Culture Shock (Wednesday Blog 8/16)

Some vacations recharge you, some inspire you. Some exhaust you, and some confuse you. I’ll say that this vacation was largely exhausting and confusing, and leave it at that… but frankly it all pales in comparison to what I came back to.

Emerging from 2 weeks in a tent, and spending time out of the world, to the events of Charlottesville VA, a town that really REALLY deserved better. Honestly I’m reminded of towns in France during the second world war. This fight is important, it’s not really about you, and I’m fucking sorry it wound up in your yard.

To say that I’m staggered is the palest of understatements. I know damn near all of us are talking about this right now, so I am one voice of many, but you have to talk about this. How can you NOT talk about this? The country I’m seeing around me right now is like an Ionesco play interpreted by Wagner. I mean, seriously people, what the fuck?

This crazy, chaotic, deeply-flawed experiment we live in arose in some really questionable circumstances. Engineered by some truly questionable and deeply-flawed people. It’s a republic based on the notion of equality that started without anything LIKE equality. It’s a democratic experiment that still tries to maintain the ability of capitalist entities to grow and thrive. It’s a messy, painful, insane, hot mess of a country.

And I still love the ideas.

They’re good ideas. Good sentiments.

Some of my fellow, white, cis-male ‘brothers’ however seem to forget that ongoing progress requires change and effort. Yeah, the system as designed was, from “our” perspective perfect as-was:

“Hey man, all us white dudes are equal! Yeah! You don’t get to be better than me, and I don’t get to be better than you. Awesome! DudeBroDemocracy for the win!

… what?  What do you mean chicks and non-white dudes and … whoah non-white CHICKS?! Dudes that were born with the bodies of chicks?! DUDE! I just wanna live man, why you gotta make it so COMPLICATED??!!!”

 

I gotta tell you: I was raised with like EVERY core “normalcy” of the alt-right’s list of values. I’m a white son of educated middle-class US-born citizens. Raised protestant. I’m Cis-Male, currently living a heteronormative existence. I’m middle-class, middle-age, middle-height. I’m reasonably attractive. I was a boy scout, reached Eagle. I learned to hunt and fish. I’ve worked hard and done well for myself.

But… looking at everything I was raised to value and protect?

I DON’T RECALL ANY OF IT TELLING ME TO VALUE WHITE OVER PEOPLE OF COLOR. MALE OVER FEMALE. HETERONORMATIVITY OVER ANYTHING ELSE.

… But I remember people saying that it did.

I read the same BSA handbook as the NeoNazis who are waving MY FLAG. My Boy Scout Handbook talked about valuing people of other cultures and religions. It had drawings of boy and girl scouts around the world… it stressed the importance of the brother and sisterhood of scouting. (I know the BSA has had some serious issues over homosexual scouts and leaders, and we’ve finally addressed some of that… it took some of us sending back our Eagle patches in protest, and also the language has always been binary with regard to gender, but… again, working on that)

I remember my pastor in church saying that it was right to give thanks and praise for life, for fellowship, for community. Saying we should reach out with love and help people. I remember hugging my neighbors. I’ve left faith because it doesn’t call to me, but THOSE are the lessons I recall learning.

Privilege is something we are all born with varying levels of, and it takes maturity and time to see and realize your own.

HAVING privilege doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re born with whatever level you have. It’s not your fault. BUT… it’s not your DOING either, you know? You don’t get to be proud of what you’ve “achieved” by accident of birth.

ABUSING privilege. Seeking to MAINTAIN privilege? THAT makes you a bad person.

Marching in defense of your privilege over others? Believing that some mysterious “other” is going to “replace” you at the top of a completely synthetic artifact of societal bigotry?

THAT makes you evil.

 

I think we should be proud of the USA. The concept is solid. It needs work, CONSTANT and MISERABLE work. But it’s solid. It’s a concept we can be proud of and be proud to improve on. And the core of that concept is simple:

Liberty. Equality. Justice. Opportunity. FOR ALL.

…. seriously, that’s it. We’ve come a long freaking way, and we have a long way to go… but that? THAT is what our stars and stripes stand for.

Other flags and symbols that people want to carry don’t stand for that… they’re not part of the agreement. I’m getting really tired of seeing the Confederate battle flag of Virginia… (even the black and blue and red “Law Enforcement” and “Fire Service” flags. Look, I worked as a first-responder for a long time, but what… they’re somehow “more” than Americans?)

… and how anyone, anywhere, can use the NAZI FUCKING FLAG outside of a theatrical performance or a living history exhibit?

The mind boggles.

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