Last week President Trump visited Milwaukee. In class that morning, one student said, “He’s not my president.” The timing wasn’t right to go into the nuances of that statement, to correct the fallacy that blindly believes saying “He’s not my president” excuses us of his wrongdoings (when we, the collective voting citizenry, put him there) but merely excuses his ignoring us, so my response to her was subtler.
“Whether we like him or not, he’s our president, and we should respect that.”
I refused to get religious. In fact, “refuse” is the wrong word: I keep my faith wrapped around my neck but not gurgling through my vocal cords, so I never genuinely talk about religion with my students. Perhaps, this time, I should have.
I have a backlog of posts waiting to be published. Many of them talk about race, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to share them. I’ve fallen under fear–the fear of losing social capital, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of looking ignorant, the fear of admitting my own faults, the fear of alienating the people I can learn from.
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 think I’ve been seeing fireworks on the Fourth of the July for as long as I’ve been alive–that’s 26 years. Like most children, they startled me when I was younger, but I’ve come to love the dancing lights and the thrashing thunder that follows every burst. As I watched the fireworks this year, behind a hotel in Cookeville, Tennessee, on my way home from my brother’s wedding in Texas, I began thinking of the daily freedoms I have because I’m a U.S. citizen: I can travel freely almost anywhere in the world, I can go to school and get a job doing anything I want, and for the past week and onward, I can marry anyone I please and have our marriage recognized throughout the entire country.
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.
Some may say I’m blowing this out of proportion, but probably I’m not: I feel like the material world has stolen Chanukah. Picked it up in a big red bag, slung it over its shoulder, and made off on a sleigh drawn by a dog with one antler. It makes me lax to light candles, eat latkes, even spin the dreidle.