Some of you can’t hear this yet.
It is entirely fine to come back tomorrow.
I kind of bit the head off of a friend this morning when she emailed me to express her horror and pain, and I apologized afterward, but this loss of sanity in America wasn’t a surprise to me, because sanity was lost a long time ago, for me.
When you remember being a five-year-old afraid of lynching, and understanding – too early – that it happened to specific people, when you have parents who grew up in the South and had their food spat in, who had rocks thrown at them on the way to school in their school integration in the sixties — well. Your life is maybe different. When your white husband is asked if sex with you is different, or if you’re pink “down there,” and when you see people arguing that this black person shouldn’t have run, or been in a bad neighborhood, or been selling things on the street, or that person shouldn’t have tried to use that bathroom, or those Muslims should maybe try to fit in and take off those hijabs not just on the beach — well. Well. You know your country.
You know your country, and you hope for better, but… you know your country. It’s a broken, ugly place. Pockets of beauty abound, indeed, in the loveliness of friends, in the joys of open hearts and inclusion, in literature and music and art. But, you know your country. You’ve heard what has been said of you, just behind your back, outside your hearing. You’ve sat awkwardly through the “they wanted my scalp!” jokes about Native people from people claiming to share your faith – people you don’t know how to remonstrate with. You’ve heard the homophobia from your own relatives, the police brutality apologetics from your alleged friends. You wish for better, but you know your country.
I know my country – but today I’m grateful that maybe, after this loss, maybe others who live here will know my country, too. And, seeing my country with their eyes wide open, they’ll be able to be truer, stronger allies. They’ll be more ready to be serious, to take action, to have uncomfortable conversations, to make uncomfortable choices; to disassociate from people who are hateful on every level and enable the narrative that some are better, to put their privileged bodies between that hate and the idea that “other” and “different” and “unique” is dangerous and should “go back” and “go away” and crawl off, beaten and bloody.
I love you, who are just learning who we are today. It’s a steep learning curve, but now that you know… now that you’re sick with it… you are the cure. You are. You are.
And for Melissa Wiley, I see you a poem, friend, and raise you one:
“the grit that vexed the oyster, formed the pearl,”
my mantra, this, as living shreds my plans;
“and still we rise” and rising, we unfurl
our battle standard, bloody in our hands.
in disillusioned pain; in shock and fear
our doubts, now kindled, conflagration fans,
what, from disaster? how, to persevere
when we’re defeated, running on exhaust?
from deepest pressure precious stones appear,
Hail Marys passed when better plays are lost
A root, determined, granite stone will split
Some harvests sweeten only after frost –
why claim “all is not lost,” like hypocrites?
we tried. we failed. regardless, we don’t quit.