Saturday, March 1, 2014

Everyone's A Little Bit Racist

I find myself wondering, as I read through the beginning with the Wongs, whether anybody has snarked on just how racist Ellanjay are. We've already mentioned how all the Jewish characters are extra-Jewishy. I peaked at one of the other books in the adult series Armageddon I think it was, where Chloe was in prison and being guarded by a black woman named Florence, who might as well be named Butterfly McQueen because of how stereotypically Black her dialogue was. I swear I was waiting for her to say, "I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies." Between that and the way Jewish characters are portrayed and the stereotypical view of the Wongs, I'm forced to conclude that Ellanjay suffer from a racism, not so much born of hate, but of the sheer ignorance they have towards anything outside of white-Christian-heterosexual-male population.

Now, maybe y'all think I'm being harsh by calling them racist. I'm sure Ellanjay would. Their thinking, like a lot of peoples' thinking, would probably go along the lines of "I have never been to/held a cross-burning; therefore I'm not racist." Believe me, this is an uncomfortable topic for me to bring up too. I'm White and while I've read some great works by people of color, I know I am in no position to claim any expertise on the issue of race-relations.

What I'm trying to say in my clumsy way, is that I cringe at the dinner-with-Wongs scene and so should you. Just as the Jewish characters have no identity outside of being Jewish, the Wongs only defining attributes is how very Asian they are.

Basically, the dinner is tense with Judd stepping around the whole "Nicky is the anti-Christ and if you take the mark, you'll be roasting on a spit for all eternity" topic. Again, Judd's, but especially Chang's, reticence in this whole scene makes me grind my teeth, because there's no reason for them not to shout the truth from the hilltops except that they're cowards who want to save their own skin. Chang, these are your parents we're talking about. The people who raised you, changed your diapers, and took you for your first day of school. You should care about them burning for all eternity. Again, if they reject you and turn you over to the GC, so what? According to aunursa, martyrs get the Super Special Awesome Upgraded Bodies as opposed to having your ordinary one deteriorate over a period of a thousand years.

The dinner ends with Chang storming out after hearing that his father got him hired on with the GC. Judd leaves shortly after and is told by Mr. Wong not to come near his son. The Judd section ends with him thinking "There's gotta be a way to smuggle Chang out of New Babylon." But I know Chang eventually gets the mark anyway, so suspense is dead at this point.

Vicki wakes up in the hideout. She gets up and starts talking with Charlie and I'm going to fast-forward through much of the conversation because Ellanjay keep repeating stuff WE ALREADY KNOW ABOUT BECAUSE THEY APPARENTLY BELIEVE THEIR AVERAGE READER HAS HAD THEIR BRAIN REMOVED WITH A MELON SCOOP!

The conversation in short: Charlie tells Vicki about being captured by the GC and about how they've got to rescue the Shairtons. That's it for Chapter One of this week's snark.

I'm pleased to say that Chapter Two is a bit easier to read, at least. At least there won't be any need for me to clumsily address racism.

Chapter Two is told primarily from Natalie's perspective, who is still hanging around playing double agent instead of doing the smart thing and fleeing for the hills. She probably will have to flee at some point because, yeah, mandatory Mark.

She and the deputy commander go back to Maggie's house. Apparently the deputy commander has two braincells to rub together because he's finally figured out Maggie's an RTC and that she helped Vicki and the others escape. Maggie is arrested and taken to headquarters.

At GC HQ, Natalie sits down and starts making a list, trying to figure out what to do. I admit, I can relate to this: I'm something of a compulsive list-maker too. It clears the brain like nothing else, writing everything down.

Natalie's list is this:

1. Leave and find V. and others.
2. Stay and keep out of Henderson’s way.
3. Stay and help Maggie, Ginny, Bo, and Zeke.

Natalie rejects options One and Two, in favor of option Three, and were this a well-written novel where the villains were semi-competent, I'd be on the edge of my seat wondering how Natalie was going to get them out without blowing her cover, but given that the GC couldn't find their dicks with two hands and a map (sorry to be crude, but it's true), I'm not worried. Ellanjay could stand to do some reading on WWII resistance groups or even Albert Goering if they want to get an idea on how this double-agent business is supposed to work.

I haven't read ahead to other chapters but I'm going to guess that Natalie manages to get her people out, without having to make any sacrifices: not so much as a hair on her RTC head will be harmed and the GC won't be the least bit suspicious of how people keep escaping when this one girl is in charge.

Vicki is looking around the hideout and notices a map with lots of red and yellow pins stuck in it. The red pins represent GC outposts and the yellow ones represent outposts where there's a RTC on the inside. But Colin still isn't sure what to do with all this information.

Mark sat at one of the working computers and pulled up the kids’ Web site. “If we could get everybody working on something, pulling together all these resources, there’s no telling what we could do. We could hack into GC mainframes with the right passwords and change information. We could send e-mails, help Chloe Williams’s co-op, communicate with all of these believers at the different GC sites—”

When Vicki's all "What about the Mark?" we hear this little tidbit of information:

Mark turned to the computer and pulled up a drawing. “This is a mock-up of Carpathia’s mark. Colin’s friend figured out a way to make it into a fake tattoo.”
“And fool the GC?”
“Right. We hack into the GC records and make them think the believers already have the mark. Of course, we have to find out if it looks enough like the real thing, but it could be done.”

Ah, the classic fake mark, beloved of so much PMD literature...out of curiosity, aunursa, does this fake mark ever come into play or is it just all Chang doing everything?

The chapter ends with Natalie talking to Ginny Shairton in her cell. Natalie promises to get Ginny out and that's were I'll leave you this week. Sorry keep going on about Unfortunate Implications and not be funny, but like I said I couldn't help myself.


Firedrake said...

A map with actual pins in it. How quaint.

This conspiracy-theorist equation of the Mark with a bar-code leads to some weird ideas. This idea that you can't have a real mark and express mental reservations when they're tattooing it on, it damns you anyway — that's basically a magical approach. But we've got all this pseudo technothriller stuff about hacking into records and making up fake marks, which seems as though it should be in an entirely different story.

aunursa said...

does this fake mark ever come into play or is it just all Chang doing everything?

This might be specifically developed for the Kid's Series. I don't recall a fake mark in the original series. Even though the Tribble Force came to include a father-and-son team who were masters of "creating disguises and fake IDs."

aunursa said...

Firedrake: you can't have a real mark and express mental reservations when they're tattooing it on

You can't voluntarily accept the mark (even if under coercion, in order to avoid execution.) And Chang appears to the be the only character who is physically forced to receive the mark. Whether an undecided who received the mark via physical force would later be allowed to accept Jesus isn't addressed or considered.

aunursa said...

martyrs get the Super Special Awesome Upgraded Bodies as opposed to having your ordinary one deteriorate over a period of a thousand years.

Despite the improbability of Chang's father REFUSING the mark, eventually he and his wife DO convert. And the father is later killed and becomes a martyr. So the irony is that Chang's father gets a new-and-improved spiritual body, while presumably Chang, his sister Ming, and their mother keep their deteriorating bodies for the duration of the millennium.