November 11, 2014

KIM | A Modest Proposal?

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By TERESA KIM

It’s true. Writers are narcissists. It takes a certain type of person to write about oneself and write about how they write about oneself.

I first realized this when my teacher in fourth grade pointed out that I had the best penmanship in my class. I internally sneered at my classmates at this announcement. Why, yes, I did have the best penmanship in class. But not because I practiced my penmanship outside of the classroom.

No. I had the best penmanship because I profusely wrote about the mean kids in my diaries afterschool. And I wrote short stories about them. And I wrote poems and songs about them. I basically wrote about how others sucked in comparison to me.

Yeah, I was dramatic.

So yes, we writers are a narcissistic bunch. Our spiteful childhoods can attest to this fact.

But to be fair, by choosing the writerly way of life, the writer must also adhere to a certain responsibility, a promise to constantly heighten and finesse his/her conscientious attention to his/her social surroundings. This responsibility can become even more strenuous if one decides to get published.

So entering The Daily Sun microcosm of the publishing world, one can hope to find writers with a virtuous handling of both their narcissistic solidarity and their ability to appeal to the community with their readers.

It’s difficult to master this kind of writerly vigilance in the real world of publishing, let alone those of us writing for The Daily Sun. Like the University, The Daily Sun is a petri dish for both successful and failed attempts at procuring an acceptable method. But let’s remember the underlying point of why we even have petri dishes to begin with. We dispose of the cultures that might contaminate the next batch of cell cultures.

I’m no scientist, but I still expect results, fruits of betterment. A betterment that David Zha ’15 seemed to neglect — no, dispose of — in his column on Monday, “Eulogy for the F Word.”

I chuckled after reading his first paragraph — the transparency of his offensive commentary led me to think that this must be a satirical piece. But his concluding remarks remained just as transparently brutish as how he began his column. I finally realized that this wasn’t a satire at all.

I don’t expect Zha to have a Jonathan Swift-ian handling of satire. I suspect, despite his failed attempt to do so, that he somehow intended to evoke the language of satire. Yet, on the spectrum of satirical success, he falls on the Taylor Swift-ian handling of failed satire in that it generates this question from its listeners/readers: Wait, did she really just write a whole song about that?

In this same vein of logic, I ask Zha: Did you really just write a column, eulogizing the usage of the word faggot? And if so, would you also eulogize the usage of other ethnic and gender slurs as well?

And I guess this also means that I should commemorate the days I was called a “chink” and other derogatory remarks that pointed to my Oriental state of being.

Now I share Zha’s juvenile fascination with the history of word usage; it speaks to describe the “political climates” that Zha proclaims to be aware of. But by selecting the word “faggot” to analyze for your column predicates his complete state of immunity to the culture of change he writes about.

Zha concludes his piece by hurriedly trying to substantiate his eulogy for his word with ethics:

“You see, F Word, it’s not really you. It’s not your vowels, nestled elegantly between consonants, or your fanciful opening fricative that people can furiously drag out for a few forceful seconds, like the way an engine revs before it starts. It’s not even solely your association with gay-bashing. It’s your sinister intent.”

He continues his flailing defense of his eulogy with a poor misuse of ethics, discussing the ways in which our ivory-towered idealism shelters us from a world that uses the F word more unforgivingly.

Zha, ethnic slurs don’t function the same way postgraduate realism does. We aren’t sheltered from ethnic slurs in the same way we are sheltered from the dire state of the job market today.

In fact, the two should never even be contained within the same sentence, just in case individuals like you believe there is some profound, equitable link between the two. The latter, although dismal, can find hope in the fact that you will somehow, somewhere find employment. The former is a depressing reality we have to live with forever. It’ll never be “too soon” or “too late” to talk about the ramifications of homophobia or negrophobia or anti-semitism — nor will there ever be a time to jokingly discuss these socio-anthropological phobias for individuals like us who are void of any heritable or genetic connection to these victims of racial and gender hate crimes.

I urge Zha to reconsider and write more self-consciously in the future if the world he speaks of, that is, if “a world that’s fine as frick and not so gosh darn fudged up,” is indeed what he truly envisions.

Teresa Kim is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at tkim@cornellsun.com. Her Meneutics appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.

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