Doldrums

Listening, or the Art of Shutting the Fuck Up

Ask me twenty years ago and I might have said something edgy, or something un-ironically unprofound such as, “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in equality.” As if they were two separate beasts.

No man is without sin. That much is clear. I still don’t call myself a feminist; that’s a title earned, not self-proclaimed. And there’s still a lot of self-realization that I need to accomplish before I get there – in my opinion, anyway. And while I may not call myself a feminist, I do believe in feminism. And I do try to learn from my mistakes – both past and present – because I want to be that better person, more than just an ally. An accomplice. But it isn’t for me to decide when I become one. 

When people accuse me of being a “good man,” I cringe. I’ve asked this to myself and to others around me: Am I a good person, or just a person who does good? Or even someone who tries to do good in this world. 

On Sunday, 27 March 2022, rapper-turned-actor Will Smith approached comedian Chris Rock and slapped him on live television to the shock and awe of audiences across the globe. Rock, who mocked Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, was rightfully put in his place. Jada’s “hairstyle” is a result of alopecia areata, a medical condition that causes hair loss.

This sparked an outrage on the social media-sphere. Several people (most of them white) called out Will Smith’s actions as violent, demanding he be punished. Discussions were had, comparisons were made. One woman on TikTok even went as far as comparing Will Smith to Russian tyrant, Vladimir Putin – a comparison that is more than just a stretch.

However, no one was holding Chris Rock accountable for mocking a medical condition. The very same people who thought Donald Trump was unfit for president when he mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter with arthrogryposis, were now ignoring how Chris Rock openly mocked someone with an autoimmune disease.

My Facebook feed was filled with local activists and poets who were also condemning Will Smith without holding Chris Rock accountable. A few thought there was no violence behind his words, at least not in the same manner as a slap. Arguments were made in the case against Will Smith, and anything that countered that was pushed aside. 

Which is common when it comes to the discussion of violence against black women. 

So I did what anyone should do in this case: I listened to black creators, most of them women. 

While a time waste – for the most part – apps like TikTok has given marginalized people a platform. And I follow some amazing BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators. Most of whom have taught me more than I could ever hope for (see, how I brought this back to my introduction?). And they had something to say to nonblack individuals: Shut up and listen. (OK, I may have paraphrased that.)

It’s understandable to want to express your opinion on a particular subject. I’ve been there myself. However, it’s important that we step back and listen to who our opinion hurts. Intent doesn’t matter; it’s the impact that’s important. Your words can still be harmful even if you had the best intentions when expressing them. 

Maybe what Will Smith did was violent. Maybe he should have handled it better than he did. Maybe he should have spoken out against ableism or violence against black women (verbal or physical). Because that is what he did that night, regardless of how you saw it. But you don’t have to condone it. That is in your right. But to excuse Chris Rock and not hold him accountable? That’s where your argument breaks apart.

Because how can you condemn one form a violence, while standing up for another? 

So maybe it’s time we shut up and listen.

Afterthought:

When I discussed this subject with a coworker, she told me that it doesn’t surprise her how many of us missed the point. We’re sheltered here in the Valley. Which is true. Most of our population is Latine/White, and black people make up a small percentage – 0.60% according to this site. It’s true that the Latine community experiences discrimination and violence, but are our experiences the same as those within the black community? And this is not to get into the wrongs committed against the Afrolatino members, because that is another post in of itself.

We all have the right to our opinion, and this is just mine. I may have gotten some things wrong, but the difference here is – I’m not about to declare it’s time for the healing to begin. Because we’re so far away from that until all violence is cured. 

Photo by Lucxama Sylvain
Doldrums

A Retrospect Pt. 1

I thought about you again. In those perfect empty moments past midnight as I lay in bed waiting for sleep’s arms to cradle me, a figment of memory fluttering behind my closed lids. The auditory hallucination of your voice calling me from the other side of my bedroom wall. I checked my phone for the time, the orange glow cutting through the darkness. When will sleep take me? Why do these thoughts run laps through my mind? Why are you always at the center of each of them?

January

I watched the Insurrection unfold as my fever finally settled at a comfortable 100 degrees. COVID made a mess of my lungs while the current president wrecked democracy with his words, motivating his blindly-allegiant followers into storming the Capitol. Chants for the deaths of the leaders of this so-called free nation echoed through the hallways. Police officers were beaten and bruised by the very people who were “backing the blue” throughout 2020, as demonstrations of “defund the police” and “Black Lives Matter” took place. These patriots, as they referred to themselves, erected a makeshift gallow to hang the Democratic leaders and the Republican vice president. They’re motivated by misinformation, fed lie after lie even before election results were tallied. “[T]he only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.” For months after the November election, calls for recounts, shouts of voter fraud, phone calls to stop the count echoed through the media. A coup d’état was the final attempt to secure an unlawful win, to overthrow our election system. In the end, no matter their attempt, democracy continued. 14 days after the Insurrection, Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president. 

February

The lights went out as Texas froze. Ted Cruz hopped on a plane to Cancun. He left his poor dog to freeze. What sort of man does that? 

My depression increases. The city has implemented a new employee evaluation system. And the aftermath of COVID still wrecks my body. My kidneys feel like boulders perched in my gut. I can’t piss, but is that a blessing? When I do, my sides tense up and the pain crawls up. 

I meet M for the first time. And I am nervous around her. I’ve seen too many versions of her come in and out of this library. Talented, smart, funny and full of ambition only to be turned away. I don’t know it yet, but a change is coming. One volume has wrapping up, and a new story is on the horizon. 

March

I’ve been down this path before, why should it feel different? Still, I filled out the application and submitted it. 

The two of them sit across from me, though I no longer feel flanked. They slide the evaluation in front of me. Give me the goals that I am to achieve each month and what I’m to achieve by the mid-year. I have no plans on signing the form there. Unlike my compatriots, I will play the hand I’m dealt. Secure what little power over my own autonomy that I still cling to. It’s not if I’m willing to agree to these measures, it’s when. I eventually do. 

Afterward, I apply for other jobs. I have no intention of being around by the mid-year. 

April

I entered the meeting early, interrupting their conversation. I am still trying to navigate this new world of social norms. Before Zoom, the interviewee is expected to arrive early at the office. Is expected to wait in the lobby with no distractions. No cell phones in hand, scrolling through social media. Magazines are ok, but books might raise an eyebrow. In those days, I always carried a book or a notebook to keep my mind from reeling. Before the scheduled interview – which took place on Teams – I scribbled a list of possible questions to ask. I sign on to my work-provided Teams and click the link in my email. And there appeared four faces I’ll later come to recognize. 

My only thought is how am I supposed to make eye contact. To look at my camera means to not address the person I’m responding to; to look at my screen means to appear distracted. I fiddle with my loose earbud and do my best to respond. And I’ve come to learn that online interviews are more nerve-wracking than in person ones. 

May

I grit my teeth as she talks down at me. Maybe I’m just angry, maybe it’s my depression. Maybe I’m just sick and tired for having to deal with yes-people instead of freethinkers who stand up for the department. I had campaigned for her to take the role of supervisor of the department, but I finally delivered something the administration wanted. “Why didn’t you meet last month’s goal?” Because there is no communication between departments. Because things change on a dime. Because what is there to deliver? Because I don’t know who they expect me to network with. Because you have given me little to no guidance over this, being too busy trying to address the problem child. It takes every ounce of me not to just straight up and quit on the spot. Takes more effort to nod than it would to break the news that I won’t be here in September. 

I confess to M that there are times when reading the message doesn’t hit me. Tell her that I can read every word of a passage or text aloud and still not understand the sentence. I remember that earlier conversation when a new email reaches my inbox. I turn in my letter of resignation. My time at the public library has ended. 

June

There are days that I’m at home and days I’m in the office. I caught the first year of college bug. There is so much I want to do, so many things I want to learn. After an Ally training, I throw out the idea of building a LGBTQIA+ collection as a long term, ongoing goal. My ideas here aren’t cast aside. They’re not pocketed and kept for another day. While not all of them will pan out, they’re also not quickly reasoned away into oblivion. 

My mood is elevated. I finally feel like myself again.

Intermission

It’s been some time, hasn’t it? I’m always lurking in your history, though my time may have been limited. But I never went away. Never truly. There I dwelled until you remembered me. Until you picked up a picture from your high school days and smirked at the boy you once were. The boy who wore lipstick. Who borrowed his girl friend’s clothing. The skinny, life-like doll looking for some sort of validation. A chronic 15 minutes of adoration. How easily you forget an old friend. How easily my persona toss aside when it never fit your narrative. But I notice. I recognize that need in your eye. That longing for that feminine feel. I know the thoughts you push back, deep inside your mind. The ones that are aching to push through. And that’s how I slipped out after you killed your god. That’s how I remember. 

Photo by charan sai from Pexels
Doldrums

Dispatches from Covid-19

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It’s as if 2020 needed to get in one last fuck-you before being vanquished by 2021.

On Christmas morning, I woke up with a fever of 102.6°F – possibly the highest I’ve had it for a while. (It’s hard to get sick when you don’t leave the house for anything but work and the occasional grocery store visit.) It didn’t surprise me because my mom had been sick earlier in the week. Her started with fatigue before descending to being feverish and finally overcoming it. It was only a matter of time before I got sick and sure enough, I did. I thought nothing of it as my sense of taste and smell seemed unaffected (as was hers).

However, on the following Monday, we drove to an urgent care facility for a rapid test. After a twenty minute wait, we received our results and they were positive for Covid-19. We could spend time tracing back where and who we got it from, but there are too many variables. I called into work and told them the news and have been out ever since.

Seven days into the new year, I’ve been watching a lot of TV. National news, mostly, as the historic day of affirming Joe Biden’s presidential win was under attack by domestic terrorists. Days upon days of warning piled up to nothing but a small force of officers to protect the Capitol building. It was disgusting display of anti-American rhetoric fueled and fed by the President of the United States. Rather than condemning the actions of his followers, Donald J. Trump took to social media and praised them, calling them special and that they are loved.

It’s a terrifying thought that the most dangerous man in the country is also its president. Invoking the 25th Amendment is a far-too-late scenario for the stain he has left upon his administration and the modern history of this country. He will go down as the worst president of this country and we need to find a way to prevent others like him from gaining any sort of power within our country.

That said, his goons Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and all others who echoed and parroted his insane conspiracy theories need to be removed from their respective offices. They need to be expelled from congress and replaced properly by their governors or citizens of their states. It should not be allowed to continue on. To say that we’re the greatest country in the world is a bald face lie so long as they are allowed to continue to push conspiracy theories in order to remain in power.

As if a small light at the end of the tunnel, Georgia has elected two Democratic senators into office, giving Biden a strong Congress. The Democrats are majority leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives. I look forward to the next two years and see what a positive change can do for this country. However, I am under no illusions that Joe Biden is our savior, nor his Vice President Kamala Harris. Unlike the Trumpian camp, we do not idolized our politicians. We know they are flawed humans. We know they lie and they lie often. The Democrats – for the first time in a long while – are in full power in our national government. If they cannot get things done, we’d know it was never Mitch McConnell and company keeping them down.

The balls in your court now, Democrats. Do your job and don’t let us down.

Doldrums

“Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead.”

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

On election day, I promised myself a social media blackout to reset the moment a projected winner was called. It has almost been a week since all major media outlets – this includes Fox News – announced Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the projected winners of the 2020 election; it almost feels like a lifetime ago that we were celebrating on Twitter, on the streets, on our blogs. But I’m still on social media, following election news.

Usually when a projected winner is announced, a concession speech is given by the losing party. It’s been tradition for some time now, I believe. However, we have never had a Trump presidency.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Donald J. Trump has been building a case for election fraud months before he lost. He stated falsehoods about mail-in ballots in order to better discredit them in the eyes of his following. No matter how many times his tweets were debunked, this base – like any true cult – ate it up. They took to their social media and began spreading his bullshit as fact. It got so bad that even Facebook took action against Trumpian groups, shutting a few down in the process.

Now that the election has come and gone with Trump trailing behind President-elect Joe Biden, the full force of these lies have come into play. Lawsuits were filed and tossed out in swing states that Trump didn’t win, and had no chance in winning. The phrases “legal” and “illegal” votes were introduced and now parroted by his base. Fox News has even interrupted a speech given by Kayleigh McEnany for pushing this falsehood. MSNBC stopped thirty seconds into Trump’s speech, not being able to continue the livestream in good conscience.

Clearly, I was naïve last week. There was no way that the 74-year-old toddler president would concede with dignity. And shame of on the Republican senators that allowed this disruption of our democratic process to go on for so long.

As I was writing this post, my aunt informed me that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have won Arizona, given them 290 electoral votes against Trump’s 217. This just adds to the collapse of Trump administration, as it is coupled with multiple Republican senators stating that Joe Biden should be receiving security briefings. Among these senators is Lindsey Graham. Karl Rove has noted that nothing Trump does will overturn the election results, while Geraldo Rivera released a statement that it’s time to concede with dignity.

But the best part of this news cycle is General Mark Milley’s, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, statement: “We are unique among militaries. We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or religion. We take an oath to the Constitution. And every soldier that is represented in this museum, every sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, each of us will protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price.”

Personal

Tweet loudly; throw a temper tantrum for an election lost

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I stayed up late, not sure when I finally knocked out. The TV remained on throughout the night, a habit I picked up whenever there’s a major storm – natural or political. The volume remained just above a whisper, allowing me to perk up whenever an important update is made. An anxiety boiled in my stomach, almost reminiscent of the 2016 election. The feeling ate at me, no matter how much I tried to deny it. (I’ve written this before, haven’t I?)

Sitting at work, I had my computer open to MSNBC, Twitter, and FiveThirtyEight. My coworker approached me, asking if everything was all right.

“I’m worried, you know?”

She nodded, though misunderstood the source of my anxiety. Covid-19 has run our lives these last several months, and now the library was on the brink of reopening our department, spiking our risk of exposure.

“No, not that. Well that too, but this. All of this,” I responded.

After all, it was Tuesday, November 3, 2020. “I’m not going to get any sleep,” I admitted. “Going to need loads of coffee tomorrow. This whole week, maybe.”

“He’s going to win,” she said. “I can feel it.”

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