So today I thought I might post a little post about how age catches up with everyone. I went for an eye exam today, and sure enough it is time for me to get progressive lenses. (In the past, these would have been bifocals, but with today’s lens technology they are really multi-focals.) The lenses have been ordered; I will have them in a couple of weeks.
Or I might have posted about my upcoming photography plans. The Great American Eclipse is a little more than a week away, and the long-range weather forecast looks good in both locations, so here’s to hoping that the weather stays that way. Or at least changes enough times to cycle back to being good. Or I might have talked about trying to catch the Perseid meteor shower tonight – that weather forecast is more dicey, as it is currently thunder-storming.
But when I logged on and checked my various news feeds – from friends, acquaintances, and the national news – it became clear that these topics didn’t really matter today. Oh, they will matter; in a day or two or ten, or perhaps in five years. They will matter. But not right now. Right now there are pressing concerns facing this nation. The ugly underside of racism, white supremacy, and nationalism has exposed itself in full force. These elements have been here in the nation for a long time, but their proponents have had the decency to maintain a veneer of not being racist. They only exposed their racism when they thought people weren’t watching. But that veneer, which has been falling off and being replaced since November, has been removed and discarded. Now, apparently, it is acceptable to show hatred to other humans.
Seeing the news of today – of torches and terrorism in Charlottesville (and yes, terrorism – when a car purposefully plunges into a crowd of people in London or Paris, we call it terrorism; we should do the same when it happens in Charlottesville) – seeing this news makes me want to withdraw from the world, find a little corner to curl up in, and ignore what is going on. Perhaps with a book and a cup of hot chocolate.
Maybe I would have done that when I was younger. But, age catches up with everybody. How we react to events when we are forty is quite different than how we would react to those same events when we are twenty. And so I will not pull away from these stories.
There is little I can do about this, however. It is this powerlessness that makes me feel frustrated. I am not an expert in race relations. All I am is an amateur with a camera. But photography can be a powerful force, and for these terrorists the veneer is off – they march without hoods. I did look up how far Charlottesville is away from me; a little over four hours diving time. Not too far, as these things go, but by the time I would get there with my camera there would (hopefully) be nothing to take pictures of. And I have my family here to take care of. (“Thus caution doth make house cats of us all.” [Henry Beard, Hamlet’s Cat’s Soliloquy]) So I can only hope that the people there with cameras take and publish the photos that I cannot.
And so I sit and ponder what I can do that is meaningful. I can write words about what I can do, but that is a little bit circular and doesn’t really accomplish anything in the end. I can keep doing what I have done every day – be nice to everybody I meet, and stand against injustice when it makes itself obvious in my presence.
By writing this in this way, I am perhaps putting myself at the center. This is about how I am affected by this, about how I react to this, about how I feel about this. If someone wants to read these words, know this: my voice is not the most important voice to listen to. Listen to the people who are there; listen to the oppressed, the disadvantaged, the underdogs. It is not enough to listen to me. But if you have done that and if you are like me and are confused about how to react and what you can do, then you can listen to me. You are not alone.
It is very difficult for the oppressed to stand by themselves; it takes removal of the oppressors to do that, often through physical force. The only peaceful way for the oppressed to stand is if their oppressors choose to allow them to do so. Thus it is that if an oppressed individual commits some act of violence or material destruction, they are seen as freedom fighters, but if an oppressor does the same they are just seen as aggressors, kicking someone who is already down. And if you believe these people are not oppressed, then you haven’t been paying attention. This is what “privilege” is; the ability to play by the rules that other people have set up to benefit you. If the rules do not benefit you, then playing by those rules gets you nowhere. And we must ask ourselves this: is that fair? Do we want to have rules that advance only those who are already ahead? Note that this is not a question about racial rules, but one about any type of rules: race, economic status, religion, gender – the list goes on.
This is perhaps not a very coherent post. It meanders from thought to thought like a lazy creek cutting through a field. I am not sure what the topic is; perhaps it is just my reaction to the news of the day. But that is sufficient, I believe. And maybe someday I can write about eye exams or photography or a meteor shower without having to worry about terrorists with torches or North Korea or misogyny in the tech industry. Unfortunately, that is not today, nor do I expect it to be for some time.