Monday, April 27, 2009

I passed by the students in the next oldest class, saying "Excuse me, folks," as I nudged by.

A few minutes later, their teacher told me one of her students objected to what I said.

"Huh?" I wondered. "All I said was, 'Excuse me, folks'."

"Well, this kid said, 'I'm not a folk! Why'd she call me a folk?' " the teacher replied with a grin.

That short conversation came to mind when I took a look at the Louisiana Folklife exhibits, artists, and demonstrations this past Sunday.

Why is the word "folk" so loaded, so full of connotations hinting at the "Other" that is not white, male, and Christian, that is something less than cosmopolitan, something, well, "folksy"? And why is a kid who hasn't even reached double-digits in years raising a mild fuss over it?

I'm not sure about the answer to the latter question, but as for the former, unless somebody has found a way to market "folk" ways ( i.e., "folk art", "folk tales", that sort of thing), "folk" has come to mean something more than just "family" or "people". In the places that consider themselves more civilized, the meaning of "folk" has been dragged down a little in somewhat undeserved ways: "folk" hints at a subset of society that is backward and ignorant, or is holding back progress and innovation in some way. It's pretty unfair when one considers the following craftspeople and their crafts:

And if anybody questions shoes as art, I give you Ferragamos, Manolo Blahniks, I. Magnins, and many, many other brands for others to put an individual stamp on or to drool over.

So if something is "folksy", don't knock it. Look at it, at the least, as an outlet for those making it. Check out its beauty. Marvel at the steady hands of the people crafting it. Recognize that you could use some of it in your life, whether you are making it, viewing it, or collecting it.

Hell, something in it in these parts most likely keeps us from following through with secession from the rest of the Forty-Nine.

"Secede? In these shoes? No way, Jose!"

Update, 9:42 PM: Then again, pull on the right boots and who knows? One of these days the boots might well walk all over you. Watch out, America.


Kelly said...

Knowing what I know about children, the objecting one that you came across probably had not heard "folk" before and was trying to be difficult. I've never thought of it as a loaded word but then again I grew up in VT were "folk" was what was done.

Those shoes are great!

Leigh C. said...

In the arts especially, "folk" is so loaded, one of these days it'll explode all over the chi-chic capital-A Art galleries.

And the folks comment from the kid is more in the category of "kids say the darndest things" more than anything else. It wasn't a BIG fuss he made, it was just funny.


Lord David said...

"All music is Folk Music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song."
- Blues Legend, Big Bill Broonzey