Whom Do You Belong To? xTC

ANDREI CODRESCU

November 16, 1992|By ANDREI CODRESCU

New Orleans. -- I like to think that I don't belong to anybody. I think I have a constitutional right to that effect, but times being what they are it isn't easy. Everything and everybody gives off this plaintive wail: Belong! Belong! Be a member of our guild, our gun club, our 10-billion strong credit-card family; be a member of our family, our generation, our nation; our world -- and pay those dues, dammit!

In truth, there are certain things you can't help being part of, either because you were born into them or you got yourself in too deep. You can't help being an earthling, for instance, and if you're in the Mafia or the CIA it isn't so easy to get out. Other things you can presumably help.

I belong to only three organizations. In order of importance: the Reptile Defense Fund, which fights snake killers and frog dissecters, the Jewish-Romany Association, which takes stands against persecutions of Gypsies, and the Modern Languages Association, which is the professional outfit of literature teachers.

The Reptile Defense Fund holds its annual conventions in Texas at the snake roundups. Its proceedings consist in overturning snake baskets and tearing snake-skin boots and belts off gun-toting cowboys. It's a lot of fun and we always have a party at the hospital afterward.

The Jewish-Romany Association, which is run by Toby Sonneman from her wilderness cabin in Cashmere, Washington, holds conventions in front of the embassies of countries, like Romania and Germany, that persecute Gypsies.

The Modern Languages Association is a little more formal in this regard, but its reasons for the places where it meets are a lot more puzzling than those of the others. In 1988, 88,000 strong, it met in New Orleans. This year, it served notice to the city that it wouldn't meet here again as long as sodomy was illegal in the state of Louisiana.

It seems perverse, if you ask me. If you want to save snakes, you go to where the snakes are. If you want to help Gypsies, you go to where they are hurting them. If you care about literature, you go to where they need some.

I think the Modern Language Association has mistaken its mission for its procedures. Its mission is to promote literature; the way it functions is, well, illegal in this state.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of Exquisite Corpse.

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