Sunday, July 14, 2013

There are moments when something that you know becomes something that you feel. And that feeling is itself a kind of knowledge. It reveals the degree to which you adjusted to the world, though the world has always been quite hostile to you. 

In such a moment, the truth is inflamed. We live in a terrible time amidst terrible institutions. Antipathy transmutes into blame, accusations of iniquity. The collective tradition, the aggregate of customs and background perspectives that we have inherited from the past, slowly reaches up from its hateful depth and corrodes us from within. 

That acid burned me into suspicion and resentment long ago, as it had my mother, as it had my grandmother. And since that darkness, that is, the norms of American culture, have been with me so long, I limited contact with those who didn't understand me, or didn't speak my world to those who I knew would not understand but who I could not avoid. The limitation of contact is a privilege that many don't have. 

Unable to avoid, they get the worst of the world of another. Maybe they are pulled over by the authority. Maybe they work under an authority, maybe they just encounter a peer who lives in a perspective validated by the authority. It doesn't matter. In each case they stand before the law in all the ways that Kafka said. The law is senseless and traumatic because it comes to us not from reason but from history, which is senseless and traumatic for those who don't commune with historical forces of authority. 

The thing about a norm is that it is transparent to the person who wields it. It often takes a moment of contrast to reveal that this way of encountering or acting within the world is one among many and one has the option of acting in another way. A person who thinks that being gay is a choice is asked, "when did you decide to be straight?" The question creates the contrast. The contrast reveals the norm. The norm is visible as tradition and tradition can be shed. But questions are not enough for everyone. Some people just sit with their closed communities, proclaiming, why can't they see this? It's so obvious these people deserve what they get. 

The people who are are getting it often see a different world with the same kind of "clarity." Though in this case it doesn't matter because their perspectives have no power. And they are suffering in ways that are not visible to the powerful. 

Well, certain kinds of suffering are visible in ways that serve the powerful. But not visible in ways that punish the perspectives that cause others to suffer or to die in the gated communities in Orlando. That is what racial antipathy is, after all; the implicit distaste for the life of another. 

I have known my place in this landscape for quite some time now. But now I have been made once again to feel what I know. It is a shame that the greatest gift I give to my daughter will be my hatred.

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