Going to Extremes

I’ve traveled extremes this week, thanks to recommendations from those who understand my interests.

My brother called on Monday and said, “You have to watch The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“Just put it at the top of your queue, now.”

I spent the next two hours, both, horrified and mesmerized. This film documents a Boone County, WV family enmeshed in a culture of daily and nightly debauchery. Sitting together, mother and son discuss their “choice of buzz”. Derek White shakes a bottle of pills and refers to this as the “Boone County mating call”. We hear about relatives murdered by relatives, the stories delivered matter-of-factly. And we see images of violence?newspaper articles reporting death and photographs shown as trial exhibits in a double murder case.

Mamie White, reacting to her mother Bertie Mae’s imminent death, says, “I don’t give a fuck to go to jail and I don’t care to kill some son of a bitch, anybody that looks at me wrong.” Yet the Whites’ lawless world includes rooms decorated with framed photographs of Jesus and the language of Biblical scripture.

When Kirk White loses her baby to Child Protective Services because of drug use, she quotes Matthew 21:22: “By believing you will receive.” Then she says that God is telling her to get her shit together.

But Jesco White, the patriarch (his father was murdered in a shootout in 1985), says it all while walking through the cemetery where so many family members are buried: “It seems like our lives has just been a party and we’re just livin’ like it’s a story that we’re already dead but we’re still alive to tell about it.”

“? already dead but we’re still alive to tell about it.” The movie is depressing and difficult to shake.

On Tuesday, I attended a lecture by Aneta Georgievska-Shine, Ph.D. The topic: Michelangelo and His Legacy IV: Painting.

Georgievska-Shine is passionate about her work. She flipped through slides of Renaissance artists’ paintings, showing a Michelangelo Sistine Chapel fresco and, then, moved forward to a Raphael. And another Raphael. Back to the Michelangelo. On to Tibaldi, including his Adoration of the Christ Child, and, then, eventually, to Titian’s Resurrection. During this presentation, Georgievska-Shine used her laser pointer to trace the form of a man, woman, a child, emphasizing an elongated limb, the shape of a muscle, the drape of fabric on the body, while she provided not just her analysis but, also, questions. She spoke of art historians who ask the wrong questions about a particular example. The question is not this or that, but why. Why was this painted? And, then, she answered her why, explaining the concept of mannerism. Immediately, I thought, mannerism is what we hear so often today?”it’s all about me”, all about the artist whose brushstrokes scream, “Look at what I can do.” Again, “it’s all about me”, because mannerism diverts attention from the art to the artist.

Essentially, this is the “legacy”. Artists studied and didn’t just imitate; they extended the perspective, exaggerating it. Georgievska-Shine referred to this as Renaissance rivalry.

I sat there gulping her words just as I had consumed the culture of the Whites of West Virginia.

Later, at home, I thought of Renaissance rivalry and drew a comparison. Occupying the highest office in our country is a man many thought would bring hope and change. Instead of Renaissance rivalry, we have New World Order rivalry. Barack Obama has examined George Bush’s workmanship, extending and exaggerating it. From expanding war, the use of drones, and US hegemony to allowing Wall Street to control our government at the expense of most of us, he is a master of political mannerism.

We might ask, “Why are you doing this?”

His answer: “Because I can. It’s all about me, now.”

A dark trajectory is ensured?the “livin’ like we’re already dead”?for more and more people on planet Earth. Tragically, the world is Obama’s canvas.

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Reach her at missybeat@gmail.com.


More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out