EMPOWERMENT and LOVE 5.
I trust the thinking of people who respond with some clarity and complexity in the midst of a muddled situation, such as the one Nate Parker is in and, as a consequence, many, many others also find themselves in, directly and indirectly. Roxane Gay (here) and Morgan Jerkins (here) have written well in this regard.
They address the muddles of this affair at two intersections: race-and-gender for blacks as well as personal behavior-and-artistic contribution to our collective struggles with race. Neither emerges from their reflections with an “answer,” nor do they attempt to. They seem to know that reaching for an either-or is escapism. Life has been a muddle long before the first fish settled on the lake shores. So they reflect as clearly as they can on what they are going through personally, and share it hoping their thoughts and experiences can be a prism serving others as well.
I have wondered what it must be like to be in Nate Parker’s shoes at this moment in his life. Being white and 74 and carrying my own baggage, there is much I cannot empathize with. Being a live human who is American and male as well as active at this moment in history, I believe there is much with which I can identify. And I think this kind of exercise in empathy can be quite valuable.
I am drawn mostly to wonder if Parker—or I, or you—could ever muddle our way to some deeper truth about ourselves and what happened years ago and what it means personally now. More specifically: What would it take for him or me or you to be ruthlessly straight with one-self about a past event of extraordinary moral consequences and social significance re-emerging on the verge of a crowning moment in one’s career, especially since that past event might stand in profound contradiction to such a peak moment. What would it take to risk allowing just the possibility of such a contradiction to appear in heart and mind? Would he even be possible to find a few minutes of reflection outside of the enormous PR pressure he must be caught in. With what is going down with his wife and daughters? Yes, what might it be like to be caught in the whole internal struggle he must be going through?
My reflection is not about pity, nor will it get to any kind of disgust. It is about me putting me (you, you) in his shoes just to get some connection to his reality whatever the outcome of this affair might be, whatever happened 17 years ago. After all, all of us are being confronted constantly with such life tensions on minor scales.
And in our world of mass communication there is hardly ever the opportunity to come to our truths except within ourselves within a community of understanding—be it with family, straight-talking intimate friends, or otherwise. Reaching privately for one’s truth in the kind of circumstance Parker is enmeshed in would be a helluva an accomplishment. But I can’t imagine him or any of us having any chance of doing the kind of reflecting and sharing that Gay, Jerkins, me, and others can do publicly because of our personal distance from these events. If Parker were to reach for his truth in any of our public media forums, the jackals would leave nothing of him behind. (And don’t we have our jackals in our circles, too.) But he must address the issues. So he is pushed to find a way to lie convincingly while knowing at some level he will convince no one. He is not alone in this kind of predicament. We all struggle with much of the same on our smaller scales.
So yes, there is some pity here in what I am trying to say. Pity us all and our reaching for a deeper and more joyous democracy. Rare is the space where we can risk reaching openly for our personal and collective truths, where we can truly talk and think together with heart and mind. Where understanding in depth is not sacrificed to a right way of thinking. Nor sacrificed to satisfying our craving for feeling sure that we belong and are “okay” by cheaply joining the righteously outraged rather than struggling with the muddle of truths at hand.
Indeed, rare is it that the speakers who are passionate for new radical structures and next systems even recognize the essential relevance of such spaces for “the revolution.”
My next blog will share a beautiful example of such a space.