On Wednesday night I was stopped in the gym by a patient who wanted to tell me that his bowel movements had improved. After telling me about his poop he said that at first he didn’t recognize me because I didn’t have a beard the day before in clinic. I didn’t think anything of it until my friend Jill came up to me and asked me if I was a Chia pet. No streaking at all, the patient said as I leaned up against his treadmill trying to catch my breath. Good good, I replied inching back towards the door before he pulled out his phone to show me pictures. I’d seen the pictures yesterday in clinic, and I figured that I didn’t need to see them again. I was escaping back onto the rowing machine because I’m spoiled and I was tired of running outside in the cold. Spring lowered my defenses for the past couple of weeks, and then camping, birds, green grass, and warm breezes all gave way to 10 days of rain, sleet and snow. On Wednesday there was enough snow to plow the roads.
If my mind is slow to adjust to the changing winds, my body and beard evidently change just fine. The night before the real snow hit, my phone informed me that bad things were to come. I went to a fundraiser dinner with my friend and I immediately started packing in calories in case everything went to shit. I continued that course late into the night, finishing off a box of Samoas, two quesadillas, and some Moose Tracks ice cream with Sandies crumbled on top. I don’t care how many people make fun of me for eating Sandies. They’re delicious and they put me right back in Agnes’s kitchen where Drayton and I would sit after school and tell her about our day. I woke up on Wednesday morning to snow on the ground and ice cream on the corners of my mouth. Life’s real tough up here in the north country.
That’s the hard thing though, because in so many ways I live a perfect life. I love my work, I have great friends, great health, and a family that I value more than anything in this world. My joy however doesn’t negate the fact that injustice is rampant and there are plenty of people who need change to achieve a basic human standard of living. Unlike me, most people don’t have the luxury to wait around for change to come. I just finished reading Sister Outsider by Audre Lourde, and there was a lot that I liked, some that I loved, and occasionally things that I couldn’t stand. Mostly however, she reminded me how insane this racist and sexist society that we live in is. Her writing doesn’t need my validation, but I appreciated how she created moments in which the curtain was pulled back and I was left staring dumbly at the page and wondering how the fuck we got here.
I am by no means woke and I sleepwalk through most of my interactions comfortably cushioned by my own privilege. However, once smarter people than me start to blow away the smokescreen of normative racism and sexism, it becomes hard to stay blind. Questioning my reality however can be disconcerting. I walk to work and see the American flag fly over the veterans memorial, go to bowling league most Friday nights, and drink too much beer and then sing karaoke at the steakhouse. This life is good and easy. The real world though is more interesting, troubling, and unjust. Given America’s history of violent colonial intervention abroad and it’s foundation on slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, it’s impossible to maintain the illusion of American moral superiority. Values matter much more than borders. Reactionary good-ol-boys in Kazakhstan, Mexico, or Ely have much more in common with each other (regardless of politics) than they do with people in each country who advocate for social justice.
There’s simply too much information available today to stay asleep to the insanity of racial and sexual injustice in America. As I continue to work towards being a part of the solution, I know that I’ll fuck up often. For a while I was concerned that there were too many liberals engaging in “woke-offs” (I stole that from a friend) with each other, because it’s easier to pick apart someone who agrees with you than address the very real and scary problems that exist with people whose world view you find abominable. I still think it’s stupid to argue with people in order to out politically correct them for the sake of my own ego. Now however, I think that’s only part of the story. White liberals like myself can’t possibly know what it’s like to fear for our lives and the lives of our children at the hands of those sworn to protect us due to the color of our skin. I have no idea what it means to live in a world where the story of my life is twisted and corrupted into various narratives in which I am a lesser human. With that in mind, I’m going to try as hard as I can to stay open to critiques of my own behaviors and viewpoints. I want to do this because although cliche, I know that my freedom is bound in the freedom of those around me and that it is impossible to fight for justice in the world if I can’t do it in my own heart.