Currently it’s Fair and 73F outside.
eh, I don’t really maintain this blog anymore. Go here if you want to read what I’m up to or to communicate with me.
From: Xxxxxx Xxxxxx [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, April 26, 1999 10:01 PM
To: Matt Butler
Subject: just to say hey!
We didn’t get to talk much at Xxxxxx’s party, and I’ve been
very busy and not had alot of time to send much mail, so here it goes.
Congratulations on going to grad school. Your mom wasn’t sure
what your degree is in, so let me know. I don’t think I would have the
patience to go to grad school. I’ve met too many people with multiple
degrees in studio art and they seem to be more obsessed with letting
people know their academic background than actually using their degrees!
But these are the same people who would rather tell me what the artist
was doing or feeling when they did the painting, instead of just
enjoying the way it looks. Xxxxx is a little (no – alot) like this.
She is the art historian of the family. Xxxx can’t stand her analysis
of everything. Oh well, I’m sure you will do fine and have a great
time! Good Luck.
The story of my Fathers (but not Mothers) is one of conquest, brutal theft of land, and genocide. It all started 30,000 years ago when my paternal ancestors were some of the first Cro-Magnon people to emerge out of Central Asia into what is now Europe. We cohabited the land for many centuries with the Neanderthal but greed and corruption got the best of us. Over the course of several millennia we competitively replaced the Neanderthal in their native land and began the systematic colonization of modern Europe, killing off an entire species of proto-humans in the process.
My people made the Pyrenees Mountains their home for untold generations after that. Current-day Southern France, Northern Spain, Andorra, and parts of Northern Portugal are what we called home for thousands of generations. Much later, during the Roman Empire, some of my family can be triangulated to the coasts of the Catalan-Balearic Sea in western Spain. We were no doubt conscripted to conquer land.
Another branch, which lived a bit further north in Southern France, were some of the first families to invade Ireland in the 12th century A.D., again, fueled by a lust for conquest and domination. Theobald Walter, who accompanied Prince John (the bad guy in the Robin Hood stories) into Ireland in 1185, was named Butler of Ireland. Theobald changed his surname to Butler to mark his service to the crown. This is the origin of my current family name and Kilkenny Castle in Southern Ireland became the seat of the Butler family for 500 years. To some it represents the spoils of war – to others, the domination of an indigenous population.
A group of Butlers moved from Ireland to the New World in the 17th century, becoming farmers and trappers – and no doubt slave owners – in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky before heading north, up the Big River, into Illinois near Carthage. Since the early 1800’s, the Butlers have lived on or around the Mississippi River. This is where I grew up: as the grandson of two Railroad men on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. I hope our brutal legacy has come to a close at last.
In fact, one very small branch of our paternal family tree now ends with me, my brother, and one male cousin. Unless we produce sons, that twig of the tree ends with us. So far, I think we’ve decided to let that happen.
I totally forgot I wrote this for a project by ACE = Art Culture Experiments back in 2008 and just stumbled across it on Google. It was prompted by a controversial use of the word ‘queer’ and various artists and writers were asked to contribute a blurb about it. Unsurprisingly, mine ended up being overly technical.
“What are your thoughts on Queer?”
Matt Butler wrote:
“A naming collision is a circumstance where two or more identifiers in a given namespace or a given scope cannot be unambiguously resolved, and such unambiguous resolution is a requirement of the underlying system.”
It seems to me that the identifier becomes ambiguous when used outside of either heteronormative or LGBT communities. Depending on the community, it can be used positively or negatively. It’s probably most confusing when used by people who don’t strongly identify with either community and are unsure of how their use of the word will be perceived. My feeling is that the only way to reduce ambiguity is to always default to a positive connotation that represents pride, acceptance and love. Further use of in this way, particularly in public contexts where a naming collision is likely, will help to clearly define the word for confused individuals. It is clear that the pejorative use of has been deprecated and should be avoided.