Sunday, March 29, 2015

We're In This Together.



"Who really cares?
Who's willing to try
to save a world
that is destined to die?

When I look at the world
it fills me with sorrow.
Little children today
really gonna suffer tomorrow.
Oh, what a shame.
Such a bad way to live.
Oh, who is to blame
when we can't stop living?

Live, live your life.
Live, live for life.
But let live everybody.
Live life for the children."


In a world that, on the surface, exalts and even overvalues childhood, there exists the dual reality of a world that denigrates the worth of a child's life. Time and time again, the lives of youths, the lives of human beings are snuffed out, and we who survive them argue over the corpse to no end.

Having just discussed it with a friend who held a different viewpoint, I turn to the Tamir Rice case. I don't know if Officer Loehmann was acting maliciously. I can't say one way or the other what provoked said officer to shoot that child, but Tamir Rice lost his life as a result of this man drawing a firearm and firing. There is no contextualization that can change this. Tamir Rice is a victim, his victimhood cannot be erased on any grounds. The only immutable fact in all this is that Officer Loehmann ended Tamir's life, anything else is speculative and unfounded. But still, there are those among us assigning blame to Tamir, there are some of us absolving Officer Loehmann of all blame and there are some of us laying all the blame at the feet of law enforcement officers in general.

I cannot assign blame to anyone, to any individual person, nor to even groups of individuals(e.g. "whites", "blacks", police officers, etc). I assign blame to the institutions that inform our perceptions, as these institutions, originally perceptions themselves, invite the occurrence of such situations. Institutions are perceptions and intellectual concepts that underwent a long process of reification: an earlier generation of people held a viewpoint, and that viewpoint was perpetuated through enough ensuing generations that it, the viewpoint, was transformed into a key component of our present social reality. Prejudice is interwoven into our social fabric, and the psychological and physical ramifications of having people in positions of power being taught to perceive certain people a certain way based on subjective criteria is what is meant by institutionalized racism/sexism/etc. Institutionalized racism is not a mythic "White Man" out to destroy minorities. It is, instead, a set of attitudes ingrained in the minds of the American elite that lead not only those elites, but Americans in general, to criminally, though generally unconsciously (but consciously more often than most would like to admit to), undervalue the abilities and even the lives of people who register as unfamiliar. Institutionalized prejudices are a set of attitudes that lead persons with socioeconomic leverage to, in the name of fairness, undermine the efforts of the disadvantaged to uplift themselves ("I built myself up, why can't you?"). Again, it is important to note that, in general, this destructive activity occurs sans any critical assessment, these people aren't thinking. They are reacting, and everyone suffers for that lack of self-awareness. Prejudice on its own(e.g. "I don't like black people", "I don't like children", "I hate feminists", etc) is not what we struggle against. No, we struggle against prejudices that have been operationalized into agents of oppression through the process of institutionalization. In other words, when people with those harmful unconscious attitudes are given the lawful power to kill people, we all suffer- THAT is what we struggle against.

With respect to all that, it is clear that Tamir was the victim of an event that involves multiple things beyond just his skin color and a toy gun. It's deeper than race and even government regulations of toy gun manufacturers(not that those things aren't factors, but that they're secondary). There is a fundamental issue with how we as Americans understand violence. Violence is the oldest human institution, it stands above and supersedes all other modes of oppression and separation. As such, I believe that it is a social issue that can't be resolved by reducing the terms of engagement to race, ethnicity, orientation, gender identity, etc, or even to the individual actors who participated in the event. These things have been intertwined and made inexorable from each other. Though each -ism is indeed worthy of individuated study, to understand them as separate things does a disservice to the cause of resolving them, as they are each different aspects of the same thing.

But let me make it clear: It is of the utmost important to recognize that we ARE different, that there are "White" Americans, "Black" Americans, Hetero Americans, LBGQT Americans, etc etc. To say that you are color blind in regard to race(i.e. to reject skin color's very existence), is to say that you are both willfully ignorant(there are very obviously different skin colors) and uneducated("it is the mark of an educated mind to entertain an idea without accepting it" - a quote that I understand this way: an educated person can listen to, absorb and retain the points of a different/conflicting view without it destroying or immediately replacing their own worldview). So no, do not pretend to be color blind in an attempt to be inclusive. Instead, communicate with the people who are different from you, learn from them and broaden your worldview(more than even that, simpler than even that - make some friends, man!). And to truly and properly communicate means that we have to recognize that when people who identify as Black find the courage to admit that they are suffering, we have to give them the space to express their suffering and not derail their expressions with "NO YOU'RE WRONG, ALL LIVES MATTER NOT JUST YOURS!"-esque comments. That means that we have to step back and allow transgender persons to express themselves and their struggles, we cannot tell them "WHY CAN'T YOU JUST BE A BOY/GIRL, WHY DO YOU HATE YOURSELF." Said simply: shut the hell up and listen.

Regardless of how well-intentioned we may be in offering our opinions, the reality is that our opinions are not as valuable as our time, our ear, our patience, our attention and our love. In offering our opinions without prompt, all we are doing is imposing ourselves on their already frayed consciousness, obstructing our own cause of developing a genuine sense of community and togetherness. As people working toward resolving human strife, we must quiet our uniformed opinions and allow those who suffer as we all do to inform us of the nature of their suffering. And even where our experiences may be similar enough to encourage bonding, it must be kept in mind that we can never, ever completely and absolutely translate our experiences to the experiences of another. We each experience ourselves and our lives in a way that is too intensely personal for anyone outside of our minds to know the absolute truth of our experience. But in spite of that, all is not lost. Though we may never know with absolute certainty, we as human beings are gifted with one true power: the capacity to understand. The potential for understanding each other is why it is imperative that people are not only given the time and space to express themselves, but also having a loving and inclusive audience to receive them.

I may never know all there is to know about you, it is probable that I never will.

But if I quiet myself and genuinely listen to you, I can understand you. As a human being, it is within me to understand all things. Therefore, to "tolerate" you as though you were a burden to be endured, this is insufficient and unacceptable.

Our work is not done until we can all turn to each other and say: My friend, I am come to be with you, to share this harrowing experience of life with you. Though we experience life alone, I am come to see that you will never again know loneliness. Where you have been broken, I am come to restore. Where you have felt forgotten, I am come to recollect you. I am come not to tolerate you. I am come to understand you. No, I am come for more than even that.

I am come to love you.




"Father, father...
we don't need to escalate.
War is not the answer...
for only love can conquer hate.

You know we've got to find a way
to bring some lovin' here today..."

(forgive the continued allusion if it offends, but to know me is to know music.. anyone who has seen me has seen music. lol)

From a perspective of love, another distinction must be made: inclusive =/= politically correct. To be inclusive is to communicate more effectively, to be politically correct is to attempt to avoid conflict. The sturdiest and truest friendships are forged in the context of openness, there can be no avoidance of conflict. It must be faced head on, together(and doing so comes with the added benefit of deepening the relationship after the conflict has been faced together). Therefore, the point of inclusivity isn't to say we should, for example, take someone who murders children and ask them why in an attempt to relate to them emotionally. Instead, the idea here is that we can't reduce enormous social issues to our differences. We will never be able to absolutely know one another, this is currently impossible given the nature of human perception. But we can work toward being more than tolerant. The way inclusive parents love their transgender children because said youths are their children, this is the way we must love one another because we all are human. Love does not require accepting another's choices as ones we might have made ourselves given their circumstances. Rather, it requires understanding ourselves as separate from one another regardless of circumstance, it requires that we afford every human being we meet the same respect we desire ourselves(in respect to a child murderer, I believe that a trial, in theory, is as much love and respect as can be shown such a person, making the effort to hear their side speaks to a very nearly inhuman level of patience and respect, given the common inclination toward vigilantism or vitriol against such persons).

More to the point - focusing on our differences would not resolve our issues because our differences are not why our issues exist. Were we all one race, one faith, one sex, one gender and of one language, there would STILL be violence, still oppression. That we are different is only an excuse for aggression and violence. The essence of all human strife is, to me, rooted in need and the fear of not having. Violence itself, this is a thing fundamental to American culture, it is the foundation upon which this nation was built(to suggest anything else is ahistorical). So "but what about black on black crime!" is a ridiculous stance to take if you're honestly trying to solve this thing, as every American race perpetrates violent against itself - you're going to find that people tend to act criminally toward the people closest to them(and it just so happens that many Americans segregate themselves according to creed and color) . That isn't to say we should overlook topics such as "black on black crime" but rather that we should understand it as a subset of a much larger thing and not use them as ammunition to derail conversations about understanding the humanity inherent in the persons we, historically and currently, tend to marginalize.

The American institution of violence transcends faith, ethnicity, race, nationality and anything else we identify ourselves by. It affects each and everyone of us, whether we are the one being harmed or not("An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."). It's not about demonizing police or exalting Black Americans, it's about recognizing that people everywhere are destroying one another, killing one another. And there is no solving this issue until we recognize that while we are all human, our experiences are separate, unique and different and have to be respected as such. More, there is and will be no resolving our issues until we recognize that while we are all unique and different, physical, emotional and mental need is universal.

How we understand violence must change.

And a paradigm shift of this magnitude, from a viewpoint grown through centuries of bloodshed to a viewpoint centered on inclusiveness will inevitably invite violence, it's the nature of many people to resist change, perhaps even violently so. But there will be no future for our children and their children if we don't at least try.

tl;dr - We all in this together, fam.

-----------------
May love ever possess you, may peace come into your life.

p.s. - I'm willing, Marvin... I'm willing.

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