On Kansas and Arkansas

There’s this decades-old dispute—well, if not, there very well ought to be—over the actual pronunciation of the word Kansas. It’s a Midwestern state, you know, and those who live there or pass through at some point in their lives are either in a state of denial or they’re just now being caught unaware of the nature of the problem.

I’ve started to tell people I encounter that it has to be either one or the other. If it’s Kan-suss, then it has to be Ar-kan-suss. If you don’t like that, then you sure as hell had better be saying Kan-saw and Ar-kan-saw. What do people think they’re doing? There’s simply no other way!

But maybe there’s a reason for it. Maybe the seeming refusal of so many to capitulate on this single issue is a reflection of something bigger. It could be a reflection of our refusal to accept the inevitable because it does nothing more than conflict with what we’re accustomed to.

Yes, we humans.

For decades and centuries and millennia, we have ventured to keep away from the burden of needing to accommodate the bizarre desires of some fellow in left field: You’ve been doing it all wrong all along! Let me show you what the problem is. You can spare yourself the agony of this any longer—now you know, so you simply can’t refuse to remedy it!

Yes, that lovely little fellow.

There’s this little plastic nugget of truth in his proclamations, the fruit of lips that cry out and demand an alteration of existing conditions. But we fail to suss anything that he says. Being who we are, it’s much easier—even much more elegant—to stone him with stones or plunge him with a broadsword or just come right out and saw him in two.

I can easily compare it to how the public (at least those who heard it) responded to the voices who revealed that no one ever really believed that the earth was flat. Nope, not even the supposed detractors of Christopher Columbus. Sure, he had detractors, but none of them believed ever that the earth was flat or that he would have risked falling off of it by sailing stupidly into the sunset. It’s one of the 20 most common errors in history according to a forties pamphlet from the Historical Association of London. There’s common sense for you—the “common sense” that people in history are somehow stupider than every one of us. We, the privileged few.

No, actually, it was the biographer Washington Irving who came up with this wild idea that the earth was perceived as flat by everyone except this one man, an idea which is utterly nonsense. But we should never have let that stop anyone. And, so it follows, we didn’t. Everybody taught it as a fact in your school and mine. And then there were plenty of other things to throw out there as facts.

Like how to pronounce Arkansas and Kansas.

I am more than pleased to grant people the benefit of the doubt—a great benefit, if I might say so myself. In this day and age, we see all the time these little orbs of light all around us that reflect the influence of pop classroom lessons and uncritical thinking. Oh, we think critically and carefully all the time about what to order out for dinner. But Arkansas? Kansas? That’s too profound. We can’t deal with that. And we speak that reality in saying one or the other so incorrectly every single time.

Just think about the reality of where we’ve arrived. Imagine how slowly and surely these realities have been able to avoid sinking into. There has to be some moment in which we can finally start reflecting on the realities of this. We should each strike our best yoga pose and stare straight into the blazing sun. We are creatures of habits as well as walking and talking rabbits. Suns, of course, are orange and red like carrots. Don’t forget that we need all the A and D vitamins that we can obtain.

“You’re a madman,” you might say. “This isn’t an actual problem. Your instability is becoming a little too apparent for my tastes.”

And you might be right. But then again, you might be wrong. There’s a fifty-fifty chance, of course, just like the chance that you ought to start saying Kan-saw and Ar-kan-saw. How did the Sioux or the Quapaw even pronounce the two? Does anyone even care that much?

Someone might even venture to tell me that I have an overly-saturated imagination. Too many psychotic, spinning Ferris wheels and roaming beasts and too little tranquilizers. Am I whacked out or something? That’s precisely the point. I am that same person who required a legion of guardian angels to protect him from the oncoming onslaught. And an onslaught of what? All I wanted to do was give a meager speech in the public square. I wanted to exorcise my first amendment demons. More than that, I needed to exercise my tongue and give it a good stretch before the next championship wrestling tournament.

Outside of the boundaries set by a crowd and unfolded chairs, the swarm of people were staring me down with the intention of dissuading me. I was one of their chosen, but the very one whom they had determined to mark out as a devil.

Not only do the crowds storm us and deform us, but they cover us and keep the things that we try to constantly reveal as arcane and shrouded. Why are they being so militant? They are going to do little more than continue to cause trouble, perpetuating the battle between the Kansas and the Arkansas. Far too many of them have a craving for this; each of us has our own stories and experiences that testify to this fact.

“I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” Dorothy declared. But she perpetuated the same rumor regarding the suss over the saw.  And this fact is neither deniable nor assailable, even if you were to scour the round earth high and low for every opinion to the contrary. There is likely a happy man or woman everywhere who could attest to the idea, who can speak to the fidelity of the suss.

We truly cannot remain in this place called Kan-suss any longer. We have seen the daylight, thrown out the old boundaries that kept us locked within psychiatric wards of supposed wisdom. Not only this, but we have the continual counsel of the deceptively-dressed harlot calling out to young, unsuspecting boys in the streets. She is one of the more frequently popular speakers at the political conferences.

It isn’t only the common people do this to everyone, but also the officials. But we have to remember that these sorts of monsters are paid to specialize in perpetuating nonsense.

Those of us who intentionally work against the forces of the linguistic status quo are pinned as the very originators of all the problems that society faces. On what grounds are we always on the defense? Are we football players with stainless steel dog bowls for helmets? It’s a bit like trying to argue the point that neutrons are not so fond of eating dinner with protons. Does it mean much of anything to the casual observer? Probably not. But it might mean everything and more to you, the one who ventured to bring it up in the first place.

We always have a unique habit of adjusting ourselves for a bracing once the onslaught of truth finally comes about.

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