Dominoes

Trevor Noah has a great video on this.

which inspired me to organize my thoughts a little.

I often thought, and said, that we should have a strong social safety net because, all ethics aside, when economic structures are top-heavy, societies turn into enclaves of a very few rich people behind barbed wire, and everyone else, who deals with significant crime and a lack of opportunity.   I didn’t want to be right about this, but seeing the anger, that has always been there, plus no school, no jobs, people finally have time to think more about how they’ve been treated, and what that means.  Particularly when the people who are pulled back to work, and pulled into danger, are people who are disproportionately black.

I’ve spent many years trying to explain racism and its effects, and plenty of people are not interested.  The more time has gone by, the more I have understood that white Americans genuinely see people who are black (particularly if they do not work hard to present themselves as allied with the middle class) as odd, scary, and in many ways, past help.

I told you college was cheaper than prison.  I told you that even at the school where I taught, with great amounts of support for students, they were significantly held back by a lack of funding and opportunities.  Public colleges are public in name only.  Some places in our country used to have actual public universities, by which I mean: tuition free.

Could the financial chaos happening now have been softened or even prevented by making sure everyone made a living wage, everyone had public education offered to them from preschool through college?

If we had excellent public transportation, so that a car problem didn’t immediately mean potential job loss, and a snowball of financial crisis, would this be happening in Kansas City?

It’s not just that I’m a bleeding heart liberal (which I am) or that I’m not ethically firm in my conviction that the government must provide a base level of services to all Americans, but it’s actually cheaper.  Crime is expensive for a society.  Riots are expensive.

Financially and emotionally, they are expensive.

Would this have happened if Hillary had been elected?  I don’t think so.

Would this have happened if Trump had been removed after impeachment?  I don’t think so.

Knowing your president supports racists has been deeply wounding people for years.

 

Splintering

After the women’s march, I was pretty bummed out to see the movement splinter.  There had to be multiple marches.  People had to choose sides.  This is what movements do.  But for me, it hits me right where my parents’ divorce did: can’t you guys get along?

So pretty quickly after I was at protests, I was fretting about splintering.  These people aren’t right enough.  Those people aren’t authentic.  That group is too extreme.  That group is not extreme enough.

This person said this, and then didn’t say they were sorry soon enough, or the right way.  That person didn’t speak up at the right time.  That person didn’t understand soon enough, or that person attacked others who were just beginning to understand.  Thus, we can sort this person into racist, anti-racist, ally, monster, protester, rioter, devil, angel.

As I’ve argued many times, labeling people as racist or not racist I find useless and destructive.  Talking about patterns and thoughts and systems that are racist, that we can all do.  It’s both more honest and more effective.

Evaluating other people’s goodness or rightness or wrongness is also destructive.  While you are sorting out who is who, I would much rather be making phone calls or hauling water bottles or holding someone’s hand.

I understand needing to clarify your positions, and to build groups where people feel secure in knowing what the agenda, and the approach, will be.  And I know we have to do some sorting, particularly in making political decisions.

But I am by nature a builder of connections and understandings.  That was another outcome of my parents’ divorce.  I’m always trying to figure out how to get people to understand each other.  And I like big tent groups: Democrats, socialists, people who work for gun control, or for health care reform.

I feel a bit better thinking about how this is my nature, and my role as an educator and a writer.  I don’t need to fret so much about how people divide themselves up.  That is another part of human organization that just happens.

Culture of a Crowd: Protesters in Kansas City on May 31, 2020

What looks uncontrolled and scary: look closer.  I went to protest in Kansas City, and in Lawrence, Kansas.  In Kansas City, where there is a horrifying history of violence, I was struck by how safe and peaceful the protest felt.  I was literally wearing a sign that said to people: I am against racism.  And so many other white people were, too!

Really I am still deeply in shock about that.

As someone who’s participated in plenty of protests, and thought about how to bring people out, seeing the largest protest in Kansas City’s recent history, I was overwhelmed.

Many of our usual outlets (movies, sports, school, restaurants, bars) are not available for processing, blowing off steam, or supporting each other.

I know I would have been out eating and drinking with friends if I could have been.  Living through the past couple of months, I would have given myself full permission to go full tilt at a martini and some wine and hey, maybe whiskey later?

Why now, white people?

For me, I felt a little like I was back in New York City: a racially diverse crowd, an unstructured crowd, people just doing it for themselves.

And people taking care of each other in a huge way: there were multiple piles of snacks.  Free.  There were so many water bottles being offered!  And people calling out, if you think you’re hydrated, you’re probably not, have one!

And so many people picking up trash.  I brought a couple of trash bags myself, but they were not needed.

The way that I saw several protesters calm each other down to preserve the peace.

I ended up walking around Facebook live-ing what I saw.  I’ve never done that before.  I had so much restless energy, adrenaline from the cause, from suddenly being with so many other humans, and covid fear, I wanted to just walk and walk.  And bear witness, I guess.

 

Fourteen Mays

IMG_3259I went through all the journals I had handy and looked for the closest entry to today, May 18.  It became an interesting document.

If I don’t occasionally go through old journals, I become convinced that all of my past was easier and more fun than my present.  And all times have their fun and their burdens.  Names are both abbreviated and changed, according to whim.

2004: All I did my senior year of high school was feel.  And that filled hour after hour.  I’m at Loose Park now.  A boy is throwing goldfish from a ziploc bag into the pond, and his grandpa follows him, wearing a navy jacket.  The ducks here are rarely interested in crumbs offered– they get fed so much.  I never try to feed them myself.  Just watch their sparkling green heads, the blue patches on the drakes’ wings, and thier sloppy paddling feet.  Their fights, their landings on the water, ruffling the surface…. My drink at the Pig Saturday night reminded me again of how much I love it.  So charming, safe, wicked.  No smoking after July 1, though.  I may cry.

2005: When I got home, I learned that C had called G to apologize for the ranting over Medicare and Christianity at Charlie’s.  I had loved that conversation, and G had, characteristically, sat back, smoked and looked bored to suffering.  I found it bizarre that C apologized for a) not interesting G in conversation and b) discussing Serious Topics over drinks.

2006: I ended things with Group A yelling at them…. And Group E insisting that we were going to be locked inside the building to review for a final exam.  It was a last day more infuriating than mournful– ending with J going carefully through the study guide, M and I on either side of her.

2007: Churchill, and Spiderman, insist on the power-responsibility connection.  Today I’m feeling rather tired of both.  Angry at J for figuring grades wrong, at D for pushing me, but we made it through.

2008: T, in creative writing, claimed that he had learned nothing.  I controlled my fury at this.  We talk about drugs, sex, friendship, pornography, families, violence, and he learns nothing?  I was so tired Friday.  i was too tired to kill him…. I plowed through the last full day of the year so tired that when I finished all my grading and stuff, I didn’t want to go home.  So tired that when I did get home, I laid down to try to sleep, and couldn’t do anything but squirm, move, rearrange my limbs, retuck my hands and renuzzle my face into the pillows.

2009: But– I just found the hotel I want to stay in in Rome– it’s in the Jewish quarter, easy walking distances, a rooftop bar, built in the 15th century, and joyfully, they have a room with a twin bed, which is quite cheap– affordable, let’s say, and I think they even feed you breakfast.

2010: That child should not graduate.  Cannot read, write… I hate high-waisted pants, too.  Now it’s skinny and high-waisted?  WTF?  Again.  Gross.  I was bored again today, actually.  No class 4th hour.  Not a lot of need for me.  Read as much of the NYT as I could interest myself in.  Sometimes I think if I don’t have sex with a man, I’ll eat me.

May 2011: Went to “D visiting” dinner last night.  D kissed me on the cheek!  Is he adorable or what?  Said he writes a lot, on his typewriter, as he smokes and drinks Pepsi.  Be still, my heart.

2012: Things to write about:

pinecone collection

ceiling fan

gooseneck

alas, Yorick

woodchips

purple, finally

sandwich board

in a fog

double bagged

cat tags

ironed out

 

2013: Somehow I didn’t enjoy the dinner last night because I’m jealous of L…. She’s never had to be single– swept off her feet by a guy who wants to support her!  She can write all day, or work, or work part time…. I am jealous she lives [where it is] artsy and cool and there are flowers all the time… Why do I always have to settle?  Why do I have to live in a second-best place…?

2014: When I got on the humble 2 train this morning (humble due to only 2 trains, from that station, and they go to Manhattan on the further-into-Brooklyn track.  The announcement said, “The next stop will be BEEP,” very loud, censoring kind of beep.  It was sweetly tragic.

2015: I hate everyone’s haircuts right now.  I hate the stickiness of night now, too.  And will I get a drink while i do laundry?  Drinking sounds so good when you are dealing with an alcoholic friend… Talked with the boys (T, S) about God and T says God is telling him to feed his sheep when T helps a guy carry a stroller down subway stairs.

2016 : So this week I was told my ovaries have shut down.  The next day my editor from H called me and gave me the most encouraging, positive feedback maybe ever, coupled with the names of agents he thought would like me… Somehow I’m going to have to pee at the Port Authority.  That’s gonna happen.  No.  Doubt.

2017: I was overwhelmed with anger at K yesterday…. I emailed her back right away.  Fuck her, fuck her….Yesterday, J asked me, “Have you ever been in love?” And E asked me, “Who do you prefer, Bach or Mozart?” Yes, and Mozart….

It kind of sneaked up on me how in love I am with them.  T and her shooting a gun at the shooting range.  J not watching the videos for her class and obsessing about justice so she can’t see the forest for the trees.  G and her cohabitating no-nonsense and passion for a bad girlfriend.  K’s fire for undocumented kids, and thirst for wrestling with race.  C’s tenderness, soft-shell crab that he is.

2018: Finished the training videos from P that I had.  Was at a very cool school today, but left my fucking sweater.

Also my feet hurt.

I did not get lunch 3/3 working days this week.

Goddamn.

Also: need new pen.