Posted by: Dan | November 9, 2016

White People

I.Beginnings

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.” ~ Bing Crosby

This is the hottest year on record, just like the one before this year, and the year before that year, and the year before that one, too.  Perhaps our children will only ever know every year as the hottest year on record.  Maybe it’ll be something they celebrate and representatives from the Guinness Book of Records will be on the scene to make the results official and everyone will cheer “New record!!” and confetti will fall from the air and people will drink and embrace and sing a round of Auld Lang Syne and only the very old will remember when we counted the Amazon or the MacKenzie river delta, or the rhinoceros, or the Siberian tiger, or the Great Barrier Reef, or the Blue Whale, as our acquaintances.

~

We went trick or treating and the kids didn’t have to wear snowsuits under their costumes or carry umbrellas to shield themselves from freezing rain.  That’s unusual in this part of the world at the end of October.  Ruby was a Kitty and Charlie was a Pikachu and everyone was polite and smiling and saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome” and “my, what a lovely costume” and “Happy Halloween!” The night was cool but not too cold and the lights from the houses were warm.  Even the monsters were friendly and when things were a little bit scary, well, that was fun.

~

Just yesterday, I was picking up garbage outside of my work and I was wearing a t-shirt and the sun was shining and I wasn’t cold.  That was on the 8th of November.  Remember, remember the 8th of November…

Today is the 9th of November and the snow has yet to fall.  But a white Christmas it will be, a white Christmas it already is, Christmas came early for white people.

For everyone else, a prolonged Halloween has gone from being a spectacle to being the horror that you wake up to every morning, and the monsters have stopped being friendly and the masks have stopped being masks, and it’s not fun being afraid anymore.  It’s the hottest year on record but everything feels cold, cold, cold.

~

Kurt Cobain (from his suicide note): “I have… a daughter who reminds me too much of what i used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function.”

I have a daughter, too (although she isn’t really mine, as if a daughter is a thing that can be owned).  She is a little black cat who likes to parade around the house and pretend to do tricks and fetch things and say “meow,” in the faintest little high-pitched voice.  I sit beside her bed every night and rub your back while she falls asleep.

“I’m going to close my eyes now,” she tells me, “but you can keep rubbing my back.”

“Okay,” I say.

And I do keep rubbing her back as she falls asleep and then I sit beside  her a moment longer (if my legs haven’t already fallen asleep, if I’m not too caught up in other petty distractions) and I look at her tiny little hands and her tiny little face and her tiny little body and I sometimes think about all the big things in the world — the big men with big titles and big stories and big, big hands  — and I think maybe I’ll just rub her back for a little while longer because what else can I do?

II. To Have Everything But Love

I’ve been trying to think about white people and what it might mean for me to love them given Malcolm X’s call for well-meaning white folks to go back to white communities and address the racism there (Taiaiake Alfred says something similar to well-intentioned settlers who are colonizing Turtle Island).  I have tried to heed this call.  Of course, Malcolm and Taiaiake don’t call me to love white people or settlers or white people qua white people or settlers qua settlers, but I find myself wanting to try to love them because otherwise I get too angry and hopeless and frustrated and I lash out and I alienate people and instead of being a bridge to another way for white people to be, I end up contributing to people retrenching themselves even deeper into the racist, colonial violence of their daily lives.

Plus, you know, I’m white.  I  can empathize with these people because I am one of them.

As I have been thinking about white people and their inability to love, and their powerful hatreds, and their fundamental violences, and as I have been thinking about what it mean mean to love them and what that might or might not accomplish, one particular point of comparison keeps surfacing in my thoughts.  White people are like the children of the 1% — they receive all the most expensive and desirable presents at Christmas time (and they receive them in abundance) but what they don’t receive are parents who are attentive to them and their emotional needs.  Instead of a secure attachments they get Bugattis.  Instead of intimacy they get a docking space at Ibiza.  Instead of love they get stuff.  That’s white people — because we’ve got it all, the whole wide world, but we don’t have love.  If we did, we wouldn’t be doing what we do.  We wouldn’t be voting for Trump.  But we are loveless and we voted for Trump.

But, here’s the problem: children who are deprived of love, who are never given a safe place to explore their emotions and fears and insecurities, and who have no secure attachments to develop their identity, their sense of meaning, and their idea of how they fit into the world, often never learn how to develop things like empathy.  They end up being self-absorbed, narcissistic, hyper-sensitive, and very reactive to anything that sounds like criticism.  Because they weren’t given a chance to develop as people — people with ethics, people with a sense of who they are, people who recognize others as people, who recognize themselves in other people, and who recognize other people in themselves.  Instead, despite their growing bodies and bank accounts, they remained totally unsure of who they are and if they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and where do they fit in and what really matters?

Instead of gaining these things, white people were given money and, along with money, power.  Money and power can be used to create powerful distractions to try and repress feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, and lovelessness — just scroll through Rich Kids of Instagram for evidence of that.  But wealth and power can also be used to strike at anyone and anything that triggers that sense of insecurity or that reminds me of how I felt as a child who was unloved.  Power can be deployed as a force against anything that threatens or causes negative feelings or appears to want to pop the bubble I have built around myself.  And what is this bubble?  The belief that I am a good person and that it’s not my fault and that I’m the victim here.  This belief is the survival strategy of a neglected child.  But, as with most survival strategies, what works well to get you through a moment of crisis (or a place like prison, the streets, or childhood neglect), often works to hold you back once you move into a different environment.  But if you’ve got all the money and all the power, like white people do, well, you’re going to have a hard time thinking you’re the one with the problem.  Other people are the problem.  Obviously.

Thus, kids who do not receive love — but who do receive all the things — tend not to develop any empathy for others, especially if those others are different than them.

Now, by making this analogy, I’m not asking for sympathy or pity for white folks.  This isn’t a “woe is us” story.  I’m not asking that black people or Indigenous people or other members of racialized populations just love white people more, as if that’s gonna change anything.  Because it won’t.  Kids who have lost the ability to empathize, who then go on to act abusively towards others, don’t usually get the ability back as adults.  So I’m not asking people of colour to just try a little harder to love white folks.  Love only gets us so far and with sociopathic narcissists who have all the money and power in the world, it’s probably not going to get us much further than a well-mannered line up into the showers full of people saying “please” and “thank you” and “my, what a beautiful costume” and “Happy Halloween!”  Because, yeah, whether or not love was involved it was the explosives that took out Crematorium 4 in the Auschwitz uprising.  Maybe people gave their lives in that struggle out of love for others, maybe they gave their lives out of despair, maybe they gave their lives out of rage, maybe they gave their lives because all that they had ever loved was murdered.  Who knows?  But, regardless of their motives, it was the explosives that slowed down the machinery of death.

So why do I want to love white people?  Because the anger, hatred, and violence of white men is not to be trusted.  And I am a white man.  I need to learn more about sorrow and grief and longing and mourning.  I need to learn more about love.  I don’t love them because I think my love will change them.  I love them because I am trying to change myself.  If I am to work among white people (Malcolm X, presente!), this is my opportunity to learn these things.  I am trying to learn.  What else can I do?

III. Coming Together as Race Traitors

“It is time for us to come together as one united people.” ~ Donald Trump

In response to the Dakota Access Pipeline development, hundreds of nations and thousands of people, from Mayans to Mongolians, are gathering in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.  It is, indeed, time to come together as one united people.  And this is what Indigenous peoples are doing.  Traditional enemies are shaking hands, embracing, and tending to those wounded by pepper spray, rubber bullets, beanbags, and batons.

But over against the unity of the people, are the unity of big oil, big banks, and the big guns of the government and the police.  Trump wants white people (“us”) to come together regardless of class or location or age or gender (and they did, they really did).  I do not desire this unity.  Unity with Standing Rock, yes, unity as one people under Trump, no.  So, if I love white people, I do not wish to love them in a way that fosters this unity.  I want to love as a race traitor.  Now is not a time for the unity Trump desires, now is a time for treason.  And so if you want to love, love treasonously.  If you want to love white people, use that as a tool for fighting whiteness.  If you want to love men, use that as a tool for fighting patriarchy (bell hooks, presente!).  But don’t be fooled into thinking that love will change white people or will change men (sure, some people may change and that’s great, but most won’t until the structures themselves change).  Love in order not to be changed into them but fight for change, especially structural change, by any means necessary.

Key to some of those structral changes is the recognition that people incapable of love, even if we want to love them or be kind to them, should not be in charge.  White people should not be in charge.  They should not have power over vulnerable people.  They should not have militaries and police forces (if you can tell the difference) at their disposal.  They should not be recognized as legitimate authorities.

(And, nota bene, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when commenting on Jesus’ sermon on the mount, said that we love our enemies in order to turn our enemies into friends; but, at the end of the day, he concluded that a bomb was the only way to turn Hitler into a friend.)

IV. Ending

Charlie is home sick today.  He is laying beside me in bed while I write.  I wrap my arm around him and kiss his fingers and he sighs a happy sigh and pulls my arm a little more tightly against him.  We sit for awhile and then I go into the kitchen to cry because I love him and because of the world my people are giving him.  Him, my beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed, boy.

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Responses

  1. Dear Dan: When I read about you and your wonderful children I cry. But I cry all the time anyway. A lot of good crying too. I guess I’m also crying for all my own kids and grandkids. Maybe I could become a professional crier? I once tried to shut myself away from this culture but I failed. Like Luther said, ‘the world is in your heart.’ (he should know, the murdering motherf&%ker, but let’s not go there, its time for unity and healing). We tried forming many alternative communities, and in most ways they all failed as well. I tried moving my family out into the woods to get some space between us and this god-damned death dealing culture, but I failed. I used to sit in my work truck at lunch DanM/O from that very spot I texted you from in Coupville and watch Trident Nuclear subs capable of God-like planetary destruction sail by as I self-righteously choked down my vegan quinoa and kale gruel and argued with the log skidded driver about Gandhi. Back then I would take off of work and the whole family would go stay with Jim and Shelly Douglass over at Bangor and we would pray, protest, and march while confronting the Military industrial complex with carefully crafted slogans and sincere tears hoping that I was making some sort of difference. But I knew that we were failing at everything and that the darkening of the world, regardless of the promise of the ‘Gospel,’ seemed to just grow darker every day. Of course, that may just be my own despair and depression but who knows, white people like me tend towards narcissistic self-flagellation sort of like psychological soul-cutting in order to keep from just going numbingly crazy. The other day I went to visit my 2 horse friends and breathe into their nostrils as a Native horse-woman has advised me to do, but again they weren’t there. I pray they are alive and well. But out in the Payn’s gray sound beyond their pasture I saw 2 Trident submarines silently gliding through the cold mourning haze. I have a photo but I don’t think I can post it here. I’ll text it too you. I wish I would have had your DOOM sign out. Damn. But as the gospel says (warns? threatens? promises? laments?) unless a grain of wheat falls and dies….. But I don’t want our kids to fall and die Dan. Or our world or Galaxy or my 15 year old dog. But I don’t know how to stop it in any way that doesn’t cause more suffering and death. That Orthodox prayer rope I gave you has 33 beads. I reckon a scholar like yourself can guess why. Anyway, I have no idea if saying the Jesus prayer* will help or make things worse. I wish beads and prayers were magic but as superstitious as I desire to be I don’t think that they are. But if they were I’d gather all the talismans, rosaries, holy relics, ancient stones from Iceland that I could muster and cast a spell that the missiles in those subs never fly. That we dismantle those machines and beat them into, if not into ploughshares, then at least beat them back into swords, which might give us a chance to get ourselves sorted and/or give god a chance to…well god and chance don’t go together, I don’t think. Although there is a line of thought in Judaism that G-d actually risked giving G-d’s un-Being over to complete vulnerability to total abandonment and loss. Look it up, its true. Anyway, I’m home from a long day at work, Lynda is settled, chores are over, and the pain meds are kicking in, so if I’m rambling and I apologize. Lynda is sitting next to me watching an episode of “Say Yes To the Wedding Dress” and I’m writing about the collapse of the noosphere (surprisingly the same critical theory may apply to both phenomenon). I’m thankful that I have such a wonderful wife to snuggle with and I don’t have to hire a professional from the snuggling industrial complex, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’m a believer Dan. I believe in love. even when it seemed that the more I gave the less I got I still believed, Love is more than fairy tales Dan; oh hell let me post the whole thing by one of usamerica’s most under rated (white/hetero) bands:

    I’m A Believer
    The Monkees

    I thought love was only true in fairytales
    Meant for someone else but not for me
    Love was out to get me
    That’s the way it seemed
    Disappointment haunted all my dreams

    Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
    Not a trace of doubt in my mind
    I’m in love, I’m a believer
    I couldn’t leave her if I tried

    I thought love was more or less a givin’ thing
    But the more I gave the less I got
    What’s the use in trying?
    All you get is pain
    When I needed sunshine I got rain

    Love was out to get me
    Now that’s the way it seemed
    Disappointment haunted all my dreams

    Then I saw…..

    I’v always liked that song. But here’s my version with just a few tweaks”

    i ‘believe in the name of jesus:

    so i’m a believer
    i do believe
    only a god can save us*
    or Love
    who is god
    if ‘is’ isn’t a thing
    or god
    or maybe the nameless void can save us too
    i believe that it might
    if its love
    or god
    and not just a nameless void
    because we lack the wisdom to name it
    because its something so strange to us
    so beautifully destroying and gracefully astonishing that
    we dare not name it
    for to name it is to inscribe it which makes it
    just a thing among things with titles, gps coordinates, and
    a Facebook page
    exchangeability on the big board
    but without a name I’m just one beast in a herd of
    billions
    yet not just any beast
    but the one that predators have singled out
    with an instinct that science or meta-physics
    can’t understand but predators know somehow
    which beast has the weak heart
    which beast is doomed
    they cut it from the herd
    they run it to ground
    the bite and devour it
    alive
    terrified it screams out
    beyond words
    but not into the nameless void
    for we may name it ourselves
    we ought to name it for the love of the dying beast
    even though the name is in a language
    we do not ken yet
    someday we may
    know

    nothing

    Love and blessings DanM/O. See you around Pentecost?

    (I’m going to regret this ain’t I?)

    • I’m late in replying to this but I am grateful for it. Thank you.


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