Monday, May 14, 2018

THE POX, Explained

Language is strange.

It allows us to understand things, and also to misunderstand them.  It creates connection, but establishing categorical frameworks around complex realities...can establish a false narrative.

This post is meant to interpret a peculiar little horror short story entitled THE POX, one that is both told to a particular purpose and almost utterly indecipherable without explanation.   Almost.  There's no point in reading this until you've read that.  So go there, read it, and come back if you'd like to know what you just read.

Seriously.  Go there first.  C'mon.  Work with me here.

When I wrote THE POX, I was intentionally creating a false narrative.  Meaning, the young girl narrating the story only has her own understanding to guide us through the telling.  

The story Button tells is one of simple horror, a child menaced by a devouring threat, the inhuman and monstrous Pox that threatens her community and her person.  That's Button's "lived experience," as they say these days.

Only that's not what's happening.  Button is fundamentally compromised.  Maybe you picked up on that.  The clues are definitely there, if you attend to them.  It's possible, veiled though it is, to intuit what's really happening.  But she has no idea.

The story...of a future dystopic culture...was inspired by the current term of choice to articulate a binary racial dynamic.  

According to today's orthodoxy of race, there are "whites."  And there are "POCs."   

People Of Color.

The assumption in the tale:  POC has devolved from being the approved and correct term du jour to being a racist epithet.  It has gone through the linguistic process of pejoration, that "euphemism treadmill" in which a term initially intended to be positive gets turned to a hateful purpose.

When my admittedly odd brain hears earnest folk describe people whose socio-cultural heritage is from the global south as "POCs," it sounds...well...exactly like "Pox."   Like a disease.  Like it would be easy to turn into something demonic and dehumanizing, something that evokes the racist's terror of race-contagion and impurity.  Hence this tale of horror.

Button and her family aren't the heroes.  They're the monsters.  The story is nothing more than a starving black man and his daughter being murdered after being caught foraging for food, seen through the eyes of a little girl who is so poisoned by her community's racism that she can't even see them as human.  All she sees is her own fear of the Other.

Because zombies aren't anywhere near as horrible as the reality created by the lies we tell ourselves.  

Really.  They're not.