If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk. --Newt Gingrich (July, 2016)
Token, I get it now. I don't get it. I've been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I'll never understand. I'll never really get how it feels for a black person to have somebody use the N word. I don't get it. --South Park (March, 2007)
The most profound thing a person can do is admit there is a problem. This week, USonians admitted they have a problem. It was an obvious problem. And, as problems go, it had many symptoms, and many couch-doctors offering up well meaning diagnoses.
"Too many guns," some said.
"Not enough guns," others said.
"Racism," more said.
"Blue lives matter."
Orlando, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Mathew Shepard. James Byrd.
More guns, less guns, love, empathy, rule of law, Second Amendment... everyone had a general diagnosis for this week, but it reminded me of the story of the blind men and the elephant--you know, the one where some blind men feel up an elephant and conclude that the molested beast is anything other than what it is.
We have a race problem. True. Very true. So very true that even racists step back occasionally and say, "If you are a normal, white American, you don't understand..."
We have a white privilege problem. Also true. I know I've done things that would've gotten me put away for a long time if I'd been a different color. Or a different sex. Or a sex different from the one with which I identify. (I'm white.)
Which, by the way: We have a gender problem. If you don't know what CIS means, please look it up. And if you don't understand why nodding 'yes' at every Caitlyn Jenner interview is a failure on your part, take a moment to consider that Caitlyn Jenner supports a political party that endorses, in an Old Testament sense, her eradication.
Also, we have a gun problem.
Which is an interesting problem to have. It is quite literally the Founding Fathers anticipation of Anton Chekhov--they hung the Second Amendment up over the mantle, and we're now in the third act (which is funny because there are no second acts in American lives--we've already beat conventional wisdom!).
There are no good guys with guns. There are humans with guns, of course. But there are humans with spades as well. There are humans with knives. There are humans with screwdrivers. There are humans with fingers. There are humans with many kinds of tools, and a gun is a tool. Fingers, knives, screwdrivers, hammers, remote controls--all tools. All tools are, if used with enough determination, lethal. I get it.
But the Second Amendment only protects the right to wield one of those tools. The Second Amendment does not cover--in fact, no where in the Constitution is it stated that we have the right to--fingers. Hammers are not mentioned. Knives are not included. We did have the right to own people the same color as Tamir Rice, but we didn't have the right to own our own fingers, which with enough determination can be as deadly as a gun.
You can take my fingers from my cold, dead hands.
What's interesting about this week is that people did not vilify #BlackLivesMatter. An angry Black man shot a lot people, and for the most part we...
took a moment. We, no matter our politics and no matter our Cis/race/age/finger-count, took that...
moment. It gives me hope. It gives a lot of people hope, which validates my own hope and so I feel okay in acknowledging it: Hope.
Some have tried to dull the overall arc of the moral universe, which is okay. That's why the arc isn't truly an arc. It bends, but it also doesn't form a beautiful rainbow (Because I'm gay, I think in rainbows).
Dr. King said this: The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.
There are a lot of people who would like to make that arc a scythe.
There are a lot of people who have made the arc a dull and jagged thorn.
But it is amazing to me that everyone I know has decided two things:
1) Understand that the 5 cops in Dallas were killed by an insane person. Guns are not fingers. Guns are not humans.
2) Understand that love is a nice thing, with frilly bits and occasional hugs. We can disagree a lot, but we all should disagree with a bend toward justice. And justice bends.
Just, you know, be kind to one another. And do not assume you know it all. Black lives matter and...
I shouldn't have to tell you this.
Jesus, I'm a gay man who has a pretty secure gay-to-white ratio. I'm not likely to be shot, but there is a spectrum--if I kiss my husband in the wrong restaurant, or on the wrong streetcorner in the wrong state... All it takes is one insane person having a very bad day. But while I worry about assholes, I am not black. I know the bending arc. I know justice. It bent very sharply for people like me.
For black men? It doesn't bend. It dawdles, meanders, and bullets travel much more quickly than justice.
Be kind. Be kind. Be kind.
Life is awful for every one of us.