The Function of the Other in Lacan

In this post, learn about Lacan's analysis of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Purloined Letter".
Jacques Lacan, French Psychoanalyst, and Theorist
According to Jacques Lacan (2006), “the subject’s unconscious is the Other’s discourse” (p. 16). Lacan’s correlative thesis is “the unconscious is structured like a language” (1998, p.2).
Lacan sees in Edgar Poe’s short story “The Purloined Letter” (1844) a privileged illustration of the Other’s discourse in relation to the unconscious and the structure of a letter to always contain the possibility of return. In the Poe detective story the interrelationship between the primary characters: the Queen, the King, the Minister D., and Dupin (a French version of Sherlock Holmes) are each in turn inhabited by a letter and its undisclosed contents, seen first as a compromising piece of evidence against the Queen, and then, as becomes evident in Lacan’s reading, a metaphor for the function of the Other modulated by the presence and absence of the letter and the way in which the Other, which does not “exist,” inhabits and is inhabited by the subject. The plot of the Poe story is thus: the compromising letter is displayed in full sight when the King enters the royal boudoir, “the primal scene.” Hoping to avert the King’s eye from the incriminating letter, the Queen places the letter face down so as not to attract undue notice. The Minister D., at that moment, walks in and is able to discern the Queen’s deception because of his “lynx eye.” Producing an identical looking letter from his breast pocket, the Minister concocts a discourse with the King while at the same time nonchalantly placing the facsimile letter on the bureau. The Queen can do nothing. When the conversation between Minister D. and the King is terminated, the Minister picks up the Queen’s letter and leaves the room. The Queen is dispossessed of the letter by the crafty Minister. By possessing the letter, the Minister is in hold of power over the Queen. The Queen promises a sum of money to the person who can retrieve the letter and return it to her. The detective Dupin orchestrates a plot to retrieve the letter from Minister D. Once he determines the location of the letter -- between the jambs of the fireplace -- he craftily replaces it with a facsimile and is able to restore the letter to its proper place and reap a reward.
The Other functions in what Lacan terms the symbolic order. Lacan’s “Seminar on the Purloined Letter” is part of his larger reading of Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle. In this book Freud speculates on the existence of an inextricably charged compulsion in each human being to repeat past, original trauma (Widerholungszwang). Lacan claims repetition compulsion is to be understood as a structure of repetition based on the insistence of something like a letter in a long signifying chain. The letter is a material signifier in the Poe story. According to Lacan’s developmental model of human subjectivity articulated in his “Mirror Stage” essay (1942), the self, upon leaving dyadic union with the Mother is captured into a “symbolic dimension” which hitherto “binds and orients” it (Lacan 28). Schooled in the thought of Alexander Kojève’s reading of Hegel, Lacan’s theory of intersubjectivity is based upon a theory of alterity that is spelled out by the equation “the I is the Other.” Rimbaud, the boy poet, put it nicely, "Je est autre." In other words, there is no subjectivity without intersubjectivity. I cannot name myself as an “I” in the symbolic order without an embedded relationship to something outside myself which defines me. The birth of the subject arises out of an imaginary misrecognition which in turn is sublimated under the domain of the symbolic order, so that it is “the symbolic order which is constitutive for the subject” (Lacan 29).
The subject is divided between a mirror image of its self, what Lacan calls the imaginary, the topos of images, dreams, and libidinal desires, and the symbolic order, the purview of language, the law, thought, and desire for an Other. The subject is thus barred from access to a signified, written out in the formula S/s, and is circumscribed under the auspices of the signifier. The realm of the imaginary is related to the symbolic but there is a bar wedged between the gestalt of the spectral image and the name of the father, the law, of the symbolic order. What constitutes the self is an intractable search to locate the lost wholeness of the Other. In this way, Lacan rewrites Freud’s observation that the little child realizes his mother (the m/Other) does not have the phallus. Upon realizing that the mother does not, in fact, have the phallus, the child cognizes that the phallus must be lost and goes in search of it in order to restore it to its proper place. We have here the Lacanian explanation of symbolic desire built upon Freud’s idea of the Oedipal Complex as well as the repetition compulsion. The search for the mother’s phallus is forbidden by the Father/Law. The law intrudes in the form of the symbolic father who cuts a decisive “no” into the child’s forbidden desire.
Lacan, J., & Fink, B. (2006). Ecrits: The first complete edition  
in English. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

----, & Sheridan, A. (1998). The four fundamental concepts of
psychoanalysis: the seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI. New  
York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Muller, J. P., & Richardson, W. J. (1988). The Purloined Poe: Lacan, 
Derrida & psychoanalytic reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


Are Philosophers Inspired by the Figure of the Child?

In this post, I discuss one of my favorite topics: how have thinkers, writers, and philosophers been inspired by the figure of the child?

I am stuck on this topic of the child as a figure of philosophical thought or inspiration. The question writ large is this: how can the child be both a muse and tabula rasa? In other words, how can the child be a figure of inspiration, yet at the same time, not capable of the label philosopher? The philosopher, artist, thinker, writer, goes to the child for their inspiration, but the paradox is this: the child is seldom seen as a locus of philosophical import. How can it be both? Both muse and empty of content? We call the child innocence but what we mean is empty, according to Kincaid. And i agree. The label of innocence creates a bind. A problem. Innocence maintains the status of muse but creates a problem by which the child is only able to miraculously appear through nostalgia and leaves whence she came. William Blake trumpets the child as a muse. Blake writes of a poet/piper in the introductory verse of the Songs of Innocence who is visited by a child on a cloud who commands him to write: "Piper sit thee down and write / In a book that all may read." Is the child merely an apparition for the romantic poet? Notice it is the poet and not the lofty nude boy cherub who puts words onto paper. How can it be that the child inspires the poet to write but is bereft of his own song?
I can name three famous instances where a child appears in the margins of the history of philosophy. In Plato’s Meno, Socrates employs a slave child to demonstrate to Meno that learning is recollection. Meno assures Socrates that the boy has no previous knowledge of geometry. The question is if the child has no prior knowledge of geometry can she still learn it? Socrates asks the slave boy questions. He does not supply him with answers as if his mind were an empty vessel. Socrates is notorious for asserting that we come upon the quest for knowledge at an instance of nothing. We know nothing. Nothing is a starting point. Just by the guidance of a question, the slave boy is able to come up with the solution to the problem of halving a square. Plato does not indicate the child's age. I would guess he is no older than sixteen. No younger than seven. Is it a coincidence that Socrates uses him as an example? To use a child to illustrate a philosophical point suggests something about the status of a child. In this case a slave child. To be a slave and a child at the time of Socrates was to be afforded little political privilege. Neither the child or the slave were properly thought of as citizens of the state. Philosophy is adult business. Citizen business. So to demonstrate the boy's ability to know, to recollect knowledge, as a priori to learning itself, is to present the child as exemplar, but still leaves us to question the concept of child as philosopher.
Nietzsche famously invokes the figure child in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in tandem with the lion and the camel, as the third stage in the metamorphosis of philosophical progress.
Augustine in the Confessions opens a random selection of sacred scripture whereby he is inspired by Saint Paul’s words to put on the person of Christ and rid himself of wanton desires. When the child enters the scene of philosophical history she becomes an example, as we can see in Socrates’s use of the boy, or as metaphor for something “new” and “fresh” as in Nietzsche. Or simply inspiration as in Augustine’s anecdotal story of his conversion.
For the most part children are excluded from the annals of Western Philosophy in the main along with discussions of sex, the body, and anything related to our finitude. Philosophers in the main have traditionally been more fond of loftier topics such as mind, reason, and clear and distinct ideas. Children are far from such sophisticated concepts being as they are undeveloped intellectually. While we can grant the child her own special status as philosopher who has not heard a child ask why? it is still fairly common to assume philosophy is meant for grown-ups. The long-standing view of children is that they are extensions of adults. Thomas Hobbes excludes the child as having the status of person in the Leviathan. Along with madmen and fools, the child is a brute beast, with no claim to the law or sovereignty. For Hobbes, the child is not a person. According to Phillip Aries, the concept of the child as independent from an adult only recently became adopted in the West in the nineteenth century. For centuries children were seen as diminutive versions of adults. Homunculi. The great modern revelation, it is said, is that children embody a consciousness that is temporally defined and authentic to childhood itself. How far have we come from Hobbes? But how uneasy it is for us to ask the child muse to speak her own voice. Children grow up. They become adults. And it is usually adults who provide the child's voice. The word "infant" means "without voice." The Romantic view of childhood, as seen in the Blake poems, and also with Rousseau, privileged the child as possessing a unique access to experience that becomes lost after the emergence of puberty. What Freud would later call the stage of latency, the period after infancy leading up to adolescence, becomes a period in the development of the human person infused with a new sense of interest and curiosity. Jean-Jacques Rousseau breaks the silence and places the figure of the child front and center, but he too retains a nostalgia for something lost. We vacillate, I conjecture, from positing the child as an empty slate to embodying all truths, but in each event, we are foreclosed to the child qua child.


Erotic Saturday: Exposed Bums at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Culture occurs at the edge"  attributed to Roland Barthes
Another thought about Alexander McQueen and the exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Savage Beauty," running until August here in New York City.

I agree with the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. He designed a style of pantalons that expose just a little bit of the buttocks, as seen in the above picture (which he playfully called bumsters). McQueen believed the most erotic part of a person's body, whether male or female, is their slightly exposed backside. 

I agree. The mesh of clothes revealing a gap of skin is erotic indeed.

Roland Barthes put the same thought in a slightly different way:
"Is not the most erotic portion of a body where the garment gapes? In perversion (which is the realm of textual pleasure) there are no "erogenous zones" (a foolish expression, besides); it is intermittence, as psychoanalysis has so rightly stated, which is erotic: the intermittence of skin flashing between two articles of clothing (trousers and sweater), between two edges (the open-necked shirt, the glove and the sleeve); it is this flash itself which seduces, or rather: the staging of an appearance-as-disappearance. " 
CreditCatherine McGann/Getty Images
PDF Copy for Printing


Aesthetic Thursday: Alexander McQueen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In this blog post, I write about the newest fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art - Alexander McQueen - Savage Beauty. 

The Dialectic of Beauty, Alexander McQueen Struggles with Deconstructive Aesthetics
    If you are in New York City between now and August 7, 2011, check out the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Exhibit."
    The exhibit boasts an ample retrospective on the deceased fashion designer's life works, dating back from his seminal graduate student collection inspired by Jack the Ripper to his most recent posthumous collection.
    Jellyfish designs, a macabre mixture of duck feathers and leather masks, spray-on dresses, and kinky "bumster" design pants, the McQueen exhibit is a touching tribute to a man who certainly obsessed over dichotomies, divergences, and the question of the beautiful.


Will I Shine Among the Shades in Hades Like Tiresias?

Henry Fuseli, Tiresias appears to 
Ulysses during the sacrificing (1780-1785) 

Yesterday I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for my bi-monthly one hour visit. I go to the museum immediately after psychoanalysis. I'm sure there is a connection to that somehow. Reliving painful experience followed by the need to be absorbed by beauty seems like a rational explanation. Also: proximity. Dr. X's office is on the Upper East Side so it is not too far of a walk to attend a visit to one of the world's most voluminous holders of art. I checked in my bags. Bag attendant: "Do you have any electronic devices?" I answer a laconic "no." "Do you mind if we inspect your bag, sir?" I am secretly relieved my latest issue of Wet and Wild is absent. Just kidding. This is a kid-friendly blog. So I will say, "just kidding." Although I am sure there are a few number of kids who do read this blog. And if they do and they are scandalized then I am sure I can rightly join the ranks of Socrates's who was charged with "corruption of the youth." In fact, I just had a conversation about Socrates's trial in class last Thursday. Most students agree that Socrates is a cool cat. But, I wonder if they would have liked him if they had actually met him. I too think Socrates is a cool cat but I have a suspicion that I would not like him very much. I think it is the passage in the Meno that compares him to a stingray. Meno tells him that his frequent and accumulating questions without answers numb him like a sting ray's sting (or a jellyfish?). Why be so numbing Socrates? It goes against educational practice today. We are not supposed to overload our students with too many questions. Socrates asks Meno one question after another. Without answer. And more complicated. Can virtue be taught? He does not like Meno's answer so he asks him more questions. How can we get at the heart of virtue? Do we even know what virtue is in its essence? I don't think Socrates is satisfied that strength tells us anything about courage as a whole or that healthy bones tell us anything about health. Socrates wants to get at the heart of the matter. We don't know anything about the essence of a virtue. In fact we know nothing for certain about wholes in of themselves. We know via recollection. We remember knowledge. Since we existed before this life (our souls are immortal) we come into corporeal existences with the memory of our past existence buried deep within us. Knowledge is memory recall. The puzzle is the access to our soul's knowledge is not an open flood way. It is more like a dam with tiny holes allowing a minuscule of seepage to pass through. Damn transmigration of souls. How can I know anything if I do not even know that I must remember to know? That is the stingray part. At least for me. How do I access the treasure trove of knowledge from above? Do I look at beautiful things to stimulate my mind to recollect? Socrates suggests it is all by mere chance. So remember and some don't. The son of a wise man is not necessarily wise. The key is the tether. When you got it — hold it down. Don't let a morsel of knowledge get away and be able to distinguish the dross from the good stuff. I like how the Meno ends. Odysseus was able to identify Tiresias among the shades in Hell because Tiresias shone with a special light. He was a flitter of glory among shadows. In other words who knows when we will "get it"; maybe never, but the thing is, when we do in fact see it, we will know it.


Aesthetic Thursday: Boy in a Striped Sweater

Amedeo Modigliani, Boy in a Striped Sweater, 1918, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Visually Similar Images Generated by Google Image Search
Oil on canvas
H. 36, W. 21-1/2 inches (91.5 x 54.5 cm.)


Poetry Repost: "I am what I am"

By Jacques Prevert
Tercerunquinto, I Am What I Am. Monclova
I Am What I Am
I am what I am
I am made like that
When I have a desire to laugh
Yes, I laugh with a burst of laughter
I like the him who likes me
And it isn't my fault
If it isn't always the same him
That I love every time
I am what I am
What do you want more
What do you want of me

I am made to please
And I can't change a thing
My heels are too high
My waist too arched
My breasts much too hard
And my eyes too dark
And then what is more
What can that be to you
I am what I am
I please who I please
What can that be to you
What has happened to me
Yes I've loved someone
Yes someone has loved me
Like children love each other
Just know how to love
Love to love
Why ask me questions
I am there to please you

I Am What I Am
Installation view, Ikon Eastside 2008
Photo: Stuart Whipps


Photograph Series: The Yellow Phone

In this series of photographs, Greig Roselli serves up some yellow pay phone realness.


Photograph: The Watermelon Booth

The Watermelon Booth, Festival of India, Washington Square Park


Aesthetic Thursday: Donatello's Bronze David

Donatello's Bronze David is on display in Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.
Donatello, "Bronze David," circa 1440  
Florence's Two Davids
Florence claims two famous David's: the one above is Donatello's bronze rendition, while Michelangelo's David is carved from marble. This "David" is remarkably younger in appearance and less muscular than Michelangelo; he displays an insouciance characteristic of a boy who has just brazenly done a misdeed and is gloating. He leans forward on his sword, pleased with knocking down the Philistine Goliath with a mere stone, then lopping off his head. I am sure the adrenaline seething through his body after such an act was powerful indeed.
Donatello's David is Presented "After the Act"
It is interesting that Donatello has chosen to depict his David post coitus. His stance is certainly not the preliminary "taking stock" embodied in Michelangelo's David nor is it the intense focus of a David in action with the slingshot; it seems obvious his victory is more akin to losing one's virginity or the discovery of masturbation. Donatello's David is a piece that glorifies the esteem begotten in accomplishing a deed rather than the energy and labor that go into completing one.
Pure Youth Energy
Not just any deed. But a deed done quickly and with fierce attention, and brazen courage, against all odds. Who would guess that a boy could topple a giant? Who would guess that after having made love for the first time that it would be so good? The trope evident here is of the victorious boy. He is a boy fully clad in the remnant clothing of a warrior, the helmet and the battle sandals. The rest is pure youth.

photo credit: timelines


Vintage Columbus Circle 59th Street Subway Sign

Meet me next to the glazed red wheelbarrow at Columbus Circle, she said, mimicking William Carlos Williams ...
Notice the symbol for the now defunct 9 line

Random Building Façade, New York City

E 16th Street between 5th Avenue and Union Square, 2011 


God is in Everything in Richmond Hill

Interior of Sikh Temple, Richmond Hill, Queens
Visiting the Sikh Temple in Queens, I am reminded that God is in everything. Why is that a potentially uncomfortable statement?
         Standing next to his uncle in the kitchen of the Govinda Café in Richmond Hill, Claude slices sandwiches into triangular pieces while explaining why the deities, Krishna and his brother Balarama, are not on display today. “They’re being painted. Their eyes,” he says, pointing to the temple room where clearly the curtain has been drawn. Steve explains to me that when the deities are being prepared no one is allowed to look upon them except their caretakers. Hare Krishna devotees believe that the statues of the deities on display in their temples are manifestations of the God himself. This concept makes me a little uncomfortable. I am used to images and statues in churches and in a holy place. In Greek Orthodox Christianity, icons, or images of the saints and God are venerated as physical portals into the divine. To pray to the icon is to pray through a window peering into the divine. The Hare Krishna devotees feel their holy places are graced by divinity itself. Not only that, but they offer food to the deities every day. “Krishna eats first,” one devotee explains, “then we wash our hands and eat.”
  Claude smiles as he finishes up preparing the sandwiches. All the food prepared in the café is vegetarian. To eat meat is a profanity against Krishna. God is in the food. God is in the strawberry flavored chai. God is in the people around us. The panentheism the devotees profess is dogmatic. To think of anything in the material world as not made of God is tantamount to heresy. “God is in everything,” Claude says, smiling again, “even in the prasadam” (the name for the food offered to the gods). I buy an iced Snapple for two dollars.

   Steve tells me he wants to take me to the Sikh temple two blocks away. We say our goodbyes to Claude and his uncle, disappointed that we can not see the deities. Claude says to us, “You go to the Sikh temple. It’s dirty.” Later I ask why the Sikh temple is considered dirty. Steve explains to me that the Sikhs are a syncretic faith combining both elements of Hinduism and Islam. The women do not cut their hair. Nor do the men. And some do not bathe as frequently as is customary in the West. The Sikh are from the Punjab region of India. Their language is Sanskrit. It does not have the same lilt as Hindi; as I am used to hearing Claude and Sham speak two blocks away. I am struck by Claude’s discriminatory remark but assume it is only natural to want to criticize a faith that is so similar to your own but marked by different customs. It is similar to the attitude of Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians or Hasidim and Orthodoxy in Judaism.
       Passing in front of the “Punjabi Bride” shop, the colors of the dresses tell a story of attention to imagery. The Sikh seem to marry the imagistic imagination of Hinduism with the cold monotheism of Islam. While the women’s dresses are colorful and bombastic, the interior of the Baba Makham Shah Lubana Sikh temple (or gurdwaras, as it is known here) is blue and muted. In front of the temple portico, men discuss with each other in their own tongue; I am not privy to what they say. Loudspeakers mounted onto the outside walls project the religious chant being sung inside. Steve and I take off our shoes before entering the temple. “Cover your head with a bandanna,” Steve tells me, “You can’t go into the temple with your head bared.”
       I take my shoes off and place them in a cubby hole. Men, women, and children come in to take off their shoes. No one bothers the other. A man sits next to me slowly taking off his shoes. I notice no one stares at me. I am immediately aware that I am not seen as an outsider. In fact, no one asks me why I am here or whether or not I believe. The temple is open twenty-four hours a day. The poor and homeless often come to seek shelter and food. Seated behind the Sikh holy book, men take turns reading from the sacred texts non-stop, day and night. I follow Steve's lead. Bowing to the book, I think of my own love for books and wonder if it is the same thing. I do not worship the physical book, but merely its contents. And even then, I am trained to be critical of what I read, and never take anything as absolute truth. Again, I feel out of place, but no one reads my mind nor do they ask me of my convictions.

        Steve says hello to those he knows and introduces me as his friend the philosopher. I stand up and Steve suggests I partake of cereal food given to me by a Sikh holy man. The sweet cereal paste is moist and delicious. I thank him and he nods. Mothers sit with their children in the temple area. One smacks her child on the behind gently so he won’t roam the temple area. Older men sit with each other and listen to the readings uttered in monotonous glory. Younger adolescents with turbans but wearing Westernized T-shirts and shorts enter the temple and sit. The space is peaceful. The word that comes to mind is non-judgmental. Although I read about a recent brawl in front of the temple only a few weeks ago, today, there is no hint of animosity or discontent. What the people do here everyday is interwoven into the fabric of their everyday life. The holy man serving me the cereal paste most likely has a job, maybe it is an electrician or building contractor. He dedicates time to serve God in this temple. Steve and I sit in silence for one minute. At the most. Getting antsy, we both get up to be served prasadam. 
        Entering the serving area adjacent to the temple space, a few dozen Sikh eat prasadam. Portraits of Sikh gurus adorn the walls. One is decapitated and holds his own head. Another is a photography. A more recent holy man. A gentle West Indian from Guyana serves Steve and I. He speaks to me in Hindi. I say I do not understand. He then speaks to me in broken English. “I go to the Krishna temple too. But I come here.” Steve tells me he recognizes him from the Hare Krishna Temple. I ask him if it is okay that I eat the prasadam even though I am not an adherent of Sikhism. “God is in everything,” he says simply. That seems a simple enough answer. There is no hint of proselytizing. The Sikh have carved out a space for themselves in a small pocket of New York City adjacent to the A train in Richmond Hill, Queens. I sense a strong familial bond between the people. Outsiders are not a threat because amongst themselves there is a strong sense of communal identity. The caste system already dictates the place of people in society. There is no equivocation about one’s place in the world. Ostensibly, everyone is aware of their place. Any tension or anxiety about who they are and what they espouse as belief is not present in these believers. The melody of the chant echoes through the serving room. The male voice is quite beautiful, sung with his whole body. 
       As I eat the prasadam: the dahl, the sappu, the biryani rice, I recollect the fact that I have not eaten meat for a week since hanging out with Steve. Am I becoming a believer again? To me, Krishna is a concept. God is a difficult concept. Krishna, Vishnu, Jesus, Balarama. All ways to articulate a concept that is abstract and hard to grasp. I can relate to the need to arrive at a temple like the one I sit in today. But I do not feel the conviction to go beyond God as a concept that is difficult to reason. Maybe impossible. For many here maybe there is no need to go beyond belief. To sit at the podium in the center of the temple and chant holy songs is as natural as combing the lice out of your son’s matted hair, or rising early to water your garden before the sun’s heat becomes too intense. One thing I envy is the eagerness I experience here. There is no apparent worry about the “why” or the “how.” 
       By 10:00 PM the temple becomes crowded. A young man with his hair bundled into his headdress sings to himself. A more urban male play fights with his buddy in the lobby. Two young women dust the benches in the portico. Two older men read the news. Steve and I wash our hands again. I drink warm brown chai. It is hot to my lips. My stomach is sated. I yearn for something. But I do not quite know. I know I do not have the faith to believe. But I envy belief. I envy faith. Steve drives me to the train station. “Roselli,” he says, “You were not out of place in the temple. You didn’t look anxious at all. Some people I take there are anxious at first. Not you.” I smile and suggest that I have traveled a bit so I am used to differences in culture. But, I say, it is also because the Sikh temple is inviting and the people kind.

Would you like to read more? Fetch Greig Roselli's book of essays, Things I Shouldn't Have Said (And Other Faux Pas) for more good writing, dammit.  
photo credits: steve e.


Guest Blogger: Pensacola Palette 2011

Summer Sunbathers at Pensacola Beach in Florida
Now that summer is upon us, Americans hit the beaches en masse. To commemorate the start of summer, allow me to publish this piece I received from an anonymous blogger in Pensacola, Florida:

The True Colors of Freedom
I find it interesting that once people held true to the claim that at the end of the horizon the world just dropped off. Worldly travel and exploration was stifled from fear of falling off, losing everything. Fear of falling and failing in life is the deadliest and at the same time most universal of all fears. When people face their fears, the world is a more free place to live. I don’t mean freedom in the “free for all” sense; I’m talking about the freedom that brings about peace, the kind that tears away at discrimination and prejudgment. 

I experienced true freedom this weekend. A group of friends and I took a trip to Pensacola for the Memorial Day weekend. We were among thousands of others who set up tents along the beach. Some spaces were more elaborate than others. One site even had a professional DJ, with disco balls and all. We had a nice canopy tent and some chairs. In the American sense, we were middle class. Our arrangement was nothing elaborate but we had everything we would ever need or want: salmon and turkey sandwiches, vodka and lemonade,  beer, and towels. We decorated the side of our tent with groovy flags with an image of Louisiana, our home state. Now that I think about it, everyone had a flag of some sort posted at their site. 

Two of our girlfriends embraced freedom by putting beach friendly pasties on their breasts and were topless while on the beach. They said they would have never done that if everyone around them was straight. Not only was it Memorial Day; it was Gay Pride. They were a hit--everyone loved them. Passersby's asked if they could take pictures of them. Our friends agreed as long as their faces wouldn’t be in the pictures. Everyone was free. When people are truly free, they can truly trust. Isn’t that what Memorial Day is all about? 
Like the freedom of the early teen girl standing next to the anti-gay protesters who were shouting in front of one of the bars. The protesters reminded me of the demon figures at Mardi Gras. The girl next to these protesters reminded me of the little girl on Little Miss Sunshine. In the middle of men holding banners with scriptures on them and forcing patrons to read their tracks, this girl gently made her peaceful voice heard: “We love you, gays. Be free to be you...” She was with an adult who was holding a rainbow flag. Maybe it was her uncle, a friend or a parent. She spoke with gentleness and love that only comes from a free spot in one’s heart. 

Our second night out was spent at Patty’s Irish Pub. We played darts: only $2 for 2 hours. We drank beer and ate pizza. At around 10 PM, the bartender made a courteous announcement not to play any jukebox songs because karaoke was about to commence. The karaoke singers were awesome--so much so, we did not want to ruin their night by trying to sing "Bad Romance" by Lady GaGa. We heard songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” and “I Love This Bar”. Our first night and our second nights out had something in common – diversity. I love the country I live in because of the people. For the most part people in America embrace true freedom, not at the cost of others but out of a sense of love of self, sister, and brother. This is what I remember on Memorial Day – thank you for all of us who stand for the true colors of freedom.

Thank you to an anonymous guest blogger for letting me post this piece.

© 2011 Stones of Erasmus