Friday, August 18, 2017

Change is a Marathon not a Cakewalk

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It's been a long time since I've eaten cake. I don't eat flour or sugar anymore, which are pretty much the hallmarks of all things cakey.  Since I gave up starch/sugar, I feel better, lighter, clearer minded. So the idea of eating cake is counter productive for me.

However, there are times when the world stresses me out and I really think eating the hell out of some cake might make me feel better:

Ok, I probably will not join the Sheet Caking Movement. (Kinda hate to use the word "sheet" when countering people known for hiding behind them.....) But I can't help but think Tina tossed out a useful idea when it comes to dealing with rallies by former-sheet-wearing types with white polo shirts and large weapons and small minds:

Don't show up. 

Because sometimes, just maybe, counter protests can be counter productive.

Now, I'm not suggesting we should stand by and let violence and anger and hatred rule us. I'm not suggesting we shut down and disengage when we see something wrong or bad happening. I'm definitely not suggesting ignoring ideologies that need to be challenged. And if you feel strongly about meeting them peacefully on the street as a show of strength and opposition, I am not suggesting you are wrong.

What I am suggesting is that there are many potent ways to engage that don't involve shining a spotlight on people who don't deserve it. On people just hoping to incite more anger, more violence, more hatred. On people who get their kicks and their power by getting a rise out of the people they think of as "less than." 

There are as many ways to respond to wrongness as there are people to perceive what wrongness is. My way is not to play in their tacky little sandbox with the cheap sand that gets all over and won't wash off and gives me a rash.

See, I am just as susceptible to the mob mentality as any other human being. I'm normally a pretty calm, nice, level-headed person. (I think) But put me in an environment where there are threats and mayhem and high tempers, and I will choose one of two things: 1) Fight, or 2) Flight. I won't be rational. And you probably won't, either. There is something particularly nasty about what happens to us when we are in a crowd. Psychologists and sociologists have spent their lives studying it. Political representatives have been elected because of it.

There are times when marches by groups who are on the wrong side of humanity, who want only to dehumanize people different from them, to repress, to push down, to belittle, to destroy, are best met by not meeting them at all. They remind me of this quote from Macbeth: 

(they are) "but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage 
And then is heard no more: it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing."

                   - Shakespeare, William. Macbeth.

I will not get bogged down in discussions about the removal of monuments to people who did wrong things or to causes that failed. Sometimes that might be the right thing to do. Sometimes it might not. Blanket decisions often take out the good with the bad. 

Statues are inert. They can mean different things to different people. People, however, make a difference. And not always the people we assume. Chris Newman, a black farmer who lives near Charlottesville, made this point earlier in the week on his Facebook page:

“It isn’t Richard Spencer calling the cops on me for 
farming while Black, 
it's nervous White women in yoga pants 
with ‘I’m with her’ and ‘Coexist’ stickers 
on their German SUVs. 
People are so busy going after that easy fix, 
going after that Confederate flag, 
that they’re not doing the hard thing, which is thinking, 
'how did we get here, 
and how the hell do we dig out of 
institutional racism'.” 

 am much more concerned about people than I am about statues. My energy is limited. It is better spent trying to love and understand and educate than it is standing anonymously in a crowd while a hunk of metal is pulled down in a public square. 

Also, it is pretty easy for me to carry a sign and yell with a group of like-minded people when I can jump in my nice car and go back to my safe little home after it's all over. But changing the world isn't that easy. It's a marathon, not a cakewalk. It is far more difficult to change the way I think, the way I judge, the way I live, the way I act out what I think is right, the way I eat cake.....

Oh, wait, I don't want to eat cake! I also don't want to be led to say and do things I would normally eschew in the heat of a particular moment. And I especially do not want to bring undue attention to tales told by idiots. (Which is why I do not watch reality shows, but that is another post....)

I prefer to use my time and energy to do what seems productive to me. That might include marching. It might not. Maybe with love I can help educate people and change their ideologies. Maybe I can't. But if I cannot stop their fretting and strutting, I can do my part to ensure their sound and fury Signifies Nothing.  

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