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Still Not One of the Family

发表于 10-1-2020 15:30:33 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
About u and v in yesterday posting.

For decades since I came to Boston in 1990, I keep wondering why the plaque that Massachusetts Institute of Technology placed in the main address ("77 Massachusetts Avenue," Cambridge, Mass) styled both "u" as "v." Now I realize that it is a silly attempt on MIT's part to be pedantic. V was used in lieu of u (there was no u then) prior to 1368! That was almost eight centuries ago.

Tunku Varadarajan, Still Not One of the Family; A sense of not fully belonging, after two decades of citizenship, triggers an indictment of America -- for its failure to live up to its ideals.  Wall Street Journal, Sept 19, 2020 (in the Review section that appears every Saturday).
https://www.wsj.com/articles/con ... -family-11600466964
(book review on Laila Lalami, Conditional Citizens; Pantheon, 2020)

(i) WSJ puts the review behind paywall.
(ii) Tunku Varadarajan
(born in Delhi, India in 1962; graduated from Trinity College, Oxford University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in law in 1984)
(iii) Today I learn that in England, the most common route to becoming a lawyer is for a secondary school (matriculating students of 13-18 years old) graduate to attain a three (3)-year law school as an undergraduate, earning either bachelor's degree (BA) in law -- meaning focus on law -- or LLB.

Sandra R Klein, Legal Education in the United States and England: A Comparative Analysis. 13 Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review, 601 (1991).
https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/c ... 226&context=ilr


"legal education in England begins at the undergraduate level. Students normally start law school at eighteen or nineteen years of age, entering directly from secondary school. A student who wishes to pursue a legal education must take the Advanced Level examination ('A-level'), which is a nationally administered and graded examination. Unlike the LSAT, the A-level allows a student to pursue any type of education at the university level, not just law. In marked contrast to law school admissions in the United States, many law schools in England require an interview prior to admittance. * * * Because law students in the United States must have an undergraduate degree, they generally have a more diverse and balanced education than their English counterparts. Additionally, United States law school graduates are, on the average, four
years older than English graduates."  at pages 604-605 (footnotes omitted).

"During the normal course of legal academic study in England, students obtain a three-year law degree from an undergraduate university. However, an undergraduate law degree is not an absolute prerequisite for admittance to the legal professions. University graduates with nonlegal degrees, mature students without a degree, and a small number of bright students who have just completed secondary school ('school leavers') are eligible to join the profession without a law degree.  These individuals may become barristers or solicitors by taking six 'core' courses which include: 'Constitutional and Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Contract, Torts, Land Law and Equity, and Trusts' during one academic year. They must also successfully pass the Common Professional Examination ('C.P.E.')"  at pages 608-609 (footnotes omitted).
(b) For Laila, see Leila (name)
("In Hebrew and Arabic the word Leila or Laila means 'night,' 'dark' and the name is often given to girls born during the night, signifying 'daughter of the night' ")

(c) "She was 32, blessed not just with a PhD in linguistics [from University of Southern California] but also with an American husband, a network engineer who listened to grunge music"
(i) Grunge
("is an alternative rock genre and subculture that emerged during the mid-1980s in the American Pacific Northwest state of Washington, particularly in Seattle and nearby towns. The style became known as a hybrid of punk and metal")

A representative is the band of Pearl Jam (1990-present).
(ii) grunge (n)
(iii) Monica Guzman, Why Is It Called 'Grunge' music? Seattle PI, Sept 8, 2009 (blog)
https://blog.seattlepi.com/thebi ... alled-grunge-music/
("Seattle cultural historian Clark Humphrey attributes the first printed use of the term to musician Mark Arm [a bandmate of Pearl Jam], who described one of his early bands as 'pure grunge! pure noise!' in rock critic Daina Darzin's Seattle music 'zine [abbreviation from 'magazine'] Desperate Times in 1981")

Seattle PI stands for Seattle Post-Intelligencer
(1863- ; Owner  Hearst Corp)

(d) "in keeping with the locutions of that progressive-dissident magazine, she writes of the 'Los Angeles uprisings' [as opposed to 'riots'] in the wake of the Rodney King beating by the police in 1991 and of 'Latinx motorists' being stopped more frequently than whites by Border Patrol agents."
(i) "in keeping with the locutions of that progressive-dissident magazine"

Recall, in a film review in New York Times about the Polish film "365 Days": "(often stylized 'baby gorl' to mirror Morrone's elocution."

The short answer is there is not much of a difference between locution and elocution (where e- is short for ex- (Latin prefix for "out") ). See Elocution vs Locution. Grammarist.com, undated
("Elocution is (1) a style or manner of speaking, and (2) the art of public speaking. A locution is a word or a phrase or the act of saying a word or phrase. Locution is so often used in place of elocution that many dictionaries now list the words as synonyms in some uses, but the words generally remain separate in well-edited writing")
(ii) Latinx (adj and noun; in the latter, plural: Latinx or Latinxs; First Known Use 2007; etymology)

Cf fox (n; plural: foxes or fox)

(e) "she tots up the pluses and minuses * * * her Manichaean eye regards a glass as entirely empty if it's not entirely full. * ** given the chance to explain something patiently to a white woman who has asked a question, she retreats into a cocoon of umbrage."
(i) tot
(n; First Known Use; 1725; origin unknown): "a small child: TODDLER"
(vt): "to add together : TOTAL —usually used with up"
(ii) For the adjective Manichaean, see Manichaeism
(Chinese: 摩尼教; "founded in the 3rd century AD by the Persian prophet Mani (c 216–274 AD) * * * An adherent of Manichaeism was called a Manichaean")

My reading is the religion says everything is either black or white, nothing in between.
(iii) umbrage (n; Did You Know?)

(f) "As she recalls the incident, Ms Lalami has what might be called a woke-eureka moment"
(i) woke (adj; First Known Use 1972; from past participle of WAKE): "chiefly US slang : aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)")
(ii) woke
("It derives from the African-American Vernacular English expression 'stay woke' ")

A feeling of not fully belonging, after two decades of citizenship, inspires an indictment of America. On a sweltering day 20 years ago—“a day when the marine layer over Los Angeles cleared off before breakfast”—Laila Lalami became a naturalized American citizen. She was 32, blessed not just with a
PhD in linguistics but also with an American husband, a network engineer who listened to grunge music and made her abandon her "distrust of romance." he ciyole realized that life was now a choice between his California domicile and her native Morocco: "one of us," she writes in "Conditional Citizens" -- a meditation on "belonging to America" -- "had to live in the other's country," So Ms Lalami, "young and in love," made a commitment to her husband and "to his homeland."

Ms Lalami's choice of work -- homeland -- to describe her husband's place of allegiance feels deliberate. Americans don't usually say they have a homeland,a word that has come to be used more pointely -- at least since Sept 11, 2001 -- in the idiom of national security. Ms Lalami is an Arab, and long stretches of her books dwell on how maddening it is to be an Arab in post 9/11 America. "Arabs," she writes, ,"occupy a liminal space in American definition of whiteness. The Census Bureau counts us as white, yet we are treated as nonwhites in encounters with the state or its agents."

Twenty years after her swearing-in ceremony at the Pomona-Fairplex -- a place that once served, she tells us, as a holding center for Japanese-Americans en route to a "concentration camp" in Wyoming during World War II -- Ms Lalamiis "no longer a starry-eyed bride." She is an accomplished novelist and a professor of creative writing at University of California at Riverside. She is also, in her own mind, "a conditional citizen," not "an equal member of the American family." it has become impossible, she says, for her to ignore "the contradictions between doctrine and reality" in the United States.  

Ms Lalami's is a short book, 160-odd pages of often elegantly expressed (and exasperating) paranoia. Portions of it have appeared, she acknowledges, in publications like the Nation, whose flavor her text seems most clearly to carry. She is, in fact, a columnist at the Nation; and in keeping with the locutions of that progressive-dissident magazine, she writes of the 'Los Angeles uprisings' in the wake of the Rodney King beating by the police in 1991 and of 'Latinx motorists' being stopped more frequently than whites by Border Patrol agents. Although the book feels, at times, to be a stitching together of disparate essays, it does have a clear thread that runs right through from start to finish: American is a white-supremacist country where non-white people are inferior Americans "who cannot enjoy the full rights, liberties and protections of cirizenship because of arbitrary markers of identity."

Why does Ms Lalami believe that her citizenship is a gift unconsummated? She tells us that her life "in this country is in most ways happy and fulfilling." And yet, she adds, "it has never been entirely secure or confortable." Two-thirds of the way through the book, she tots up the pluses and minuses of her being in America, where, "of course, one doesn't need to be white to have privileges." Indeed, she admits to having a few privileges herself: "My family never goes hungry. I have a home and access to clean water. I have employer-provided healthcare. I've run across subterramean parking lots without fer of causing alarm." She has also, she notes, never been assaulted by the police when stopped in her car.

It's hard to avoid the sense that Ms Lalami is playing down her privilege for polemical advantage. Elsewhere she repurposes the notion of privilege by slackening its definition. She considers poor whites -- whose lives she acknowledges to have "daunting obstacles to economic or educational achievement" -- as well as white immigrants, who have "derived no generational advantages from race," as being a cut above her in the inherent civic hierarchy she ascribes to America. White privilege, as she sees it, "doesn't mean that white people have easy lives -- it simply means that whiteness does not make their lives harder."

And what are the negatives that lock Ms. Lalami into conditional citizenship? She is "an Arab, an immigrant and a Muslim," a triple-whammy of disadvantage. Elsewhere she adds being a woman to the debit side, arguing that curbs on abortion -- which exist to varying degrees in different states -- consign all women in America to a subordinate status. She bridles when a male friend -- a lawyer by profession -- hears her say that she doesn't feel she has the same status as a man in the U.S. and responds with an incredulous: Really? "I think what he left unsaid," she writes, "is that, having been born and raised in Morocco, I ought to feel grateful to live in America, where women's rights are presumably more advanced." Presumably? "What I want is freedom," she says, "not better conditions of subjugation."

Reading "Conditional Citizens," you become convinced not merely that Ms. Lalami is unwilling to recognize that any racial and social progress has occurred in America since the days of the Founding Fathers but also that her Manichaean eye regards a glass as entirely empty if it's not entirely full. And for all her writerly elegance, you also come to see her as somewhat picayune in her judgment of other human beings -- even as she makes her grander pitch for racial justice.

Take the "white woman in a blue pantsuit" in Arizona in 2015. In the audience as Ms. Lalami gave a reading from her (third) novel "The Moor's Account," she asked Ms. Lalami to explain ISIS to her. The question may have been off-topic -- the novel is set in the 16th century, not among 21st-century Islamist fanatics. But Ms Lalami was an Arab-American intellectual in the midst of people who (presumably) don't often get to meet one. The woman's question was not outlandish, in the context, or even an "erasure" of Ms. Lalami's individuality.

The thin-skinned Ms Lalami, however, felt dissed, concluding that she'd been seen as a "representative" of all Muslims instead of as a "singular" person. In "Conditional Citizens," Ms Lalami excoriates her (probably quite benign) questioner: "The hegemony that her country exercised gave her the privilege of being ignorant about other nations." A reader would be right to be flummoxed by all of this: Ms Lalami shows great vexation in the book over the "misconceptions" about Muslims in America; and yet, given the chance to explain something patiently to a white woman who has asked a question, she retreats into a cocoon of umbrage.

Elsewhere she recalls her first landlord in Los Angeles, a kindly white man who had said to her that he didn't mind if her rent was late as long as she gave him forewarning so he could balance the books. "I want to have good people here," he said, of his apartment building. "That's what matters to me." As she recalls the incident, Ms Lalami has what might be called a woke-eureka moment: It dawns on her that "he had no black tenants," and she worries that her landlord's assurances that he wanted good people "might have been some code I had failed to interpret."

Failure to interpret is, in truth, a charge one might level against Ms Lalami herself: a failure to interpret America. It is the kindest of charges, in the circumstances.

--Mr Varadarajan is a Journal contributor and a fellow at New York University Law School's Classical Liberal Institute.

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