ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the June 6, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] callibr8 and [livejournal.com profile] rix_scaedu. It also fills the "questioning" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.


"Serpentooth"


Haidee Phelps was the daughter
of Fritz Phelps, a famous
but bigoted preacher.

Her father was the kind of man
who honored the letter of the law
but broke the spirit of it.

Among other things,
he hated women, gays,
anyone who wasn't white,
and people with superpowers.

Haidee hated the fact
that everyone assumed
she was just like him.

Oh, she was conservative too,
but she was thoughtful about it.

She liked old things better than new things,
and preferred proven methods to innovations
that might or might not actually work.

She kept her shoulders covered
and her knees together.

She just questioned everything.

Haidee wasn't blind; she could see
how helpful superheroes were, and also
how broken supervillains were.

There had to be a better way
of handling that than her father
ranting about how they all belonged
in some kind of super-secure prison.

You'd think he never heard of Argentina.

So when it came time for her dissertation,
Haidee wrote Standing Up to the Bully Pulpit,
which refuted her father's arguments and
listed ways people could work together.

The last thing her father said to her was,
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth
it is to have a thankless child!"
Then he hung up on her.

Her family didn't even show up for
her graduation, but Granny Whammy did,
and Haidee felt pretty sure the little girl
sitting beside her was Dr. Infanta.

None of them said anything,
but they didn't have to.

The newspapers were
full of reviews talking about
how well-researched, well-written,
and ultimately influential her book
was turning out to be.

She had speaking engagements
and other invitations everywhere.

Haidee still felt lonely, because she
was estranged from her birth family
and hadn't managed to replace it yet.

She got complete respect
from supervillains, though.

She was pretty sure they
were the ones who started
calling her Serpentooth.

Haidee looked at the new posters
for the Sankofa clubs that displayed
a supergirl with noise-canceling earphones
and a superboy going to school alongside
the usual boys and girls of various colors
playing together and doing nice things.

Then she saw that someone had taped
a supervillain to the end of the row,
and that's when Haidee decided

that everything had been worth it.

* * *

Notes:

Haidee Phelps -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long straight brown hair that she usually pins up. Haidee is the daughter of Fritz Phelps, a famous but bigoted preacher. Among other things, he hates women, gays, anyone who isn't white, and people with superpowers. Haidee has written an influential book, Standing Up to the Bully Pulpit, which refutes her father's position. She herself is a thoughtful conservative. She likes old things and proven methods, meeting new ones with caution until tested. She dresses modestly but fashionably, and keeps her knees together. This makes her popular with other conservative girls, although the boys often find her daunting. Many soups adore her, which is how she got the nickname Serpentooth even though she doesn't do cape work. Like Valor's Widow, she gets complete respect even from supervillains. Despite her successes, Haidee is lonely because she is estranged from her birth family and has not yet managed to replace it.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Writer, Good (+2) Antique Collector, Good (+2) Conservative, Good (+2) Influential
Poor (-2) Estranged from Family

* * *

Lear:
If she must teem,
Create her child of spleen, that it may live
And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her!
Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,
With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks,
Turn all her mother's pains and benefits
To laughter and contempt, that she may feel
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!
-- Shakespeare, King Lear Act 1, scene 4, 281–289

Bigoted preachers cause many problems. Learn how to respond to bigotry.

Conservatism is often thought of backwards, but when applied mindfully, can be prudent and positive. Conservatives favor traditional values such as modesty and family -- but they don't all define those the same way.

Questioning covers everything from challenging assumptions to sexual orientation. Terramagne-America generally considers this a healthy activity, but not all subcultures agree. Think about how being curious can help you become wiser.

College is typically considered a four-year project, but in local-America, students now tend to take longer in undergraduate school. Graduate school is customarily presented as one to six years. But I found nothing on how to plan for a college career spanning more than four years. >_< T-America covers that, including an option for expanding your four-year plan if you discover partway through that you need to learn more stuff. In this case, Haidee realized while writing her dissertation that it was an important topic that needed to get published, and she wanted continuing support from her mentors during the publication and launch process. So they adapted her plans to accommodate that.

Graphics for the posters include a boy and girl playing at a sand table, a boy with a globe, a girl with chairs, a boy taking notes, a superhera with noise-canceling headphones, and a superhero going to school. A matching supervillain has been taped onto the end of the row. That was Plucky Girl's doing, by the way. \o/ Sankofa graphics customarily show a wide range of diversity.

Inclusivity means actively welcoming differences, not just putting up with them. Radical inclusivity means embracing people who are usually rejected, and in T-America, one of the examples quickly brought to mind is supervillains. It is the second-most effective way of stopping supervillains, after preventing them in the first place. Fighting with them is sometimes necessary but much less successful. It may stop individual crimes but rarely stops anyone from being a supervillain. Befriending them has pulled many supervillains out of the black. Here are some ways to boost inclusivity.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-11 12:40 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
Your description of mindful Conservatism is one of the reasons I Do Not have a problem with old-school Republicans. Society needs that to balance the break-neck optimism of innovation.

Hmm, so T-America has Fritz Phelps... I wonder how he feels about Theodora? Food for thought there.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-11 02:39 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Yeah, I miss the old-schoolers on this side of the pond, too. The William F. Buckleys (a classically trained gentleman and a master of debate... and facial expression...) and the Nelson Rockerfellers (who was old-OLD-school, fiscally conservative but socially liberal, from a time before the Republican Party had been taken over by racists)...

Somebody needs to take that girl under her(*) wing. (*) normally I'd use an inclusive pronoun here, but that just jumped out, and the more I thought about it, the more I like it for this particular job....

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-11 05:24 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I don't miss Buckley at all. The man did more to make racism sound polite and respectable than anyone else but Reagan. In his own words...

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-14 01:55 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
I haven't looked at your particular link yet, but many conservatives I almost respected said some hideous things about South Africa ("democracy? Maybe, but none of this one-man, one vote crap!" is a near-quote).

And it hurt, really, because that made it clear that they did not learn the lessons of the past. And I suppose they were the precursors to the modern GOP, who find a way to say anything ugly by talking about jobs or taxes, or the Constitution, or freedom. It's gotten to the point that when I heard a Republican say that, by golly, Democratic committee members in Congress *do* deserve to get answers from the executive (Trump's people decided that only committee chairs deserve answer - whoops, who are all Republican, golly, how'd that happen?) that I wondered for a moment what game they were playing, before I realized that they might just be sincere.

(Heh. Reminds me of a satire article I saw about a Supreme Court opening and a bunch of fundamentalists demanding to know the nominee's position on... POVERTY! Jesus spoke more about poverty than any other topic! We can't support ANY nominee, nor any administration who'd nominate someone, who didn't have a good, sound, position on poverty.)

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-06-11 08:48 pm (UTC)
siliconshaman: black cat against the moon (Default)
From: [personal profile] siliconshaman
He tends to hate everyone but straight white Christian men of his own church.

So, no difference there then. Ok, I guess she doesn't get a free pass for the 'angelic' looks.

"Thankless child"

Date: 2017-06-11 01:05 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
1) Remember that when Lear said this, he was in the process of driving away the only child who genuinely loved him. That context is often lost.

2) If you're going to pull that shit, you'd damn well better hope that you've done something for your child to be grateful about. Trying to make them into Mini-Mes does not qualify.

3) On further thought, I suspect that this phrase falls into the same basic category as, "I'm not racist, but..." -- a Big Red Warning Flag.

Re: "Thankless child"

Date: 2017-06-11 07:29 pm (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
>>Yyyyyyeah. This also fits the pattern. In fact it fits an even wider pattern: people who demand gratitude or respect almost never deserve it. They just feel entitled to it. But both of those are things you earn.<<

Alas, tell that to a random member of the public and they may agree. But if you couch it in terms of parent/child relationships, and I bet 90% or better will vehemently disagree.

I know being a parent is a hard job. But just because you have a kid does *not* mean that that you are automatically entitled to gratitude and respect from that child.

Actions *matter*. And with kids, you not only have to do the right thing, you have to make sure the child understands *why* it is the right thing.

Being arbitrary or inconsistent, or even just failing to understand that your kid is *not* a miniature adult are not gone get you respect or gratitude.

I could go on in this vein for a *long* time, but I won't.

Re: "Thankless child"

Date: 2017-06-11 11:56 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
IMO, being a parent gives you a certain amount of "starting bank" in the areas of respect and gratitude. But it's not infinite, and it can be lost by bad decisions or bad behavior. And also like a starting bank, it's very difficult to earn it back once you've lost it.

Ordinary mistakes won't affect it all that much, because if you're a decent parent you're making deposits regularly which will offset the occasional withdrawal. But if your withdrawals exceed your deposits on a regular basis, eventually you'll hit bottom and you just won't have that asset any more. We all know parents like that, whose kids get out of college and promptly move to the other side of the country, and then keep not being able to make it back home for Christmas, etc.

What Lear did, OTOH, was more like staking everything he had on a major bet because he was SURE that he'd win -- and when he lost, he was left with nothing.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-11 06:34 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
I like this.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-12 09:55 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
I'm really glad for your weekly link roundups, or I'd have missed this one. It's lovely and I'm glad to have read it.

It's also cool to see a good face for conservatism in T-America. I remember a lot more of this than the frothing anger that passes for it these days.

Your gas-brakes metaphor is a good one. You won't get far without either one of those.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-06-14 01:46 am (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Among other things, it's good to see "conservative" have a meaning outside of Steve Jackson's "usually mad at the liberals".

(Seriously: I hate how the right wing has tormented that poor word. If words have a spirit, that one must be angry as hell, and must have seen plenty of evil done in its name. I'd warn a bunch of the GOP not to go down a dark alley with "conservative" because when it came to bet on their odds of coming out on top, I'd give them really poor odds, 20 to one against... most conservatively. )

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