Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Redheaded Eskimo from Nebraska Responds to David Simon's Assertions about Standing

"I'm going to make an argument here that standing is the lamest way of reducing genuine debate, discussion, and argument in our political culture, in our culture in general, and in our society."
David Simon, Rising Tide 6, Xavier University of Louisiana

I very much enjoyed Rising Tide 6, a conference in New Orleans about social networking and blogs. David Simon was the keynote speaker. I am a huge fan of Simon's work on shows such as The Wire and The Treme, some of the best television ever in my opinion. David Simon said he hoped that his talk would be provacative, and it was. But in the end what he concluded about "standing" bothered me.

It seems David Simon is so very tired of people complaining that because he is not from New Orleans, and that because he didn't experience Katrina and its immediate aftermath, that he has no business telling our story. He claimed that these attacks on his work are ad hominem and instead they should focus on the actual stories he tells, not his background. He said that to take the idea of standing to its logical conclusion, you'd have to be a "redheaded Eskimo from Nebraska to write the story of a redheaded Eskimo from Nebraska."

Well, as someone who grew up as a redheaded Nebraskan, it's my unfortunate duty to inform Mr. Simon that the preferred term is Inuit and they neither live in Nebraska nor have red hair. Though if Mr. Simon reads this and wants to collaborate on a future project about redheads and Nebraska, I'd be game. Think Omar in overalls on a tractor stealing from corn silos.

But more seriously, I present as an argument that standing does matter... Sr. Monica Loughlin, who gave the introductory remarks welcoming attendees to Xavier. Certainly Sr. Monica's standing as a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, the order founded by Saint Katharine Drexel, certainly that matters in her ability to tell the story of Xavier's unique mission. Doesn't it give her street cred? I could have said the same words and it would have mattered less. If a heathen like Mr. Macrochephalus would have told that story, it would have been worse than meaningless.

I very much agree with David Simon that people in the media need to be curious and honest. I also liked his anecdote about David Mills, an African American writer who complained when people told him that they loved the work he did with the African American actors on the TV show NYPD Blue. Mills would get upset and tell them he wrote the words of Sipowicz as well! Awesome. So keep telling your stories David Simon. I love watching them. But I do think that standing does matter, it matters a lot.

You can see David Simon's talk at Rising Tide 6 here, thanks to Jason Berry for the video:

Rising Tide 6 - David Simon, Keynote Speaker from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

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