Maybe you haven’t missed me, but I haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s not writer’s block. It’s tongue tide, as in the tide of speaking my truth is low… and I am too.
The haters – left and right – are outside the gate and if I step out I’m sure to get an arrow from somewhere. The barbs from the right I’m used to, but the left has high-brow arrows that also sting. I use the wrong word. I unwittingly forgive the unforgivable. I’m not mindful of how my words might land in tender hearts – and Lord knows I am a protector of tender hearts, my own included.
Case in point… A group is planning a retreat. We want it to be zero-waste. I suggest everyone bring their own plates and silverware. A group member labels this suggestion “white supremacy.” I side step, saying, “Well, I’m an old potlucking hippie”, but I can’t imagine what I said to offend.
Later it’s explained: some people might not have plates and forks. I can identify. When I was a recovering (i.e. passing) hippie, I panicked at potlucks as I didn’t know if my food or vessels would be good enough. Would my limited means show? Would I be socially demoted? Would I be outed as “not one of us”?
I asked the person who used the label to at least use I statements as in, “to me that sounds privilege blind, as some in our circle might not be able to BYO.” He was gracious and understanding, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the new cool meme for expressing dismay. It’s no “Let’s Go, Brandon“… as if people who use this might say, instead, “Vaccine mandates bring up feelings of fear and anger because my personal sovereignty matters to me, so would you be willing to engage in a conversation about alternative methods of keeping the public safe?” Reply: Poopsie, Karen…
Another case in point… A Dutch friend sent me an amazing deep-fake video of an actor playing the Prime Minister telling the honest truth about climate consequences for the Netherlands and proposing sober regulations to meet the moment like adults. It was like the old Mad Magazine Scenes We’d Like to See. I found it so inspiring! I want to write speeches like this for political leaders, even without all the green screen magic, because assigning honest words to leaders we desperately need to lead us out of climate disaster could have such an impact.
But, the fact that I didn’t label it a “deep-fake” in the post had a friend politely call me out privately. Her concern is for the public’s capacity to distinguish truth from lies, a concern I share.
However much I wish I didn’t live in such a fragile, on edge society, I do. Everything can be misconstrued. Every glance can feel like the evil eye. Every subway bump like a punch in the jaw. Every smile like a come-on. Nothing is funny.
Where is George Carlin now when we need him? Lenny Bruce? Oh, they are walking around in Dave Chappelle’s or Bill Maher’s bodies, and every toe in society is being stepped on. #minetoo. As a woman I learned to titter at microaggressions rather than confront them. It stopped being funny and #metoo actually let me come out about the abuse I’d endured – like umpteen percent of other women on the planet.
But I’m also a comedian. I love to riff and quip and turn things on their heads, exposing – sweetly – what we’ve all hidden under our skirts. How can I protect tender hearts while being a rodeo clown for pompous stupidity? No idea. This is part of why I’m tongue tied.
One more case in point.
On a local Facebook group, someone asked what the longest running business on Whidbey Island is. Unfortunately they said “since WI was founded”. Ouch. Found by settlers who displaced the Coast Salish people who harvested camas and shell fish seasonally, and established some settlements.
Founded sounds like how the Christian Church was founded on top of pagan cultures. You can see layers of the history of conquests all over the world as one village or church is built atop the communities they destroyed. I sure wish my species wasn’t this way but we apparently are.
Well, a very well-educated East Coast friend felt called to call the conversation out. Whidbey wasn’t founded by settlers with businesses. It was owned by the indigenous people. Wow, talk about a bomb. Dozens of comments later about the spoil sport tone of the call-out, I stopped reading and emailed the friend. I wanted her to reflect on the language of that the Coast Salish people “owned” this land. In calling out, she used language of the very mindset that has sliced and diced this beautiful wholeness of Gaia, making it impossible for 95% of the living to live. Hmmm, didn’t go over very well, but just like my other friend called me “in” about not naming a deep-fake, I called my highly educated friend in on using the word “owned.”
We’re all g’damn tongue tied.
In trying to correct for the sins of our fathers, the sins of exploitation and colonialism and slavery, we are producing a shell-shocked society cancelling one another – and popping out furious people who just vent their rage with FU Biden at NASCAR races.
I’ve been studying the dynamics of polarization as part of my own commitment to heal whatever is in me that is enraged. I’m digging deep within to get under the blame-game and the assumption of agency and the grief and everything I see inside I see around me.
One more case in point…
I joined a group of elder women in a support of a Chase bank action called by a gaggle of our brilliant young Fridays for the Future activists. Driving home afterwards (yes, driving home from a climate action, but in an electric car), I passed an intersection where peace activists have kept up a vigil for decades each Saturday. Lo and behold, it was bristling with American flags and signs supporting 3 candidates for our school board who are opposed to teaching Critical Race Theory and the 1619 project in schools (which isn’t even happening but thank you Koch Bros for whipping folks up into an anti-democratic frenzy in the name of freedom). I later said to a friend, in a very ACLU way, I don’t support their message but I support their effort to express their views through public protest. That did not go over well. The Blue team had established territory on that corner and the Red team had invaded, and it infuriated my friend. It bugged me too, but I chose to make it part of my project to uproot my own tribal war dances.
Did I mention that I wish humans didn’t act this way.
Back to Mad Magazine… another feature I dearly loved was Spy Versus Spy. Each spy outsmarted the other spy who then outsmarted spy 1 back and so it went. In systems theory that’s called “competition and escalation” – every promise Pepsi makes, Coke makes +1, and on and on. The systems mechanism that corrects that pattern is called a “governor” – a mechanism that shuts down processes that have gotten out of control. But now, in this binary world filled with mutual mud-slinging (even throwing the same mud: You are ruining this country!!! No, you are!!!), Governor seems to be a dirty word. The extremes do not want to be governed, i.e. controlled by “the other side.”
“Which side are you on?” Theme song of civil wars. A symptom of a brain-fever called BINARY-ITIS – and it’s burning us up. When I realized I’d caught it, I resolved to dig out the piss-off at the root. I’m still digging. Inside. Around me. I’m not confused about my values. I’m not a bit confused about what direction I think healing and wholeness lie. I just want to clear out tit-for-tatness so I can, as I say on my podcast, see more clearly and act more courageously in service to the common good.
Today, on this beautiful Sunday, I’m headed out in the world of complexity – the woods. On this beautiful Halloween, I’m headed up to the cemetery to talk with this town’s ancestors to see if any wisdom comes. On this gorgeous day on this beautiful earth while I am blessedly still alive, I’m going to put my cat in my backpack and a big chew of irony in my cheek and shut down this land of zeros and ones of the internet to see if i can find some shades of glory.