In this moment where ignorance is revealing itself, even amongst earnest allies, I want to take a minute to thank the “teachers” in my life who made me question everything.
Some of them were actual teachers. Some of them were filmmakers. Some of them were were writers. Philosophers.
And some were friends. I grew up in an environment (home, religion, culture, town) where questioning things wasn’t just looked down upon, it got you ostracized and ridiculed and menaced and beaten. I grew up in the U.S., but at its very edge. We saw the rest of the U.S. through a TV screen, or the radio, or on vacations to pretty places. I had a lot of mixed up ideas.
I’m thankful for every person who ever, in a gesture of kindness, corrected me. At the time, I was probably uncomfortable with the correction. But that uncomfortable sting made me think the next time before I decided to open my mouth and spout opinions that I was just repeating. It made me think the next time when I was hearing opinions from people before I incorporated them or rejected them for myself.
It’s so easy to fall into…it’s no secret that people want to sound intelligent and well-informed. The politicians and the media and the corporations and the church leaders (four heads of the same Hydra) know that most people can only remember so much. So they turn the message into easily digested, tasteless baby food that people will tolerate. And then people go to BBQs and and the water cooler and the golf course and the PTA meeting and just regurgitate these messages to each other. And then they all cluck in agreement. “Puh-caw! That’s the truth!”
They are not required to think as long as they choose a side and stick with the message. And this is comfortable to them.
But what friends can do, what music and film and every other art form can do, is find a friendly and innocuous enough way into that mushy spine of yours and shock it. Just enough to make you stand erect for just a moment and ask, “What the hell was that?”
For some people, the sensation is so uncomfortable, they run scurrying away. For far fewer, the shock and the realization can be tolerated, if not sought after. And then, they are never the same. Eventually they take the right pill and realize the trick is that the spoon isn’t even there at all.
So, now that I am on the other side of these things…I have gone through the low valley of correcting everyone’s papers as though they were graduate students…I have to ask myself, how do we best administer the jolt…the one that makes them stand erect for just a second?
Gian and I were having this conversation last night. It’s easy for him to be indignant about intolerance because he’s 27. A lot of work was done before he was even conscious. It still wasn’t easy, but the inroads had been made. So there are certain things he just knows…not in broad strokes, but in the details as well.
He talked about Bad Bunny’s use of queer identity to sell records in a hypocritical way. The kid is quick and self-assured.
But when we watched 9 to 5 last weekend, he was flabbergasted and kept repeating, “But ”#Metoo’ was just two years ago!” Cognitive dissonance that this film…forty years ago…was asking for things that women are still asking for.
And he sat up a little straighter and leaned in a tiny bit. And I got to be a part of that.
Go forth ye great thinkers and artists,
Older siblings, roommates and subverters of all kinds
Give away your books to share your knowledge instead of showing how much you possess
Invite your friend to listen to a song, or watch a movie, or read a comic
Shine a bit of light on something they never would have seen
Don’t stop looking for the light when someone shines it for your sake
And say thank you, thank you, thank you for awakening this inside of me
I have been changed for the better
I have been changed for good