I’ve had a lot of thoughts during this election. And many more confusions. Or of times being hesitant or impatient. Questioning my self in actions and behaviors and even in thoughts. And, in a most improbable place, my weekend home, Hot Mass, a gay afterhours disco, I heard a statement that coalesced around all of my meditations:
fear is a privilege
But that isn’t enough. Even the remaining puzzle piece, once determined, must be rotated into place. The same is of our ethics and logic even when pertaining directly to, and/or influenced by, the whimsy of emotion. I needed to think about what that meant. How to explain the culmination of, by this point, over a year of my being inundated with stimuli ranging from emotional pleas, to fact determination, or process of elimination and simply being told I’m wrong or right. We have all had this. Rich and poor, queer and cisgender, whatever color, ethnicity or nation of origin. We all experience life through one unique lens. Mine isn’t perfect, nor is yours. It doesn’t come from, or not come from, belong to or controlled by divinity, at least not directly. It has been molded, even in the strictest ideologies of creationism, through generations upon generations, celebrations and catastrophes, stories of legend and anecdote to the neutral zenith of the present. So what kind of fear is a privilege?
I hated the movie Crash and my friend loved it. They saw in it the cogs unable to swivel in systems not of their design. I saw a ridiculous trivialization of racism being more complex. Our discussion wasn’t unlike a number of talks we had. They were usually diametric (diatribe on my part) over wine I thought was too bitter or they thought was too sweet. And as I’ve grown older my pride suffers greatly knowing how wrong I was. Or, advocating for my pride, blame my intelligence for overlooking a truth they could identify in the world and within themselves. I was just too smart. (i’m literally shaking my head at myself for writing that last sentence, it’s not just you)
But it was my intelligence. I was brash, rigid, history was fact, science was proof and unwavering in my commitment to my way of thinking. To the way of many individuals way of thinking. But my friend saw something I didn’t see, or saw and did not correlate or tolerate. The chaos of expectations. It’s almost like The Butterfly Effect where the wisp of the powered wing thousands of miles away reverberates to the beginnings of a great storm. In between the reality of ourselves and the reality that surrounds us a friction occurs. Stresses can produce fractures. Determination can limit perception. Opulence indulges ignorance. They identified racism as the villain where I saw the actors as being weak. My friend also spoke frequently about the fragility of everything. To them, weakness was not a handicap, but a condition required of our humanity.
They photographed me a decade before I came out and transitioned as transgender. And on one of the pictures they wrote me a poem.
They knew more of me than I did. They saw, constantly, what I could not. I’ve thought of them as I thought about fear because of another thought they had, but one in which I didn’t disagree or agree because only empathy and understanding mattered. And it’s a quote that isn’t rivaled by any collection of words I’ve heard before or since. “I hate hospitals. I can’t stand them. I’m afraid. It’s the smell like death. It’s where people go to die.”
They grew up in Zimbabwe. To them, their experience, their childhood was radically different than mine. To them, hospitals were where people died. Medicine in many countries around the world is focused on containment of disease. Quarantining the sick is cheaper than the prescriptions and vaccines taken for granted elsewhere. Local beliefs might also make vaccinations or other medical modernities suspect so corralling the sick to a single place keeps the most safe most effectively. I didn’t share their view of hospitals because I had an alternative, but my reaction was the same to nursing homes when I was a child visiting them on a school trip. I faked being sick once to not go. An irony entirely not lost on me now. And putting these two thoughts, not of my own, together I had a workable frame. What did I perceive as a child? What perceptions did I neglect for more palatable ideals and truths? How do I think again as such?
fear chosen is a privilege.
chosen fear is a privilege.
Adding choice as both a descriptor and modifier creates two unique privileges. Choosing to be fearful and also choosing what, specifically, should be feared. Another privilege is choosing how to fear, but that remains entirely outside my current focus (see how determination limits perception?). Free will, then, ought to grant us the ability to choose twice in any emotional response. Once in our ethos and once in our telos. I imagine that is what they saw in Crash. They saw how the actors choose fear more than other emotions, and, perhaps, without choosing what fear. It wasn’t a logical decision by them. They all were victims. They all suffered. I only saw a shooting of an innocent person of color. My determination for history and science, fact and proof limited my perception that the intangible isn’t intangible. It’s there when we don’t perceive it, and when we ignore it. It doesn’t care if we think it isn’t or when we yell about it. It’s irritatingly complex while being deceptively simple. Like an illusion drawn on a sheet of paper seen from one direction holding three dimensions when in all other points of view clearly holding two.
On the eve of this election this is my thought process. At the start of the year I wanted to return to activism and to politics. After Bernie Sanders did not achieve the Democratic nomination and did not announce a third-party bid for the presidency I did not want to acquiesce to Hillary Clinton. In watching Donald Trump accepting the nomination for Republican candidate I was bewildered, while a part of me knew that this was also expected. Part of me knew Clinton being nominated was also expected. And so much chaos between them. When we expect we stress. When we stress we fracture. When we focus we lose sight of our periphery. And in our decadence, our hubris, we remain ignorant. The expected is chaotic. The unexpected serendipitous .
I don’t want to be an activist. Nor engaged in politics. I don’t want to fight or care about so many things. It’s too much. And in them, not only am I focusing too much, but I am focusing and operating within fear. Hindsight is 20/20. Envisioning the future is somewhere between blind and our most advanced lenses viewing deep into space. Astonishingly beautiful and yet lacking in full clarity.
we’re fragile alone. fragile together.
I wasn’t wrong to feel betrayed and angry after Obama campaigned on a message of hope. Likewise I am not wrong to feel wary of Clinton and choosing to vote them into office. My feelings are valid. I thought transparency of government, disengaging from conflicts and regime change, open internet, healthcare accessibility and advancements in the rights and protections afforded to women, queer and minority communities were the goals. And many of them were warped or not pursued beyond symbolic gesture. But I was wrong in feeling betrayed and angry at hope. My cynicism blamed, and also refuted, an entire emotion because I singled out Obama and placed all my hope in that. Tomorrow my hope is not in Trump. Or Clinton. Or Johnson or Stein. Or the people voting for Bernie despite him clearly saying thank you, but can we not? It is where it should always have been. In me. Behind egg shell thin walls strong as a castle. I hope they’re in you as well. We’re fragile alone. Fragile together. Choose an emotion. Choose what to emote over. We’ve changed our culture through terror and rage. Made decisions, then, in grief. Condescended in laurels and payment upon our amazement to our created arts. Stressed in our vigilance. Loathing and admiring our peers in all stratifications of society. When did we ever choose ecstasy? Where is our elation? Where is our hope? It’s there. Waiting to be chosen.