 last time I looked. FFS.
2. (Hetero)sexism of the boring kind that might have gotten chuckles 40 years ago. Sooo last century, Jeff.
The full page with the full letters and responses is here: