If I Might Explain

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

During the 2008 presidential campaign, a dear former colleague railed at me in rather frothy email verbiage when I took a written poke at Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Although he eventually calmed enough to offer a sort of apology, I never heard from him again. If he’d just given me an opportunity to explain, I could have, well, I don’t know, explained — explained the humor to him. Ye gods, the thing was titled “You Can Put Lipstick on a Fib”! You’d think that would be a dead giveaway to take what follows with a grain of giggle. Jeez!

What can I say? We Gressitts are prone to humor; it’s a powerful coping mechanism — the darker the better. When Mother was still driving, she joked about keeping Father’s ashes in the trunk in case she needed extra traction to get up her hill in the winter. It took the sting off her sorrow. Years ago, when I joked with the ER doc suturing my battered face (I suggested a bribe of homemade shortbread in exchange for his working some magic to prevent scarring), he joked right back. The levity got me through the procedure without grabbing a scalpel and preventing my now-former husband’s dick from having any more fun with jane. Although I have to admit, after recovering from the assault, I found the doc’s response really depressing and I was pissed with both of us — and I never made him that damn shortbread. We need to train ER staff not to enable victimhood. Right after we train women to duck faster.

See what I mean? It is unrelenting.

Just the other day, a friendly reader questioned the sincerity of true feminists joking about breast cancer. She was gracious, and her comment made me wonder how many folks might have taken offense at the joke I had published. But if you’ve never been close to cancer, you might not understand how fabulous a death-defying tool laughter can be — even a wise-ass smirk can prove useful. And I find California senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina (the subject of the joke) and her politicking in the realm of breast cancer as worthy of a one-liner or two as is staving off the angst of alien-possessed boobs. A breast cancer survivor herself, Fiorina used the Susan G. Komen for the Cure fund-raising page to make a pitch for her campaign for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat (watch the video):

Cancer strengthened my faith. Cancer strengthened my family. And I come through all of this battle, not only with it behind me, but with a renewed determination to make the most of my life. And for me, now, that means to try and make a difference for the people of California, in Washington, D.C. My doctors have given me a clean bill of health. They’re actually extremely excited that I’m running for the Senate. I feel great. I’m raring to go. And the good news is, after chemotherapy, Barbara Boxer isn’t very scary anymore.

How deliciously crass! My feminist friend’s response to Fiorina’s play of the breast cancer card? “Maybe Barbara Boxer could have an iffy mammogram.” Spoken like the funny breast cancer survivor she is.

Albeit only one tool, humor can help sustain us through the most atrocious assaults on our sensibilities; for example, Arizona’s continuing effort to incarcerate, forcibly repatriate or otherwise excoriate anyone who isn’t, well, you know — sshhhh — one of us white folk.

Leaders of the erstwhile Barry Goldwater, Sr. state are afraid that public schools are vulnerable to the ravages of ethnic solidarity among the dark hordes — why, those heathens could rise up and vote them right out of power! But traditional social studies curricula were cleverly crafted to induct our young ones into the still-pervasive doctrine of Manifest Destiny, to keep white folk on top, literally and figuratively. Hence, alternate curricula — any study of perspectives other than that of the white landed gentry — threaten the status quo and, consequently, comprise what Arizona’s good old boys and gals fear: “courses or classes that either promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.” Bear in mind that Arizona’s legislators had to strike “Caucasian” from an earlier version of that statement — at least in their minds, if not in print. That's ethnic cleansing Arizona style.

And Arizona’s recent purge of teachers with heavy accents or bad English grammar strikes another blow, but to an unexpected target — the South. Those damn Yankees are at it again! This prejudicial policy renders teaching positions in Arizona unattainable to any progeny of my paternal ancestral home, Gressitt, Virginia. In this kudzu-creeping hamlet of clamdiggers, crabbers and valiant volunteer firefighters, one might hear the likes of, “Aah juss mahoov mah deeah suhee mama eeanduh reeuhl naahs dubahwahd.” For those unschooled in Virginia Backwaterese, that translates as “I just moved my dear, sweet mama into a real nice doublewide.”

After a good laugh, I’ll shed a tear for Arizona’s lost opportunity for cultural exchange with the unabashed South and hope that the state’s educators are devious enough to do some fast “Find and Replace” in their curricular materials, to pacify the ethnic-phobic.

Thank the goddess there is enough idiocy out there to keep us endlessly entertained, which is a nice segue to Sarah Palin.

She’s ever rich fodder for comedy, but I’m not sure who is more laughable — Palin, for assuming the title of feminist at an anti-abortion gathering, or the feminists who jumped through various and contorted rationales to lend it to her. God forbid they should deny the nomenclature to a powerful woman and thereby risk their own standing in the Sisterhood! What they fail to recognize is that power, position and number of Facebook fans do not a true feminist make, any more than poofy sleeves, a calico Bible cover and “God Hates Fags” signs stacked in the garage make you a true Christian.

Now, what Palin doesn’t understand is that no feminist would advocate putting women’s reproductive decision-making in anyone’s hands but the women's. We’re good with our hands; we don’t need any help down there from no guhmint.

Yeayah. … That doesn't really translate.

Love, K-B

Want to learn more about immigration?

Read "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Alberto Urrea (2004, Little Brown and Company) and watch "Lone Star," written and directed by John Sayles and featuring Chris Cooper and Elizabeth Peña.

— My thanks to Professor Silverio Haro, CalState San Marcos and Palomar College, for the great recommendations.

©2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt