Recently, someone asked me why the main page of twelvefruits.com contains this poster, which I saw at an exhibit on Indian schools in Phoenix, Arizona. To quote, it asks Boys to “Participate in sports! Become a football player or a boxer. Learn to play a sport and become controlled and civilized. Develop manly aggressiveness so that you can win and get a trophy. Learn to obey a stern, fatherly authority – your coach! Learn to be strong and not to cry or show emotion.”
It’s there because it summarizes so many suboptimal parts of American culture. There’s the emphasis on violent games, which ignores the conflict between the violence and “controlled and civilized”. There’s the emphasis on victory, instead of constant improvement. There’s the unchallenged obedience to harsh authority. There’s the inappopriate use of familial names, for the coach. There’s the view that tears and emotion are bad, instead of part of life. Finally, and most importantly, there’s the idea that strength is emotionless, soemthing that this journal has argued very strongly against.
When I saw this poster, back in September 2004, I was shocked. It’s from an exhibit at the Heard Museum, in Phoenix Arizona, on Native American schools. That’s a sad enough tale; to break the strength of tradition, and to bring the brown into white Protestant culture (it’s not like Catholics were favored either), students were forced hundreds of miles away to boarding schools. This poster was near the end of the show. At this point, I wanted to cry. I took multiple photos to make sure one would come out, even through the tough lighting and the glass. The poster is not a symbol of my personal struggles, as the person hypothesized. I have different demons. Basically, it caricatures my adversaries, the forces of stoicism. It’d be more funny if it wasn’t so successful.