A Nation of Neither Angels nor Demons

Photo: My very good friend is a local glass artisan. Tracy makes a lot of beautiful work, but I think I love her acorns most of all. After Grandy passed away, she presented me with this one. Teal was always Grandy’s color and whenever I see it, I think of her. I have this one placed in an Eastern-facing window so as to catch the first rays of light in the mornings. When the sunlight hits it just right, I just feel her presence. If you love this acorn, you might be interested in some of the other glasswork of The Happy Owl Glassworks. Check it out!

 

Ursa Minor is enjoying another 10 weeks of gymnastics thanks to the fairly accessible price and the fact that there is nothing else going on during the day on Wednesdays (he doesn’t have school). Bonus, of course, is that he absolutely loves it and he is really, really good at it. He’s athletic and flexible, he’s strong and he’s delighted by all the jumping, flying, and flipping.

The best part about gymnastics is that it is a straight hour-long class, which is amazing and rare for this age group. All I have to do is sit in the drafty waiting area with folding chairs… and the other moms.

Now, it’s been a small group. There are only 4 kids in the class. Three other moms. How bad could it be? You’d think we’d all be on the same page–this is our one hour of the day when we can be cool and maybe not say anything to other humans.

You know better, right? 2 out of the 3 other women are chatty as hell. That’s fine, but disappointing. Wednesdays are busy and just a little bit of time to sit and be quiet would be very nice. I get it, though: adult conversation is a rarity in the middle of the day. So, context: there is me, one mom who is an immigrant from Germany (not present for the events described below), another woman of color who I haven’t asked about her background and a white mom who considers herself a local (“we’ve lived in town since the 1800s”).

Ok? Ok.

Not knowing each other terribly well, we have been keeping the conversation to small talk. “How old is your kid?” or “where are you having your next birthday party?” and that sort of nonsense. Trivial shit that nobody cares about (augh… why can’t this just be quiet time?). This being our second week together, the awkwardness is starting to fall away and a comfort is starting to settle in. As the children warmed up with the teacher, the white mom asked about our town’s school choice process. She wanted to know how it goes.

I told her a bit about our crazy journey, how we had a first choice that we really loved, but that school had very few seats because of a few reasons.

She interrupted me: “Well, I heard that the thing about that school is that the Asians and the Indian kids have really infiltrated that place, so now nobody can get in.”

I wanted to tell you I was shocked, but I wasn’t. I was patient. I exchanged a look with the other mom and then sorta steadied myself and kept going. “Actually, there were a lot of siblings coming in and they get preference, and…”

The white mom didn’t challenge or reassert her idea until later as we continued talking about schools. As we went down the list of programs and specialties, the woman stated, “you know, I hear that it’s more important to get your regular kid in sports, you know? Because the Asians and the Indians, they are so smart and they take all those tutoring programs after school, so there is no way for our kids to compete, you know? So we have to stick with the sports because that’s the only place our kids can do well.” She went on to say how she has signed up her two young daughters (4 and 2) for all the sports she can come up with to try to get them competitive early “to boost their confidence, you know?”

I wanted to break it all down. I wanted to examine it all bit by bit . Who is a “regular” kid? Have you decided that your kid isn’t as capable as their potential classmates already? Have you given up already, before she has even entered kindergarten? Why would you believe those stereotypes so much as to then actively apply them to your daughters? Why use the word “infiltrate” as if they are foreign invaders?

And when you speak of “regular” kids, are you including our children, who are obviously of color, in with that group? Or are you speaking to Others about Others? Do you feel safe to say what you’ve said because we’re Other but not Asian or Indian? (Again, I am not quite sure the racial background of the other mother, but she is clearly of color.)

Here is my thing about angels and demons: this woman is a nice lady. She’s been very kind, going out of her way to compliment both my son and the other woman’s son, getting to know us, figuring out the norms (she is new to the group). She has asked questions, shared a little about herself, she has been warm and gracious. She’s loving and wonderful with her daughter. This woman isn’t a demon. I don’t know who this woman is. I know she doesn’t mean me or my children any harm. I know that her world view is “us versus them” to the point of actionable decision-making that may have serious consequences down the road.

Neither of we woman of color challenged her. We were politely silent, choosing to ignore and deflect rather than engage. I’m not proud of it. I saw the look on the other woman’s face and I knew my own thoughts and we both had made our own internal decisions to let it ride. I can’t decide if we were both chicken in that moment or if the long, steady drumbeat of a lifetime of aggressions like this one have come to lay a foundation of a permanent silence. Surely we both know that the fight against bias and ignorance (even arrogance)–that the resistance against newly reinvigorated white supremacy–must be done in the small, almost intimate, moments such as this. Maybe if one of us had been brave enough to say something, the other would have said something as well. Maybe we could have made a difference, shutting it down there and then. I should have been me. I have been begging others not to recoil and retreat in the face of the darkness, yet there I was with my polite silence. I should have been the one to tell her she was wrong. I should have been the one to tell her that in suburban schools like ours, studies show that diversity only serves to boost the academic performance of every child in the classroom. Her worldview and strong bias have negative consequences.

But what about next week? And then next 9 weeks to come? Why invite that discomfort into this weekly gathering? Why make this yet another space without safety and comfort, solace, even simple friendly fellowship?

… won’t it be uncomfortable anyway now? For the two of us? Knowing what we know?

…didn’t she, indeed, destroy the safety of the space? Did she not strain the possibility of friendly fellowship?

Like I said, I’m not proud of it. The polite silence in these moments between strangers, deciding we are bystanders when we are actually active players, is part of the reason we are where we are. Teachers must teach. Speakers must speak. There is no wisdom in the silence. Only cowardice.

And, I write all this because I admit to my cowardice. I am not perfect. I have the capacity to be brave and I did not exercise it today.

Then again, this is the gap that I think many of us are trying to bridge: we are neither angels nor are we demons and, now that it’s all out in there, we all still have to occupy the same spaces, sit across the same tables, breathe the same air. How to do so in a way that makes sense, that recognizes the fullness and gifts that we all bring, to teach lessons without preaching?

It’s a conundrum that is older than all of us. Older than this divided country, even. Fraught with lessons, victories and failures along the way. I’m sure most of that will be lost as we Americans gather at our tables. Maybe not. Maybe the delicate peace that comes with family gatherings of “mixed company” will turn into deeper accords, even some sort of understanding. Polite silence turns into civil conversation, civil conversation turns into open dialogue, open dialogue turns into changed minds.

But then again, I’m an optimist. And dammit, I still love this Republic.

Happy Thanksgiving to you American readers. May your table be bountiful, your heart full of joy. For my Dear Readers of the Commonwealth nations (of which there are quite a few), I simply wish you a Happy Thursday. 🙂 Thank you to the many of you who took the time to answer my quick 5-question survey. I am delighted and inspired, and I hope that you will be delighted by the changes that I’ll make over the winter. If you haven’t done it already, would you please consider answering a few quick questions to help me improve this blog? No typing unless you want to!

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

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[Quiet Thoughts] Light Against the Darkness

Non-photo: It just wasn’t a week to take pictures, Dear Reader. But stay tuned next week. I’ve got a little surprise for you…

 

I had a moment in my car. I find that grief comes most acutely in the silent moments, alone and in my head. I was parked in front of my house, the breeze was going through the trees. It was so quiet, so beautiful, the sun shining down and warming a calm world.

I wondered, out loud: Don’t you hear us praying? We’re asking you to deliver us, to not let us suffer simply because we exist and others hate us for it. Are you really going to leave us here like this?

I realized how purely impious I was being in that moment, failing a fairly fundamental test of Christian faith. I felt guilty, ashamed. I thought about Grandy, how disappointed she would be at my indiscretion, how much wisdom she would give to me in that moment. She would have admonished in her first breath, taught with her second. It would have made everything better. The world would have such clarity.

So, in my pain and in my low state, I asked my next question: How could you leave me here when I need your advice now more than ever?

And the tears came.

I have had moments of grace, I have had moments of terror, and I’ve had moments of the most intense sort of grief. Grief compounded and compounded as all of this terrible year seems to fold in on itself. Introduce fear into it and it’s a cocktail for absolute disaster. Where grief is a viscous air that chokes and weakens, fear is a sharp, piercing poison that rips and then grips tightly before spreading throughout the body.

It has felt like too much. How the hell to move forward? Do I have the strength to take the advice that I’ve been so freely given to like-minded friends all week?

And can I do it with my faith intact?

I have learned two lessons this autumn that I will always keep with me:

The first I have shared with you before, and I think it still applies beautifully:

In the face of death, bring life with you.

The second is something that is counter to my usually introverted personality:

In moments of crisis, I’m at my best when I’m reaching out.

Each of us (those who are feeling anxious and fearful about the next 4 years) will have to create for ourselves a toolkit for survival. I wrote last week about becoming a “patron” to two local causes that are dear to me, and that’s because I’m programmed to think about others before I think about myself. But this week, my brain has clicked over to self-preservation. How to combat the poison trying to make its way through my system? How can I resist the onslaught myself so that way I’ll be strong enough to aid in the larger resistance to come?

This is what I wrote in my notebook this week:

  1. Intellectualism will be under attack. Therefore, I will read widely and ferociously.
  2. Art will be under attack. Therefore, I will create with purpose, intensity, and frequency.
  3. Journalism will be under attack. Therefore, I will read it with increased scrutiny (and pay for it).
  4. Non-Violent Radicalism will be under attack. Therefore, I will seek radical thought and apply it appropriately.
  5. History will be under attack. Therefore, I will read it, preserve it and teach it to my children with integrity.
  6. Color will be under attack. Therefore, I will be beautiful, graceful and conspicuous with my presence.

To be honest, these are things that I’ve done for my whole life (maybe not always number 4. I’m pretty square and I prefer rules over chaos). There is nothing new here. But to write them down, to reaffirm and recommit, is very powerful. It’s the perfect antidote to the fear, the perfect hit of oxygen to stop the choking. Rearticulating my values, the core of myself and how I exist in this world, is going to get me through this. My truth will be the light I bring to guard against the darkness that is coming. Stating and restating the purpose of my life and what it means will be the perfect rod and staff to comfort me in this 4-year journey through the valley.

And I will reach out my hand time and again. In moments of crisis, when I don’t think I can take anymore, then I will reach out: in service or for help. When I chose to reach out, I feel better.

I write these Quiet Thoughts because this defeat is hard, because the world feels out of sorts, and because the sun keeps managing to rise each morning. It has only been a week, and there is an unbearable nature to how this is going. The waiting is actually worse than the shock, as we are reminded with each appointment, each misstep he is already making, just how much we’ve lost and just how much more we still stand to lose. Resistance is what has been called for, but resistance requires multiple levels and types of strength. The Resistance must be made up of many, many strong individuals. This kind of strength training takes hard work. Take your time and do it well, Dear Reader. We need you.

It is a mild Friday night, Dear Reader. The last little tease of warmth before the first flurries threaten to fly this season. The farmhouse is warm, the children are sleeping, there is plenty of work to do and so little time to get it all done. I don’t know a lot of things, Dear Reader. I don’t know what’s in store for us, for sure. But here is what I do know: I’m grateful for your presence, so thankful for your readership. Thank you for spending a little bit of your time here with me each week. I wish you restful sleep this weekend, deep and healing, the kind with dreams that stir the soul. I wish you food the fills, warms, and nourishes. The kind that takes hours to slowly prepare, complex and layered with flavor, best enjoyed in the company of others and with a good, dark beer. I wish you the lingering embrace of a person you love, holding on for a breath longer than usual, letting their warmth and scent soak in for a moment. I wish you the wise words of an elder, comforting and resolved. I wish you the sweet words of a cherished one, heartwarming and intimate. Finally, I wish you a little time to look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of how beautiful and important you are. You can be the solution to one of the world’s problems, Dear Reader. You are someone’s light against the darkness.

Until Monday, take care of yourself, Dear Reader.

 

Talk Less, [Listen] More…

 

So, it’s Wednesday, and Wednesdays are the crazy day of the week. The ultimate destination is guitar after school, which used to be a semi-relaxing time to sit and breathe after a long day. Post-election, the lady in charge who sits at the front desk, has needed to talk. And, as I explained last week (and I explain to the husband often), I’m the closest Oprah around, so she needs to talk to me. (That’s right: Black, overweight, generally a good listener = resident Oprah. It’s a thing. People think I’m approachable. I wish I could get in on the cash part of it, though!) I spent the 30 minutes of the lesson making this woman feel better while making myself more anxious.

Then that one mom came in.

Remember that time, way in the beginning of the school year, when I encountered the Mom who didn’t want summer to end? She was just having such a great time, just couldn’t bear to send the kids back? Well, turns out her kid and my kid are in the same class because, you know, God has an excellent sense of humor. Of course, her older kid has a guitar lesson right after Major has his, so I have to see her at the tail end of my busy Wednesday. I feel the need to be pleasant, which is… draining.

There I am, speaking with the lady at the desk about the post-election fallout, and here comes That Mom, bright and sunshiny as usual, her kids and their dog in tow. Everybody exchanges looks and sighs about what’s going on in the news. “How are you doing?” We all ask each other.

I answered honestly. “My husband and I were talking this morning about getting a dog or something. I don’t really feel safe right now. Not even in my own home. I just want something with a big woof to be a deterrent, you know?”

That Mom was sincerely shocked. “Oh my goodness, no! You are safe here! You are surrounded by like-minded people!”

Lordy. I’m such a moron. Why do I ever answer honestly? And why did I continue on? “Not surrounded. There were plenty of [He Who Will Not Be Named] supporters in town at the polling place. I am not going to pretend like I don’t know where I live.”

“But this is Massachusetts. Stuff like that doesn’t happen here!”

“Yeah, I want to think that, but then I turned on the news and heard that [a hate group] is putting its newspapers in people’s driveways not far from here.” I told her.

She nodded her head. “I heard about that, too. Just can’t believe it.”

I crossed my arms, ready to leave. “See?”

There was a silence for a moment. Then she leaned in a bit. “Well, you should just know that they are the minority,” That Mom said. “and that this isn’t my choice. My kids don’t even see race! They don’t see color. They don’t see wheelchairs… they don’t see religion. I’m giving them a moral compass. They are my little proteges. And I’m not shielding them from what’s happening. They need to see this and know what it is.”

Alrighty.

I hope I didn’t sneer or scowl. I wanted to tell her that Massachusetts liberals are some of the most racist people I know. That this state is one of the most segregated in the country. That I’ve never experienced so much racial tension in my life until I moved here, that Massachusetts racism is some of the most insidious because it’s so hidden, so nuanced, so utterly unfair, unreasonable, illogical…

But I called to my children instead and told them to come on. It was time to go home. I wasn’t going to teach that woman anything. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she’s part of the problem. I didn’t have that fight in me.

I recognize that my disengaging is part of the problem, too. Change requires discourse, learning requires confrontation of normalized thoughts and behaviors. In other words, if I want to see different results during the next go-round, I need to actively choose discomfort in order to carve out opportunities to change minds.

That Mom isn’t my enemy. Her heart is in the right place. But, because her mouth was open, her mind closed, she wasn’t actually doing anything to be a good ally. That conversation is part of the reason why I don’t feel safe right now. She’s right, I am surrounded by like-minded people. They think they are being supportive, but really, they are making themselves feel better about themselves. A good ally listens with empathy first, seeks understanding second, takes action afterward.  But the number one best thing a real ally can do is listen.

I have had my moments of grace this week and then I’ve had others of a deep and unabiding dread. It’s difficult to try to reassure others (not by telling them that it will be ok, but by telling them to watch and wait. We’ll know what we are really dealing with after the first 100 days), when I cannot always reassure myself. I’m a fool to try, frankly.

I can’t believe it’s only been a week. What a damn nightmare. How are you holding up, Dear Reader? Have you found any effective strategies to soothe? Distract? I’d love to know.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

[Quiet Thoughts] Where I’ll Be

Photo: I’m making a ragdoll for the adopted daughter of one of my friends. The cotton I’m making her from, the perfect tone to match her skin (and mine) is named “soil brown.” I gasped when I read it on the spool in the store, even seethed a little. My reader/writer’s mind quickly reminded me of the following thought: aren’t we all, supposedly, made from clay? Are not some of the most perfect and beautiful things in this world born from soil? Does not soil, good soil, dark and rich like this fabric, mean life?

 

It’s the morning after and my Quiet Thoughts are silent, yet screaming. I refuse, however, to feed the growing beast with my fear. If history is repeating itself and we are facing down the next great battles for humanity (or, at least, this democracy), then this is the earth I will stand on and these are the words that I’ll be writing and speaking until They come for me. I hope there will be someone left to speak for me when They do. If you listened to that candidate last night, and heard the words I did, then you’ll know why this morning I feel like They may come for me and my own first.

If so, I am unafraid. My words and the words of so many others will be our testimony. We know how we got here, what we’ve endured here, what we strive for, what we contribute.

We know who we are and what They think of us. We’ve always known, yet here we are.

And here I am. Here are my sons. The danger is real and undeniable. We will face it. We have no other choice.

But I’m not leaving. They will not have my fear.

My feet are planted in the soil with my name on it, in this republic that I love above all others, that I’ve invested in, that I raise my boys in, and They will never convince me that I’m the problem.

I know better.

 

 

Be kind, Dear Reader. Speak truth, Dear Reader. Walk in love in the pursuit of justice, Dear Reader. Resist the temptation to draw in the darkness, Dear Reader. Instead, my Friday wish for you is to the seek the light in loving understanding of your neighbors. Not just today and this weekend, but always and forever. I won’t tell you how to vote. I’ll just tell you what I heard: that candidate told us that They are coming. I will speak out for you.

Will you speak out for me? For my sons?

 

What Do We Do Now?

 

I just want to tell you that you don’t have to do this.

You don’t have to choose, and you don’t have to let them choose for you.

Ok, I’m lying. You do have to choose, but you have more than two options. There is this beautiful, wonderful third.

I’m telling you that you don’t have to choose because everything about today has been about erasure. As I watched the news coverage this morning, everyone dressed in blue, everyone asking obvious questions, everyone grasping for conclusions, and I knew only one thing to be true: the pain and suffering of the families mourning in Lousiana and Minnesota were completely erased from the narrative. The outcry of communities and individuals of color throughout the country would be vilified. Those of us pleading for our safety, for our humanity, would be shamed for it. The deaths of the police officers in Dallas would be treated as a tragic, but somehow isolated, experience.

And I watched it, that “how dare you” moment, live on television:

“Police feel like there is a target on their back. They feel like they aren’t being supported. They feel like they are being treated badly just because of a few bad actors.”

“The commentary is too hot and the result is that police are now dead. We need to tone down the rhetoric. We need to come to the defense of our noble officers who put their lives on the line for our communities.”

“There is nothing ‘peaceful’ about the protest if they are going to pull out guns and start firing.”

“You can’t blame all police for the problems that a handful of police officers have had.)

(No, Dear Reader, the irony is not lost on me.)

The Today Show (which I found particularly contemptible this morning) started off by reporting that this was the “worst targeted attack on law enforcement since 9/11” and kept repeating it over and over again (trigger-language, for sure). Savannah wore deep blue. Willie, too. Even pregnant Dylan was in a dark blue dress. I watched that entire first hour of their coverage and there was not a single minute dedicated to the context of it all. Placing the brutal, unacceptable violence that occurred last night in Dallas on the timeline of a long, horrifying week for this nation was just too much for them to manage. Actually, I’m calling it what it is: willful ignorance. In order to “honor” the fallen, they actively chose not to talk about the rest of it. This didn’t contribute anything to the discussion. They did nobody any favors by actively making this choice.

You must put it on a timeline. You must acknowledge the context of the events that have occurred this week. You must dedicate time to it. That’s what sophisticated, intelligent, critical thinkers do.

And that’s the choice. The beautiful third choice.

The third choice says that the criminalization of the Black body and the manifestation of systemic anti-Black racism in the form of execution of Black people by white officers is wrong and cannot be tolerated. The third choice says that violence against police officers (in retaliation or otherwise) is wrong and cannot be tolerated. The third choice says that these two statements are not mutually exclusive, should not be treated that way, and if they are, you know you aren’t talking to a reasonable person. The third choice says that the current adversarial relationship between the Black citizenry and white officers of the State has been grown in a centuries-long incubation that will seemingly have no end if more people do not choose to think critically about facts within context.

In other words, if you erase either side of this narrative based on the facts that make you feel comfortable about your position, you are, essentially, enabling the next outbreak of racial violence in this country. If you choose not to play the long game, to not acknowledge the circle of facts and circumstances, your short-sightedness essentially enables the next outbreak of racial violence in this country. If you choose to weep for one side and completely ignore the other, simply because you have decided that there are teams and you must choose them, your lack of fortitude essentially enables the next outbreak of racial violence in this country.

Choose not your comfort, Dear Reader. Choose not the talking head who scares you with barking and trigger words. Choose not to symbols and rhetoric that are easy to consume and spew but are not actually contributing.

Choose, instead, critical thinking. Sophisticated thought. Acknowledgment of nuance. The more challenged you are by it, the better off we will be.

Choose history and present context. Choose hard questions and deep answers. Choose neighbors and friends, real people with real stories, embrace them even if you can never fully understand them.

Then go back and teach three other people to do the same.

Be careful out there, Dear Reader. Be kind. Be safe. Take care.

What Would You Have Me Tell Them?

 

The Husband convinced me to get out on the Fourth and take two little boys for their first fireworks. I had a bad attitude about it all damn day, too. “It’s gonna be hot,” I said. “There is a good breeze,” he countered. “You’ve mowed the lawn and done other physical labor today,” I stated. “So it will be even better to sit and enjoy the show,” he observed with a smile. “Well, it’s gonna be hella crowded and stuff,” I whined. “You’ll make some friends! You make friends wherever we go!” He chuckled.

I grumbled at him for the rest of the day.

We packed up the Blackmobile at the right time and drove her to the right place. There was a nice breeze. There was a band playing funk and other good music (not well, but not poorly). We sat in a high school field not far from another interracial couple. People crowded in close. I knitted, little boys played.

There weren’t a lot of Black people there, but I did notice that those few who walked past me all had the same looks on their faces. We exchanged pleasant smiles, but there was sort of this wide eye, a knowing exchange of glances: What are we celebrating? Did we have that great of a year? Is next year gonna be any be any better? Probably not. Do you feel the danger? Does it ever go away?

As the fireworks went off, two teenaged white boys broke out large American flags and went running up and down the aisles, screaming “YEAH! AMERICA! GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH! YEAH! YEEEEEEAAAAAH! ‘MERICA!!! GET ‘EM! YEAH!”

It made me feel a little gross. Mostly because that was just obnoxious. But I understood. I’ve written on multiple occasions about the love I have for my country. This is the only country I know and I consider it to be the greatest one on Earth. I’ve gone so far as to call it “exceptional,” and I firmly believe it to be true. I’m a history teacher and a civics nerd. This is my country and I love it above all others.

The weight of that love, though, and the extent of it, has been tested time and again in these last few summers (and longer. I’m just sayin’). The strain that I feel is only amplified by my supreme love for my two little boys. Brown boys. Brown American boys. When I have to watch yet another video chronicling the murder of another Black man at the hands of police officers, I shed my tears and I hug my children and I wonder, “what the hell am I going to tell these two children some day?”

About all of it? All of it. And there is so much of it. So much history. So much bloodshed. So much brutality. So many taken from us for no reason other than “because I can. Because I’m in power here. Because you are other and I am power here.” What the hell would you have me tell them, my two boys who you pop in to see a few times a week? What shall I tell them about their relationship with their government? About their relationship with law enforcement? About their relationship with their neighbors? About their relationship with their larger communities? What the hell would you have me tell them about this life that they are going to have to walk into? How shall I tell them that they are, without a doubt, members of an unprotected class? That their bodies, strong and beautiful, curse them, even doom them?

These two boys who you are watching grow up. Will you feel the same way about them when they grow up into full adults? Will you fear them? Loathe them? Cross the street when you see them walking in your direction? Will you speak up for their protection? Advocate for their humanity? Will you call them thugs because someone on tv tells you they are?

How shall I teach them to stand tall and proud, strong and beautiful, powerfully in a world that respects only power while, at the same time, teaching them to protect themselves? Would you have me teach them to cower before the man in blue who considers himself judge and jury (would Alpha and Omega be more fitting?)?  No, right? How could I even consider such a thing?

Because every time officers of the state (and by “state,” I mean “government” in general, not just the individual states where these incidents happen) choose to play judge, jury and executioner, we all die a little. Maybe a lot. And when I say “we,” I mean all of us. All of us who are part of this republic, this body politic. We all sign the social contract. We’re all supposed to be in it together. Some of us were dragged into it. Others, by treatise, willed it and made it so. So many others walked up to it and begged for entrance. It doesn’t matter how you got your pen, you’re still a signed participant of the social contract. You give a little of your life, I give a little of mine, and when the state (or actors thereof) choose to abuse it, we all die, just a little. Actually, a lot. Because as the trust erodes, as misgivings rise, it’s to the determent of us all. And I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but we need all the help we can get right now.

So here it is, July 6th, and we’re all sobered up from our July 4th jubilation. The video runs over and over again. What will you have me tell my boys about Alton Sterling? What of the next Black man? What of the 557 other people killed by police in this country so far this year?

I just don’t know. Tell me. Somebody tell me. I just don’t know anymore.

What I do know is I can’t watch another video. I can’t watch that video again. While I thank God for these videos, that people don’t just die alone and unknown, officers able to spin the tale however they please, I can’t stand these videos. Black death as infotainment. Black death as numbing newsreel. Black death as par for the course, twenty minutes of useless commentary in the 24 hours news cycle by talking heads far removed and without care. I know there won’t be justice. I know those officers will get their money and walk another beat to walk before we know it. I know that the more this happens, the angrier we get, the less likelihood the cooler heads and reasonable arguments will prevail. I know that even I am running out of arguments and good ideas and well-crafted sentences to explain and re-explain. To calm myself. Why should I even have to do that?

I know that I’m going to have to tell my sons something. I know there will be bitterness and anger, and that I’ll have to scare the hell out of them. And how the hell is that fair, Dear Reader? And what the hell are we going to do about it? You and me, co-signers on that social contract?

This Was My Morning

 

Three white women speaking in the preschool hallway.

Two of them are women I’ve known for three years. Their children were in Major’s toddler class and we’ve known each other fairly well. The third is a nanny for one of the richest families in our preschool community. A woman I’ve walked past every day but haven’t said much to. They were speaking about yesterday’s voting. There was lamentation about the winner on the Republican side (I won’t write his name on this blog. I refuse to give him presence here.).

The nanny goes off. “I wish that woman would just go home. I wish she would go and just play with her granddaughter!”

The other women only minimally commiserate. “All of the options are pretty rough,” one of them says.

“Well, I just can’t think of a more power-hungry woman that Hillary Clinton! She’s awful!” The Nanny continues.

“Well, they’re all power-hungry. That’s why they are running for president!”

There is other chatter. People are realizing that the conversation is getting to hot for the children around us.

But then the Nanny says this: “Well you know, the only reason why those people are voting for her is so that they can keep getting their freebies from the government.” She rubs her fingers, making the money sign with her hand with a sneer.

I raised an eyebrow in my friend’s direction, fully understanding what the woman meant. There is a pause. Next thing I know, the woman is glancing in my direction. She had realized one of “those people” was standing right behind her.

She shrugged, kept going. Talking about how That Man has good Christian values because he’s anti-choice. She even deflected and defended as the other two women talked about That Man’s refusal to flat out and unequivocally disavow the KKK.

I walked away. I put hands on my children.

Then I went to church to pray

but ended up crying instead.

There were actually a lot of Those Supporters at my little polling place yesterday. They had their signs, their happy grins, their jovial parading of their hateful proclivities. I know where I live. I know that I’m on the outer-most border between the true suburbs and truly rural areas. I know that I’m in Massachusetts, where white people have always been and will always be really angry.

and yet, I also know that I live in a town with one of the highest concentrations of advanced degrees in the entire state. This is not just any sort of place. This is supposed to be a different sort of place. And I know that it’s not everyone around here. It’s just more than I wanted to believe, you know?

Ignorance was certainly bliss. I feel so differently, so unsafe.

Because as people come out of the woodwork and let all of the bigotry hang out in the open, more people get bold, more people get loud. Then suddenly, you’re the only Black person in the grocery store when someone is having a moment and makes a decision to do something about it…

I’m having a hard time, Dear Reader. Tomorrow, I hope, will be a better day.

I’ll see you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.