In 1957, Lawrence Ferlinghetti was tried for obscenity for publishing Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl," which contains, among other subtleties, the words "cock" and "cunt" used in a sexual sense, direct and graphic references to homosexual and heterosexual acts, and a scathing indictment of capitalism.
I have in my possession a framed page torn from an Utne Reader. This page contains a photograph, and that photograph shows several uniformed West Point cadets at a table, each of them reading intently from a copy of Howl and Other Poems.
Everybody knows the first line. The first line barely counts.
...who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rose gardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but
prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake...
I wonder, a little, if growing up in a lesbian household during the Reagan era has left me a little innured to disenfranchisement and silence. The Clinton era was a magical reprieve, for me--and not an unalloyed one. Slick Willy, after all, gave us "Don't ask; don't tell." But still, the fear that speaking my mind may have unintended consequences is not new to me. It is not a revelation.
And the fact remains, things are better now than they were then. Voices are louder, tolerance is greater, people who are 'different' are more accepted than they were. There was a time when I Spy was radical. Hell, there was a time when The Cosby Show was radical. A black family as Mr. and Mrs. America? A woman as Secretary of State? The issue of homosexuality addressed openly, in national debate? Obscene. Unheard of.
But now I speak the truth.
People died to win that discourse. And not one or two. Dozens. Hundreds. They died for the labor rights movement, and they died for women's suffrage, and they died for the rights of Native Americans, and they died for the rights of blacks and other ethnic minorities. I could name the names, or you can name them for yourselves. But it's a slower death not to speak; silence is death.
But. Genies don't go back in bottles. Or have we forgotten that, too?
Oh. And if you were counting, it's the 399th anniversary of Guy Fawkes Day. The soldier monk was a redhead, if you didn't know, and they say he was tall and comely.
He was also a scapegoat.
[22:13] katallen: penny for the guy, mister?
[22:14] matociquala: okay, I just began to wonder if the expression "a fall guy" refers to Guido Fawkes.
[22:14] matociquala: Because he was.
[22:14] matociquala: The whole thing was Catesby's idea.
[22:15] katallen: it was
[22:15] matociquala: And maybe Tresham, before Tresham chickened out and turned the rest in--
[22:15] matociquala: wow.
[22:15] matociquala: you don't suppose--
[22:15] matociquala: nah.
[22:16] stillnotbored: what?
[22:16] katallen: ::prods::
[22:16] matociquala: Jaime.
[22:16] matociquala: "A fall Guy."
[22:16] stillnotbored: what?
[22:16] matociquala: Guy Fawkes was set up by his co-conspirators.
[22:16] matociquala: He was essentially left behind to take the blame while everybody else ran for it
[22:16] stillnotbored: yes
[22:17] matociquala: So I just clicked on maybe the etymology of that turn of phrase dates to him.
[22:17] katallen: where do we get the whole 'guy' thing from anyway?
[22:17] matociquala: That's what I'm wondering.
[22:17] stillnotbored: ah I get it *g*
[22:17] matociquala: Can I blog this? I bet somebody on my flist knows.