About a month ago I posted my updated “Book-it” List of books I’d like to read before the year’s end (a literally impossible goal, but I’m okay with that; I’ve often remarked humorously that if I ever found a genie in a bottle who offered me just one wish, with the usual caveats of not asking for love or immortality, I’d simply have to wish to live until I’d read everything on my reading list and then, by default, I’d live forever because it’s always growing).
It’s been over ten years since I visited Israel, and yet I still see that time as a formative period in my life: It was the first time when I came out to a large community of people, and the support and love I received encouraged me to live more openly as a gay man.
When I started college, later when I added a second major in political science to my degree, I focused primarily on national politics: After all, it was my desire to achieve LGBTQ civil rights in the US that first drove me to political activism. Even later, when my responsibilities directed my focus toward pedagogy and equity in education, inevitably my involvement in politics waned.
And with it all, so did my awareness of current events in Israel. As a child, I heard most of my Israeli news from my rabbi’s sermons every Shabbat; when I moved to college and no longer regularly attended services, that avenue of information closed, and I was so focused on my studies and campus involvement that I never searched out that information on my own.
Now, in the news, there are big talks about annexation and sovereignty and human rights and racism–and as a Jew, what else can I do but to do what I do best: write about it?
Friends, I said in a weekend Facebook post, I need your help.
I’ve learned a lot about systems of (dis)advantages over the past few years, and newsflash, I have a lot of privilege. In fact, it’s hard for me to find much in my life that isn’t a result of somewhere someone giving me me something that someone else was denied–whether it’s my assumed intelligence because I’m white or my assumed leadership skills because I’m male or so many other things.
So how do I hold onto any sort of self-worth when everything I thought I had fought so hard to achieve was really just handed to me?
I don’t watch the news–the news is depressing. It’s one bad story after another, and the points of importance are pushed aside for the next sensational headline.
Instead I follow stories. I try to understand the exposition, the unwritten prologue, the implications of chapter three, the critical reviews of the page-turning epilogue. And lately, I’ve been reading from a new library–rather than merely perusing the shelves of LGBT identity, Jewish / American intersectionality, and the occasional op-ed on immigration, redistricting, and presidential campaigns, lately I’ve been reading about race.
Here I’ve found more stories, maybe, than I bargained for (and as I write this, I’m reminded of some good advice to beware of the danger of a single story): there are tragedies with names like Travon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice; settings as varied as McKinney and Ferguson and Baltimore; and narratives simple and complex, like Black Lives Matter.
But the story today that’s swimming through my newsfeed is none of these.
I just finished reading a time-management article that reminded its readers that “You have just as many hours in the day as Beyoncé.” While this is scientifically true and simple enough to entertain mild minds, it neglects the fact that Beyoncé (in fact, most celebrities) have a few extra things going for them that the average person doesn’t.
So here’s five reasons why I’m not as productive as Beyoncé (and neither are you).
I have a confession: I am bound in chains and sometimes I like it. My flesh is tethered by bands of leather and holy boxes inscribed with the word of God. The numbness under the straps speaks to me of security, reminds me of an invisible, all powerful touch.
The truth is metaphor’s a nasty animal that rears its head and paws at the dirt and runs off chasing wild game the moment you think it’s majesty might actually be your own.
But the bigger truth is this: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom, about what it means to be free, about liberation, and all the chains we carry.
Have you ever heard a joke that’s great until the punchline, and then it falls apart?
I feel opposite that: I know where I’m headed, but not how to get there–not even where to start. You see, I just spent a week in San Francisco, and seeing what the world could look like–what a more inclusive and queer-friendly world can look like–has made me realize a world where sexual orientation doesn’t matter can exist. But after seeing such high levels of inclusion, coming home feels a lot like walking back into the closet.
It’s not as funny as a joke, is it? But it does have a better punchline.
I recently saw a news story float across my Facebook feed about Sia’s new music video for Elastic Heart. The article mentioned many fans have criticized the video for its implication of pedophilia, yet Sia replied she had intended “to create some emotional content, not to upset anybody.” The response was succinct, but kind and validating, and her additional comments left me intrigued.
To the person who stole my wallet yesterday while on the subway in Mexico City with my fiance, I’m sorry. I don’t know why you felt the need to reach into my pocket as the crowd shoved its way into the train car and take what was not yours, but I pray there was a good reason–perhaps your kids are starving and you can’t find a job, perhaps a loved one is sick, perhaps you never learned the difference between right and wrong.
For each of these things, you cannot be blamed, and I am sorry.
In my last post, I spoke about the uncomfortable reality of being a non-Christian in a country that mistakenly believes its religious identity (which doesn’t exist) is synonymous with its civic identity. I also alluded to a conversation with a friend who assumed Chanukah is a much bigger deal than it is–but instead of making my misconception corrections then, I decided to make them their own post.