Friday, August 18, 2017

On Showing Up

With apologies to Tina Fey...whom I admire for comedic genius, outspoken feminism, and all-'round smart-thinking...I must protest the suggestion and subsequent popular bandwagon today, that decent, non-racist people of America NOT show up where white supremacists and neo-Nazis have been given permits to spew hatred in the streets of our cities and towns.

If that's a choice you have, may I suggest you are exercising your White Privilege?

Too harsh?

I've been trying to frame this thought in a way that might speak to my friends on Facebook. I'm talking about some brilliant people, now - people who absolutely believe in honest-to-god liberty and justice for all (I long ago unfriended the rest). But this DON'T SHOW UP and DON'T GIVE EVIL THE ATTENTION IT WANTS approach just begs a mighty heave-ho.

Sadly, for the purposes of trying to draw an analogy that works for my DON'T SHOW friends, there is nothing we Anglo-Protestant, run-of-the-mill, nice people in America face that compares to racism. Nothing. I know this because I know and love people who've been called N#@@*r to their faces. I know this because non-white friends of mine have been treated unfairly by police officers. And movie ticket takers. And shop owners. And fast-food cashiers. And churches. I know this because I've attended vigils where I'm one of just a handful of white people crying over so many stories of fear, raging injustice, debilitating/ubiquitous racism.

There is no other way to say this. We have to show up. We have to show up.

My inbox is humming, today, with invitations from organizations like Black Lives Matter and The Rising Majority. Rallies and counter-protests are planned. Responses to this rampant hatred are more than necessary. They are a moral imperative.

We cannot let our brothers and sisters stand alone on the front line of this war between love and hate with the justification that paying attention to the assholes just fans the smoldering fury. That's ridiculous. These people are not just assholes. They are a movement of the vilest among us. They claim our country. Walk our streets. The house is already engulfed in flames. If we don't show up with buckets of love, we'll be digging through the ashes before you know it.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
(Edmund Burke)

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.  

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me. 

Nope. As tempting as #sheetcaking sounds, Tina Fey, I don't think we can sit this one out.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reporting from Darkness

If Julia Cameron is right...we should all be prodigiously creating.
Because darkness, America, is upon us.

If you're a long-ponderer like I am, perhaps you've also sloshed sluggishly along this week, knowing there's not one damn word worth hearing or reading that you could add to the conversation about racism, hate, violence, free speech, guns, civil war, or Robert E. Lee. Maybe, like me, you've tried to distract yourself by pushing momentarily away from the AP/Reuters/Bloomberg news feed to brush up on the Six Foods Trending for Fall, or to shop for IKEA pot scrubbers on Amazon, or to sit and stare at your yoga mat as if it might turn into a magic carpet and take you to a magical place where none of the aforementioned topics need to be discussed.

The news is just too disturbing, right? I feel fractured way beyond the core of my being. It's a weirdly visceral thing the way the Shadow of America, as seen last weekend in Charlottesville, VA, has raked its gnarliest fingers across my heart and soul and left me stewing in something that seems so vile I want to shower about five times a day.

I am trying to have normal hours...really I am. I simply can't move. (And I hope you can sense how much restraint I'm using to stay away from the Caps Lock key and the letters W and T and F...because that's where the writing energy is languishing.)

But about an hour ago, I found myself staring at the laptop skin (in the photo - cool artwork by Allie Eissler). And from that catatonic hour came the tiniest bit of hope. It's probably not hopey enough to have made it to my heart yet, but at least I found something stirring in the tips of my fingers. So here I sit. Throwing angsty words onto a public page in an attempt to recover my will to look up from the damage at least long enough to calculate my Creative place in the next hour. And maybe the one after that.

Because we must have all reasonable voices in the conversation right now.

Maybe you work for the New Yorker or Rolling Stone or NPR and your job is to keep us well informed. Or, maybe you're a teacher starting the first week of school with the absolute intention of creating 100% safe space for kids of all ethnic backgrounds. Maybe you hold elected office or rule from a judge's bench or work as a public defender. Or, maybe you're speaking out quietly with a meme on Facebook that declares I WILL NOT LET HATE WIN. Maybe you volunteer in under-served communities or coordinate social services in under-funded neighborhoods. Or, maybe you're making a pot of soup and a batch of warm cookies for your Black/Jewish/Otherized friends who feel this wave of anxiety 1000x more than you do. Maybe you're a pastor or a doctor or a march organizer. Maybe you're just a tired writer staring at walls, waiting to be moved...

Whatever it is you bring to the table, when we get creative, America, I believe the evil shitstorm of hate-fueled violence and gun-toting rallies and bat-swinging protests and ill-spoken political rhetoric will be informing our conversations rather than infesting our souls.

It would be too cliche to say, "The darkest hour comes before dawn."
But I'm still going to hope it's true.
And it sure is dark right now.