Yesterday, I marched in downtown Los Angeles against the Trump administration's policy to separate immigrant children from their parents at our "border." I joined tens of thousands of other Los Angelenos on a beautiful southern California afternoon in protest of our government separating thousands of children in what appears to be a systematic form of child abuse and crime against humanity.
America is not a great country at this point, if it ever was, and anyone who's arguing for more civility is deluded and naive. My friend, the great writer Lidia Yuknavitch said the other day on her social media account that civility has always been determined by those in power.
Civility has always been defined by those in power.
We have babies in cages on our "border" (not to mention the dismantling of environmental laws to protect the planet, the specter of women losing reproductive rights, the vilifying of the press, the collusion with world dictators, the Muslim ban, the racism that permeates literally every single directive from the POSPOTUS and his enablers) and are being told, even by those on our "side" (Bernie Sanders, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, etc.) that it isn't "American" to deny someone like the lying press secretary a peaceful dinner in your restaurant. This doesn't settle with me -- and not the so-called lack of civility.
What, exactly, does civility
mean, and how has it been defined in this country from its very inception?
These aren't rhetorical questions but, rather, real ones that are if not tormenting me than at least filling up my mind to the extent that I feel near anguish. The anguish comes, I think, because the situation at hand calls for so much self-reflection -- so much probing of one's interior, one's ego, one's impulse to be right.
I say one's
because I imagine it's true for a lot of people, particularly those of us who are privileged (and I don't mean economically; I mean white).
What does it even mean to be a good person, to act with civility
when the very definition of the word has been determined and defined by those in power?
The center does not hold.
I feel the same way when I read arguments against what white men call "tribalism" or "polarization." Honestly?
I got into an argument on a friend's thread on Facebook -- not with the friend but with one of his "friends." I've sparred with this guy before, and while I'd like to make him irrelevant by not even engaging with him (his comments are nearly always dull and condescending with that overwhelming sarcasm and fake irony that marks the intellectually lazy), I'm learning through
the engagement what it takes to be truly disobedient. Or maybe what it might take to be truly disobedient to the mores and definitions of civility that not only our ancestors but also our contemporaries demand.
Again, I'm just thinking
about these things. I am certain of very little.
I'm a person who has trouble even uttering the word fuck,
mainly because of the way I've been brought up,
yet in uttering the word fuck
I alienate even my own parents whom I love.
The person with whom I sparred on Facebook responded to my call for civil disobedience by asking whether I was prepared to be violent against my fellow citizens because being disobedient might cause a schism like we haven't seen since the Civil War. He asked, "Prepared to defend and even harm others if need be?"
I answered, "I will personally not commit acts of violence against any human beings, but I am prepared to stand against anything. That means anything. Absolutely. There are plenty of examples of peaceful and resolute civil disobedience across history. It's not a matter of "winning" or "losing." I align with those people. When and if my rights as a woman are compromised as they very well will or might be very soon, I will stand against that and for other women, minorities and the disabled."
I added, "The path to change is seldom polite. And the definition of civility is generally set by those in POWER."
The guy responded, "The definition of civility in this country was originally established when the first inhabitants began following the codes and mores of western civilization, along with the principles of the rule of law. Men opening doors for women, pulling their chairs out. You know that kind of demeaning, misogynistic behavior ya'll are so eager to abolish in favor of...I don't know what. Hip hop?"
If I had one, I'd rest my case.
Mull on that, Reader.
What Kind of Times Are These
There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.