|Publisher:||She Writes Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
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Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkeys . . . I hated those damn monkeys. When I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s, it seemed like every other house had them. Usually carved out of wood, sometimes ceramic. One with its hands pressed tight over its ears. One shielding its eyes. One whose palms obliterated its mouth. “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” adults would say sanctimoniously. My family was agnostic, and most people we knew in Southern California—aerospace engineers, lawyers, doctors, and other well-educated professionals—did not attend church. There were no crucifixes in their homes. Just the monkeys. It appeared that the three monkeys were their gods, the “see no evil . . .” homily their one commandment. I couldn’t have explained why those monkeys, and that saying, made me so enraged. But whenever I found myself in a room alone with them, I would stick my tongue out defiantly. I would see everything, hear everything, and speak the truth, no matter what anyone else thought. The word denial must have existed in the dictionary, but I never heard it spoken. Denial was the river in which we bathed, swam—and sometimes drowned. Good people pretended everything was all right, even when it wasn’t. No one was alcoholic, husbands never beat their wives, children were not molested, homosexuality had disappeared with the ancient Greeks. Negroes were happy with their lot. Why else would they be constantly singing? A good woman did not want to work outside the home, being designed only to raise children and treat her husband as if he were a demigod. If children crouched under their school desks, they would be safe from an atomic blast. Margarine was better than butter. Everyone was happy. So happy! Happy all the time! But when I went to my friends’ houses and saw their mothers hysterically slapping their faces or staring vacantly out the window at the blue California sky, swilling martinis while the baby wailed unattended behind the closed nursery door, I had my doubts. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that everything was a lie. And the reason people couldn’t see or admit that it was a lie was because—somehow—those monkeys were controlling their minds. What was the source of their malignant power? Were they more than stone and clay? Were they related to the evil flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz? How could they be defeated? When I was a much younger child of four, my grandparents’ purchase of a black-and-white television set launched me into years of recurrent nightmares. From the beginning, the television set in their living room frightened me. Even when it was turned off, I would make as wide a berth around it as possible. That picture box showed a terrible world, a world that looked much like ours did, but a world in which the color had been drained out: a world of drab grays. My recurrent dream was that an enormous spider, like a Godzilla-sized daddy longlegs, was stepping with its long, delicate legs through the city and countryside, sucking the color out of everything the way I had seen spiders suck the juices out of a fly. I would wake up screaming. What if this dreadful spider came to Glendale and Manhattan Beach? How could we live without color? But as an older child, I understood that black and white was a trick of a certain type of film, not a color-thirsty spider. I did not yet understand that my nightmare had been a metaphor, that the human color-suckers—racists, McCarthyites—were in full force in the 1950s, and that their evil creeds would need defeating again and again. I made a conscious decision to resist monkey mind-control. I decided the monkeys only had as much power as people gave them. And I refused to shut my eyes or my ears, though the thought of my father’s belt sometimes caused me to shut my mouth. Things seem more simple and straightforward in black and white, without all that distracting color. And it’s a lot easier to ignore evil than it is to fight it. Though the monkeys’ power was imaginary, a child trying to make sense of a nonsensical world, the power I gained by resisting their command to shut down was not.