Day 5 of Lent
My son is in bed. The wind is howling outside. I am tired.
I am feeling pretty numb and overwhelmed. I have a rather tremendous quantity of work that I have to do this week, and it is rendering my entire field of attention diffuse. I would write about that, but it would be very unprofessional for me to do that.
I also feel some outrage fatigue. It feels like the last seven days have been busy ones for Satan’s accountants. I suppose they are always busy. I think I have been noticing things more. Lately my Facebook stream has been mostly harangues of some sort or another.
I have also been noticing my very significant limitations. There simply isn’t enough hours in the day for me to live my life and to read and process everything I find interesting. I follow and am friends with a lot of very intelligent people on social media, so I benefit fom a constant stream of thought-provoking commentary and links. I also have a very diverse group of people with whom I interact, many of whom would probably not get along well if they were in the same room together. This doesn’t even include all of the people in my real-world life, most of whom don’t interact with me online. Multiple worlds collide in my space, and it can be a job of work sometimes managing the dissonance that creates.
I sometimes feel guilty for getting tired. For not writing more. For getting fed up with being outraged and wanting to stick my head in the sand for a while. For not doing a better job of benefitting from all of the insightful things I get to read, the wonderful friendships I have, the rather unusual circumstances of my life. For not doing more to fight patriarchy, heteronormativity, racism, and oppression.
Then it hits me: Those fights are not mine to wage alone. Feeling like the world is yours to save is a peculiar white cisgender Christian male trait, I think. To the extent that I even have a part in fighting oppression, my individual part is perhaps very small. Perhaps my role is perfected in listening, in saying less and acknowledging more, in sharing and reflecting what others have to teach.
Philosopher Linda Martín Alcoff came to the University of Louisville today to give a talk. I didn’t go–I wasn’t even aware of it beforehand–but I caught a stream of tweets about it from the Anne Braden Institute (@ABIatUofL). Alcoff’s topic was “the future of whiteness.” One tweet really struck home for me: “Possible to operate in the public domain as “white” without delusion or self-erasure?” That captured a real truth about my experience. Is it possible to be public and white without deluding yourself with myths–that you deserve every privilege you have, that you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps, that you are all sensitive and anti-racist and anti-oppression and therefore deserve social justice cookies–or without simply keeping your mouth shut?
I couldn’t quite get a sense of Alcoff’s prescriptions from the Twitter feed, but I know that I struggle with the answer to this question. The best I can come up with on a tired, stormy night like this one is that I can just try to keep my head down and do the hard work of listening to folks and maintaining my relationships. More and more it feels like healing lies in relationship and community and less in posturing.
As the childhood song goes:
The more we get together, together, together,
The more we get together, the happier we’ll be