Derrida meets Coyote


Derrida was trying to get to the Modern Language Association convention in Washington, but took the wrong subway train. His bladder was full, and for the moment that was more important than literary theory. He got of at McPherson Square, near the White House, to look for a urinal.


Derrida saw some street people sleeping on grates near the subway entrance. He bent over to tap one huddled under a blanket, saying excusez moi, est la pissoire?


The figure threw off the blanket, sat up, and rubbed his eyes. It was Coyote, getting some sleep after his trip from the West, before going to see President Reagan about missiles on Indian lands.


Derrida repeated, please sir, can you tell me where is, how do you say, the pissoire?


Coyote looked at him blankly, and then got up and went to a corner. Facing a wall, and looking around to make sure no police were watching, he took his huge penis out of the sack he always carries it in, and urinated.


Derrida thought, alors! They are so phallogocentric in this country that they do this right in the open! Gleefully, he unzipped his pants, took out his member and, sighing with relief, let loose. But he did not look first to see if any police were watching, and one arrested him for defacing public property.


And that is why to this day, white radical intellectuals never learn anything right.


Derrida was allowed one phone call from the jail. He used it to get a Yale English professor staying at his hotel to bail him out. In a cab leaving the jail, he asked, there is a strange creature with a very large penis in your country. He carries it in a sack. I wish to learn about his logos so that I can deconstruct it. What do you know about this?


The Yale English professor didnt want to admit hed never studied Native American literature. He said, are you sure it wasnt a snake? D. H. Lawrence has some interesting symbolism about serpents -- but wait! I see an entire group of people carrying sacks over there. Maybe your mysterious creature is with them. Stop here, cabbie.


They got out at Lafayette Park, across from the White House. Several people carrying antinuclear posters were gathering together, but some others carried sacks instead, with American flags printed on them. Intrigued, Derrida asked a long-haired fellow wearing ten or fifteen peace buttons what was his logos. He answered, what do you mean, logos? Be serious! Its the fortieth anniversary of Hiroshima, and were having a protest here.


Derrida tried a different approach, asking what was in the sack, but the fellow grew evasive. Another protestor, without a sack, said, you look honest, so Ill tell you. These folks are going to sneak into the White House with one of the tour groups you see across the street carrying American flags. When they get to the State Dining Room they will open the sacks and let loose a swarm of cockroaches. This is to symbolize the fact that only insects will survive a nuclear war. He paused, and continued, thats one way to protest. I personally think a silent vigil is better in the long run


Derrida interrupted, I do not understand this. You imply that a sackful of insects can be a symbol of war. But where is this written? (Rousseau was wrong, you know, and writing is actually prior to speech.) I think you have misunderstood some arche-writing or another about symbols of war, because you try to express it in oral speech. Speech is governed by le différance, and must necessarily disrupt any attempt to express itself.


That silenced the protestor who favored silent vigil, but the first protestor said, oh wow, that sure is profound! (Hey are you one of those new wave French directors like Godard or something?) Ive sure been kidding myself that this could accomplish anything! He threw down his sack, tore off his peace buttons, and walked over to where some Hare Krishna people were selling flowers. He bought one and sat down to contemplate it.


Derrida remembered what he came for. He turned to the protestor who favored silent vigils and asked, tell me, is there anyone you know here who carries his sack in the front rather than the side?


The protestor who favored silent vigils said, oh, you mean Coyote. He always carries his penis in a sack. Hes right over there. I think hes going to sneak into the White House for a different reason, but youll have to ask him. He pointed to a figure carrying a sack with crossed eagle feathers printed on it instead of an American flag.


The protestor who favored silent vigils continued, Ill have to think about what you said about oral speech. By the way, did you know that according to the folklorist Toelken, some Indians think Coyote stores should be left oral? They say writing them down screws things up


But Derrida had left him to approach Coyote. He took out a notebook and started to write. He asked, Monsieur Coyote, what is your logos -- I mean, what is your mission here today?


Coyote thought he was from the French press. A continental audience! Flattered, he said, I am going to sneak into the White House, disguised as one of the people sneaking in with cockroaches. I am going to see President Reagan. I am going to see him and show him my cock. Then I will tell him that the Indian peoples do not want missiles on their lands. And that will be why to this day, the Indian peoples do not want missiles on their lands.


Delighted, Derrida said, merci, and turned to the Yale English professor. Quick!, he said, lets get to the MLA convention before todays session starts. This is just what I need to make my point about Nietzsches critique of causality. They hailed another cab and rushed to a hotel on Connecticut Avenue, getting there just in time for Derridas scheduled speech.


Derrida told the audience, Nietzsche points out that we only think some event A causes some event B. In fact, we first think of B and ask what caused it, answering that this is A. But since we thought of B first, it is really the cause of A. If B did not exist, neither would A, so B must cause A. To say the opposite is bound up with rhetoric. For instance, today I met this creature Coyote . He looked at his notes, and continued. who is going to sneak into the White House with people carrying sacks of cockroaches to let loose in the State Dining Room. He will show his coque to President Reagan and say that the Indian peoples dont want missiles on their lands. And that will be why to this day, the Indian peoples dont want missiles on their lands .


A third of the audience abruptly got up and left, huffing as if they objected to lewd talk, as agents for the FBI, CIA, and assorted other agencies went to report to their superiors.


Derrida continued, Now, let the fact that Coyote is going to show his coque to President Reagan be called A, and let the fact that the Indian peoples dont want missiles on their lands be called B. Coyote says, in effect, that A causes B but we know its really the reverse: the Indian peoples dont want missiles on their land, so Coyote is coming to tell President Reagan this. Now as for the attempt to symbolize this with the, how do you say, coque?, .


Out in the lobby all the pay phones were jammed as the agents called their supervisors. Quick! Get hold of the chief of the Secret Service! There is a group of protestors sneaking into the White House with sacks to let cockroaches loose in the State Dining Room. One will be carrying his sack in the front rather than the side, and that will be Coyote. He is going to show his (censored) to President Reagan and tell him that the Indian peoples dont want missiles on their lands. We must stop him because that will be why to this day, the Indian peoples dont want missiles on their lands!


Back at the podium Derrida was saying, I only heard about this today and have not had time to learn about any alleged coque symbolism to deconstruct it in detail. However, we can be sure that le différance has rendered the logos distorted with respect to what was originally written, because .


A graduate student with a bushy beard, sandals, and dirty overalls stood up and interrupted. The penis has to be because missiles are phallic symbols too. Back when Reagan was TV host for General Electrics Death Valley Days, a lot of cowboys on the show shot guns to prove their manhood. The missiles and astronauts and all that stuff are more of the same. I dont know who this Coyote character is, but it sounds like the Indians respect him, and so he is going to warn Reagan that his own gun is even bigger. He waved away some flies that were buzzing around him and sat down. A few people applauded politely, but all the professors on the panel up on the stage shook their heads.


The Yale English professor stood up and said angrily, that cannot be correct because the purpose of the missiles is not to prove President Reagans manhood, but to make sure the Russians dont conquer us. If they did, young man, you would not have the freedom to be as outrageous as you are! The polite applause was a bit louder. Mollified, he continued, still, if this Coyote has something to do with the Indians we should find out more about him. I for one believe in academic freedom, and besides, enrollment is falling off in the American Literature course. We need to include something Indian to keep up with the times.


Derrida said, mon ami, of course it is not my business what you teach in your own country, but if this is really about the penis I think it would be better to remember that my country is the authority in such matters. You should begin your investigation with the phallogocentrism in Rabelais . But here the Chair interrupted to say that it was time to adjourn for the day.


Meanwhile, back at the White House: The Secret Service had heard of the danger, and guards were inspecting all the sacks with American flags to make sure they only had cockroaches in them. A figure carrying a sack with crossed eagle feather printed on it instead appeared. One of the guards said, hey, youre supposed to have an American flag on your sack. What are you, unAmerican or something?


The figure said, hey man, didnt you ever hear that the eagle is your national bird (even though Ben Franklin thought it was a turkey)?


The guard said, well, I sure dont know anything about that, and you sound like one of those commie agitators or something. Hey! I see youre carrying your sack in the front instead of the side. I think you are Coyote and intend to show your (censored) to President Reagan so that to this day the Indian peoples do not want missiles on their lands. Let me see whats in that sack!


A reporter from the Washington Post saw it all and called in a story. The next day Derrida read the paper at breakfast. On the front page there was a story about President Reagan giving a speech, another about Soviet proposals for arms reductions, and several others about international and national events. He looked in the Metro section, which seemed to have local news, and on the third page found a story about some radicals letting cockroaches loose in the State Dining Room at the White House. But nothing about Coyotes efforts on behalf of the Indian peoples.


And that is why to this day, when radicals do something flashy the liberal press will find a place for it, but will never print anything serious about the struggles of the oppressed.


Derrida thought, Mon Dieu! What happened to Coyote? He got a cab and went to the park across from the White House. He saw the protestor who favored silent vigils, and went up to ask him what had happened.


The protestor who favored silent vigils said, well from where I was across the street, it looked like all the people with the cockroaches got in the gate all right, but for some reason they wouldnt let Coyote in. He walked around for awhile and then squatted on the White House lawn. Now, you know, Coyote has this oracle in his stomach, and to consult it he has to defecate. So he crapped on the White House lawn to find out what to do next. That made the grass grow green, but he was rattled and forgot to check that no cops were watching, so one busted him and took him away . He paused, and then continued. which, by the way, is why to this day, the grass always grows greener when its fertilized. But listen, it may not grow as green if you write this down in that notebook .


But Derrida had run to a pay phone to call the Yale English professor. Quick! Pick me up at the park across from the White House. Coyote is in jail, and we must get him out so that we can see how to deconstruct his logos. The Yale English professor arrived, and they went to the jail.


The Yale English professor said, better let me handle this. He has something to do with the Indians, who will do anything for liquor. Besides, he needs to get out of jail so hell talk. He left Derrida on the sidewalk and went inside. The African-American jailer was watching a Louis Farrakhan speech on the TV. The Yale English professor walked by him, and spoke to Coyote through the bars of his cell, Ugh, Coyote! You want buy firewater? Me give heap big wampum for you tell medicine.


Coyote said, hey man, you watch too many movies. Just get me out of here and Ill tell you what you want to know. The Yale English professor went to write a check for the bail clerk. Just when he came back with the release order, Coyote asked the jailer what he thought of Farrakhan.


Opening the door to let Coyote out, the jailer said, well, I sho dont know if the Jews are really wicked, but man that mothfucka can give a speech!


Gnashing his teeth and tearing his hair, the Yale English professor shouted, cant you lazy black people see that Louis Farrakhan is a racist? As he continued, Coyote sneaked outside. He started back toward the White House, and then saw Derrida.


Hey Frenchie, hows it goin? Bonjer and all that. Did you get your story filed OK? Actually, I had a little setback yesterday and didnt get to see President Reagan, but walk to the White House with me while I figure out another plan. He started to think about disguising himself as a cockroach and telling the White House guards he was a diplomat returning from a masquerade party.


Bon jour, Coyote. I think you have mistaken who I am. I am not a journalist, although I certainly write (because writing is prior to speech). I am very interested in your logos, I mean, the reasons why you do the things you do. When I understand them, I will write a paper to present to le group de recherche sur lenseignement philosophique, giving my analysis of you. He took out his notebook, as Coyotes jaw dropped.


Wow, you mean youre going to write a highbrow analysis of Coyote stories for all the European professors? Fantastic! this calls for special effects. Coyote sloughed off his skin, revealing Metacoyote, a copper-skinned figure with two crossed eagle feathers tattooed on his chest.


Metacoyote, dancing a two-step in a circle, sang:


In the beginning, listen.

there was no earth, and

there was tohuwabohu on the water, listen.

But Old Man spoke .


Derrida had been uncomfortable with the listens, and winced at spoke.


and said lets have earth.

So Duck dove down to look for the bottom,

but didnt come up, listen.

And Beaver tried, but failed, and Marshrat.

But listen, Coyote saw it was a problem.

He consulted his oracle, he

crapped on Turtles back. Listen.

And Old Man formed the shit into the Earth.

Listen, Old Man said, in gratitude

I speak, and this will be the law .


Derrida almost interrupted, but waited.


whenever Coyote does something

thats the way it is. Listen .


Mai cest fantastique! Derrida could contain himself no longer. Madly gesticulating, he shouted, that is impossible, and you have not understood the arche-writing. I didnt object when you claimed showing your penis to President Reagan would make the Indian peoples not want missiles on their lands, but it is absolutely impossible for any precedent to be established from oral speech. Your Old Man, Coyote, and all the rest are a myth!


He tore up his written notes, but then, seeing what he had done, started to cry.


Metacoyote consoled him, there, there, dont take it so hard. Im sorry too, since it looks like youve destroyed Coyotes story, but thats the way the cookie crumbles. Hed be too tired to see President Reagan today anyway. And for sure, the Indian peoples dont need Coyote to tell them they dont want missiles on their lands. Derrida stopped sobbing.


They reached Lafayette Park again. A paddy wagon drove by, carrying the Yale English professor to St. Elizabeths mental hospital. The protestor who had favored silent vigils was leading a discussion of the history of the antinuclear movement. Derrida was silent, thinking that he still had a lot to learn about this strange country. By this time Metacoyote had grown back fur and a huge penis. Coyote found a sack in a garbage can to carry it in, and, surveying the situation, decided to leave well enough alone. He ran to the subway entrance and down the escalator, leaped over the faregate when the attendant wasnt looking, and took the Orange Line train, riding into the sunset when it came out of the tunnel in Virginia.


And that is why to this day, the Indian peoples and many others dont need Coyote to tell them they dont want missiles on their lands.


(from the mid-1980s)               


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