Friday, August 28, 2009

Honduras, Katrina & a lost kitten

Today after work I'll head up to midtown to join the national solidarity march against the coup d'état in Honduras. Although you wouldn't know it from the media silence in this country, the workers and students of Honduras have been carrying out a strong, steady, courageous campaign of resistance against the coup for every day, every moment, of the now two months since the fascist military takeover in that Central American country--a takeover that began with the middle-of-the-night kidnaping of the democratically elected president José Manuel Zelaya, who was taken to a U.S. air base (yes, right, a U.S. airbase in Honduras!) and from there forcibly flown out of his country. There can be no question that the Honduran golpistas could not stay in power another day if their U.S. overlords exerted any real effort against them and in support of the return to office of President Zelaya. The Honduran people need a strong, loud movement in this country to back up their struggle to restore democracy.

Then tomorrow I hope to make it to a benefit for and remembrance by Hurricane Katrina survivors. The horrors facing great numbers of working-class and poor people, the vast majority of them African American, who lost everything, even including their right to return to and live in their home city, have not abated. The drive to remake New Orleans into a Disneyfied, majority white model of gentrification in which its displaced former residents are unwelcome has got to be exposed and resisted, and anyone with a heart should sign on to this cause.

These issues and more came to mind as I read Mary Gaitskill's mini-memoir "Lost Cat" in the latest issue of Granta. I found my way to this piece earlier this week after finding references to it on two, three, four or more literary sites. Everyone wrote about how "Lost Cat" made them cry, and some pondered why. I read "Lost Cat" and I did not cry. And I have been pondering why. How come they all cried and I didn't? I'm a sentimental sap. Lots of stuff makes me cry. Why not this? I hope to find time to try to answer a bit more fully in another post when I have a bit more time, but the short version is because, for all its beauty and depth from a certain angle, when read from another angle, that is, through a class-struggle lens, it has no resonance. For all the painful material Gaitskill weaves together with the tale of her loved and lost kitten, material that includes an honest consideration of her fraught relationship with two Latino children from New York City, the essay never rises above the level of the individual, never takes in the context for all that she addresses, never, by my read, acknowledges the wider world, not in any meaningful way that would broaden and deepen what she's grappling with. Ultimately, I'd say, this piece is a good illustration of the limits of liberalism. Which I mean not in a snarky way -- Gaitskill is, as all aver, a good writer, and no doubt a good person with a tender heart -- but as a way of trying to get at why a beautifully written piece about the imperfection, the damage, the complications of love might fall short for a red reader.

As I said, I'll try to touch on this a bit more fully soon.