We watched a film called 'Carolina' last night on DVD. It starred Shirley MacLaine and perhaps a few other somewhat well-known names. At first we thought we might not continue with it, but we did and we weren't disappointed. I felt I received a lot of insight into my own family's story by watching this film. I would say that the Mirabeau (pronounced Mira-boo) family would be fairly representative of the people descended from white-Indian-by-choice people - whether through adoption, marriage or just plain free-love - who always had a somewhat different set of values and ran away from becoming a part of the buttoned-down Euro-imperio culture in America, often ending up living on the margins of society.
I think when I was a kid I would not have understood who these people were. They were just some kind of funny people who lived somewhere in America, some kind of dumb-ignorant white people, right out of the comic strip 'Li'l Abner.' But that is just the kind of pejorative language the Euro-imperio-culturists imposed on this group who looked white, were at least part white, but who espoused native american values in which women controlled their own sexuality, were sexually free individuals until they chose a mate after which they were generally monogomous (sp?), animals were a part of the household, elder women kind of ran things, and so forth. Because this group became marginalized and always had to struggle, their culture can't really shine with its own light, although this film tries to give us some bright moments, at least.
In my eyes, this American subculture is a victim of projection. For example, many of the native tribes allowed their young people to experiment sexually with different partners, although after marriage that usually ceased, and in some tribes sex outside of the marriage bond was punishable rather severely.
But when the Euro-newcomers came on board, with their own peculiar values and terminology, this kind of innocent adolescent love-making became 'promiscuity,' and 'lasciviousness' - two words that really reflect the sickness of European society, especially at the higher levels, at this time. I guess maybe they got that way because, at the higher levels, so many marriages were loveless, arranged, and indissoluble, so many people sought sexual fulfillment elsewhere. Yet because they could not dissolve their marriage bonds, these natural attractions could never develop into a wholesome couple-bond and family, and so became furtive affairs, and turned sex into something that was a cheat. The kinds of weird contortions this state of affairs generated in people led them to project these sexual values onto the native americans.
The most tragic thing about projections is that if you are powerless and projections are put upon you relentlessly, after a while you will start to reflect those projections back to the world. Words are powerful, whatever the nursery rhyme may say. You have to have a good deal of inner strength to be able to say and maintain that 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.' That's only true if you can get away from the words, or otherwise somehow ignore and stonewall the words completely. Most people are more frail than that, especially when power resides in the hands of the name-callers. As the native cultures deteriorated, the warped values constantly projected upon them became realities. Not for all, but for some.
I mean, there are many different groups in America - more today than ever before, but even prior to our present wave of immigration, we had lots of different strands among the all-Euro-derivatives, the native-americans and their various mixes and the african americans and their mixes. For example, we had 'the praying Indians' and the 'wild Indians' and their descendants often still live by different scripts and identities. Some of the Euro-imperio-types took on a blend of indigenous American values but continued to rule the country in a quasi-European fashion (see 'Gone to Croatan' for details), some native-american-white blended peoples kept away as much as they could from what were, in their eyes, imported cultural features, preferring to stay close to the old pre-reservation native american lifestyle. Then there were some like my ancestors who lived in stable communities with their own towns, and also mixed in with other people in cities. These people, 'the Moors,' and also the people 'from the mountains' didn't speak with the accents of the people in 'Carolina,' or have quite the informal biker-hooker lifestyle of the Mirabeau family, which seems to reflect a more southern origin, but they also had to face a lot of the same prejudices from the dominant culture, and struggled against their lot in life - a lot that was heavily projected upon them by the dominant culture.
This is why my mother, even though she didn't look 'colored,' had to struggle against those who wanted to place her in that category. She didn't eschew being colored - in fact, she told me once that she had considered that she could have gone either way - but she was looking for love and found it with my father, who happened to be white. The problem was that in society in her day you had to be one or the other, you couldn't be both. Also, I'm pretty sure she wanted to live as free as she could, as most 'colored' people do. In today's world, that is taken for granted. Even though the struggle for people of color isn't over, it's at least acknowledged that people of color do want to live a middle class lifestyle, be free of the projections and power-over of the dominant culture, and be self-determining. That's all my mother wanted. I think she would have been happy to acknowledge all of her ancestral strains, but she lived at a time when you couldn't do that. You had to be one thing or the other, you couldn't be both. To a certain extent, that is still true today, only now it's the black people who don't want to admit to being part-white, or that some of that whiteness could have come about due to mutual consent, maybe even because of love.
Anyway, back to the movie. I could see my own mother's struggles in Carolina's longings to fit into another level of society, into the upper middle-class, buttoned-down, streamlined world of the luxury-car set, with fine wine, expensive flowers, high-end stereo car-audio, haute cuisine, and the quiet, clever, bantering conversation of the upper middle class. Her assessment of her upper-class boyfriend as 'an expensive Italian suit' for which she had no use - 'nowhere to wear you' - seemed accurate. All of the various classes find it difficult to spend much time in each other's company, as a general rule. There are always exceptions, especially among those who are escaping their class for desperate reasons. As for me, I almost feel like I don't fit into any class, although my own class of origin would be working or possibly lower middle class. They weren't very nice to me, though, calling me 'the brain' when I was a little girl and trying to make me into a p********* when I was a teenager. So, thanks, but no thanks. On the other hand, I always feel slightly uncomfortable around upper middle-class people, and I have a sense that the feeling is mutual. I know they have all sorts of subtle values, just like working class people do, that I don't know about the way I know about the working-class. They seem like perfectly delightful people, but I always feel a little shy around them. Perhaps I ought to be part of the lower middle class, but things just haven't worked out that way. So I'm somewhat stranded between the various social classes, just like my mother was. Interesting how that has turned out.
Here's another choice that both my mother and I made, after flirting with the possibility of an upper middle class choice in life - we both married working class men, and absolutely adored them.
One difference between us, however, is that she lived almost all of her life in a lower class neighborhood, while I live in an upper class one. Upper middle class, of course, not the high end stuff. Also, one very nice thing about Berkeley, which I love, is that there are so many books here, also lots of art being generated all over the place, and fabulous trees and gardens. There is a great deal of Spirit here too, and many cleansing winds and airy vistas. These features make me feel very much at home in Berkeley at the foot of the hills. And we see fabulous sunsets with Mount Tamalpais in the distance. Ah yes, these thoughts bring me home. Home to my present time, and to my life right now.