The End and Beginning of the World in Post-its (aka What just happened?) (aka Election catharsis)

This is my first attempt to write or say much of anything about the election results.  Mainly because I’m not exactly sure how I feel and because I’ve had a hell of a hard time putting words to  much of anything lately.

Last night my friend told me about a “subway therapist” at the 14th street station whose been providing post-it’s as cathartic relief:

I liked that idea because my thoughts are not coherent right now.  They are coming out in spits and bursts and colorful post-it sized questions and ruminations.  Having said that, here’s what’s on my internal subway wall these days:

I can’t believe that racist, sexist, low life fucker won the highest office in this nation.  Shame on you, America.

We clearly have zero sense of morality if that’s the kind of leader we chose.  And the degree to which his disgusting, hurtful, ignorant actions have been justified is beyond anything I ever imagined.

The one reason I am glad this happened is that the Christian Right can no longer say this is about Family Values or “Christian” Values or Prayer in Schools or whatever other kind of bullshit they espouse in the name of upholding white male patriarchy.  Their agenda is about upholding the status quo, keeping women out of the workforce and shaming women who fall outside of their neatly-defined moral boxes.  Their agenda was never about Christianity and, though I can’t believe someone as extreme as Donald Trump had to be the one to expose them for what they’re really about, I’m glad it happened.

And for those who hung on to the abortion argument until the bitter end, shame on you too.  If you were truly “pro life” you would care just as much about the countless individuals and groups of people that Trump made fun of, demeaned and threatened during the course of his campaign.  Where is your vote in protection of these people?  And, when I think about your fierce anti-abortion stance I really have to wonder what that’s really all about.  Because I know women who’ve had abortions and some of them are black and poor and some of them are white and unmarried.  And those happen to be two groups of people I have seen you repeatedly be unkind to and judgmental of and I really don’t picture that changing if they decide to follow your moral directives and go through with their pregnancies.  So please, for the love of God, please stop pretending you are pro life and let’s have a conversation about this is really about.

As an individual, I  have been doing some soul searching…wondering how I personally may have contributed to this mess we are in by my actions or lack thereof.  I’ve always cared about racism and sexism and combatting hate and I think at some point long ago got tired and discouraged and generally flustered in talking to other white folks about these things that matter to me so much to me.  So I (subconciously, perhaps) decided to just put my head down and do the work addressing all of these “isms”.  Work that fulfills me and allows me to tackle structural inequalities without having to get into shouting matches with people.  Work in which I am often the racial minority and provides me an opportunity to support and uplift and (hopefully) provide better and more just spaces for people of color.  Or, at the very least, let them know there are white folks who get it and who care, however imperfectly that is communicated on a day to day basis.

And this election has showed me that is simply not enough.  I often don’t know how to love white folks who are so unlike me.  I don’t necessarily know how to be an ally through challenging my white friends and family members and challenging the dynamics of white spaces and not just disowning whole groups of white people whom I don’t perceive to be “woke.”  So, this is my challenge.  And it is scary to think that taking up the task of interrupting white racism may create tense moments in friendships or re-opening cans of worms with family members or make me feel like a blubbering idiot when my emotions get the best of me.

Since the election results came in, I’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about how this was poor and working class white America’s cry for help, their remedy to their own voicelessness in this country.  And I believe that’s true and that we need to really look at what’s going on there.  But there are other groups who’ve felt voiceless and helpless and in dicey economic circumstances for far longer.  And when they blame their struggles on poor policy and “the establishment” they are often told to try harder, have more work ethic and be good parents.  So, as much as I feel for poor white America’s plight, it is also their privilege to be able to address it and be heard through our established form of democracy.

To be fair, some of these ramblings probably took up a whole wall of post-it’s unto themselves.  I hope I eventually have a whole country full of them.

Advertisements

Nothing is logical

Dating sucks and men suck and I don’t think that too many other women my age would disagree with me on that.  I changed my Bumble profile today to say that we should be friends until we figure out what it is we’re both looking for.  Because, let’s be honest, 99.9% of men on dating sites are not interested in this thing called a relationship. I think maybe we are living in an age where people don’t think relationships have capital so why invest?  It’s the best I can deduce.  Which is unfortunate because going deep with people is a beautiful, humbling, life changing thing.  As one who’s had the same roommate for 12 years, this much I know.

In other news the 49ers Colin Kaepernick is a total courageous badass and, as much as I would like to try to understand the other side, I can’t even entertain that kind of ignorance.  He is using his position and power and leveraging America’s sports obsession to say  (yet again) that we continue to kill and oppress black and brown people and (yet again) there continues to be not a damn thing done about it.  Because, apparently catching it on video is not enough and hearing story after story after story of the same shit happening everyday around the country is not enough.  Colin, I salute you and kneel with you in spirit.

 

 

Grief

I continue to think about these recent tragedies. Continue to turn them ‘round in my head. Continue to think of them from one million miles away and one centimeter away. From all perspectives it’s loss. From all perspectives it is utterly sad and utterly senseless.

I think of past conversations on race I’ve had with my closest and how (mostly) terribly bad they went. How I was too much for them. How they were too much for me. How this particular topic seemed to be where every ounce of grace and understanding and love halted. And that, I think, is where I feel the most despair. I always think this is the black death that will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This is the one where scales fall from the blind’s eyes. This is when our unified white grieving finally begins.   I want to believe that’s true this time around. But it wasn’t true all the other times.   So it seems like people will just keep dying senseless deaths.

Stupid

People are stupid.  They tell you what to do and how to do it and that you should write if that’s what you want to do and not think so much about it.  That you should write for yourself and not for other people.  That you should just post your dumb first draft full of mistakes and incoherent thoughts and nonsense and then post your second and your third and your fourth and….

Like I said, people are stupid.  That is all.

Who We Look at When We Say Things

I had an epiphany the other week. It came in the form of an email—a Donald Trump article circulated amongst family members. An article about his appeal to white working class men. About the state of white working class men and how the institutions of labor and marriage are no longer working in their favor. About how the policies formed as a result of the civil rights and women’s movements “failed” us all in our quest to maintain that fundamental value that makes this country so great—freedom. Because, apparently, those policies forced us to start treating people as groups rather than individuals and that sent America on a slippery slope away from our roots of liberty, freedom and self-determination.

What the article forgot to mention is the Men’s Movement—particularly, the White Men’s Movement that is so pervasive it needs no name. It just always was. Movements are often difficult for white men to understand because when you were born in a state of having (the right to vote, the benefit of the doubt from law enforcement, the right to own land, the ability to make your own income…), you don’t need a movement and special policies to protect you. You came out of the womb with those things.

I wanted badly to “reply all” stating all of the above. I imagined how my bold and pointed statements would create new spaces of enlightenment in people’s brains. I imagined how this would be the moment when everyone on this e-mail would be silenced once and for all by my brilliance. Never mind that I’ve replied all plenty of times before, only to be met with nonsensical comebacks, guised insults or silence. THIS would be the time it all turned around.

And then a friend (who I’d let read the e-mail chain) casually remarked, “You know you shouldn’t reply to this, right?” I looked at him like he had two heads. And then, an odd feeling washed over me…

Relief.

In all of my worst dreams I am desperately trying for something—to say a thing or get to a destination or warn an onlooker. But in these dreams I have no voice or my legs refuse to move or my phone won’t work or the person doesn’t see me; I’m blocked at every turn. I am tormented and frustrated and often wake up sweating and crying.

In my non-dream life I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to have reasonable conversations with unreasonable people. I always thought if I yelled loud enough or got enough diplomas or knew enough facts or read enough books or collected enough experiences or earned enough letters after my name then maybe—just maybe—the people I was yelling at would finally understand.

“You know you shouldn’t to reply to this, right?”

Well…no, actually. I never did imagine doing nothing as a completely acceptable or available option in this scenario. That would mean defeat. That would mean the other side won. That would mean all of the people and perspectives and lifestyles that have ever been misrepresented or shit on or lied about would go undefended on my watch. That would mean I’m not ultimately responsible for other people’s beliefs. That would mean that my voice is just as strong and just as true and just as meaningful and just as essential apart from said people’s attention and approval.

The more we recognize and live in our own power the more aware we become of the tactics used to undermine this power. Sometimes those come in the form of e-mails disguised as platforms for healthy discussion and debate but intended to assert dominance over others’ thoughts, beliefs and perspective. Sometimes the tactics are less subtle.

We don’t have to live our lives responding to untruths. There are plenty of people ready and, dare I say, excited to listen to my words, my ponderings, my questions, my theories. There are people who live their lives in states of malleability, willing to be challenged and humbled and chiseled. Unfortunately, those were not the people on this e-mail.

“You know you shouldn’t reply to this, right?”

Turns out, my most powerful resource was right there the whole time—the ability to choose my audience.

Today we remember Leonard Strickland and Bradley Ceasar

A few days ago The New York Times published this special report about an inmate’s 2010 death at the Clinton Correctional Facility.  Leonard Strickland, an inmate who suffered from Schizophrenia, had been serving four and a half years for possession of a weapon.  Strickland got into an argument with the prison guards and ended up dead, suffering multiple cuts, bruises and internal bleeding by the time the ambulance arrived.  We’ve heard this story before.

We’ve heard this story before and we haven’t heard this story before.  Or maybe it’s that we haven’t heard it enough.  Another inmate (Bradley Ceasar) died a couple years before Strickland at this same facility under similar circumstances.  According to the article, several prisoners have filed officer brutality cases at Clinton and I’m sure with the right amount of research, one wouldn’t be hard pressed to find similar occurrences at jails and prisons around the country–deaths waived off as medical emergencies or necessary for keeping the peace.  Witnesses never allowed to testify or even sought after.

In the last part of this piece we see a glimpse of how our system of incarceration reverberates to families and communities.  Strickland’s 70 year old mother would take a six hour bus trip once a month to visit her son because, in New York State (and many other states), prisoners are kept as far from their neighborhoods and loved ones as possible.  Mrs. Strickland did not have the financial resources to provide a funeral for her son and he was buried at the Clinton Correctional Cemetery a mile from the prison–an ending no mother envisions for her child.

I wonder if Mrs. Strickland grieved the dreams she had for her son Leonard or if she grieved a system that allowed for things to end this way.  Or if she had long ago stopped dreaming.