White Self Portrait                                                       Sun, 15th April, 2018

This week I have been exploring my family history through our family genogram project. I have been seeing patterns and influences on my life, including the impact of coming of age in the monoculture of 1980s Central Indiana farm country.

This reminds me of the exploration done recently at my seminary with the Minneapolis slam poetry artist Tish Jones. Jones invited us to experience the poem "Self Portrait" by spoken-word artist, playwright and dancer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, which was a powerful exploration of the tangled roots of racism and culture.

This encouraged me to explore the relationship of family and cultural influences that contributed to my own sense of alienation as a young man. What I didn't experience in racism I made up for in my experience of toxic masculinity, with the result that so many of us hid our true selves. In case you didn't know white people could write slam poetry...well, they can. We all have our pain, and Tish Jones taught me that we can never try to compare our experience with someone else's. So, with apologies to those who are much better at this art form than I, this is my version of rural slam. This was a cathartic experience.

Inspired by "Self Portrait" by Marc Bamuthi Joseph

I come from a monoculture.
One crop, one religion, one way of loving.
Isolation of the farmland Midwest
Married pale Ethnicity to beget
The world of white farms with red barns.
Fundamentalism then married in
To keep the culture running.
White and hetero, made in God’s image.

Then the cousins came to stay:
Heterosexism and Masculinity.
There’s only one way to be a man
And that is to hunt rabbits and women.
These kissing cousins begat Bullying
And his big brother Intolerance,
Because that’s what bullies become
When they grow up.

They own the land,
They own the church,
They own the culture without color and then
Pretty soon the need to keep the Monoculture pure
Demands Silence to hide real questions.
No room for listening, no room for dykes and fags
And those of whom we shall not speak.
No room for boys who love disco and dress-up.

Instead the Patriarchy of pioneers
Called out uncles and cousins and
Drove diversity deep underground.
Keep the rows straight.
Keep the yield predictable.
Bring the poisons.
Bring the blades.
Kill the weeds.