Friday, 26 April 2013


I learned a new word this fortnight.  Radicalise.  I haven’t looked the word up, but from its usage in news reports, the definition is, to become scary to us.  It implies a metamorphosis from human to monster by a force beyond our comprehension.  Sorcery.  I don’t mean to trivialise what’s happened in Boston, Newtown, Columbine, Utoya.  Rather, I fear that being blind to our participation in these incidents is dangerous to everyone.

El Punko getting radical
Not that we’re to blame for Boston, Newtown, Columbine, and Utoya.  No.  The perpetrators are to blame for the choices they made.  But terrorism is a complex phenomenon and we’re giving it a simple solution – Get a bigger gun.  We may still need that gun.  I’m not going to argue with that.  But you don’t teach a child not to hit by hitting her.  When a 19 year old boy kills an 8 year old, there has to be something more than the big gun in our solution. 

How did he become radicalised?  He’s as American as I am. 

I’ve introduced you to Diana Afanador’s monsters before.  Here’s another one with two heads.  A two spirit, in a way.  Something which has been subjected to several forms of sorcery and has divided itself in order to survive.  It’s these two heads which enable people to say in confusion, but he’s as American as I am, when in truth, he simply didn’t feel he could show the part of himself that wasn’t like you.  While we all have persona we drag out in different situations, managing two heads is quite a feat and I would postulate, damaging to the monster in question. 

by Diana Afanador

I was raised Catholic in Appalachia, the Bible Belt.  The Mecca of the Born Again Protestant, for my non-American readers.  Some children in our small rural community weren’t allowed to play with me because of my religion.  A classmate once asked the teacher about the Catholic practice of killing babies.  There was even a social studies teacher who wouldn’t give Catholic students a grade higher than C.  We were the one true faith, however, so I considered these people misguided. 

I moved north for tertiary education, where being Catholic wasn’t such a big deal.  But in the north, coming from below the Mason-Dixon meant I was a whole crate load of negative things, mostly amoral and some even criminal.  I noticed that the bad and the stupid on TV were people with my accent even when they lived in California.  There was no One-True category to protect me from feeling Less-Than.

Then I emigrated.  Having an American accent in Galway equated to wearing a bulls-eye and carrying a sign that said, Toss all your shit here.  I loved Irish trad music but learned quickly that my accent brought out the worst in the Galwegians, so in order to hear the music, I’d sit in my local and not speak.  At work, the Yank bashing was pervasive and when I complained, I was told by the director that I was a super power.  Our agency had a diversity audit and met in discussion groups with the auditors to share our experiences.  I shocked my colleagues by repeating the things they’d said to me.  But, but, but, it was a joke!  What a begrudger! 

Or had I become radicalised? 

In my next stop, Glasgow, I was pretty much allowed to be American and Appalachian as long as I didn’t admit to being raised Catholic.  Here, however, I was warned to watch myself around my Asian colleagues who were uber sensitive to racial slurs.  To be honest, after a lifetime of being Other-ed, to be told about people who weren’t going to take it any longer, that was like waving bacon in front of the Big Nosed Dog. 

It’s natural to hide what you value when other people want to destroy it.

Don’t misunderstand.  I had friends, good friends, in all those locations.  And, I was still myself– a self I liked – but part of me stayed on the inside.  I’d learned not to show my true face or use my true voice – I even toned down that accent of mine.  Although I still have a distinctively American twang, my friends think it’s a great party trick if I slip into Appalachian.  Do it again, Lora, as if being myself isn’t real, but a form of entertainment.

I’ve not included what being a woman is like nor the fact I’m mixed race – most people don’t look past my Welsh grandfather’s nose and the henna to see my Leni Lenape eyes and cheeks bones.  Even including those experiences, the bigotry I’ve endured, though uncomfortable, is small fry.  Let’s try getting cosy with the big cheese.  Let’s say that you’re blond with a London accent, C of E, and enjoy Morris dancing.  The latter might bring a bit of ribbing in the UK, but the rest is pretty much acceptable here.  So pack your bags.  I’m moving you to another dimension. 

London’s been taken over by the Westboro Baptist Church and you’ve left for political asylum.  You now live in a world where every villain or bigot on telly has a London accent.  The non-villain fictional Londoners don’t so much live in family groups as cesspools of sexism and domestic abuse.  There are protests whenever Anglicans want to build a place of worship, and existing churches are subjected to vandalism; the police can’t seem to help.  You’re routinely pulled out of boarding queues by homeland security for cavity searches until your name appears on a no-fly list.  Your vicar sister-in-law has been detained for six years and you don’t know where.  People in public places stare at your blond hair suspiciously, mothers edge their children away from you, old men cross to the other side of the street.  Your Morris dancing costume has been made illegal and all blond London Anglicans are accused of uniformly sexualising your male children.  You endure daily verbal abuse and periodic physical abuse from complete strangers; the police still can’t help you.  Super powers want to attack London to liberate your men from misandry.  And every single time some act of violence occurs, brown eyes look suspiciously toward the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If you think this is amusing, it isn’t meant to be.  This is reality for certain groups of people.  They live in a cage of being hated and feared without cause.  So damaging is this, in fact, that there may come a time when they say, fuck it.  And fuck you as well. 

Anger is a normal response to being treated like crap.

When American as I am people become violent, we look for the OTHER that RADICALISED the begrudger, who, by the way, is a LOSER whom we took under our wing and offered great opportunities to, and look at him bite the hand that fed him.  Radicalised.  By extremists who hate us, hate humanity, do vile things in the name of sorcery and call it religion.  Inbred BABY KILLERS who can’t take a joke. 

We never look at ourselves and say, you know what?  We could have done better.  Not ‘we’ being social services, immigration, the FBI.  We, being the social studies teacher.  My boss in Galway.  Myself, when the Asian guy on the train drops his backpack in the seat next to me and walks away.

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