Thursday, July 19, 2012

Colonization According to My Tin Poetic Ear

Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives [Attribution],
via Wikimedia Commons
Warning: This post discusses sexual violence.

In my last post I wrote about why, in the plainest English possible, I found the recent Gospel Coalition complimentarian post disturbing. I wrote it because I felt their defense in response to the outrage had completely missed the point. Anyway, earlier today I read this post, which I felt did a much more thorough job of explaining the problem, and in the meantime defending egalitarianism, than I had done.

Reading this post led to a discussion with one of my roommates, and brought up some points I had glossed over in my last post. I mentioned in my footnotes that the language of colonization and conquest really are a problem, because no matter what you intend to be saying, the realities of public language can mean you're saying something quite different. I would think that at least the problem with the language of conquest should be obvious. War is hell, conquest is brutal. The connotations of that language can't be anything but dark.

Yet, I'm inclined to think that the language of colonization is actually more disturbing, precisely because of the dissonance between its myth and its reality. The myth of colonization is one of brave men and women making a virgin land fertile. The reality was white settlers taking land that already belonged to other people, destroying those people and then reshaping the land in their own image.

 So with the language of colonization, you bring in a metaphor that is, as my roommate pointed out, very appropriate for patriarchy, but also very disturbing. The one thinks he is simply taking something fresh and unclaimed, the other is brutalized and destroyed. There is no virgin land to be taken, a person is already there, and she has the right to that land. If she invites you in, well and good, but if you colonize then you violate her, plain and simple.

Perhaps I have, "a poetic ear like three feet of tin foil" but I do not think these implications can be missed. Do I think Wilson and Wilson were advocating rape? No. Do I think they intended their metaphors to carry these connotations? No, but they do anyway. Language is public, you can't bring in symbols without getting all their baggage. Moreover, a white man especially can't use the language of colonization without some very disturbing implications.