Thursday, September 6, 2012

Birthday Bash Pt. 1

I could hear the voices careening through the bush. I was trying not to lose the trail, but I kept staggering off. I could hear my buddy Lil Joe. It was his laugh. That cackle he had since we were little. Deeper but still the same. Earlier in the day, during lunch hour, he told me that he was going to have a fire at his place.
“My parents are heading to the PowWow at God’s, I got the place to myself.” He laughed then, there wasn’t anything funny about what he said, but he laughed. I laughed in agreement but without understanding. “Come one, man!” he said. “It’s gonna be for you.” I looked at him with the same blank smile. “What? Why?” I asked.
“It’s your funeral.” Then he laughed hard, like the joke was real this time and really funny. “What do mean, man?” I asked. “Come on, MAN. Your birthday party,” said Lil Joe, “what are ya, dense?”

“Dense.” That was Lil Joe. He used the same phrases as his old man, even though, nobody else our age did. “My birthday was last week,” I said.
“Who gives a fuck? Shit man, I’m throwing a party in your honour, what the fuck is wrong with you.” There was no laughter, now. No smile. He was actually hurt. What the hell? Little Joe. Lil Joe. He was always going to be a kid. What else could I say? “Fuck, MAN. Fucking Rights. Yeah. FUCK. Man. Fuck Yeah.”

Lil Joe was the first person I remember knowing. Everyone one else was distant and running away. The youngest memory I have is of my mother leaving. All my memories of her are a repeat of the very first. One day Lil Joe was there and he had been there since. Even on family days like Christmas he would be the first person knocking on the door.
“Boy, it’s Lil Joe, go tell him you can come out but he can’t come in,” My mother said with a huff. Smoke pouring out with her words. She was tired now of Lil Joe, I can’t remember when that started. I hold up my Super Slider Sno Skates, she nods and smiles. I take off to the porch drop to the floor on my butt and start putting on my boots. I can picture myself flying across the snow on my Super Slider Sno Skates. On the tv commercial that they played every Sunday during the Wonderful World of Disney, the kids were just flying over the snow. Just laughing and smiling. Their cheeks bright red against their pale skin. So fun and fresh upon the snow in their Super Slider Sno Skates. Now, I have a pair.

I stopped tying my boot. I looked down upon my brown fingers. I held them up before my eyes. I could picture Old Granpa’s hands, fat and sausagey and black brown from the tips of his fingers all the way up his sleeve. The door banged again. I opened up. Lil Joe is standing there. Eyes are red. Puffy. “My fucking dad is beating up my mom.”

I can hear Lil Joe laughing large as I get closer to the fire. My arms are all scraped up and hot from thorn bushes.  The torn skin feels injected by poison like a wasp but not as hot. “Hey, Man, why doesn’t somebody shut this fucking asshole up.”
“Hey Man,” says Lil Joe turning. “Bout fucking time. You fucking asshole. We are already running out of beers.”

“What the fuck, MAN!”
"Ahhahaaahahahahaha. Ahhahaahahahaha."

Everybodys’ laughing with him. What a fucking dink. No fucking booze. All these people. Drinking up my beer. Fucking Lil Joe’s gotta squeeze $20 bucks outta me. For my party.  Now “we already running out of beers.” He’s not gonna fucking burn me again. Last time. That fucking laugh. He’s really hitting that girlish part. He hates when I do that. Mocking that girlish part. Ahhahaahahhahaha. Fucking dink.  The scratches are burning again. Reminding me that they are still there. Still fresh. Open skin and poison.
Lil Joe is toasting up his bottle and everyone else raises their bottles and turns towards me. A semi circle now formed one side of the fire and me directly across from Lil Joe on the other. “Lets have a toast for the Birthday boy, while we still have a beer. Lana can you get the guest of honour a beer.”

Lana Lynxleg. She moved here this summer. Her mom was from up north. She goes behind Lil Joe and then is back with a Club beer. She’s smiling. The bottle is cold in my hand. I can taste it already. How many more? Not the half case I was expecting. Fucking dink. He’s a fucking scammer. That Lana is pretty. She is still smiling at me. Look at Lil Joe. Fucking dink.
He cheers. Everyone cheers. The beer is good. So good. Throbbing scrapes on arms are cooling off. Fading. This tastes so good. He’s laughing again. At me, again.

“Look at this guy suck on that beer. Enjoy it. Ahhahaahahahaha.”
What a fucking dink. Lil Joe begins to wave his arms like Charlton Heston commanding the Red Sea to part. Lana steps to one side. A little closer to me. Just a little closer. Everyone moves. Lil Joe is now doing one of Showcase Showgirls from the Price is Right. In the parting of the semi-circle are three 2-4’s of Club stacked like an Olympic podium.

What else could I say? “Fuck, MAN. Fucking Rights. Yeah. FUCK. Man. Fuck Yeah.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Language creates reality. Canada's Redskins.

You can see the debate over name Nepean Redskins in very simple terms. It is racist, change the name and logo. It is not racist, change nothing. In truth this is much more complicated and in many ways is the tip of the iceberg. What the people of Nepean should have realized when they changed the name of the football team is that the name Redskins represents the most racist tip of that iceberg.

Those who don't want to change it can make the claim that the name honours Native Peoples. There is truth to that side of the argument. It is one of those examples of stereotyping where other nationalities must think, what are they complaining about; I wish they would name sports teams after us. Afterall, no one wants to name a sports team after something that is weak.

In football, the most physical of all sports not called hockey, you want to have a name that is fierce. Undefeated.  In 1981, the Barrhaven Buccaneers decided that that the name would be the Nepean Redskins. The logo makes it obvious, that the choice was done to emulate one of the oldest NFL franchises and one that would be dominant in the 1980's, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins have been around since 1932 and had won two national championships in it's storied history before winning two Super Bowls in the eighties and one in the early nineties.

The Washington Team has also been public enemy number one in a decades long movement in the United States to end the practice of derogatory Native American sports team names. In the 1960's during the height of the civil rights movement, the National Congress of the American Indian began to call for an end to racist and demeaning team names and mascots. Little changed in the beginning but the work commenced. In the decades since the NCAI and tribal advocates worked to remove or change thousands of sports team names in the United States. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) the governing body of college athletics, formally condemned the use of disparaging mascots and banned the use of Indian names, logos and mascots during its championship tournaments.

It's hard to believe that the good people of Nepean were completely unaware that the name they had chosen was considered completely offensive and racist. It is not a name like Warriors or Braves where the argument can be made that this is a name based on power and strength, Redskins is literally about the color of one's skin. It also not possible for the people of Nepean to claim some kind of ignorance based on isolation in some backwater hinterland. Nepean is located in the National Capital Region. It is essentially a suburb of Ottawa. The capital of Canada. These people had cushy jobs and access to the best education system in Canada. Yet, they did not know that the name Redskin was unacceptable.

A recent petition to the United States government co-sponsored by respected Lakota publisher Tim Giago calls it our "N-word". The petition submitted to the U.S. Senate and the House of Representives states, "To most American Indians it is absolutely abhorrent for a professional football team to use the color of their skin as their team mascot. As a matter of fact, we oftentimes refer to the mascot of the Washington professional football team as the R word because to us it is as hideous as the N word is to African Americans."

Language creates reality. What is acceptable in language is accepted in reality. In Nepean they have to face up to the reality that they have a racist name and nothing they can say is going to change that.