As a writer, I tend to steer away from Politics (with a capital P). But I consider both my work as a writer and as an educator to be very political, and sometimes I need to be more explicit about that fact. The horrific and tragic act of violent racism which has occurred in America this past week has produced such a time. My blog is my public forum, and today I need to use it as such.
I do not want to make this post in any way about me, but I do need to note straight away my awareness of my own privilege. I am white. I am financially comfortable. I have access to resources. I am also a woman. I am a baby boomer and therefore older than many. I am also a Jew. None of these matter except to help explain my personal perspective and where it has come from. The following thoughts are, obviously, my own.
The United States is a country conceived in an idealistic dream. It is also a country founded on a bedrock of anger. It is a country steeped in a dangerous mythology of individuality and meritocracy. The mythology is dangerous because it is based on a lie. America purports to be an historic experiment. But it is an experiment which, after more than 200 years, must be seen to be a failure. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th is, once again, proof of the anger and lies at the root of the failure of the American experiment.
I have spent most of my adult life living and working in countries outside of the United States, the country where I was born and raised. I have seen first hand the successes and failures of other systems, and have listened to the disbelieving bewilderment of others as they watch the American experiment flounder and collapse.
I have witnessed the anger and dangerous lies at the heart of this country, as well. Tragic examples have arisen time and time again over fifty years. In my lifetime I have watched the beginnings of the civil rights movement and the violence that engendered; the start of feminism, and the anger that created; the mistake of the Vietnam War, and the lies that started it. Unfortunately, there have been many examples before then and since. The reasons are sometimes different, but the impetus is always the same.
A cycle exists which is played out over and over. Lies are told. Anger erupts. Power is abused. Then more lies, more anger, and more abuse. I can’t help but believe that this cycle is a direct result of millions of people over centuries of time being fed a dream that claims nothing is more important than the individual. Nothing is more important than an individual’s money, class and status. I am more important than you. Plus I have the guns to prove it. Racism, violence, and egotism lie at the heart of this country, and therefore the experiment has betrayed each and every one of us. The extent of my own feeling of having been betrayed, time and again, is not the point here. The point is, rather, what can I, being who I am, do about it?
In order to protect my mental health during the pandemic, I have been staying away from the media. But the murder of George Floyd has forced me to read the articles and blogs that I can no longer ignore. They, and the discussions I have been having with trusted advisors, have taught me a great deal about what a privileged white woman can do. She can acknowledge the grief and fear of her fellow countrymen and women and say she is sorry. She can speak up and speak out, saying what is difficult and frightening to say out loud, but saying it nonetheless. She can remember her history and hold on to its lessons. She can look for progress even amidst the failures. She can examine her intentions and then recognize that her actions are even more important. And then she can fight for change. She can act.
We all have different roads to take towards those ends. I promise I will continue to find my own road, even if torturous and steep, and make my way along it, how best I can.