My sister Red at Momma’s Money Matters comes to me today to share her discontent over the state of knowledge, especially about her wonderful home state of Louisiana. Red is a font of information, there is little she doesn’t know about her home, the people, food, music and its storied history. I also admit to taking a wee bit of pleasure poking and prodding her the day she wrote this (you will see). I am so glad my poking Red resulted in this marvelous Red Hat!
Red and I are of like minds in this area, we are so ignorant of our history and that ignorance is being spread. I hope you enjoy Red’s take on this particular and singular state of affairs, please do let her know.
Is my hat on straight? Oh, good. Let’s talk about what is making my tail the same color as my hair. History.
We all want to believe no one would lie to us. We trust people. We care about people and want to believe they would never lead us astray. After all, for all the generations before writing was common, this was the way history was passed from generation to generation.
Knowingly, it is a pretty good bet they would not lie. Unknowingly, on the other foot, if they are regurgitating something they heard from someone they trusted not to lead them astray… And everyone now suddenly has a tin can on a ball of jute stretched over the generations and miles in a twisted game of telephone. No? How about an example from this week?
One of my friends from the blogosphere happens to live on the other side of the planet from me. He was interested in my heritage, and we began a conversation where he was going to dazzle me with his brilliant tidbits he had assembled from his travels and those who he trusted to teach him about the great big world outside Australia.
In our back-and-forth, I led each of my responses with the same word. “No.” Not one stinking thing he “knew” about the Free State of Louisiana was correct. Not from the immigration to the history to the present. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Rien. One giant honking goose egg.
Being a curious sort, I asked where he was getting his information. Hold onto your red hats. First, from his mate (That is the Aussie mate, not to confused with Mate, as in Val’s DB.) who has been a lifelong companion and globetrotter. Meh. I chalked mate up to tourist.
Second, his family. Apparently, someone was related to (third removed on the paternal, maternal side) someone who (This part gets kinda fuzzy.) either lived there or knew someone who was formerly married to someone who lived there. Is your tin can ringing yet?
Third, brace yourself… Wikipedia. O to the M to the G, are you effen serious?
Now, I do not claim to be an expert (in everything), but I can tell you with a large degree of certainty even studying things about history from viable sources can lead one astray. History is recorded by the victor, to whom go the spoils, including the bragging rights; however, blatant misuse of facts still in evidence is hardly forgivable.
Case in point, we discussed zydeco music. He was certain it was played with specialized instruments. Well, I suppose you can call spoons and triangles specialized if you have the band’s initials carved on them.
Then, there was a discussion about Creoles. In the ultra-secret-squirrel discussion where he learned about the “American Negro”, he was proud to announce they immigrated in the 18th century. I cannot begin to tell you all the things wrong in that one sentence without a diatribe of over 2,000 words, so let’s move along. Shall we?
Now, my friend is blameless for everything before he opened his mouth. Except for the part about believing what he hears. And well, the part about not following up with someone else to see if the person who told him knew where Shinola was made. Oh, and the part about telling me the way things were. Then, there is that whole thing of reading it on the Internet. See, completely blameless. It could not possibly be his fault because these people would never lie to him, right? Hold on a moment; my tin can is ringing.
Oh, how could I have forgotten this part? There seems to be a show on television. [Brief pause for a caveat: I do not watch television.] The name of this production is Swamp People. It is a depiction of a breed of people Louisianans call River Rats.
Now, to the genteel this may sound harsh. Frankly, it is. They live in the swampy, marsh regions of the state and in the floodplains. (Look that up somewhere which is not Wikipedia.) They are mostly of Hispanic descent with enough French in the mix to still speak Coonass. They are categorized as Caucasian, but have dark, olive complexions, which tan dark roux during the summer; small, close-set, dark brown or black eyes; black hair; and elongated facial features set in small to average sized heads. In short, many have the appearance of the black rat which arrived in our fair state with the Spaniards.
Wait. What? No. Coonass is not a derogatory term or racial by any means. It refers to the Louisianans who are considered bilingual. I use the term “considered” because the language they speak is a pigeon form of both English and French, the official languages of Louisiana. See what I mean about rumors? Where do these things start? I know how they are perpetuated.
My darling (borrowed) audience, just because it is on television does not mean that it is true. (Adjusts hat to show tag which reads “Official Bubble Burster”.) In fact, what is on television is designed to engage you so you will sit still during the commercial, waiting on the edge of your seat for the program to return, thereby getting the advertiser’s message into your psyche which the show has peeled open.
Good advice is when you are showing off to someone about how much you know about where they grew up or spent the majority of their life, please, for the love of all that is holy, only speak about things you have personally witnessed or heard firsthand, since even these can be misleading. For cripes’ sake, do not ever quote something you see on prime time or syndicated television as fact. You are likely to get a different strain of hoof in mouth disease. Its main symptom is my size six stuck in your mouth.
Instead, try reading a book published from your place of interest. Go to the location’s governmental website. View their onsite tourism information. Do not go to a website where anyone with an email address can “improve this article”.
My best advice? Ask questions. Nothing will animate your friend as much as giving up the floor for a rendition of When I was growing up in… There is a reason you have two ears and one mouth. There is an even bigger reason you were not born with a remote control in your hand. These are terrific examples of why.
I need to tip my Red Hat to my sister for pointing out, wait, that is not fair.
She bet me Wikipedia would have the information wrong. During her drive home, she laughed at the string of obscenities and outbursts as I attempted to read the drivel-filled fantasy entry which passes for unsupported, unreferenced authority.
To say in the end I was thoroughly gobsmacked by the blatant disregard for facts which are readily available by natives in favor of engaging the Internet public at large (read writers who are in need of “web presence”) would be secondary to my righteous indignation at the utter lack of wherewithal of the administration of this site.
No doubt I am still…Red.