The year didn't get off to a good start. I personally blame the nearly 63 million people who voted for Agent Orange, because, um, have you seen the news this week? But that isn't my point just now. My point is -- the year started with a sense of loss and mourning and anxiety. Everyone rolling up their sleeves for an impending, inevitable, unavoidable fight. And not some scuff or barroom brawl. Not something brief with the sharp potential for violence, although that's always in the cards. I mean a long, intractable...Fight. Maybe the term "fight" is a bit of a misnomer, because wars are long but battles end; struggles are endless but fights are temporary. You can get yourself geared up for a fight, but a struggle...that's hard.
I promise I'm not actually here to talk politics. Not US politics anyhow. Or. Well, not presidential politics. I'm just setting the scene.
I watched Dear White People this weekend. I binged it in one sitting and it's excellent. The internet recommends it highly too. Its ensemble cast presents a rare and wonderfully nuanced look at the way that different Black people in the show respond to and live with racism. I certainly grew to love all the characters in their own ways, and I was very fond of Coco. Colandrea. She goes by Coco.
My non-Black POC take on Coco is this. Early on in the season, she seems to be ashamed of her Blackness, all too ready to ingratiate herself to upper crust white people (one of their names is Muffy for god's sakes). She seems most willing to erase, or forget, or try to forget "who she really is," you know, before you get to know her better. And then you learn how ambitious she really is, how smart, how bone tired she is of the argument with other Black people, with friends, about being woke or not woke -- because none of that matters when police will shoot you regardless. And she has firsthand experience with that in her life, so it's a painful subject that cuts deep.
She copes with the world as it is, with the energy she has toward the work she can rouse herself for. I understand that, even if my own energies are elsewhere. She's trying to chip her way into the opaque upper echelons of the world she's in with Black people and everyone else, and it's hard, if not antithetical, to do that and to protest systemic inequality at the same. Difficult to fight the same ladder you're trying to climb. Coco, who's a climber, is layered and strong and she's very different from me. I love her as a character.
But politically, I don't find myself aligned with her. On a personal, visceral level, it takes too much out of me to do that Work. To smile and to keep your facial muscles smooth when a microaggression manifests out of thin air to remind you that you are different. Even the act of bracing oneself, tensing all those muscles for the slap that never comes, it's a lot. It's a Lot. And there are days I'm less prepared for it than others. This week's been a trying one for that.
Something else that happened over the weekend: an all-male Sherlockian organization voted to let in non-males for the first time in its 77-year history. It was one of a handful (perhaps four?) of boys clubs left standing in the US. My understanding is that organizations often wait for founders to die before taking these votes, out of respect. When this particular vote happened, it was unanimous.
Responses have varied; if you're reading this, you probably well know. Congrats! So proud! all the way to wtf guys, it's 2017, did you want a cookie? It's the responses to the latter sentiment that have, from afar, managed to wear me thin. On a thin week that only got thinner. In a thin year. And I'm not in the comment threads myself, so I'm really just rubbernecking and getting tired in my heart over internal things, things I'm seeing in my circles. I can cop to that. And so I know that some comments have been deleted for being uncivil (unclubbable?), and I know that I'm coming to it from a place of unrest to start with. But. I also know where I am on the spectrum of comments, of sentiment, and know that my feelings cross that line between jerk and non-jerk (a line I had no part in drawing). My feelings are censorable. Maybe not amongst my immediate friends, but certainly not polite amongst many who aren't.
And truth be told, I don't feel terribly civil. I don't feel congratulatory. But neither do I want to get into an argument to change hearts and minds; I'm pre-exhausted by just the thought. You can't make people like you or invite you into their club. This is a thing I've heard before, prior to this week. It's a legal argument on the one hand -- private clubs aren't subject to laws the way public organizations are. It's a social one on the other -- being loud and obnoxious won't make anyone in an ostensibly social group want to socialize with you. Or so the logic goes. So if they do something that was wholly in their power to never do, it's a net good in the world. Be happy. Be grateful.
Part of me just can't brook with it. The smile muscles don't want to move, I don't know what else to say (despite being in the middle of trying). I feel as stiff and cranky as if I'd been nicely catcalled. No, you can't make people like you, can't make people invite you, accept you, befriend you, but repentance and an apology doesn't mean mean you're entitled to smiles and forgiveness either. (Assuming there's an apology in there; to be honest, I haven't seen one in this particular context, but take that from someone who gets everything second and thirdhand.)
And here's where I really start thinking about abuse and apologies and conciliation and smiles and the line behind which I'm looking directly at Coco, who's climbing up that rope that I think looks janky as fuck. Even if it takes a long time for someone to stop doing something bad, don't shame them when they do. It only makes it more difficult for them to convince their friends of the rightness of the cause, because then they're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't.
Maybe they're just...damned? Yeah, maybe that's accurate.
I have...so very little patience for this, as it turns out. I keep thinking of abusers and forgiveness and you can't make someone like you. You also can't demand forgiveness when you've done wrong, but you do what you can to earn it. The point isn't forgiveness, the point is understanding and regret and corrective action. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do. If that's not good enough, maybe you're not being very good, whatever your reasons. Maybe you didn't know before; but then you did. And when was that, was that this week?
If you need coaxing and cookies to do good, and you can't handle apologizing if you don't get forgiven for doing bad, you need Cocos in your life to do all that Work; I don't have the energy for it. I don't have it in me to be happy about steps in the right direction. Someone out there will. Lots of someones. Cocos who have worked it all from the inside all this time, Cocos who are ambitious and smart and can't be arsed to picket and yell, who constitutionally find it better to do and react how they do, instead of reacting how I do.
I swear we (mostly) all want the same thing, but between here and there is a gulf of frustration about method and tone and gatekeeping and every kind of policing. And me, with my meandering, ridiculous thoughts (sorry). I don't think I'm made for fighting or peacemaking. Not this week.
Also, hi. I don't really blog. I just wanted to write...something.