Thursday, July 7

a negative amount of sense

I don't know enough about anything. I don't know enough. this is both true and an excuse to stand back, to distantly question and wonder, to pretend for a while to put myself in other people's shoes and to still fail at understanding why they do this or that, and then to shrug those other perspectives away because I can't know enough about anything.

I don't watch the news. I get news filtered through friends and internet icons. I stay out of it; I have the privilege of class and skin color and education enough to stay out of the news and let my little life sail on. the most affecting mishap I've had to personally deal with lately was watching one of my cute handmade clay bowls slip off the counter and shatter into pieces. I'll make a new one. it'll probably be just the same as the old one.

what are broken dishes when meanwhile, death threats and gun violence and rape and bigotry, brutality, corruption, hatred, and anger seem to fill the world and the internet? there is all this anger and rage and tragedy, all swirling around my privilege and the blissful ignorance it tends to afford.

have you seen this video?

I keep re-watching it, wanting to re-watch it and re-watch it as if my re-watching it might mean that everyone else were watching it, learning something.

I should be grading student drafts, and working on my own drafts, yet I feel like I have to write this instead. and what do I really want to do in a post like this? what can I even hope to halfway-decently attempt, when writers more invested and more practiced and more attended-to than I will probably ever be are already saying more powerful and more meaningful things than I could about this latest ugliness?

I remember marveling--two years ago, November 2014--at this court decision. it made negative amounts of sense. I don't know enough about anything, but I remember that I started looking at uniformed officers differently that year. I told friend Chris, as we watched people on twitter rage and mourn, that I wanted to walk over to our municipal building on 6th and South Street, where all those cop cars are always parked outside, and I wanted to stop at least one officer and ask them questions, and hope they'd sit down and take time for answering. I didn't. I haven't. I still pause when I see uniformed officers, still wonder to the end of the sky what they think about all of this swirling injustice and death. I'm sure there would be miles of red tape, or at least buckets of busy dismissiveness, if not paranoia about whether I'd be likely to spin their comments into some kind of sensational media story.

I am not a journalist. I don't watch the news. I have too many silly podcasts to listen to. today, it happened to be this one from a Sporkful series on Other People's Food. an interview and an audio collage about segregation. about the negative amounts of sense that used to mean strictly separate water fountains, train cars, restrooms, and--more happily--about the activism that eventually changed things.

my instinct is to question. my reactions are questions. why? why? why not talk, and listen, and leave your weapons out of it? why make excuses, why not call this systemic awfulness what it is? why not confront the racism in it? wouldn't it be better to confront and wrestle with, rather than ignore and excuse and backpedal and victim-blame and cover-up? why not trust people? why not put some real faith in the "innocent until proven guilty" principle? why panic? why suspect the worst? why put this woman in handcuffs, why not trust her to keep cooperating? why not trust people? why not treat people like they are, can be, will be good?

I keep thinking about my interactions with uniformed officers. speeding tickets. warnings. nothing bloody, nothing that warrants any screaming. I keep thinking that if I were pulled over for a burned out taillight, I would have been trusted to stand and wait and do as I was told--no handcuffs, no guns. more patience. I would be suspected of nothing beyond failing to maintain a tiny lightbulb within my vehicle. my skin color makes it safer and calmer and pretty much normal, if inconvenient, for me to interact with law enforcement people if I ever have to, and that is puzzlingly unfair beyond unfair.

what am I doing with a post like this? I am reacting. I don't know enough about anything--not about any victim or any officer, not about what the weather is like in Baton Rouge or in Minneapolis this week, not about the political or legal webs within which the cities I've lived in are being maintained, and not at all enough about the biases that insidiously sit in my own head. I do not know who wrote all the news articles or what kind of slant their publishers may have expected. I do not know exactly what kind of methods were used in compiling which kinds of data from what sources. I do not know if the world will ever be different enough from the depressing way it is for certain groups of people in this country.

but ever since this Hank Green fellow made this video about democratic engagement I have been meaning to use up some paper and ink and stamps with more pointed and purposeful reactions to things. now is all there is, so it may as well be now.

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