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"I've lived all over the place, but Chicago is really my home, in that it takes up the most space in me -- in my heart and mind. I'd worked for six years in Oak Park's diversity assurance program as the manager of a residential building. Oak Park is known for Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright, but it has also long been studied by demographers around the world for its integration programs and its attempts to right some of the wrongs of discriminatory housing practices in the early part of the twentieth century. I learned so much in that job... about privilege, about possibility, about how the world sometimes works when you're one color versus another color."
The phrase "semantic polarities" could be profitably switched out for the drama of becoming, because this is what Ugazio describes. Everyone wants not only to acquire certain material or sensual benefits but also to become the sort of person who would acquire these benefits, and to be seen as this precise sort of person in the eyes of others. An apartment in a rich neighborhood, an enviable spouse, a job conferring high income and prestige -- all of these are in a sense only decoration, or the material manifestation of the metaphysical desideratum -- to become a "winner" in life. But why did that child grow up wanting to be a winner? People from a certain walk of life might assume that this aspiration is universal and those who deny it are just trying to rationalize their lifetime of loss. But this isn't accurate. The semantics of goodness, power, independence, and belonging suggest entirely different shapes to a desirable life. What's frightening is the essential arbitrariness of these goals.
"I noticed a trend where anorexia memoirs, magazine articles, talk shows, or whatever are designed to 'raise awareness' or act as cautionary tales to younger girls. Yet, when that was my peer group, most people took it as potential diet plans, or inspiration to learn how to have an eating disorder. So, sometimes people thought okay, I'm going to become anorexic, this is what I'm going to do, this is my goal. Or, I want to lose fifteen pounds; I'll follow this person, because obviously this person did it well. No one had ever seriously looked at that. I thought it was interesting and a problem that needed to be at least recognized."
Jared Schickling: "Anthropology was big for me. Seriously: men who give their semen to the young men to drink in front of everybody; drinking utensils cleansed in cow urine after three squares of milk with blood pricked from the same cow's jugular day after day; an arctic diet of 12,000 calories by noon; women chewing the soles of a man's shoes every morning; languages with no conjugation for past or future; men snorting hallucinogens and whacking their neighbors with the flat sides of machetes; and so on. And once I had read Horace Miner defamiliarize daily American rituals in 'Nacirema' ('American' backward), I could put it all together and see that what all this exotic behavior and circumstance was showing me is how strange I am -- how strange we are.:
Kristina Marie Darling
"At the time I was working as a director at an eldercare facility in Berkeley, California. Day in, day out, I saw the amount of money people paid for basic healthcare. Our healthcare system is really insane. And when you're older, and need more help, more meds, expensive meds, it gets more insane. During this time, my mom was also living in Mexico for stretches of time, and I'd visit. After I moved from Berkeley, I landed in New Mexico, where for some time I lived in the southern part of the state, near the border. And when you're an American, and you visit certain parts of Mexico, especially along the border, it's impossible not to notice the farmacias. If you push on through the turnstiles and walk around a Mexican border town, you'll see all the pharmacies lining the sidewalks. Many prescription drugs are cheaper, far cheaper, in Mexico, and I began to hear stories about people heading south for meds."
R. Clifton Spargo