Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Virginia and North Carolina 11.8.94: Old Diaries and Country Churches

After a drive through the mountains, we went to Richmond and cloistered ourselves two days in the state library, state history museum, and archives. Some fascinating stuff—most alluring to me, an account book kept by Caleb Lindsey of Gloucester-Essex County in the late 1600s. To hold it in my hands . . . . I photocopied from it a “recete” for beer, from early 1700s when the book had come into the hands of Caleb’s son James.

After Richmond, a day in Norfolk. Pretty weather, clear, not too hot. A ghastly seafood dinner for which we paid too much in the expectation we needed to “treat” ourselves. One of those all-you-can-eat buffet deals with people clustered like locusts around steam tables, picking at this and that. Why can’t I learn, I’m not an all-you-can-eat buffet type? The night before, we had had a wonderful Vietnamese meal in the Fan district of Richmond for half the price: cold spring rolls, cabbage, carrot, chicken, and peanut slaw, shrimp, crab, and noodle soup, and skewered charcoal-roasted pork on noodles with fish sauce, mint, coriander, bean sprouts. Just as Duong and Phuong prepare it . . . .

Then drove back yesterday, stopping briefly in Windsor to visit the little Episcopal church and talk to Harry Lewis T. re: Monk ancestry, then to Nash County, Spring Hope, to talk to people about the Batchelors. And home. . . . .

In the car on the way home, Steve driving, I took out letters Daddy wrote from World War II and surprised myself by crying as I read them. Don’t know why. I suppose it’s the sense of loss—of his loss, his not ever having achieved anything near his measure. In some ways, this felt like the first real mourning I’d ever done for him—perhaps precipitated by my own corner-turning experiences of late.

And now. As I walked this morning, thought of the Shannon Faulkner case. Janet Reno recently said, ostensibly, that men who broke the gender barrier to become nurses are not required to put on dresses.

The point, it seems to me, is that the hierarchical male power structure Faulkner threatens must humiliate her. If it cannot exclude, then it must demonstrate its ultimate control over her and others by setting up a ritual of humiliation/subordination.

The head-shaving ritual already has that symbolism, for male cadets. It’s to initiate the cadet into the power structure, at the entry level. The whole structure passes power down, top to bottom, and requires subordination. It won’t work if one questions this requirement, or the motives or character of those above oneself.

Thus, it requires a tutelage in being subordinated, not questioning authority, accepting command, as a preliminary to one’s movement up. It requires that one learn to be pummeled, so that one may learn to pummel. It functions this way in any male hierarchical structure, whether church, university, corporation, or military.

This system doesn’t care about what people in “feminized” occupations—e.g., nursing—do. Men who become nurses are perceived as stepping down. No need to humiliate them. For men who seek to step up, such humiliation is extremely important, as an initiation into power.

No comments: