Thursday, July 7, 2016

White Privilege

When I was 19 years old my uncle shot his daughter, my 2 year old cousin Christina, ten times. Why doesn't really matter. Whatever the reason- and there were competing opinions on that, believe me- someone precious died. For a long time I was so full of rage that I couldn't really even mourn her. I just wanted some kind of vengeance, for him to suffer and die, my kingdom for the death penalty! I loathed him with every fiber of my being and could barely stand the feel of his name in my mouth, even when it belonged to another Andy entirely. I forbade my family from sharing pictures of my babies with him when they visited him in prison. I didn't want him to see them. He didn't deserve to. It was only the second time in my life I'd hated someone and after about 8 years of stewing in my own bile I realized that I hated the hating possibly even more than I hated him. I hold grudges because in my experience they don't weigh much but this? It lessened me. Hating made me hard sometimes, mean sometimes. Less empathetic, less of a human being. Andy got 60 years in prison. He's served 22 years of his sentence and I don't know if he'll ever get out. I don't know if I want him to. What I do know is that I'm glad the state didn't kill him. I'm glad they did not give me the vengeance I thought I wanted.

I'm thinking about this because I know with certainty that if Andy had been black? I never would have had a chance to outgrow my hate. He wouldn't have made it into custody because they'd have shot him in the neighborhood he was wandering while carrying her dead body. Andy was guilty by every conceivable metric yet he was arrested safely- he has lived safely- all these years in part because he was white. That's privilege.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Thoughts on Dickishness

‘Don’t be a dick’ should be a pretty easy rule to follow, right? It’s simple, crass enough to satisfy the masses, and fits easily on bumper stickers and t-shirts. It espouses no religion or political affiliation unless you consider a particular fandom to be either of those. Despite this, it doesn't seem to be getting much traction and I have to ask myself why. Maybe because it's predicated on an idea that’s open to semantics and interpretation.

What is a dick?
In biological terms a dick is ‘an external male intromittent organ that additionally serves as the urinal duct.’ That means it’s useful for both copulation and elimination but in no way are those functions an indicator of social maladaptation. One could even make the argument that without a dick doing the things dicks do, we as a species wouldn’t exist.

In ethnological circles- at least according to Uncyclopedia- dicks “are ALWAYS right, even when everybody else is wrong. Even when they aren't right, they are still right.” Also,“Dicks know that to respect another person is a sign of weakness.”
(I can already see the hashtags #notalldicks and lemme just say, you need to sit down.)

I once overheard a guy in a bar defending himself on the charge of dickdom. “I’m not a dick, I’m an asshole!’ and, in retrospect, I’m asking myself, was this an error of classification? Are dicks and assholes so similar? I mean, obviously a dick doesn’t look like an asshole. At least, I hope not. If your dick looks like an asshole (or vice versa) please see a doctor immediately.

On a purely functional basis, if someone is being a dick, say they piss on you -whether actually or metaphorically- I can actually conceive of a couple of scenarios where that might be a good thing- you're on fire, say, or dying of thirst. That ‘pee on the jellyfish sting’ is a total myth and if someone suggests whipping it out to ease your pain, you should pop them right in the nuts. If instead of urine the dick in question dispenses ejaculate (hehe) I can still game out several options that in no way mean the dick is being, well, a dick. Some people like pearl necklaces.
I can't think of any situation that would be improved by someone shitting on me- which is what assholes do, or babies, to be fair. Also a certain segment of kinky folk (one hopes that in their case it's all consensual).

So yeah, maybe an asshole is worse than a dick and we need to change our printing order to ‘Don’t be an Asshole’. On the other hand, that slogan would be infinitely more vulnerable to censorship and the last thing we need as we strive toward some sort of widespread ethical standard is to muddle our message with ‘Don’t be an A@#%*&E’. Scrabble players would have to wonder what was so bad about being an abalone, alewife, or apostle.

‘Be Kind’ has brevity on its side and little wiggle room but humans have a long standing habit of codifying our laws in terms of what we aren’t supposed to do. We’re really specific too because most of these laws came about because someone somewhere made a huge mess and the family/clan/bridge club had to clean up the resultant mess. The Sumerian ‘Instructions of Shuruppak’ had such gems to offer as ‘Don’t steal anything; don’t kill yourself!’ and ‘Don’t have sexual intercourse with your slave girl; she will neglect you.’ One of the postmortem rituals an ancient Egyptian had to perform to receive a happy afterlife was to chant a list of 80 actions he had not done: I have not robbed, I have not killed people, I have not debased the god in my town. The 10 Commandments were predominantly ‘do nots’. Girls with pretensions of upward mobility know you don’t wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

OK, that was a slight digression.

Maybe the inherent weakness of ‘Don’t be a Dick’ is that, as a culture, we’re just really super fond of dicks. And who can blame us? When they’re doing their job they’re great to have (or borrow). They have a certain aesthetic appeal. Look at Baryshnikov dancing. David Bowie in ‘Labyrinth’. One World Trade Center, or its predecessors, the Twin Towers. We idolize dicks. It now becomes clear why this movement won’t work. We need to find something that no one likes- and that’s not useful- and start from there.