Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Ancestors' Suffering is Bigger Than Your Ancestors'

This America…this big luxury cruise ship with many layers… Obscene and conspicuous, floating in a place where the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is out of sight. We are all on the cruise ship, on some kind of ocean safari. The barmaids and cooks sleep under deck. Me, I’m an ugly white girl sipping lattes in the Indie Music Lounge. You, you’re a Tulalip casino tycoon scoffing at wealthy white retirees in the Frank Sinatra Lounge, where you are ordering the cheapest beer on tap at the bar. That guy over there’s a black intellectual, trying to convince a Maasai artist that there’s a difference between the hearts of black and white Americans. And that woman, yeah, that one you didn’t see come in… She’s the janitor the ship picked up in Ethiopia. She has all her papers and everything. Real nice lady, she is.

This ship is luxury, to be sure. Nothing like that sad little raft Afghanistan, or that punctured inner-tube Somalia. It towers over those quaint little sailboats Sweden and Japan. Whenever it stops to visit some new port, new people get on. Some are stowaways, but no one checks their tickets if they make sure to always look busy cleaning the toilets. Other new passengers are dignitaries in boas and silk, welcomed with camera flashes, capers, and 100-year-old wine that tastes the same as some nine dollar bottle from Safeway. While these dignitaries are wined and dined, lawbreakers and seditionists from the old batch are made to walk the plank that sticks out the kitchen porthole.

Where are most of the people on the ship at any given moment? Usually in the China Buffet Lounge. The fortune cookie messages there are a riot.

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